Back to school ... after 50 years
Lawrence Trott starts feeling sentimental whenever he drives past East End Primary School.
His parents, Fred and Shirley, and his five siblings studied there; his 1969 class was the first to graduate from the school’s present location — Grenadier Lane, St George’s.
“This year marks 50 years since we graduated,” said Mr Trott, a sports reporter and photographer with The Royal Gazette. “I’m very proud of the school.”
He wanted to do something special to mark the occasion and gave each of the 14 school students leaving a signed copy of his book, Cup Match in Bermuda, a collection of photographs he took of the annual cricket match over the course of 40 years.
Thrilled by the gifts, East End Primary invited Mr Trott to speak at last month’s graduation ceremony for students moving on to middle school.
“I wasn’t planning on that,” he said. “That took me by surprise.”
Once there, although there were some changes, the memories started flooding back when he visited his old classroom.
When he started at East End Primary, aged 5, it sat at the bottom of Barrack Hill. It then moved for a few years to the grounds where St George’s Secondary School was, which is now occupied by the Sylvia Richardson rest home. In 1968, the school relocated to its current spot.
Mr Trott’s classmates included Venetta Symonds (née Pearman), the chief executive of Bermuda Hospitals Board. Another well-known student was Gina Swainson, who in 1979 was named first runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant before winning the title of Miss World.
“We had all kinds of students,” he said. “Ainsley Hodgson was the principal in my day. She was well respected by the students.”
His peers were respectful of their teachers. If canes were used to discipline students, he rarely saw them.
“Children in those days really didn’t give their teachers a hard time,” Mr Trott said.
His main teacher was the late James “Jimmy” Copeland, originally from Scotland, who taught the class calligraphy and coached the football teams.
“We all went down to Robertson’s Drug Store to buy special pens,” Mr Trott said, remembering how the teacher sometimes wore a kilt to teach students about his homeland.
“We all loved learning to write in italics. Mr Copeland was a former professional footballer in Scotland. He coached the St George’s Colts football team.”
The 2019 graduating class of 14 was a lot smaller than his was five decades earlier.
“When I left the school, there were two classes of 30,” he said. “I heard about a year ago, that because of the numbers, they were a school that possibly could get cut. That is a shame because there is a lot of history down there.”
In his speech to the 11-year-old graduates, he told them to believe in themselves.
“You may be too young to be thinking about what you want to do for a career — that’s fine,” he said. “But when you do decide, stick with it. Believe in yourself and you can accomplish things. I have lots of books at home and when I read, I highlight different quotes. Some of them I would like to share with you.
“Maybe they will stand you in good stead in years to come: ‘don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind, be led instead by the dreams in your heart; if you hope to be successful you have to dare to be different’.”
Most of the children Mr Trott went to school with came from the Wellington area, two miles away from East End Primary. He managed to track down a handful before last month’s graduation; another six had passed away.
He found out just recently about the death of one, Deborah Robinson.
“I saw her sister at the grocery store and I said, ‘How is Deborah?’” he said. “I was really shocked to find out she’d passed away 25 years ago. I was no good after that.”
Mr Trott, who published his first book, Bermuda Sports, in 1997, thinks he developed his love of writing at the school.
“I can remember placing in the top three in a spelling contest in the class,” he said.
“These little things probably guided me towards writing. I still like to read. I told the students how I would go to the library in St George’s and spend hours sitting there reading books. That is something that stayed with me even as an adult.”
Mr Trott went to Robert Crawford School after East End Primary. From there he pursued bookkeeping and business studies at the Bermuda College.
“I don’t know why, because maths was not one of my favourite subjects,” he told the East End students. “That summer, 1976, I didn’t know what I was going to do after I graduated, but suddenly a light went on and I said, ‘Maybe I can be a sports reporter’.
“Why a sports reporter? I think there are certain things that God puts in our path and there were certain things that happened to me that guided me in that direction.”
One of his inspirations was the English newspapers his father would bring him to read.
“At that time, Clyde Best was playing in England and I used to read the papers religiously,” he said.
“Then, when I was at Robert Crawford, the other thing that helped me, which I didn’t realise it would at the time, was that I took a keen interest in typing, which was very useful for a reporter.”
The school presented him with a T-shirt at the end of his address.
“That was very nice,” Mr Trott said. “It was a good day.”
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