Sunday, May 28, 2017

Abbey School

The Abbey School, Mount St Benedict, Tunapuna, Trinidad.
That is where I went to primary and secondary school from the years 1955 to 1964.  The monks tried very hard to make me a Christian.  They succeeded while I was a boy.  And then, as St Paul admonishes us, I became a man and I put aside childish things.

Don as an Abbey School student

Last weekend, we had our second school reunion since I left Trinidad in 1964 to continue my studies. 
If you have ever driven from Piarco to Port-of-Spain, you may have seen my old School on the hillside in the Northern Range above Tunapuna village. The white painted structures stand out as clearly as a beacon against the green hills. Even Fidel Castro noticed them as he drove past when he came to Trinidad in 1958, and could not resist a visit. I remember him, bearded and wearing his military fatigues, and all of us little boys standing waving on the road side in awe of the great man.

The Abbey School as it looked when I was there
It was good to see the old buildings again after the passage of nearly fifty years. We were permitted to visit the school on Saturday morning. Guided by management, we explored every room and passageway. The institution is now turned over to serving as a drugs rehabilitation centre. It has finally found a socially redeeming purpose, you might say.

School building from the basketball court

Front of the school

The front corridor of the school

Roof over the Small Boys' Dorm

The view over the Caroni Plain was as breathtaking as I remembered it.

View south over the Caroni Plain from first floor corridor

The Abbey viewed from the Clinic

The forest around the school was my playground. Six strokes on my backside with a cane every Monday morning at 9:00 am for five years was my punishment for refusing to have anything to do with cricket and the cricket field. Instead, I spent the free time running wild in the bush.

The bush was my playground: White Stones on the left, with Mt Tabor on the right in the distance

The forest to the north-east of the school

The oldest of the climbers among us was seventy-three years old. I knew I was a spring chicken by comparison. The plan was to climb up to White Stones, the mountain that towers above the school.

The Abbey seen through the trees on the way to White Stones

Winston and Don on a white stone at White Stones

Conquerors of White Stones (with members of our security detail)

Finally, we found the ruins of the original Monastery at Mt Tabor, high up above White Stones.

Don leaning on the foundations of the abandoned Monastery at Mt Tabor

Kitchen oven at Mt Tabor ruins

On the Sunday, the Khans entertained us all to a picnic lunch at Mayaro Beach. I was particularly charmed by the sight of a column of demure Indian girls wading out to sea in their saris, casting fruit and flowers about them as they went. A fertility ritual, I imagined. Personally, at my age, I am only capable of considering Lashmi in her aspect of Kali, the old crone, the goddess of destruction!

Offerings from a Hindu fertility ritual at Mayaro Beach

 More offerings

Sic transit gloria mundi”, as Thomas a Kempis warned in his memorable Imitatio Christi. I must have been about twelve when I read the English translation.
And, “Never be entirely idle: but either be reading, or writing, or praying, or meditating, or endeavouring something for the public good”.

Originally published on 13 November 2008 on my Blog titled “Corruption Free Anguilla”
but republished at the request of an old school friend.