Ronald George Sturdy was born in Lacovia, St. Elizabeth, on January 3, 1917, the son of planter and factory manager, George Sturdy, and his wife Gladys, nee Farquharson.
All Round Athlete and Scholar
He attended Munro College from 1925 to 1934, where he is remembered mostly as an all-round star athlete, making his name as one to watch as early as 13 years old. Sturdy played first-11 football from age 15 in 1932, and in his first season was the second highest goal-scorer, with nine goals from his inside right position. His team, known as The Invincibles, which included one of the many Munro McConnells, won the Olivier Shield that year, and won again for two more years in a row.
He was captain of his Perkins Shield-winning rifle shooting team, a skill which would soon serve him well; he was very good at tennis and golf, and at the 1934 edition of Boys Champs, where Munro won for the third of its eight times, Sturdy was the pole vault champion. It should be noted that in those days, the pole vault was done with bamboo.
He balanced books and sports very well, so much so that he was awarded the Rhodes scholarship to Oxford in 1936, where by 1939 he had gained his Masters from the School of Jurisprudence. At Oxford, his sporting exploits continued, and in addition to dabbling in first-class cricket, he attained the rare distinction of being awarded the Double Blue decoration for tennis and football.
A War Hero
The war interrupted his studies in late 1939, and he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserves and became sub-lieutenant on a minesweeper that took part in the evacuation of British and Allied troops at the French seaport of Dunkirk, after the German invasion of Northern France.
In July 1940, local telegraph wires buzzed with the news that Jamaica’s first decoration of the war had been awarded to none other than Ron Sturdy. He was awarded the French Cross of War (Croix de Guerre), the highest French decoration for bravery, for conspicuous bravery and heroic conduct in the Allied assault on Narvik in Norway and the evacuation of French troops.
He found time for marriage during the war, but, rather like the movies, it was a quick “I do” and back to war that didn’t survive the long and fearful separations, so he was soon divorced. He went on to see active service in the Mediterranean and the Far East before being allowed to return to civilian life and his studies, and he was called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn in 1947.
He re-married that same year, to Mary, who was the widow of his St. Elizabeth-born Munro schoolmate, Royal Air Force pilot John Alexander “Speedy” Powell, who had been killed in August 1944, in an operation flying over the Bay of Biscay off the coast of France. He returned to Jamaica in 1948 with his new wife, a month-old daughter and ten-year-old stepdaughter, and was immediately admitted to practice law in Jamaica, with chambers at 4 Duke Street in Kingston.
A Shrewd Lawyer
Sturdy was a reputed charmer, as smooth with his words as he was with his feet on the football field, and many persons in Kingston seemed quite taken with the young war hero-turned lawyer. One news report proclaimed that he could sway people both in and out of court with his charming personality that has superimposed on it the Jamaican accent – the mixture is effective. But brash young stars tend to ruffle older feathers, and the person who admitted him to the local Bar, Chief Justice Sir Hector Hearne, was not amused, and said to him sternly, “…I hope I shall often see you in court, see you stand up, speak up, and if you fail to gain the sympathy of the court, shut up. If you think the court is wrong, you can always test your arguments elsewhere!”
Having survived one world war, Sturdy was in no mood for much more conflict, and quickly opted out of the courtroom drama of being an advocate, shrewdly turning instead to the quieter and much more lucrative life of corporate law. In April, 1951, therefore, he applied to have his name removed from the list of barristers, and as a solicitor, became a partner in the already prestigious law firm of Livingston, Alexander and Levy, where he confined himself strictly to conveyancing.
He still found time for sports, and in addition to being an avid golfer, frequently appeared on the local tennis circuit in the early fifties. His fellow inductee and fellow Rhodes Scholar, national poet laureate Professor Mervyn Morris, who, like Sturdy, was decorated with Blue for tennis at Oxford, can attest to his formidable backhand volley. Records show that he played for Jamaica in the 1950 Caribbean Tennis Championships, and won a local mixed doubles championship in 1952.
Sturdy also served for several years as a member of the local Rhodes scholarship selection committee, and as a director of several companies.
In 1955 he married Paula de Cordova, and 20 years later migrated to the United States, where he died in April 2003.
For the above and other reasons, star athlete, gentleman and a scholar, war hero, and leading attorney, Ronald George Sturdy, was inducted into the Munro College Old Boys Association Hall of Fame.