Great Jamaican Teachers

Thomas Burchell Stephenson

Daily Gleaner, January 6, 1909


Presentation to Mr. T. B. Stephenson.


A Life Devoted To Education In Jamaica.

After 46 years of service as an elementary schoolmaster,

Mr. T. B. Stephenson, the respected headmaster of the

East Queen St. Baptist School, has retired from active

work, and the present and past pupils of the school, his

colleagues in the profession and admire[r]s met at

Edmondson Hall yesterday to present him with an

address and a purse in recognition of his distinguished


His Excellency the Governor presided, and on the platform were Hon. Thomas Capper, Col.

Hicks, Major Gruchy, Revs. Gordon Somers, W. Pratt, A. James, G. L. Young, Mrs. Walcott,

Mr. Peat, Mr. Stewart, Mr. Plant and Mr. Phillips.

Mr. Stewart, in a very able speech, introduced the Governor, who expressed the pleasure it

gave him to be present, and congratulated Mr. Stephenson on the excellent work he had done

in the cause of education. Schoolmasters, said His Excellency, were like missionaries; they

laboured not for what it brought them, but they worked for the sake of the work. Men like Mr.

Stephenson were content because of the deeds that followed them. Their spirits were attuned

not so much to obtaining worldly goods, but to the uplifting of their race. He felt honoured on

being given the opportunity to preside at the meeting. 


Mr. K. N. Phillips then read the address as follows, Mrs. Walcott at the same time handing Mr. Stephenson the purse:

Dear Mr. Stephenson,

Now that you have retired from active life as an elementary schoolmaster, we desire to

express our high appreciation of the invaluable service you have rendered our country in

that capacity.

You have spent 46 years of your life in the schoolroom during which you have by indomitable

pluck, energy, perseverance and determination proved yourself one of our most successful

teachers. In the course of your professionil [sic] career over 10,000 pupils have come under

your tuition, 8,000 of whom in the city of Kingston; and here we gladly bear grateful

testimony to the effect your training has had upon us. Not only have you sought to equip us

intellectually for our life's work, but realizing the true ideal of a teacher and the dignity and

importance of the office as a prominent factor in the making of a people, one of the

characteristic features of  your training has been your constant endeavour to inspire us with

a true sense of justice and honesty of purpose and all that makes for true manliness and good

citizenship. The impress of  your noble character has been so indelibly stamped upon us, that

nobility of life and character is the good after which we strive.

We note with pleasure and pride the positions which some of your pupils occupy scattered as

they are among the various avocations of life including the legal, ministerial, medical,

teaching. Mercantile, with a large number of artisans, and we all look back with gratitude

and satisfaction, on the time spent, under your instruction.

During the 46 years of your faithful labour you have evinced the keenest interest in the

social, moral and intellectual welfare of our people, and have always taken a leading part In

the solution of questions that affect elementary education in this island. Your opinion based

on sound judgment and long practical experience has always been respected not only by your

brethren in the profession but by others interested in the educational advancement of our

country. This is evidenced by your having been appointed for three consecutive years to serve

on the Board of Education and elected president of the Jamaica Union of Teachers on two

different occasions, and member of the executive of that body from its formation to the

present time. These are slight proofs of the esteem in which you are held by the community.

Without making any invidious distinction with the subscribers of the purse, whose response

has been so ready and spontaneous a few quotations from letters received will give some Idea

of the general high esteem in which you are held:

"I shall be happy to attend on the occasion of the presentation of an address to a teacher

whom I esteem so highly as I do Mr. Stephenson."

 - Hon. Thomas Capper, B.A., Superintending Inspector of Schools.

"ln common with all who know Mr. Stephenson, I have a high opinion of his character and of

the value of his work, and I am glad to join in expressing it."

 - Rev. Canon Wm. Simms M. A., Head Master, Jamaica College.

"No teacher has in my judgment rendered better service to the cause of education in this

island than Mr. Stephenson and no teacher deserves to be honoured more than he."

  - Rev. Wm. Pratt, M. A.

"It will give me great pleasure to honour Mr. Stephenson whom I know and respect, and

whose services for Elementary Education in this island I highly appreciate."

 - Right Rev. Bishop Collins, S. J.

"The Governor recognises that there are exceptional circumstances in regard to Mr.

Stephensons distinguished and honourable career as a schoolteacher which would make it

particularly agreeable to him to preside on the occasion proposed."

 - E. T. Scott, Private Secretary.

"I regret very much as an Old Calabar boy I cannot be present at such a necessary function. It

has been a great privilege to come under the influence of a man of such marked personality,

strength of character and honesty of purpose."

 - J. L. King, B. A., Gray's Inn, London.

In bidding adieu to the profession, we are conscious that it is only the robe of activity in the

service that will be laid aside, but the garment of whole-hearted zeal and intense interest in a

cause which is dear to your heart will still be worn by you, and while we fain would think of

your departure from the schoolroom, we joy in the fact that your experience, counsel and

guidance will ever be at our disposal.

As a token of our appreciation and recognition of your services to Jamaica for close upon half

a century, and of our thankfulness for the example set us of an upright, useful life, we would

ask you to accept the accompanying purse subscribed to by past and present pupils and

others who share our high opinion of your work and worth. Truly your life reminds us,

"We can make our lives sublime,

And departing leave behind us,

Footprints on the sand of time."

May the Good Shepherd continue to lead you and your dear wife beside the "still waters";

may "goodness and mercy follow you all the remaining days of your lives" and in your

declining days may you both experience that "peace which passeth all understanding" and

when you shall have put off this mortal coil may you be welcomed by the Great Teacher in the

haven of rest is the earnest prayer of your grateful pupils.

The address is signed by Kent Newton Phillips, J. Alex. Stewart, Arthur A. Stephenson,

Samuel Cross, Arthur E. Nicholas, Walton S. Cooper, John Rodgers, Samuel Kitchen and

Henry F. Nicholls, on behalf of the others.




Mr. Stephenson, in reply, heartily thanked

them all for the address they had given him

and the souvenir that accompanied it. He

joined in the expression of sorrow at Mr.

Bourne's death and expressed his deepest

sympathy with Mrs. Bourne who was a true

friend to the elementary schoolteachers of the


In thanking the Governor for being present,

Mr. Stephenson expressed the hope that

during His Excellency's administration, with

the advice of his executive, an enactment

would be passed which would bring into the

schools thousands who did not at present

enjoy the benefit of going to school.

Mr. Pratt, Col. Hicks and other speakers

testified to Mr. Stephenson's high character

and the splendid service he had rendered as a

schoolmaster to the youth of this country.



'Oh, these God-sent teachers . . . . of rural Jamaica, in those opportunity-starved years

of the early nineteen hundreds.'    

J. J. Mills - His own account of his life and times. (Kingston, 1969), page 41.