On my first day at GBSS I saw guys with beards in school uniform… I couldn’t recall seeing any boy with a beard in my UK secondary school…
The month before, in London, I was preoccupied with Rugby, fashion – Dr Martin boots, polyester “don’t jester” school jacket and the idea of girls.
In my new school, students were focused on social and political issues I’d never even heard about. They were talking in detail about issues facing students and young people around the world. But what struck me was how the students organised themselves – that blew my mind. They demonstrated at school about the headteacher… I remember my intrigue like it was yesterday!!!
I became a politically aware student. Loved debating. Loved the tuck shop. Loved giving my house “Hughes” (green) 1 point running the cross country. Loved supporting tiny-mites football. Loved InterCol. Loved the “tambrand” track (if you went to GBSS you know why). Loved our WW2 barracks converted into halls of learning. And many times with Thompson, Val, Joey, Dean and other St John’s boys, we would walk home, man that was fun…!!
Now a senior in school; the tension on island was so thick it could be cut with a knife. Then the news many of us heard on the rumour mill actually happened – Maurice Bishop the Prime Minister of Grenada was under house arrest.
This was bad. My father gave me strict instructions – from school, straight home. I had other thoughts on my mind…
The night before Maurice was freed, “Zaire” – I can’t remember his real name. Told me, someone will come into your class tomorrow and give you the signal to bring the school out into the streets.
It’s morning, my mum told me “Roy you’re not going to school today”. I gave her the sweetest talk and reassurance if anything happened I’d leave immediately.
Lessons are in full swing, I couldn’t hear anything; then it happened. Ian entered my class and shouted “it’s time”. I got up and shouted to the class everybody OUT.
We lined the students who wanted to demonstrate (many didn’t) in front of the headmasters office – defiant or what. Then led them out of the school to join High School girls in the demonstration chanting “who is the leader leader leader, who is the leader – BISHOP”.
It felt like the whole country was out demonstrating, the market square was packed with people. Then… it started as a whisper that turned into a roar…”we are going to free the leader”.
Before I realised what was happening, we were heading up Market Hill. At the compound where Maurice Bishop was being held, “Bogo” Cornwall addressed us – go home. I can still see the look in his eyes, he looked straight at me. It sent chills through me.
I was a student volunteer at the ministry of education with Tally Francis and met Bogo. That look… told me this was bad, I just didn’t know how bad. One of the soldiers let off a volley of shots into the air. People ducked but no one moved.
We stormed in. I waited outside a window expecting gun fire. Nothing happened. Next thing a stretcher with a man on it appears… OMG that’s Maurice Bishop. I grabbed hold on the stretcher and continued moving.
At the main road, guys in a yellow public works truck showed up. An argument ensued. Half wanted Bish to be taken to the airport to be protected by the Cubans, half demanded Bish is the commander in chief and should be taken to the fort.
To the fort we went. I was positioned outside the door where Bish was getting medical attention (in that very picture). The steps to the main fort compound was protected by soldiers, in a zig zag formation, one on every other rung. I will stop here, please don’t be disappointed.
One Revolution and a lot of aspirations died that day. Many personal revolutions were birthed however. Among the countless dead, one GBSS student was killed when Coard’s cowards stormed the fort against unarmed students and civilians. The US invaded. The end. New beginnings.
A lot more happened on that day we freed Maurice Bishop. I’m hoping everyone can share their experiences. What a rich memorial that would make.
I survived those events – I believe my mother knew the danger I was in and prayed every minute I was out until I got back home.
In honour of all who died in October 1983. Never forgotten; I pray your families have peace.