Derrick Fenton Dyer, known also as “Dereeky,” grew up in Mountain Side, St. Elizabeth, where he was born in 1933 and attended Mountain Side Elementary. At ten years old in 1943 he won a scholarship to Munro College, at a time when there were about 20 high school scholarships available island wide. The Second World War had begun in 1939 and gasoline was severely rationed but a way was found, as Jamaicans are extremely resilient and ingenious. Like Jesus entering Jerusalem, he arrived at Munro on a donkey with his “grip” (suitcase) in the donkey’s hamper.
An Academic and a Sportsman
At Munro, Dyer did well in academics and attained a School Certificate in 1947 and a Higher School Certificate in 1949. In sports he was presented with colours in athletics, hockey, cricket and football. The highlights of his sports career at school must certainly be his completion of the 880yd. dash in a record time of two minutes and thirteen point eight seconds at Munro. This accomplishment was only surpassed when he achieved first place in the same event at Boys Champs in the new record time of two minutes and two point five seconds. His captaincy and goal keeping skills in football also earned his beloved Munro the Olivier Shield in 1950, which came as a parting gift to sports master Ken Dunleavy, who was leaving Munro after 20 years to become headmaster of a school in Kenya.
In other extracurricular activities he was Cadet Under Officer of the cadet corps and a member of the Dramatic Society. He excelled in leadership as the head of Coke House and Head Prefect of Munro in 1950. Dyer won a Forestry Scholarship in 1951, one of the first Jamaicans to win a scholarship in that field, and went on to Oriel College at Oxford University, where, in addition to his studies, he played football and cricket.
On his return to Jamaica, “Dereeky” visited his alma mater and as the boys admired his beautiful fiancé Cynthia “Cissy” Lewis as well as his new Jaguar, they were uncertain how to prioritize their envy. When he visited the crippled teacher William Boland, it was rather amusing to hear Boland make the wry observation, “From jackass to Jaguar!”
According to Reverend Canon Major Sirrano Kitson, “The Derrick Dyer who I met before coming to St. Andrew Parish Church was always devoted to his wife, a marriage he shared with her for fifty years. They were one. They travelled together and visited places I have only read about. He was also committed to his professional life, his Christian faith, and stood for principles that were sacred. Yes, he loved to party, but he was committed to his church and his God.”
His career began at the Forestry Dept. of the Ministry of Agriculture where he became the second Jamaican appointed Conservator of Forests. He presided over the establishment of approximately 3,000 acres of newly planted saplings per year during 1960s, and led programmes to protect hillsides with reforestation and simultaneously replace imports with local lumber. In 1968 when the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries was divided into two, he became Permanent Secretary in the newly formed Ministry of Rural Land Development and under Minister William McLaren, all of Jamaica was divided into Land Authorities. At 36, he was the youngest Permanent Secretary ever in Jamaica. He would later serve as Permanent Secretary in the ministries of agriculture, works, utilities, transport and tourism.
In 1968 he also became executive director of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), which allowed him to pursue his passion for sustainable farming not just in Jamaica, but throughout the eastern Caribbean. In 1973 as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, he presided over a program that trained over one hundred young men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five years old in dairy farming at Rhymesbury and Goshen in St. Elizabeth. The graduates were thereafter settled on several twenty-five acre farms between Rhymesbury, Cabbage Valley and Luana in St. Elizabeth,Vernam Field in Clarendon, and Bogue Springs in St. Elizabeth.
In 1989 he was appointed CEO at the Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPS) and later Managing Director until in 2000 when JPS was privatized. As Chairman of the Rural Electrification Program, he vigorously pursued the propagation of electricity across the island. He also revolutionized the chaotic billing system he inherited, and using the consultant he had employed, went on to reduce the frequency of power cuts. When the question of the emolument of the consultant was criticized, Dyer came out immediately and bravely told all Jamaica that the man’s service was worth every penny. This was typical of his management style, never flinching and always facing the music.
While enduring the stress of JPS, he underwent quadruple bypass surgery and while recuperating, the Old Harbour Power Plant blew up, and against his doctor’s orders he left his bed to oversee its repair and re-commissioning. He served on several boards including, Jamaica Merchant Marine, National Sugar Corporation, Jamaica Telephone Company, Port Authority of Jamaica, National Commercial Bank and the Rural Agricultural Development Agency (RADA).
At his thanksgiving service his sister Barbara confirmed what we all knew from his early days at Munro, that he knew from his early days at Munro, that he was a leader from childhood. Accordingly, the Government of Jamaica honoured him with the Order of Distinction in 1985 in the Rank of Commander Class. For the aforementioned reasons and more, Derrick Dyer CD, JP, has been inducted into the Munro College Old Boys Association Hall of Fame.