February 2, 2007


Remembering Bapts

By Leroy Mulraine 2.FEB.07

Winston Gordon Baptiste, popularly known as “Bapts” or “Sir Bapts”, is no more. Last Tuesday, he succumbed to injuries received when he was struck by a minivan a few days previously.

Bapts has been such a longstanding, prominent and visible fixture in Vincentian society that most people did not know that he was not, in actuality, a son of the soil.

I first met Bapts in 1953 when, fresh from the sixth form of the Grenada Boys Secondary School, he arrived in St. Vincent to take up a position on the staff of the Grammar School. We struck up a friendship then, which was to last to the very end, as members of the Grammar School staff, as colleagues at U.W.I, as boon companions on the social level, as sports organizers and as education administrators.{{more}}

For over two decades, Bapts devoted his life in the service of the Grammar School, in academic work equally as in extra-curricular activities. He was a very knowledgeable, patient and dedicated science teacher who endeared himself to his students down the years, and several generations of youngsters can attest to his proficiency, commitment and strict discipline. Many professionals are indeed indebted to him for their careers in the various fields of science. In the early part of his stint at the school, Bapts was instrumental in resuscitating the Scout Troup which he moulded in a well-organized and helpful unit.

Bapts was a talented and versatile sportsman and sports organizer, so it was not surprising that he became Games Master at the School, a post he held and served with distinction for many years. It was during his reign that the school saw a renewed interest and a remarkable improvement in all aspects of sports.

Under his watchful and skillful guidance, the Grammar School excelled in Windward Islands Secondary School Tournaments and gave a good account of itself on the local level. Indeed, the Grammar School had the distinction of winning the local First Division Football competition in 1958. Bapts himself led by example and performance, as he sometimes played alongside his boys at cricket and football.

In the field of athletics, he was responsible for the introduction of the Cross-Country race (which was short-lived) and the Road Relay which is such a prominent feature in our athletics programme today.

Bapts’ progress as a teacher earned him a scholarship to pursue a BSc degree course at the U.W.I. campus in Mona, Jamaica (1959-62). Here he excelled both academically and in sport, representing the U.W.I. First Division Football Team in the Jamaica national championships.

On his return to St. Vincent, he continued his football career, representing various teams and even went on to captain the national side. He was always proud of the members of his team with whom he established a lasting friendship. Bapts was a great lover of music in its different genres, and was a proficient photographer. Indeed he had one of the largest and most varied record collections in St. Vincent, and his home was always the venue for staff parties and other forms of entertainment. Sometimes he would organize a session to look at pictures and slides of scenic views and of carnival bands accumulated over the years. He himself later helped to resuscitate the Bridge Boys band, and on one occasion even chaired the Carnival Development Committee.

Apart from teaching, Bapts, after pursuing a course in agriculture in the United Kingdom, had a brief spell at that Ministry as a Plant Pathologist, before returning to the Grammar School as Headmaster in 1973. In 1979 he was transferred to the Ministry of Education as Education Officer in charge of Science, a post which he held until his retirement in 1988. Bapts served periodically as a sports and newscaster on radio and television, and also as a commentator on cricket and football.

Generally; he was a quiet and unassuming individual, generous and kind-hearted to the less fortunate, and endeared himself to those with whom he came into contact. He lived a full and enjoyable life, and would be sadly missed by his many past students, colleagues in sport and education, and by the Vincentian public on the whole.

Au revoir, Bapts. May his soul rest in peace.