FORMER SENIOR ASSISTANT Registrar and Secretary of the Chapel Management Committee (CMC), Mrs Rodina Reid, launched her first book at The UWI, Mona Research Days 2017.
The book, entitled, Chapel Gifts: A Voice from the Past, A Vision for the Future, explores the less well-known gifts contributed to The UWI, Mona Chapel.
The University Chapel, a structure of Georgian architecture, was originally a part of a sugar estate in Gale Valley, Trelawny. It was presented to the University for reconstruction as a Chapel in 1955, with each brick being individually numbered and transferred to its present home. The cornerstone was laid the following year and it was dedicated on February 14, 1960, during a commemoration service to mark the installation of Princess Alice as the University Chancellor. Gifts to the Chapel began in that year and continued up to 1981.
Reid was compelled to publish her book out of love and fear, confessing that though she got married in the Chapel in 1975, her love for the majestic structure was not developed until years later. “It was not until I became assistant registrar at the Secretariat and the Chapel became a part of my responsibilities that I became aware of its rich history. As Secretary to the CMC, I was fortunate to have Professor Patrick Bryan as Chair for the longest time. His love for the Chapel was genuine and caused me to appreciate its history and the need to protect it as a heritage site.”
Her fear, she explained, was that the memories of the Chapel would be forgotten if they went undocumented. “Since my time to retire was approaching, I feared that if the knowledge that I had acquired was not recorded, it might be lost as the physical preservation of old documents was a problem,” she said.
“In 2000, I recognised that although there was written documentation about the Chapel, it was not accompanied by photographs to illustrate what was being discussed.” This prompted her to compile a booklet in 2001 with several photographs (taken by Ruth Wilson), depicting various aspects of the Chapel, especially how it came to be created. She soon realised, however, that there was little documented information on the early gifts to the Chapel, and as she learned more through her research, she discovered that some of those gifts were not mentioned in the first booklet. “I discovered that at least 10 of the early gifts were not mentioned in the first booklet, including vases from Lord Hailes, Governor General of the Federation of the West Indies and Lady Hailes,” she recounted. Four years later she would uncover a list of gifts to the Chapel, and with the help of Campus Registrar, Dr Camille Bell-Hutchinson, a marble tablet containing this information was installed on the inside back wall of the Chapel in 2008.
Professor Patrick Bryan, Professor Emeritus in the Department of History and Archaeology, and guest speaker at Reid’s book launch, lauded Reid for researching, writing and ensuring that the book was produced. He also commended the Campus Registrar’s Office and The UWI administration “for giving support to work that provides, in an attractive way, aspects of the history of The UWI Chapel”.
The design of the book was not by accident. “People are now so used to technology and computers that if you give them something too long or something without pictures, they won’t read it,” Reid told UWIMONA Now.
“I wanted people to read it… and to see the beauty of the Chapel at this University…I was not interested in benefiting personally,” she emphasised.
She gifted copies of her book to The UWI, Mona Principal, Professor Archibald McDonald, the National Library of Jamaica, UWI Library and UWI’s Chaplain’s Office before signing each copy purchased at the launch.
She has also requested that all proceeds from the sale of Chapel Gifts: A Voice from the Past, A Vision for the Future be given to the Office of the Campus Registrar’s Needy Students Fund.
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