'We cannot escape our history, and there is no need for us to apologise for it.'                                        Carl Wint   

 Daily Gleaner, October 18, 1994

During the second half of the 19th century, the most prominent and influential secondary high school for boys in Kingston, and indeed Jamaica, was one that most Jamaicans have never heard of: even academic works on the history of Jamaican education do not mention it.

This is, perhaps, not really surprising, since, when the school petered out in the early 20th century, it apparently left no records, and no successor. Virtually the only records of its history are in the contemporary newspapers.

Nevertheless, the Collegiate School educated a majority of the men, of all colours, who became prominent in Jamaican life well into the first half
of the 20th century.

So far the latest reference I have found to a former pupil of the Collegiate School is to Edward Thom Reed who died in 1968 at the age of 94.

Daily Gleaner, June 6, 1968

Church Street, Kingston, in the 1830s; the Collegiate School was located on Church Street, from the 1850s
to the 1880s. I think that one of the substantial two-storey buildings on the left-hand side in this picture may have been the original Collegiate building. However, I have had no luck so far in finding information about the history of the Collegiate Schoolroom/Hall, or about its appearance. And certainly no other possible pictures! 
East Street, Kingston, c1890

The Editor of the Colonial Standard was inspired to write on education in Jamaica by the establishment of a secondary school for boys by a group of Jesuit exiles from Columbia. The start of the St George's College in September 1850 stimulated some very hostile reactions, inspired in part by a long tradition of fear of Jesuit activities among Protestants.

There was also protest from schoolmasters in Kingston, especially Nathaniel Melhado and Solomon Meyers both of whom claimed to offer a classical curriculum in their schools.
The Editor was not impressed:

In spite of Mr Nathaniel Melhado's continental education and Mr Solomon Meyer's sententious laudation, we maintain that up to the present hour it has been impossible for any gentleman to give his child a 'finished classical education' in Jamaica.

If Mr Meyers wishes to know what we mean by a 'finished education,' we may say  that we mean a knowledge of the upper walks of Greek and Latin literature. We should like to see a child who has been turned out of either seminary who could take his stand in an upper form at Eton or Harrow, or who could take his 'little go'* at either University.
(Colonial Standard, September 4, 1850)

*'little go'

The only major school in Kingston which provided secondary education for boys in the 1850s was Wolmer's, which had apparently given up the teaching of Greek and Latin as irrelevant to local students. Wolmer's became almost entirely an elementary school from 1867, until the reorganisation by the Schools' Commission in the 1890s. Until the Jamaica High School was moved from Walton Pen in St Ann into Kingston in the 1880s, St George's, where the pupils were mostly Roman Catholic, and  the Collegiate School, founded in 1853, were the only schools offering a secondary and classical education for boys in the city.

Harbour Street, Kingston, c1890


. . . two more half-forgotten Jamaican educational institutions:



History of the Catholic Church in Jamaica,
Francis J Osborne, S J, 1988

The Legacy of a Goldsmith: A History of  Wolmer's  Schools  1729-2003,
Patrick E Bryan, 2004


I have tried to be as factually accurate as possible on
these pages, but there are certainly errors which need
to be corrected. I shall be grateful for information on any
such needed corrections.  My opinions are another matter, but I have tried to keep them to a minimum any way!


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 Joy Lumsden


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