Sir Colville N. Young,
His life is one that has been and continues to be led in the pursuit of knowledge, the preservation of a unique culture, the education of students, and the entertainment of others through his music and writings. Through these pursuits he has helped to shape the Belizean identity. Beginning his career as an educator in the 1950s, and continuing up until the time that he was made Governor General, Sir Colville progressed gracefully through the teaching ranks, advancing in his own educational achievements along the way and culminating with a Doctorate in Philosophy, Linguistics, from the University of York.
Given the span of his teaching career - from high school teacher and principal, Sixth Form teacher, to President of the University of Belize - and Belize's small population, it is undisputable that he has touched the lives of a significant percentage of Belizeans in that arena alone.
One of the very important steps along his own learning path was the time spent at UWI's Mona campus, reading for his undergraduate degree in English, which he earned with Honours. It was while pursuing his English degree that his love for linguistics was cultivated. "[...] our Old and Middle English Professor was Dr. Robert Le Page who was at that time working on his great Dictionary of Jamaican English (with Dr. Cassidy, a Jamaican). No doubt some of his passion for linguistics (especially socio-linguistics and research into the roots of language variables) rubbed off on his students," Sir Colville shares.
Expounding further on his UWI experience, "A big influence from UWI days has been the awesome stature of some of my fellow undergraduates. Notably, there were H. Orlando Paterson (sociologist and novelist), Walter Rodney (revolutionary historian), Dennis Scott (poet, playwright, critic), Ralph and James Carnegie (both historians) and much, much more."
"UWI was the microcosm of the larger Caribbean society. Meeting Bajans, Trinis, and my other Caribbean counterparts convinced me of the essential oneness of our people and even while the West Indian Federation was dissolving, I had faith that economic necessity (if not the call of our similar culture: African rhythms in the music; cricket; slavery and emancipation and overcoming the incipient racism that underpinned slavery) would bring us together again. History has vindicated that faith in spite of our little territorial anthems, national flowers, birds, animals, etc."
Music, another of Sir Colville's passions, was nurtured since childhood. Taught to play the piano by his musician father, he in turn passed on his love for music to his children, and to the wider public. In young adulthood, he started composing music, and during his time studying in Jamaica, he learned to play the steel pan. Along with another notable Belizean scholar, Dr. Lennox Pike, Sir Colville helped to introduce steel pan music to Belize. Together they formed Belize's first Steel Band, the All Stars Steel Band. In fact, the Steel Band that is in existence in Belize today can trace its roots directly to Sir Colville, as he introduced steel pan playing at the schools where he taught.
His musical work has not, however, been limited to the piano and steel pan. The Director of the Belize Choral Society recalls his musical dabbling at UWI. “There was at that time a Christmas activity we called "Words and Music". I don't know if the tradition continues. In it, interested musicminded students practiced and sang carols, often introducing West Indian songs. That is when I first came in contact with "The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy". Later, I went on to compose over a dozen Christmas part-songs of our Belize Choral Society. Blame UWI!" To date, he has composed several different pieces, including a welcome song for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's first visit to Belize.
A man of many talents, Sir Colville Young is also a poet, a writer of short stories, a linguist, and a preserver of Belizean folklore, folk songs and local proverbs. He has studied the Belizean Creole dialect extensively, starting with his Doctoral Thesis, "Belize Creole, A study of the Creolized English spoken in Belize in its Social and Cultural setting". His writings document Belizean Creole, highlighting its similarities and differences with other Caribbean dialects, its use among Belize's different ethnic groups, and helping to provide a written form for what has been a predominant spoken form of communication in Belize. His publications include: CREOLE PROVERBS OF BELIZE (Belize 1980, Revised edition, Belize 1988), LANGUAGE AND EDUCATION IN BELIZE, (Belize 1989) and PATAKI FULL, (Short Story Collection, Belize 1990).
As Governor General, Sir Colville Young has served Belize with quiet dignity and grace, and represented her in the same manner. Under his auspices, a "Music in Schools" programme has been launched to inject music back into regular school curriculum, an element that had been lost for many years. Through his association with the University of North Florida, the Sir Colville Young Scholarship Fund was launched to provide Belizeans with scholarships to that University's College of Education and Human Services. He is also the Patron of the Belize Chapter of The University of the West Indies Alumni Association and is assisting the Chapter with providing Belizeans with a sense of belonging in the UWI fraternity.
Sir Colville Young's work encompasses many of the elements of Belizean culture and its history. His achievements in the fields of Education, Music, Literature, and Public Life have made him the quintessential Belizean and he continues to be an icon for the people and country of Belize.
Taken from The Pelican, A Magazine of the University of the West Indies. Issue 1: July – December, 2006. pp. 32-33.
Sir Colville N. Young,