Sometimes a photo is history condensed — history of the time, the people, the landscape!
This one was taken behind (or in front of) one of the blocks of Gibraltar Hall, where the first students of the University College of the West Indies (UCWI) lived; the men blocks apart from the women. Gib Hall, in re-purposed barracks-buildings from the World War 2 evacuee and refugee haven, Gibraltar Camp, was abandoned once new halls of residence were built in the early 1950s.
But the history even moreso resides in the who and the when of the huddle of young men, sitting on the grass waiting for the timer to set off the camera – once the photographer was safely in the shot! The photographer is that young men on the right – always his position when he was taking group shots that included him, he once revealed. His name was Owen Desmond Oliver Minott and he was both one of the first students of the university and one of the first doctors to graduate from the founding medical faculty. When he stood for president of the original Union of Students, his friends dubbed him “O.D.O. – the man we know!” He’s also in the second photo, with his original camera – one in the UWI Museum collection, around his neck; but by then he was a full fledged doctor.
The group he was photographing was called the 29th Club and they were the first students to arrive on the Mona Campus when it was the university’s founding campus, on September 29th. Classes started Monday October 4, 1948. Clive Charles of Saint Lucia, to the front and left of the photographer, apparently was the very first!
So who are they?
Back Row: Ludlow Burke, Don Christian, Hal Clarke, Roy Francis, Chas Greenwich;
Middle Row: Michael Woo-Ming; Ziggy Jones; Owen Minott;
Front Row: Al Walwyn, Lance Bannister; Clive Charles.
Dr Minott said, while once going through his archive, that “the raison d’etre of the 29th Club was to meet and eat chicken, once per month” and that they did so for a year, but that the members eventually disbanded the club because some other undergraduates felt they had created a bloc which could affect any voting amid the small campus population of the day. The UCWI’s first class, made up of men and women from nine Caribbean countries, was 33 students. The next year the number rose to 70 and then doubled again…and so on.
Now in the UWI’s 70th anniversary year, how many people ever knew this little piece of history?!!