In the Beginning…In 1947, Bishop Hughes invited the Clewer Sisters of the St. John the Baptist Order to establish St. Gabriel’s School. Mrs. Sunny Wiles was specially recruited to teach at the new school along with the U.K. Sisters and the half-day program opened on October 1st that year with 28 students between the ages of four and eight. By the following term, the roll increased tremendously; the school day extended to 2:30 p.m. and naturally, the staff expanded. By 1949, houses, named after the Bishops, were formed: Hughes (red); Bentley (yellow) and Berkley (blue). Following the visit of Princess Alice in 1950, the roll increased again and recorded 186 students by September 1950. Also in 1950, a school uniform was designed, the annual Sports Day was organized, the school received recognition from local government, plays were performed for the public’s entertainment and the fourth House was founded and all were renamed after the saints: St. Francis (red); St. Martin (yellow); St. Alban (blue) and St. Patrick (green). On November 22, 1957, the senior school building was officially opened by Governor Robert Arundell. And so, while St. Gabriel’s School started in one small wooden building in the late 1940’s, it steadily grew and through many contributions and drives, acquired nearby properties for its expansion.
Transforming…During the 1960’s, St. Gabriel’s embarked on a series of changes, improvements and expansions. One such expansion was the St. Gabriel Chapel established through funds raised by the SPJ Sisters in the U.K. and the students’ mile-a-penny project. The new chapel was consecrated on May 28, 1961 by Bishop Lewis Evans. Progressive programs such as Technical and Commerce for bookkeeping, shorthand and typing were enhanced and a new domestic science block was constructed with cookery and needlework rooms. Other significant changes during this era were the change from the Panama hats to skull caps designed with the school’s crest and the introduction of the school song penned by the music teacher, Mr. Gerald Hudson. By 1966, the Sisters returned to the U.K. due to a reduction in the U.K. Sisters that inhibited their continued work overseas, and with much sadness their departure led to the transfer of the management of the school to the local diocese who then appointed a Board of Governors and Mrs. Suzette Cayless became the Headmistress. During the years, expansion continued with the purchases of the surrounding Hackett, Dumfries, and Fairview properties providing much needed extra classrooms, of which one was a science lab. The early 70’s brought more improvements to St. Gabriel’s with the launch of the Parent Teachers Association and a co-educational senior school. Unfortunately, between 1977 and 1979, the senior roll dropped significantly and on August 31, 1979, the Board of Governors made the decision to close that wing and focus on the Infant and Junior departments that both flourish to this day. On the social scene, St. Gabriel’s School organized its first school fair in May 1949. This event, now usually hosted in October, is eagerly anticipated by all across Barbados.
Past Scholars…With such an outstanding history and great bonds between schoolmates, the past students established a registered charity association. The association’s primary objectives are to preserve the school’s history; keep the school’s spirit alive and maintain contact with students and teachers. The proceeds raised from their efforts are contributed to the school for various projects; particularly those that relate to the history of the school. Some of these are the installation of the school Motto, Shield and plaque replicas of the House emblems exhibiting the associated Saints; all of the above are displayed in the Anne Johnson Auditorium. From a community outreach view and in the spirit of goodwill, The Past Scholars and Friends of St. Gabriel’s School contribute to the community in various ways, such as Because of Jenna Trust; The Thelma Vaughn Memorial Home; The Learning Centre; The Barbados Girl Guides Association; The Barbados Cancer Society; individuals in the society who are in need of medical emergencies and relief. On this auspicious occasion of the institution’s 65th anniversary, The Past Scholars and Friends of St. Gabriel’s School have organized three special events that commence with an Evening Lime at Pirates Inn on October 27th; a Thanksgiving Service on October 28th at the St. Gabriel Chapel and concludes with a Gala Evening on November 3rd at Mahogany Ridge in St. Thomas. The association has also designed a special commemorative pin for this anniversary that is available for purchase. To find out more about The Past Scholars and Friends of St. Gabriel’s School, those interested can contact its members through their Facebook page or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.