We’ve been working to get the timeline straight for the story of how both steel bands and carnival evolved at the Mona, Jamaica regional hub that was the University College of the West Indies, popularly known as ‘UC’, in the 1950s; and to capture some of the voices. A cameo exhibition last year was a work-in-progress, and since then we’ve been able to bring more people into the conversation. Some of them are UCWI grads who have personal recall (and sometimes photos too!) of the days when UCWI carnival was more Ol’ Mas than today’s ‘Pretty Mas’; and then there are those whose memories are more of the emergence of the pan sound.
Not only did the sound of pan become popular, after some initial resistance, but the UCWI panmen (at first there were only men) made or ‘sunk’ their own pans from very smelly and sticky oil drums that had to be cut to size and hammered over fires. The first UCWI student to play pan on campus, we’re told, was Arden ‘Gun’ Williams of Trinidad, playing a pan he brought from home in 1953. But the first pan side included more southern Caribbean men – band leader Emmanuel ‘Mano’ Raymond along with Joey Alfred, Lorry Wilson, Cito Wilcox and others. Dr Archie Hudson-Phillips, who was a med student on campus, says that the ones most involved in the early pan-making were Mano and Joey, Sito Wilcox, Terry Baden-Semper and Bertie McNeil.
Thanks to Dr Hudson-Phillips, to David Picou, Murchison Wilson and Laurence Wedderburn who have helped to tease out some of the early and slightly later threads. Recently there have also been inputs from Shirley Whylie who at the end of the 1950s was the first woman to play pan at the UCWI and in Jamaica, at a time when it was still definitely a man’s activity; even moreso in the Southern Caribbean. Her cousin Marjorie, who came on campus when the UCWI had just turned into the independent, degree granting University of the West Indies (UWI), and Judith Cunningham Wedderburn who played in an All-Girls Band in the mid-60s are others we’ve tapped. Then there’s Peter Gray, who was a pan-playing Campus Kid of the late-60s. And we discovered that at least two UWI students/graduates – Avia Ustanny and David Aarons – had preceded us on aspects of this exploration with valuable work.
A couple of albums were recorded during the early years. This one is early 1960s vintage. Dr Laurence Wedderburn, who played Double Seconds in the band at this time, shared the link and we thought you would enjoy it too. We also have the good fortune to have this one in our collection courtesy of the family of Dr H Roy Francis, one of the pioneering Medical students and graduates of the UCWI.