A historic pair of vases from the even more historic University of the West Indies (UWI) Chapel, have been included in the UWI Museum’s on-going Origins exhibition, as part of our offering to visitors in this season of sharing.
The UWI Chapel was re-configured from an 18th century distillery and rum store that was a gift to the nascent university on the request of its first Chancellor, Princess Alice of Athlone. Broken down into its component limestone blocks and trucked across Jamaica’s mountainous backbone from the Gale’s Valley estate in northern Jamaica, it was reassembled on the great lawn of the then University College of the West Indies, now the UWI. Completed in 1959, the Chapel was dedicated in February 1960.
The vases are a matched pair that were designed to sit on the Chapel altar. They were a gift of Patrick Buchan-Hepburn, 1st Lord Hailes, the only Governor General of the short-lived West Indies Federation (1958-1962) and his wife Diana. They were sent to Jamaica from the Federal capital in Port of Spain, Trinidad, where they had been custom made by the firm of Y. de Lima & Co.
Along with the name of the designer and maker, the base of each vase is engraved with the words:
“These vases are offered to the Glory of God and for the Adornment of the Altar of The Chapel of The University College of the West Indies, by Patrick Lord Hailes, first Governor General of the West Indies and Diana his wife.”
In a letter to the UCWI Principal, W.Arthur Lewis, Lord Hailes also set out his vision for the use of the vases, on the altar, with elegant, vertical arrangements of flowers such as Madonna Lilies. He went so far as to suggest that the Chapel committee consider using artificial flowers except on special occasions, given the speed at which flowers wither in the heat of the tropics.
The Principal promised to pass on his suggestions to the Chapel’s floral arrangers.
The vases were blessed by the Anglican Bishop of Jamaica, Rt. Rev. Percival Gibson, at a service in the Chapel on Sunday December 17, 1961.
The museum’s other gift for the season is an hour of steel pan music on Friday December 13 at noon, played on a tenor pan gifted to the UWI Vice Chancellor by the Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, Hon Kamla Persad-Bissessar earlier this year. The pan has been on display at the museum in the section of the Origins exhibition that features the Trinidad-based St Augustine campus of the UWI.