William A. “Billy” McConnell was born on the 20th of February 1947 in Montego Bay, Jamaica, the son of David Charles McConnell and Elizabeth Charley-McConnell. His mother died when he was eleven. His formal education began in Mandeville at DeCarteret (at that time a preparatory school, which later grew up to be a high school).
He entered Munro College in the Easter Term of 1957 in Baby Dorm, under the care of Miss Lucy. His Munro years were typified more by interest in sport than in academics, but on leaving Munro, he went to Dean Close School in the UK and then unto McGill University, Montreal, Canada, where he studied accounting.
Family and Recreation
Girding his loins for the adventure, he married Patricia Dawn Henriques in 1972. The couple produced and raised a son, William David, and a daughter, Suzanne Marie. His recreational interests are golf, (Constant Spring & Caymanas golf clubs), shooting (Trelawney gun club), tennis (Liguanea tennis club), cricket (Kingston club). He is still President of the Trelawney gun club.
His accounting career began at Price Waterhouse in Montreal, Canada, and then Touché Ross Thorburn in Kingston, Jamaica. His competence which intensified with his experience took him to many chairmanships and directorships in corporate Jamaica.
Wray & Nephew Ltd and Appleton Rum boast no small number of historical linkages to Munro College, and Billy McConnell was to add to that history by joining the company as Financial Accountant in 1973. His rise to the top was quick, and in 1977 became the iconic and visionary Managing Director of the J. Wray & Nephew Group of Companies. In 1990 he was made Managing Director of the parent company of J. Wray & Nephew, Lascelles De Mercado & Co. Ltd, and served until 2011. He has for over twenty years been either Vice President or Honorary Secretary of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ), and has about fifteen directorships under his belt.
He now serves as Chairman of Globe Insurance Company of the West Indies, Chairman of Scotia Investment Jamaica Ltd., Chairman of the Sugar Manufacturing Corporation of Jamaica Ltd. and Chairman of St. Elizabeth Holdings Ltd. He has served as Chairman of Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, Petrojam Ltd, and Chairman of Scotia Group Jamaica Ltd.
In 1996 he was awarded the Order of Distinction, (CD) for outstanding services in the development of commerce and export, and never one to rest on his laurels, in 2005 he was inducted into the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica Hall of Fame, and in 2006 he was conferred with the Order of Jamaica (OJ) for distinguished leadership in Business and the Export Industry.
From afar, the life and career of this self-professed eternal optimist perhaps appears as “smooth sailing” all the way, but in addition to coping with the early loss of his mother, this survivor has already fought off three distinct bouts of cancer. The first was in 1974 at the tender age of 27 – a straightforward and successful operation. It came calling again in 1985 and was similarly stopped in its tracks. In 1988, surgeons operated on him for eleven hours to head off impending cancer.
In the ward at the University Hospital he asked the nurse to move his bed so that he could look through the window. His life has been somewhat guided by the Christian spirit he picked up at Munro, not by conversion and zeal, but by osmosis, so when he saw the hills outside, the words came to him, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” He knew the words but not the full text, and asked for a minister. They thought he was fearing death, and brought three doctors as well. The minister came and told him the text was taken from Psalm 121, and had to read it for him at least four times.
He was a co-founder of Tony Thwaites Wing at the University Hospital of the West Indies, underlining his faith in Jamaican doctors and in Jamaica itself.
He has never even thought of leaving Jamaica, and although in formal retirement, Billy McConnell continues to maintain chairmanships and directorships in corporate Jamaica and continues to work for the growth of Jamaican exports, to benefit the Jamaican economy. For all these reasons and more, we William A. “Billy” McConnell, OJ, CD, JP, FCA, was proudly inducted into the Munro College Old Boys Association Hall of Fame.