April 2020 Volume 16

Six reasons to buy and read Frances Coke’s new book, The Spirit of Clovelly Park

Dr. Cedric Lazarus
Text Size
  • -
  • +
  • reset

Reason number one: You might be in it. If you attended KC in the 1970s you might be in the book. Who can’t relate to a boy asking the teacher why his poor mother needed to buy one exercise book for English language and another for English literature when one would suffice! Were you among those who played money football on the teachers’ desk at lunch time? Were you one of those who asked Mrs. Coke why she did not write her own poems instead of always reading those of others in her literature class? If you did, then you are mentioned in the book, not by name, but by inference.

Reason number two: If you knew Ivan ‘Wally’ Johnson (The protector of all things ‘Fortis’) and Peter Maxwell, or if they taught you or influenced you in any way, then you have to read The Spirit of Clovelly to hear some of what these two KC stalwarts imparted to the author when she first came to KC and sat beside them in the formidable Hardie House staff room. In addition to Johnson and Maxwell you will also gain insights into the sharp minds of Mrs. Riley and Mrs. Reid the two female stalwarts in the English department in those years. If you want to hear a bit of how teachers talked in the staff room about their students (and also about other teachers!) then this book is essential reading. Of course, her first interactions and conversations with then principal Douglas Forest are recalled in such a way that you will say to yourself, “Yes, that was Dougs!” After all, while seated in his office when she arrived for the job interview she had to listen to ‘Bolero’ by Ravel on his old gramophone.

Reason number three: If you were gripped by the quiz mania that swept the entire school in the 70s and are interested in knowing how and when the KC quiz dynasty started then this is the place to gain a rare insight into the thought process, dynamism and brilliance of our first great quiz coach. The Schools’ Challenge Competition is now fifty-two years old and KC has won it eleven times starting in 1974 with her first super team of Jackson, FitzHenley, Jones and Campbell. We used to call the author ‘Miss Quiz’ - reading the book will explain why.

Reason number four: Although she writes mainly about her teaching, coaching and counselling experiences while at KC, the author was not afraid to touch on personal issues such as the separation from her KC Old Boy husband after a few years of marriage. We also get a glimpse of her rebellious teenage years at Alpha Academy and some of the struggles and angst that her family went through in those years.

Reason number five: The book explores with clarity and in some detail the socio-political, economic and cultural changes that were taking took place in Jamaica in the 1970s. She explores how some of those changes impacted KC students and their parents as well as the administrators and teachers at the school.

Reason number six: If you love KC and are a true Fortis then you must read this book. Frances Coke writes with humor and, especially in the first few chapters, you will laugh out aloud so many times that those around you will think that you have lost it. It is an important recollection of the decade of the 70s that KC boys of all eras will find interesting and stimulating. Do not take my word for it. Buy it and read it and then tell me if I am right or wrong.

Top of Page