TRIBUTE TO SIR PAUL GODWIN SCOON 1935-2013
One lesson from a death is that we all will die (ordinarily we know not when). Another is that death provides an opportunity to reflect on how our relationships with the deceased (while still alive), may have affected out thinking and lives. Underneath all this is the realization that we in life cross-influence each other, derived as we are from the same Source. Our latest death-news is that Sir Paul G. Scoon has “passed away”. We use many expressions to describe death. We say: “passed away”; “passed”; “we have lost”; “is deceased”; etc. I like the terms “passed” and “gone through” as these suggest passing into another realm, we all hope, a higher one.
Incidentally, we are ‘dieing’ from birth, and through life we continue (or are urged to) to die to many things – ego; pride; allurements; attachments, and eventually to our physical bodies. Exhortations in this regard must be to our ‘Higher Self’, which, (I think) in the end departs a physical body now unable to contain it; and that Higher Self goes ‘beyond the moon’ for a change of garment. I think Sir Paul has ‘gone beyond the moon’, and as I wish him peace there, I reflect on my relationships with him, which have had a profound effect on my personal development and life.
To me and my class colleagues, Paul Scoon was – Teacher; Hostel Master; Scholar; and all round “GOOD MAN”. I first met Paul Scoon, English Teacher, in 1953 in Form 2a at the GBSS, and became acquainted with his unique manner of speaking – precise; up in the head; deep; extended wordings (gooood for good). Anyone familiar with Sir Paul can imagine his recital of this poem;
Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silvery shoon
This way and that she peers and sees
Silvery stars upon silvery seas
I always remember this verse as my introduction to English ‘Alliteration’. And there are a lot more things, derived from Paul Scoon, which have become part of me.
Paul Scoon was an alumnus of the Grenada Boys Secondary School (GBSS), and a GBSS Hostel Boy before me. The latter experience placed him in good stead for dealing with the idiosyncrasies of Hostel Boys, and with Hostel culture. My information was that he was a bright student, and my interactions with him told me that he was a ‘thinking man” with a sharp mind. Quick-witted, at times sarcastic (but never brutally so), his chuckle and manner allowed him access to King (or Queen) and beggar alike; and so he used them. And as a Hostel Boy, I observed and I learnt.
Paul Scoon was a leader; he led by example, by his devotion to duty as Hostel Master and as Governor General of Grenada. He led scores of Hostel Boys, including myself, with coolness and balance. He was stern when necessary, though never to impose himself and his position; he was also fair. He taught us; and he accepted that we also taught him by our acts of responsibility; loyalty to each other, friendships, and hundred-percent examination passes. As we grew older under his tutelage, we understood that with extended privileges came the responsibility never to do anything that would embarrass the Hostel Master/Matron, or the Hostel. In my book on the GBSS Hostel, I point out that the GBSS taught us to think; the Hostel, (and particularly Mr. Scoon as Hostel Master) taught us how to live together as a society. He continuously belabored into our psyche the mantra “Please and Thank you cost you nothing”; teaching us thereby to be polite to each other, and to all. He encouraged us to read good books – he would enunciate, as only he could: “A goood booook (good book) is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit”. He called his boys “Mr. X” (and the ladies “Miss Y”); we returned the compliment to him and to each other. His congratulations were ready and unabashed: “Good Work”, he would often say.
Among other things, the Resume reads: Teacher; Hostel Master; Education Officer; Cabinet Secretary; Deputy, Commonwealth Secretariat; Director of Tourism; and Governor-General of Grenada. I used to tease Paul that he had all the earmarks of (in my mind) a Director of Tourism – flashing smile, the voice, a cool handsomeness, and intelligence (well…, so did John Watts and Mario Bullen!). And he played Lawn Tennis. But the key lesson here is the pinnacle achievement of a boy from a poor family from the village-town of Gouyave: he would say emphatically “it CAN be done!”
In his book ‘Survival for Service’, the theme is devotion to duty; as GG carrying out the required functions to bring Grenada back to constitutional stability. Had he written on the GBSS Hostel, his theme would probably be the same. He shone as a Hostel Master, and more brightly when compared to those before him with whom I interacted. He was not averse to a catch-them-while-they-are-still-asleep, 5:30 a.m. meeting with suspects; but he knew the folly of trying to demote a Junior or Senior with a stint in the Open Dormitory and its Prep boys.
One of his signal displays of trust in his boys was to recommend that I be Hostel Master for one week while he was away. The Headmaster agreed; the Hostel and I survived. In my book on the Hostel, I mention how I admired Mr. Scoon’s handling of a runaway group, in which I was included. I knew Mr. Scoon was dead serious when he started his enquiry with: “Gentlemen, be careful of what you say, because whatever you say will be held against you (pause); where were you last night?”
Mr. Scoon, always a teacher, left lessons in his advice to and empowerment of others. I recall just prior to an exam in Form 6b, my good friend George ‘Snobies’ Griffith was fiddling with some papers, somewhat furiously revising. Sir Paul passed by, and laughingly said ‘Mr. Griffith, what are you worrying about? If you did not know the work three months ago, you won’t know it now”. I don’t know what Snobies heard, but what I heard was “Now is the time to relax; not to be drumming up anxiety”. In 1988, a groundsman-member of the Grenada Golf Club (Alwyn Edmond) won the Barbados Open Golf Tournament. Sir Paul readily agreed to the Captain’s request to meet with Edmond. Amidst his congratulations, he praised Edmond for using the skills that he had. He knew, he said, many multi-skilled persons who did not put any of them to good use. What I noted was that, throughout, Sir Paul uplifted Edmond and his performance without any hint of condescension.
I return again to Paul’s devotion to duty, well emphasized in his book. I know much more about that at the GBSS Hostel. Paul was once asked by a Hostel Boy (post-Hostel life) what was his philosophy in guiding and managing 52 young boys. He promptly replied that it was based on three things: Discipline; Churching and Study. If Paul ever showed dislike to a Hostel Boy, it would be to the one who tried to or avoided going to Church. He himself was a staunch church-goer well into his late years.
Paul was instrumental in the early discussions and planning of Grenada’s Independence, including coordination of public meetings. I recall in my later years at GBSS being voted as the boy who most epitomized the spirit of the GBSS, but for me and others of my ilk, Paul Scoon was “Mr. GBSS”, pre- and post-school years. When fires ravaged the GBSS buildings, Paul was ready and willing to assist in fund raising efforts for repair and reconstruction. In my book, I mention that as an ex-Hostel Boy, the derelict Top Dormitory was an eyesore and a shame to its history. I must now mention that the person achieving its final demolition and removal was Paul Scoon, “Mr. Hostel Boy”.
I am sure that many people have many other experiences and lessons they had with Sir Paul. I think it will do us all well to reflect on the impact he has had on our lives, even just the mundane lesson that from humble beginnings, with discipline and hard work, one can rise and fly high. On behalf of the GBSS and GBSS Hostel Boys, and all others, I wish Sir Paul bon voyage on his continuing journey to perfection. I will not be at the funeral, but I will be singing the GBSS School Song as his physical remains are lowered into their grave.