History of the St. Michael School
In 1923, Mr. Nathaniel Alonza Bullen proposed at a meeting of St. Michael’s Vestry that a secondary school for girls of lower income families should be built in the parish of St. Michael. This proposal was seconded by Mr. Washington Harper and supported by the majority of the vestrymen. The result was the official opening of St. Michael’s School on the seventh of May 1928 by His Excellency Sir W.O.S. Robertson, an event of great significance for Barbados.
It had been obvious for a long time that there was need for another secondary school for girls in St. Michael. The Mitchison Report on Education of 1875 had recommended “the establishment of thoroughly sound female education in Barbados where “it has hitherto received no recognition except for the Girl’s Central School.” And in 1909 the establishment of two more secondary schools for girls was recommended but twenty years was to pass before St. Michael’s had its origin. Interestingly, too, as Enid Lynch, a former teacher of the school has pointed out, St. Michael was built at a cost of 16,000 pounds, at a time of great economic depression and vigorous agitation for the expansion of the franchise. There was some criticism of its founding but it was generally felt according to a newspaper report that it was a wise and noble conception. Some 80 pupils entered the school in the beginning. The fees charged were $8.00 which were lower than those at Queen’s College and provided tuition to the Cambridge School Certificate. Sixty of the new students had been members of Miss Helena Taitt’s School (We knew her better as Nella) and it is of particular note that she became the Headmistress in 1957 for one year. It was she who started the Parent-Teacher Association, the first at any government secondary school.
Along with dedicated teachers, St. Michael's owes much of its success and stability to a number of headmistresses and principals who all maintained the highest traditions of the school by their innovations, influence and personal contributions. Miss Helen Catlow, a graduate of Cambridge University was the first headmistress, and after two years she was succeeded by Miss Lucy Brown. Other heads in order were: Miss Mary Cowper, Miss Norah Burton M.B.E., Miss Margaret Forder who gave us the School Motto, Crest and a sixth form, Miss Nella Taitt M.B.E. , Miss Joanna Sutherland, Miss Constance Inniss who did much to establish the Science Department and stimulate an interest in sound teaching methods, Miss Patricia Symmonds, now Her Honour Senator Dame Patricia Symmonds, O.B.E., G.C.M, Mrs Sheila Sealy, Mrs Carrol Bourne S.C. M., Mrs. Wendy Griffith-Watson, who was also our first female Chief Education Officer, Mrs. Grace Smith, and creating history in 2001, our current and first male principal, Mr. Sheldon Perkins who has made an impressive impact.
Among the first teachers, along with Miss Nella Taitt who taught under Miss Catlow and who also made a sound impact on the students were Miss Grace Thorne, who later became Lady Adams, and Miss Brenda Reid, who afterwards became Mrs. McKinstry.
The tenth of September 1979 was another historic and exciting day in the life of St. Michael’s Girls’ School. It marked the entry of 30 boys into that institution and brought about its change of name from St. Michael’s Girls School to The St. Michael School. More important, it dedicated a change in policy and concept through which co-education would become the norm. The 30 boys proved to be worthy pioneers.
Indeed throughout the years, many of our girls and more recently our boys have brought honour and prestige to St. Michael’s. There is time to mention just a few of those who have made or are making an outstanding contribution to Barbados especially in the areas of teaching and nursing. Dame Nita Barrow,D.A., G.C.M.G., our first and only female Governor General, Mrs Ilene Murray Ainsley C.B.E., outstanding Sister Tutor, Dr. Ena Walters, first Barbadian Matron of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Miss Sybil Simmons, the first St. Michael’s girl to enter the General Hospital.
In teaching, there was Senior Law Lecturer at Cave Hill, Miss Norma Monica Forde, Mrs Colleen Winter-Brathwaite J.P, SCM, former Principal of Queens’s College and later UNESCO Representative to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. In Law, we recall with pride as well, our present Solicitor General Kay Goodridge, and the Hon. Juliet Crawford, a judge in the United States.
Other outstanding scholars include Adam Spencer, Stephen Browne and Dr. Don Marshall at U.W.I. Cave Hill and Ms. Elizabeth Thompson, former Cabinet Minister who is joining the United Nations in New York as an executive coordinator for the next conference on sustainable development.
The Parent-Teacher Association and the Alumni Associations of Barbados, New York and Toronto retain a deep interest in the school and willingly give their support to its needs and projects.
Thus, the St. Michael School over its 87 years has justified its founding and the vision of its founders. It continues to produce students of exceptional ability and sterling character who are a credit to their home, their school and their country both here and overseas.