Wolmer’s celebrates 290 years

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THE Wolmer’s Trust Group of Schools, which owns the title of oldest school in the English-speaking Caribbean, is this year celebrating 290 years as one of the premier educational institutions in Jamaica.

It all began with a noble goldsmith called John Wolmer.

On May 19, 1729 Wolmer made his last will and testament, leaving the bulk of his estate for the foundation of a free school in the parish in which he happened to die. This parish just happened to be Kingston; where he died on June 29, 1729. The sum of this legacy was £2,360.

Wolmer’s Trust was established in 1736, after some delays with the passing of the law to effect John Wolmer’s will between the Council and House of Assembly. The school began with only boys being enrolled. However, towards the end of the 18th century, in 1782, Wolmer’s began to enroll girls.

The Wolmer’s school was originally situated downtown, on Church Street, until the earthquake of 1907 after which it relocated to its current site, north of the former Kingston Race Course, now called National Heroes’ Park. The original location, beside Kingston Parish Church, is still known as Wolmer’s yard and features a parking lot and vendors arcade.

In 1896 the combined boys and girls school was separated and independent heads appointed. The prep school was established in 1941 at the beckoning of then headmistress for the girls’ school, Evelyn Skempton to matriculate graduates in the high school. It opened its doors with six little girls in the area which now houses the canteen and art room.

Fast-forward to current times and the fulfillment of John Wolmer’s will and legacy fund has been impactful, to say the least. Since 1904, the Wolmer’s Schools have educated 23 Rhodes Scholars, the most for any one school in the Caribbean, several members of government, and who have topped their fields in various areas.

Sir Florizel Augustus Glasspole, the island’s third and longest-serving governor general (from 1973 to 1991), and Edward Phillip George Seaga, Jamaica’s fifth prime minister (from 1980–1989) and a former leader of the Jamaica Labour Party once walked Wolmer’s halls.

Wolmer’s also gave birth to the first female attorney to practise in Jamaica, Daisy Lucille Chambers, who was admitted to the highest court in Jamaica on March 17, 1948 as Jamaica’s first woman solicitor.

In the field of sport, the Wolmer’s schools have produced the greatest female sprinter in history, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the first female in history to win medals at three-consecutive Olympic Games; she is also the first female Jamaican athlete and Caribbean woman to win 100m Gold at the Olympics.

Securing our nation and its borders brings us to Lt General Rocky R Meade who was appointed to the rank of lieutenant general in February 2019. The appointment makes history in the JDF as it has never been conferred before. Lt General Meade has made significant strides in the areas of national security, intelligence and linguistics. He has authored several articles on the military and its structure whilst also being the chair of several educational, governance, and crime strategy boards.

The Wolmer’s group’s year-long anniversary celebration, which commenced on March 22, will culminate with a boat party in November. Major observances will be the anniversary chuch service on Sunday May 19 at 8:00 am at Kingston Parish Church, and Founder’s Day on May 21.

In October, the plans are to host a banquet to highlight eight Wolmerians or contributors who have significantly impacted history . That event is schduled for the Jamaica Pegasus on October 26.

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