PANYARDS AT UWI MONA!

Now seriously: Did YOU know that there were panyards at the then University College of the West Indies (UCWI) and the early UWI after it became an independent of the University of London in 1962?

Dr Archie Hudson Phillips and Prof Emeritus Woodville Marshall both recall cacophany behind Taylor Hall in the mid-1950s as ‘di boys’ struggled to turn salvaged steel drums into workable steelpans and forge a workable steel band for fetes, support of hall activities including sometimes hard-contested football games, and carnival.

An article in the inaugural Pelican yearbook, 1955, named the UWI steel band pioneers: Arden Williams, Slim Downer, Mano Raymond, Joe Alfred, Joe Ramlochansingh, Lorry Wilson, Cito Wilcox, Sonny Lakam; Jackie Martin came after and then several others.

“The Steel Band started then with a serious handicap – inexperience; inexperience not only in playing the instruments but in making them. It was in those early days that the help of people like Dave Wildish, Buntie Rolle and James Ling proved invaluable. Fellows were needed to help cut the rough, unwieldly, evil smelling oil drums. to cart them up from the stores to the back of Block D Taylor Hall, to heat and tune them…” (Pelican 1955, p51)

In the 1960s, UWI boasted a University Esso Steel Orchestra, which produced a long playing (LP) record and some members of which went on a jaunt in Europe. But by the end of the 1960s/early 1970s, the early movers seem to have all moved on. Peter Gray remembers that Irvine Hall then had a steel band called Playboys. Taylor Hall had none. He recalls Ralph Gonsalves coming to Vulcans, a small pan side made up to campus kids and based in the West Road, to ask them to play for Taylor Hall.

He recalls a “little room at the top of the spine in Irvine Hall … it’s where I was first walked through the steps of making bass pans at least.” Valerie Gallimore, whose father was the late Prof Douglas Hall and whose family lived on campus near Irvine Hall, remembers “…the never-ending beating out of pans, which always seemed to start just as we sat down to supper…”

Gray notes that a later informal panyard was outside the Students’ Union facing west from the entrance. There he recalls that the late Herman Guppy, “tuner par-excellence of TnT, and whose brain I consistently picked about all matters related”, made more pans: two 6-bass, 2 triple-cellos, 2 tenors, 2 double-tenors. “I was the just the goffer, getting wood for the fire, water to put it out after burning the drums, buying the Malta/beer, and helping out generally” he said.

Were those the last of the locally made pans and was that the last of the UWI Mona panyards? If you know, please be in touch. And if you know anyone with photos of that early activity, we’d love to know too: <uwi.museum@uwimona.edu.jm>

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