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Playing a crucial role

sir wes dedicates keynote address at combermere reunion to role models

For those gathered at Prospect Hall, the dinner dance was larger than a cricket Test match at Brisbane, Australia, historically just as significant as the city London, England, and as joyful as the Caribbean celebrations of Olympic gold medals, recently, won by Caribbean athletes.

The one week Global reunion had reached its peak and awaiting the performance of Arturo Tappin and the speech of Sir Wesley Hall. They were both excellent and entertaining.

Speaking just after midnight, in a 41-minute address Sir Wes shared experiences that chastened his pathway, ways around some of his life obstacles and noted the role which his alma mater played in his journey and success.

Expressing much surprise that he was chosen to speak when there were others far more capable than he, Sir Wes noted that “we live and die by our choices”, and stated that he wondered what pearls of wisdom, what shaft of wit, and what epigrams that he could tell that would match the confidence that was reposed in him.

In a speech that was full of anecdotes, stories and testimonials, Sir Wes dedicated his comments to Ronnie Hughes – his history teacher, his mentor, and an unpaid cricket teacher – who selected and coached a formidable young Combermere team in the 1950s, five of whom ended up playing cricket for the West Indies.

Hughes was his hero and inspiration.

“Can you imagine a white man taking 15 black fellows to his home in the Pine Gardens and feeding them?” he said.

Sir Wes noted that in this age of crime and social disorder, the importance of role models could not be underestimated and portrayed the legacy of the Combermere School as follows:

“A sound education and a life changing experience…, my story is no different from [any other] story. We just took different roads to reach our common destinations… It was a crucible that transformed your life.”

He cited two childhood goals that he surpassed: going to school at Combermere and playing cricket for the West Indies, and noted that while he was the offspring of the proletariat and born outside Glendairy Prison at the times of the riots, he was still able to achieved them both and more. He played, coached, and managed the West Indies teams and was also chairman of the ICC.

Never curse the darkness

Paying tribute to his mother and his teachers at St. Giles, he noted that despite his obstacles he was taught never to curse the darkness. When in competition with his brother for a role in the play, his mother reversed a decision and told him:

“It is better to be educated than to be loved.”

Sir Wes, reminded the Combermerians of the Christian values and heritage which the school had given them, and said near the end:

“Let us continue the Comberemre legacy. It is a house that has room for all. It is portrait of excellence. It is a unifying force.”

The 400 or so patrons, including President of the Barbados Senate, Kerry-Ann Ifill, were treated to a superb performance by internationally famed Arturo Tappin and his band during dinner.

A number of persons were presented with awards for their contribution to the different alumni associations.

Prior to the dinner/dance, on Thursday a four-man panel explored: the role of the church in education, the preparation of students for the 21 st century, and the ways in which alumni can contribute to Combermere. The well attended discussion lasted for four hours and focused on US and Barbados educational needs. There was also a sports day and barbeque.

Without question, the week of activities was nostalgic and memorable. Ultimately, the devil in the cake at the dinner was in the design – the sharing of time and space between two international stars who each needed their own galaxy. Thankfully, the school songs reign supreme and all will be looking to London, that is, if the suggestion of Principal Vere Paris is accepted.

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