If you are looking for information on the University College of the West Indies (UCWI) and early University of the West Indies (UWI) – especially from a student’s perspective – you can hardly do better than The Pelican annual, which appeared between 1955 and the mid-1970s; and its parent newsletter which started operating in 1951 – both published by students. In fact, The Pelican was the official voice of the Guild of Undergraduates. But if long life is the factor, then the student newsletter longevity award has to go to another publication, Taylor Hall’s Rising Star, despite its own ups and downs.
At a recent ‘Teach-In’ held jointly by the UWI Museum and the Department of History & Archaeology under their on-going ‘UWI & The 1960s’ theme, former Taylorite and later UWI Modern Language lecturer, now retired, Fay Durrant, spoke fondly of the Rising Star as a commentary on student life. But the roots of its emergence go back a decade before Durrant worked on the publication in the mid-1960s.
Lloyd Stanford, also an Arts student but from the mid-1950s, attributes the rise of The Rising Star to founding editor Sammy Cole’s wish to see a more regular publication of The Pelican monthly newsletter, which became sporadic after a time; as well as “a wish for freedom from some of the ‘strictures’ imposed by the Publications Committee”. He does not recall their being any hall rivalry in the emergence of the new publication – this at a time when Taylor as well as Chancellor were male halls and there was significant rivalry between them on and off the field of sports. However historian Woodville Marshall, then Chief Sub-editor of The Pelican and a resident of Chancellor Hall, remembers it a little differently:
“Unfortunately, in a way The Pelican was dominated by Chancellor people and the Taylor Hall men thought that their activities were not getting much attention. So led by a man called Sammy Cole, they staged a revolt and started their own newspaper, The Rising Star. So they started that, and there was a little bit of a polarization done; as a result and it got into the Guild Council.”
Sir Woodville remembers that time quite personally because he was Chief Sub-editor of The Pelican by his second year and had expected to be appointed Director of the Guild Press and by extension Editor of The Pelican. “But when the Guild Council met to choose the Director of the Guild Press… the Guild Council was dominated by Taylor Hall, so Taylor Hall (Chairman), Sammy Cole, the man who led the revolt that started The Rising Star, he was appointed Director of the Guild Press. He offered me the editorship of The Pelican and I refused out of pique. ”
Marshall recalls that that even after Cole became Guild Press Director, he remained committed to The Rising Star, especially because “…The Pelican was seen so much as a Chancellor thing “; so The Rising Star continued under editors like Frank Soloman and Burchell Whiteman.
And what about The Pelican monthly?
Sir Woodville noted that the two Pelicans were seen as “two separate publications but controlled by the same group so The Pelican was seen as a monthly magazine or newspaper, and the annual, really was a report on all the activities, all the clubs, all the societies, what they had done. The graduates, the important personalities on the campus and so that was what the annual was supposed to do. So, there was a clear distinction between them.”