Today it is a great but humbling pleasure,
I acclaim Matthew Farley a national treasure,
He was by no measure a perfect man
But certainly an astute one on the other hand.
I first made his acquaintance many years ago
In the early eighties, late seventies or so,
Newbury Nazarene Church was the place,
There he was a youth way ahead of the pace.
I also learnt that he was a district soloist
I gathered too that he could also preach
But clearly his primary passion was to teach.
I can see him now with his afro-hair style,
A charming fellow with an engaging smile,
Always appeared keen to argue and debate
Those topics with which we all can relate.
Matthew would always argue to the end,
Could be a colleague or even a close friend,
At the conclusion he still stood unfazed
His opponents often left in a daze.
‘Twas no surprise to the teaching legion
When Matthew joined the teachers’ union,
Rising to Deputy General Secretary in that body
Afraid of no one and making no apology.
His was a voice heard and loud and often
An agitator for teachers in the system,
Calling for better conditions and wages
And featuring at all the negotiating stages.
So I know of Matthew as a district soloist
And I know of him as a trade unionist,
But there is more to the Farley’s prestige,
I speak of him now as a teaching colleague.
Mathew served at a number of schools,
He was a stickler for upholding the rules,
Not afraid to put a lash on a boy
And so sparingly the strap he employed.
No excuse when the crease they mashed,
Girls too received the occasional lash,
He appeared equally fair in his demands
As each gender followed the Farley’s plan.
My closest observation of him would be
When he joined the staff at St Mary’s,
It was in ninety-six during the big shake-up
That he began to drink of the St Mary’s cup.
The first year was exceptional I could tell,
We got down to the task and worked well,
Like in every mix there were differences
But we kept focus in most of the instances.
Under Mr. Farley St. Mary’s surely climbed
Computer technology embraced at this time,
The school was known for much expertise
While benefitting under the EDUTECH lease.
One thing he would always call to memory
Was that St. Mary’s children were his priority,
And amidst all it was our primary concern
To engage them in ways to help them learn.
For him every pupil was A St Mary’s Star
And with other schools he placed them on par,
For him each student had some talent or gift
That we could use to give that essential lift.
I still remember the St Mary’s Steel Orchestra,
They were Mr. Farley’s pride and pleasure,
Especially on the occasion of a Caribbean summit
When they played with panache and with spirit.
Mr. Farley was more than work; this is true,
This principal could stir a mean cou-cou
With salmon sauce on top as a delicious gravy,
In such moments most forgot any disunity.
An important component of Matthew’s tenure
Was professional development for every teacher,
He encouraged frequent qualifications upgrade
And warned not to become professionally staid.
I remember that teachers’ professional day
When Matthew Farley went out of his way
To organize a visit to schools in St Vincent,
The evening before off the teaching staff went.
In St Vincent we had an enthralling time
As we visited a school and with them dined
Exchanging the experiences of our cultures,
Compliments of Bajan and Vincy teachers.
I had resigned myself to being a good teacher,
He thought I should move on to administrator,
He literally forced me to do the Cert Ed
And I became an instructor of teachers instead.
On my desk he placed the Cert Ed form,
For most principals this was not the norm,
I knew first time applicants seldom got through
So I submitted just to get rid of Matthew.
That Cert Ed interview I can still remember,
Asked why I was there this was my answer,
My principal charged me with robbing the nation
If I did not develop my skills in administration.
That Cert Ed diploma which I now possess
Resulted from Principal Farley in his earnestness,
He wanted the best from each teacher and student
And away from that objective he could never be bent.
Matthew’s was a voice heard in educational forum,
In such he acquitted himself with aplomb and decorum,
A much sought after radio programme moderator,
He was a consummate and knowledgeable operator.
I deem it a privilege to have had him as friend
And that is a position I would stoutly defend,
Though at times we did not see eye to eye
The good times we have had cannot be denied.
When an accurate history of education is compiled
We’ll see Matthew Farley in his inimitable style,
As he contributed to the building of nationhood
Through the educational reform for which he stood.
And so with great humility this task I complete
As tribute to an educator extraordinaire and unique,
A man of small beginnings but who dared to dream
And overcame the odds however tough and extreme.
No doubt today we are still pinching ourselves
And wondering if this really could be true,
A long time will pass before some of us are convinced
That this is the heavenly graduation of Matthew.
Rest in peace comrade.
Stewart Russell © 2014/16