A disciplinarian and a beloved institution, he was called variously ‘The Doug,’ ‘Mr. Chipps,’ and with mischievous respect, ‘Uncle Dougie,’ by his Fortis following. Douglas Wrexham Eric Forrest was born in 1908 in Black River, the son of Sanford Forrest Jnr. and his wife Mabel nee Tate.
Order surrounds him from the onset of his journey. His grandfather raised a large family from the proceeds of cattle and sheep farming and his father was the bookkeeper at W.C. Nash’s Department Store. He was also lay-reader choir master and lay representative to Synod for St. John’s Anglican parish church, from whose organist bench he had plucked Mabel, and with her help raised a family of five.
Hard School Days
Douglas attended a private school run by Miss Lilly McLarty and like all his four siblings, won a parish scholarship – his to the “city on the hill,” Munro College. Munro had no space at first, so he went to Cornwall College for a term and then in 1918 started at Munro.
Headmaster Custos A.E. Harrison drove the boys mercilessly. They had to be tough and learn to “enjoy” the Spartan conditions—the cold showers, the outdoor buckets for toilets, in the same cold wind that now turns the turbines to produce electricity. Harrison used the cane to drive discipline and learning into stubborn hearts and heads and produced excellent results on the games field and in the classroom. But toughest of all the conditions was the prejudice meted out by sons of the plantocracy to free scholarship boys. Forrest did well in Junior and Senior Cambridge exams but could not get into sixth form. That privilege was not for boys there on scholarships.
It is to his credit that just as how Douglas Forrest absorbed the discipline and thrifty but happy life provided by his family, so too from Munro he took the learning, the discipline and the toughening, but for his remaining seventy years spoke little of the prejudice encountered at Munro.
Career and Character
Douglas, on leaving Munro, went to work temporarily at the Black River Courts Office. The Rev. Mr. Gibson was a visiting preacher at St. John’s and after one service conversed with choir master Sanford Forest, who told him that Douglas wanted something more permanent. Eighteen year old Douglas was interviewed on the spot and was offered a job at Kingston College starting September 1926.
Douglas Forrest taught French at Kingston College. But French with a difference – not just the grammar and the vocabulary. The reasons for the French Revolution along with the contrast between the French and Anglo –Saxon cultures would be discussed and explained.
Douglas went to Kingston College with three major influences in his armoury. First was his strong, thrifty, stable and Christian family life. Next, this life was lived in the work ethic, thrift and hospitality of St. Elizabeth. Third was Munro’s Spartan toughness, Christian ethics and aristocratic prejudice. At Kingston College he was immersed in a fourth influence – Gibsonianism.
Percival Gibson attended St. Georges College before there were two rivals on North Street. He absorbed the scholarship, discipline and the kind side of Christianity before moving on to St. Peter’s Anglican theological school and later founding Kingston College. Gibson was deeply intellectual, fearless in the pulpit and fair in administration. His attitude can be summarized by his answer to a widow who had three sons and could only afford to pay for two. “Send the boy, don’t worry about the money.”
And where is the man Douglas Forrest in all this? His genius lies in the use of his free will to choose, absorb and practice the best of all his worlds, rejecting the negatives and presenting his unique distillation of Christian care to six and a half decades of Kingston College students. He is a Kingston College legend bred by Munro, and Munro College can be proud today of the toughness the Harrison years provided, its discipline and Christian values, and while not proud of the prejudice, glad of the exposure that led the young Forrest to value the former and eschew the latter.
He was firm, but fair. He combined the drive of Munro’s Harrison with Gibson’s kindness. Only Gibson and he administered the cane and on at least three occasions he was ordered by the head to cane a whole class. He obliged with vigour and seemed untired at the end. Tall and athletic, he had enviable constitution. He was known for leaving home at Clovelly Park at first light then leaving school after dark and doing it twenty-four seven.
When Mr. George Herbert Clough retried as Second Master in 1939, Forrest was appointed. He held this post as a loyal lieutenant to Rev. Gibson until the latter was appointed Lord Bishop of Jamaica. At this point, in 1956, Gibson resigned and Forrest was made headmaster until he retired in 1970 at the age of sixty two.
It is unusual for a long-serving second master to become a head not so much from lack of capacity, but more often from lack of inclination. Douglas Forrest was a classic exception, for under him the school continued to grow in numbers and performance. He started a system of summer lessons for examination classes and they were free. Other schools charged, but out of respect for Mr. Forrest’s gallant example, all summer school classes at KC were free. After retirement he stayed on staff, teaching until he was eighty three in 1991. He taught at K.C. for sixty five years.
In addition to administration and regular teaching of French, English, and math, he encouraged the love of music and he managed the acclaimed Kingston College Choir. He conducted the choir for over forty years. He also directed English and French plays and musicals in his effort to create the rounded Kingston College student. Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven, and Jazz were samples of the exposure he offered them.
Much of what he knew was self-taught, arising simply from a love of knowledge. On two occasions he got study leave to attend the Sorbonne in Paris, but it was not until 1951, twenty-five years after starting to teach, that he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree. A teacher of French and influenced by Gallic culture, he was a founding member of Alliance Francaise in Jamaica. For his efforts overall, he was knighted by the French Government.
He died in 1995 at the age of eighty-seven and both Houses of Parliament, with Kingston College alumni on both sides, rose to pay him homage. The reward he treasured most, however, was the unreserved love and respect of those to whom he ministered from 1926 to 1991.
For these and other reasons Douglas Wrexham Eric Forrest was proudly inducted into the Munro College Old Boys Association Hall of Fame.