Chris was born in October in that defining year in Jamaica’s modern history 1938 a year before the start of the Second World War and The Labour Rebellion in Jamaica. His father was Paul Bovell, who rose to General Manager of the West Indies Sugar Company, administrating Monymusk and Frome sugar estates. His mother was Gloria Bovell (nee Lindo). Chris was never a radical and absorbed the good influences from his environment. The managerial competence and ambition without haste of his father, the homemaking and entertainment expertise of his mother, and the kindness of both, were his, not by osmosis alone but by deliberate embrace.
Sportsman and Academic
He attended deCarteret and in 1950 came to Munro and was placed in Upper Third and Calder House. No mere bookworm, he was on the school’s cricket first eleven, formidable in house football, and came first in the 880 yards and cross country. In games he was tough and determined, and earned school colours in hockey, gymnastics and tennis. He was also active in the Farmers’ club and was a house and school prefect. Through all these activities, he maintained his position in the top third of his class and was successful in Senior Cambridge (1953) and Higher Schools Certificate (1955).
Chris Bovell was far more than the foregoing. On one occasion he saved a fellow student from drowning at Treasure Beach, for while other boys interpreted the cries of the one in trouble as a prank, he didn’t. On another occasion, as part of a group of boys drinking rum punch at night in the dormitory, one boy said he was going to jump through the second-floor window. Again, others treated it as a prank. Chris took no chances and pulled him in, prank or no prank.
It is therefore not surprising that 57 years later, the Jamaica Bar Association in their induction of Chris into their Hall of Fame quoted a Dunn Cox partner thus; – “…the vulnerable, the children and the elderly who have to make life in the appalling tenements that still surround and even define our downtown commercial enclaves, came to depend on their beloved Mr. Bovell not just for casual largesse, but for real life support, for food, for medication, for clothing, for school fees and books and even for justice…”
This is the kind of commitment to social equality that led a politician of opposite persuasion to remark (perhaps in an unguarded moment) that Chris was “more socialist than the socialists.” Not a very good recommendation for a Trustee of the BITU, Treasurer of the Jamaica Labour Party, JLP Senator from 1983-89 and party member since 1980. But a very good recommendation for a man who puts people and Jamaica first way ahead of tribal loyalty.
On leaving Munro in 1955, Chris played hockey for Munro Old Boys while working at Dunn Cox and Orrett and started learning the Latin he had neglected at Munro from Mr. Carrington of Wolmers. Then he went to England and worked with Lloyds Insurance for a year. He entered St. John’s College of Cambridge University in 1957, gaining his MA and LLB Foundation by 1960. He was admitted to the Middle Temple, ate the prescribed dinners (well trained in this regard by eating Munro’s puru and rice and peas with burnt rice) and achieved a 2 one (upper second) in his Bar exams, handsomely qualifying him for the English Bar.
Chris joined his parents in Trinidad and there qualified for the Trinidadian Bar, then he went to Barbados and qualified for the Barbadian Bar. He returned to Jamaica in 1962 and was a Barrister in Chambers with Harvey D’Costa until 1964, at which point he “stepped down” in the quaint idiom of that time to become a solicitor and on the invitation of Dunn Cox and Orrett, joined them as an Associate. By 1965 he became a Partner. To quote from the 2005 citation by his partners “In a short time, Christopher Bovell became the embodiment of all the firm strives to be. He achieved quick renown for expertise over wide areas of law and in specialist areas such as banking, insurance and mining.”
You are probably assuming that Chris was a loner, working, working, working toward the dizzying heights of achievement….and you are wrong. In 1964 Chris married the beautiful Michelle Nanco, who remains beautiful within and without, and together they raised six children and are helping to raise twenty grandchildren. The union is over a half century old. She says with pride that Chris is unable to see anything but good in everyone.
In 1979 Christopher Bovell was appointed a Director of Grace Kennedy and served for 30 years. As Chair of GK’s Corporate Governance Committee, he guided the company through globalization and the international demand for transparency and best practices. No wonder he was the one who drafted the Corporate Governance Policy for the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica. He is listed in the international publication “Chambers and General- A guide to the world’s leading lawyers” and is designated by that publication as “Senior Statesman” in the general business law category.
He served on the board of the Munro and Dickenson Trust under Professor Owen Morgan and has been generous with time, advice and means to Munro institutions. He was Associate Tutor of the Norman Manley Law School in its formative years. A staunch member of St. Margaret’s Anglican Church, he has been for over 35 years Secretary of the Incorporated Lay Body of the Anglican Church in Jamaica in the Province of the West Indies.
The Enduring Character
Chris seems to have been able to draw strength from all his families- the one he sprang from, the one he created, Christ’s family, the Munro family, and the legal fraternity, and to give back to them all. Edward Seaga once remarked “Chris is one with whom one could safely leave one’s wallet.” Francis Paco Kennedy a friend from boyhood, describes Chris as an honest man of high principles who offers sound advice and who encourages the conciliatory rather than the legal route. Peter Moss-Solomon concurs. Raf Diaz spoke highly of Chris’ negotiating skills, his trustworthiness and reliability. Mahatma Ghandi did not name Christopher Bovell but must have been thinking of people like him when he said “…. the best way to find oneself is to lose oneself in the service of others.” He has been inducted into Halls of Fame of Dunn Cox, The Bar Association of Jamaica and Grace Kennedy Ltd. In August 1994, the Government of Jamaica conferred on him the Order of Distinction, Commander Class, for distinguished public service.
For the above and other reasons, Christopher David Rhys Bovell has been inducted into the Munro College Old Boys Association Hall of Fame.