Alpha Boys’ School’s founder - Justina Ripall - was born in Kingston Jamaica, of a Portuguese father and a French mother on 18th of July 1852, the youngest of five children. Jessie as she was called, worshipped at the Holy Trinity Cathedral Catholic Church, and was an active member of the Ladies of Charity. She and her two close companions, Josephine Ximenes and Louise Dugiol, decided to establish an orphanage in Jamaica.
With what savings they had they purchased the forty-three acre property “ALPHA”, on South Camp Road in Kingston Jamaica. On 1st of May 1880, the date was set for planting the mustard seed, which eventually grew into the world renown and famous Alpha Boy’s School.
Holding a little orphan girl with one hand, and a statue of Our Lady with the other, Jessie unlatched the wicket gate and walked up the bushy path to the “Cottage”. On entering, she placed the statue on a windowsill and presented Our Lady with a spray of wild flower.
History does not recall the date when the Alpha Orphanage was opened to boys’ but it is thought to be about two or three years after 1st of May 1880.
After ten years of poverty and privations of all kinds, the valiant little band of three was joined on 12th of December 1890 by a group of Sisters of Mercy from Bermondsey in London England and the work grew by leaps and bounds. On 2nd of February 1891, Jessie, Louise and Josephine received the habit of the Order of Mercy, taking as their religious names Sister Mary Peter Claver, Sister Mary Joseph and Sister Margaret Mary, respectively.
A long life is a short one so it seems, and after so many long years of total dedicated and loving, caring service, each was called to her reward; Sister Mary Joseph on 31st of January 1895, Sister Margaret Mary on 19th of August 1944 and Mother Mary Claver on 10th of December 1949.
Over the years Sisters of Mercy have come to Alpha from England, Ireland, Malta, USA, Canada, Panama, British Honduras, Cuba and Trinidad. Many of the Alpha graduates have joined the Sisters of Mercy and are following the example set so long ago by our beloved Mother Claver.
One such sister was Sister Mary Ignatius Davis. Sister Ignatius was born in Innswood, St Catherine Jamaica on 18th of November 1921. She was baptised at the Roman Catholic Church in Spanish Town, and went to the elementary school in that town. Later her family migrated to Kingston and she then attended Alpha Academy. The Sisters there made such an impression on her through their concern for the poor that she joined the Sisters of Mercy on 1st of February 1939 and stayed in residence for the remainder of her life. Sister Ignatius who outlived a lot of her famous music students and scholars, died on the 9th of February 2003, at the age of 81 at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Jamaica, one day after suffering a heart attack. Sister Ignatius lived and worked among her boys at Alpha Boys’ School for 64 years.
The past students of Alpha Boys’ School will always be deeply grateful to the many Sisters of Mercy too numerous to name but when one remember terminology like “my son” which was used daily, coupled with “Mother D”, “Mama Fonsa/Ma Fonsa” and “Aunt Jo” that tells you something of the personal relationships between the nuns and the boys which bring us to the point of the goals and objectives of this great home/school called Alpha Boys’ School in Kingston Jamaica.
Like all the nuns before her, from Sister Alphanso, Sister Marie Therese, Sister Dominic, Sister Theresa, Sister Maureen, Sister Thecla, Sister Madeline Sophie etc, etc, Sister Ignatius played a great part in preparing the boys for their future which had a wide range of skills to choose from including industry, agriculture, horticulture, poultry farming, shoemaking, tailoring, and woodwork, plumbing, electronic, welding, mechanic, printing, book-binding and music.
Alpha Boys’ School is a vocational school in Kingston, Jamaica and a major contributor to the past and current success of Jamaica’s popular musical achievements.
AOBA-Online is sponsored and supported by past students who are members of the Alpha Old Boys’ Association (AOBA).
Compiled by Cottrell Hyatt
The 43 acres of land at 26 South Camp Road was bought for £400 by a Miss Jessie Ripoll, a Jamaican of Portuguese parentage. Born a mere 17 years after slavery was abolished, Miss Jessie’s experience of the effects of poverty and homelessness moved her to dedicate her life and possessions to the poor children of Jamaica. Thus, starting with a single orphan girl, Jessie and two friends (Josephine Ximinez and Louise Dugiol) formed a dedicated partnership that began on May 1, 1880 the establishment of an orphanage called the “Alpha Cottage”.
Nucleus of Alpha Boys School commenced when a few boys were admitted to Alpha Cottage.
Future work was assured by financial assistance from the then governor of Jamaica, Sir Henry Blake, authorising ABS as an “Industrial School” on the 20th August 1890. More importantly, Jamaica saw the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy from Bermondsey, England, on the 12th of December, leading to Jessie and her two friends joining the order of Sisters of Mercy two months later as Sisters Mary Peter Claver, Mary Joseph and Margaret Mary respectively. Alpha was now in the making!
The school’s band started as a Drum and Fife Corps.
ABS visited by members of the Jamaica Legislative Council. In November of that year, the first school inspection carried out by a Mr. Francis Reid of the Education Dept.
ABS’s first printery was established to teach printing and bookbinding. The first Catholic Opinion Newspaper in Jamaica was printed in this printery.
The great earthquake of 1907 destroyed building including the printery. For months the boys slept in tents.
Gift of brass instruments from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Jamaica to the school started the now popular Alpha Boys’ Band. Also the Jamaica Defence Force appointed Sgt. Walter Harrison as drill instructor to Alpha Boys’ School which post he filled until 1965.
The Alpha Boys’ Band led the procession to North Street for the blessing of the Holy Trinity Cathedral.
The Woodwork Shop was erected to teach the boys’ the craft of carpentry.
An Alpha Boys’ School choir was formed.
The School’s dining room, kitchen, and the storerooms were destroyed by fire.
Shorthand and typing classes were introduced to ABS.
New buildings were erected for the Tailor and Shoe “shops”.
Pottery was introduced as an industrial option.
The first group of 19 boys were sent from Maxfield Park Children’s Home (local authority home) to Alpha Boys, School by the Mayor of Kingston.
The number of boys on roll touched 400.
A new schoolroom was started and completed in 1939.
Sister Mary Ignatius (DAVIES) joined the Convent of Mercy - Alpha on February 1st 1939 after attending Alpha Academy for Girls.
The St. Joseph’s Hostel for working boys was opened on the site of the now Jessie Ripoll School.
Tile and Block making trade commenced.
Don Drummond left Alpha Boys’ School at the age of 16
Hurricane Charlie destroyed the Junior Home and the Paul Dormitory; four boys lost their lives.
The new junior home and Paul Dormitory was finished.
First Military Parade by school put on in honour of Queen’s Coronation. Also a group of twelve “under fives”, referred to as “The Twelve Apostles” by Sister Mary Thecla and Sister Mary Madeline Sophie, arrived from the Maxwell Park Home. Later two of them were to become substantial contributors to Byron Lee and Dragonaires, to Mico Teachers College and to the Jamaica School of Music.
Lennie Hibbert succeeded Ruben Delgado as Band Master.
Henry Williams, a past student of Alpha Boys’ School, was ordained a priest on July 2 at Holy Trinity Cathedral. ABS won the Harrison Cricket Cup (a competition for Private Secondary Schools) for the first of many times.
The opening of St. John Bosco School, a branch of Alpha Boys’ School in Hatfield, Manchester in Jamaica.
Jamaica Independence; ” March to Nationhood”- Historical pageant staged by past and present boys as part of Jamaica Independence celebration.
The Skatallites was formed in May of 1964. Four of its founding members were past students of Alpha Boys’ School: Don Drummonds, Johnny ‘Dizzy’ Moore, Lester Sterling O.D., and Tommy McCook. Also, The Alpha Boys’ School Cadet Unit was founded.
The year of Drama: a popular play “Jamaica Way “ written and produced by Sister Mary Ignatius and Mr. Sydney Oakley ran for a number of months at the Little Theatre. Also, a two and half hour pageant, “One Solitary Life,” depicting events from the beginning of the world to the present year, was staged several times.
Two Alpha graduates entered Mico Teachers College.
Don Drummond died at the age of 35.
Fr. Arthur Kelly, S.V.D. (Society of the Divine World Seminary Boston Mass. U.S.A.) a past student of Alpha Boys School celebrated his first Mass in Jamaica.
Fr. Martin, O.P., ABS graduate, ordained priest in Grenada.
Remodelling of old building in blocks and steel completed in 1978.
Gift to Printery of Heidelberg Press, guillotine and stapling machine from the German Bishops.
Gift from US-AID in Jamaica of overhead irrigation system for the farm.
Entire Alpha celebrates 100th anniversary: over $7,000 worth of instruments donated to the band by Cootie Elli of Germany.
December 21st 1982 Alpha Boys’ School was gazetted as a comprehensive high school; 8 boys started extra classes for G.C.E.
12 boys were admitted as musicians to the Jamaica Military Band and Regiment Band.
Alpha Boys’ School Centenary Year: Alpha Old Boys’ Association (Jamaica Chapter) held a pop and variety concert at the Carib Theatre, featuring Leroy Smart, Jo Jo Bennett, Felix Taylor, Eggie, Dean Frazer, Ken Boothe, B.B. Seaton, Delroy Wilson, Lloyd Parkes & “We the People Band”, Chalice, THE ALPHARIAN’S and many others. The Jamaica Folk Singers also held a special Benefit Concert in aid of Alpha Boys’ School at the Little Theatre. So too did the past students in New York, featuring the Skatallites. Sister Marie Therese and Sister Mary Ignatius attended this function all of which were in aid of Alpha Boys’ School.
On January 8th, an ABS graduate* became the first black Chief Probation Officer in Britain, responsible for a Probation Service in a British city. He headed the Probation Service in the Birmingham North before taking responsibility for the City of Coventry.
The Alpha Old Boys’ Association (UK Chapter) met for the first time. It was a dream of Sister Mary Ignatius & Sister Marie Therese that the past students of Alpha Boys’ School who reside in the UK, USA, & Canada might form an Old Boys’ Association to keep in touch with fellow “Alpharians”. The Alpha Old Boys’ Association (UK Chapter) held meetings in London, Salisbury, and Birmingham.
Sister Marie Therese died in Kingston Jamaica.
2nd August, a group met and took Sister Ignatius to the final Royal Tournament at Earls Court a fitting memory of her and Sgt Harrison putting the band and cadets through our paces for special celebratory occasions.
Sister Mary Ignatius Davies died on February 9th 2003 in the University Hospital of the West Indies. Tributes have continued to be made on radio, television and on the Internet.
By Sister Mary Ignatius Davies, RSM
In simplicity and seeming obscurity the Alpha Boys' Band started in the year 1892. A seed hidden in the soil of Jamaica. Who could have visualized that that seed would have grown into the sturdy tree that the band is today?
The foundation members of the Band, or rather, the Drum & Fife Corps, as it was then, played by ear, as at that time it was impossible to finance the services of a Bandmaster. However, a soldier from Camp came in occasionally to assist with the training. The little group worked hard and their labour was crowned with success. On September 7, 1893, they were able to take their first public engagement.
Improvements came gradually, through the interest of Bishop Collins some second-hand brass instruments were obtained in 1908 and to Sergeant Kniff of the West India Regiment must go the credit of arranging the brass section - thus began the present Brass Band. Some years after, the Band possessed a musical genius in the person of Leslie Thompson, who taught himself to play all the available instruments. He eventually enlisted in the Jamaica Military Band and later was awarded a scholarship to Kneller Hall, England. He was eventually successful in obtaining his Doctorate in Music.
From that first year in 1892, progress towards musical maturity has been steady. This can be seen from the number of past students who have been and are the backbone of the three major bands in the Island. Jamaica Military, Regimental, and Constabulary. The Alpha Band has become a part of the musical culture of Jamaica and a very healthy and progressive part. From behind its stands have come many musical greats who have carried beyond the shores of their native land the "International Key of Music".
Wherever there is music, Alpha's representatives are to be found, be it on the Continent, in the U.S.A., or the Caribbean. In the Symphony or Jazz orchestra or just a Calypso Combo, you will find the Alpha "old boy" giving of his musical best and trying to communicate to others that warmth and contentment that music in its varied phases gives.
From the beginning to the present - 109 years of unbroken service to the Island of Jamaica - the Alpha Boys' Band has ever striven to fulfil its obligation to the public in a way worthy of the school's motto "UPWARD AND ONWARD".
In addition to those mentioned before, are other outstanding musicians over the years 1940-1990. All mentioned in this history have taken care of the century just faded. There are still others to come who have not yet left school. They too, will make their mark in the centuries to come.
During the century, the band has played for H.R.H. The Queen Mother, H.R.H. Queen Elizabeth II, H.R.H. The Prince Charles The Prince of Wales, The Holy Father Pope John Paul II, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie, The Duchess of Kent, many Governors, Prime Ministers, and the populace of Jamaica - bringing them all joy and happiness.
The band has also travelled to Miami and Atlanta, U.S.A in 1990.
We continue to be very proud of the accomplishments of the Alpha Boys' School Band and the entire school and know that this rich history could not have been accomplished without God's blessing and the help of many, many people over these many years.
In June 2001, Sister Mary Ignatius Davies travelled to Seattle, Washington for the opening of the Island Revolution Exhibition, which featured the work of Alpha Boys' School and its contribution to the msic industry over the years. She was also presented with a Proclamation from the Mayor of the City of Seattle, Paul Schell for her contribution to the Exhibition, and he declared June 7, 2001 to be Seattle Island Revolution Day while recognizing and honouring the extraordinary talent of the Jamaican people.
In September 2001, with the assistance of Studio One Records and Sir Clement Dodd, the Alpha Boys' Band began work on the first record/CD. It has been a monumental task, but we hope it will reap benefits for the school for many years to come. The project was completed in December 2002.
Sister Mary Ignatius Davies, who wrote this Band History, passed away on February 9, 2003, just 1 1/2 months after the completion of the CD. She is the narrator for many of the songs on the CD and we are very proud to have her acknowledged in this manner. Many people around the world who knew this gentle lady will treasure thie CD for many years to come.
|Oscar Clarke||Trumpeter who toured with Louis Armstrong's orchestra|
|Joe Harriott||Chief exponent of 'Free Form Jazz' on the Continent|
|Lennie Hibbert O.D.||One of the most well-known Jazz musician in Jamaica|
|Eddie 'Tan Tan' Thornton||Trumpeter with "Boney M" and Georgie Fame's Orchestra in England|
|Don Drummond||World-rated trombonist who gave to Jamaica "Eastern Standard Time", "Reload" "Occupation" and many others|
|Tommy McCook O.D.||axophonist of Skatalite fame and a leading name in Reggae music|
|Rico Rodriques||Trombonist who reached the top of the charts in London|
|Reuben Delgado||Outstanding clarinettist in the Caribbean|
|Excellence in Sports:
|Winners of The Harrison Cricket Cup (8 times)
Winners of The Facey Cup (4 times)
Scholarship Awarded to University of Taxes
50% + of Jamaican Side consisted of ABS Alumni
National and International boxing champions**
|Excellence in Music & Dance:
• Feeder to the Jamaica Military Band
• Feeder to classical and jazz musicians
• Classical Choral Training
• Contemporary Dance
The backbone and (at one time) the main Jamaican outlet for progressing music.
Exemplified by the names of Charles Clarke, Lennie Hibbert and Jasper Shaw.
Exemplified by Victor Scholes and Tony Gregory.
Frank Ashley international dance choreographer with his company, Creation of Mouvement in USA and France.
|Excellence in Social Professions:
• Leslie Thompson Ph.D., JP
• Basil Hylton MA, CQSW
First black man to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra.
First black Chief Officer of the Probation to head this Service in and for a British City (Coventry)*.
|Excellence in Personal Achievements in Arts & Sports:
• Popular Performing Art
Joe Harriott - Don Drummond
Johnny “Dizzy” Moore - Lester Sterling
Tommy McCook - Wilton Gaynair
Dizzy Reece - Joe Bennett
Reco Rodriques - Eddie Thornton
Cedric “Im” Brooks - Leroy Wallace
Vin Gordon - David Madden
Leroy Smart - Yellowman
Owen Grey - Floyd Lloyd
…….. and many many more!!
Football: Owen Stewart (national and international)
Cricket: Charles “Giant” Simpson, Clifton Burnett, Joe Franklyn, Albert Anderson, Basil Hylton.
Boxing: Roy Lee**, Allan Harmon, Rupert Bentley, Lennard Slue
Weightlifting: Cedric Demetrius
|Trades and Vocations ABS Offered:||Music, Agri/Horticulture and Poultry Farming, Shoemaking, Tailoring, Woodwork, Plumbing, Electronics, Welding; Printing and Bookbinding.|
Dr. Festus Wright
Community & Union Rep
Retired Miner & Musician
Youth & Community
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