So long, Tom Clarke
I SING OF LITERATURE and the man, who came of old,a fated scholar and wanderer, from the regions of Flagstaff, to Roebuck Street, and the playing fields of the Lyceum called the School of Lord Combermere, in the dispensation of time, known as the 1940s in the year of Our Lord – Austin “Tom” Clarke, a valiant Combermerian.
The late Austin “Tom’’ Clarke, of whose praises I sing, was a collegiate of mine, at that fair school, and a friend, good and true. At Combermere, and in the general collegiate community in those days, Tom Clarke enjoyed a reputation foremost as a brilliant and enterprising athlete. I think he was of The Armstrong House, and the Shield in the Major Noot Hall will show that he was Champion of Games – Victor Ludorum for about four seasons. He was an exquisite champion in the 100 yards, the 220, and 440 yards. He was an exception sprinter. Vendal Babb, his colleague, was the half-miler, and miler athlete.
Tom Clarke wore many laurels of pride for Combermere, in those days at Kensington Oval, when the Inter-school Sports were fought between the fleet-footed of Lodge School, Combermere and Harrison College. We have fallen off a bit lately, but in the halcyon days, Combermere tended to dominate in cricket and athletics. Indeed, the record will show that in 1941, Combermere schoolboys beat everybody in cricket in Barbados – Lodge, Harrison College, Empire, Spartan, Wanderers, Police et alios; everybody. But, it must be conceded that, in 1947-48, Harrison College produced two groups of brothers, as sprinters – Austin and John Husbands, Pat Haynes and his brother, who were unstoppable in the sprints in the school sports of those years.
Our Tom Clarke was also a brilliant scholar – especially in English studies. But then, he was one of the Frank Collymore special students with Alfred Pragnell and Harcourt Lewis. They excelled in literature. Tom Clarke would always declare that he lived faithfully to the Roman motto: in a sound mind, in a sound body – mens sana, in’corpore sano. He was a profound and sensitive griot and scribe – warm in companionship, and faithful to his friends and scholarship. He, like all of us, might have grown up stupid under the Union Jack but, in adult life, his pen became mightier than the sword.
Tom did not suffer fools gladly, although he was devoid of hubris and pomposity. And so, as general manager at the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) circa 1974-1975, he found it necessary to tell his then Minister Peter Morgan that he, Peter, could never be truly accused of being a member of the cognoscenti. Thereafter, Tom took up his track shoes from CBC, and sprinted to New York and Toronto. And it was at Toronto that he produced some of his finest literary works.
I shall always be proud of him – a friend and a scholar who at one time taught English at the Coleridge & Parry School in St Peter.
We shall miss you, our friend of ancient times. The baleful news of your passing shall torment us until sleep, the balm of hurt minds, finds solace for our ravelled sleeve of care.
But, as you journey to that land, where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary be at rest, I pray you dwell with your literary colleagues, Virgil and Horace, in the pleasant vales of Elysseum; and abhor the vices and temptations in Tartarus, the land of the wicked.
Resquiescat in pace. So long my friend, so long. Vaya con Dios, vaya con Dios.
– WALDO WALDRON-RAMSAY