School Days

During our recent day excursion to Green Turtle Cay, our clan of eight covered more territory than expected, thanks to local transportation (golf carts) provided by Kool Karts.  With a seemingly endless list of people and places to see, we had to budget our time to not miss the last ferry back to Treasure Cay.  On that list was the school house Dad attended and often reminisced about.

After pausing to savor a fabulous lunch at the Green Turtle Club, we ventured back to New Plymouth.  At the bottom of the hill,  we parked the golf carts and climbed the steps in our flip flops to see this historic school house.  An unexpected flashback occurred of the visit over twenty years ago via the Big Red Boat.  On that day Dad was the one ecstatic to show me the school house, nestled on top of a 65-foot hill overlooking New Plymouth, and the 30 steps cut into the side of a limestone hill.  As my kids climbed the worn and distressed steps, I paused on the crest of the hill to cherish the picturesque view of the settlement below and imagined the path Dad would race along each day to school – barefoot.

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Dad and Mom at the Green Turtle Cay School House in 1992.

…From there we walked up the hill. We had to go up thirty steps to the school building. It was the first time for my son and his wife, but for me, it was a reminder of the ten years of my life attending school. Mr. Herbert Roberts was the principal of that school. After many years of service, he was transferred to Nassau to be the principal of a government school…          Journals of John W. Lowe 

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Dad & Mom at the bottom of the school house steps in 1992.
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My kids on the school house steps in 2014.

Children attended the All Age School around the age of five until fourteen.   Dad recollected writing on slates in class under the tutelage of principal, Herbert Roberts and teacher, Amy Roberts.  It was not uncommon for Amy Roberts to move the classroom outdoors to teach subjects that did not require a blackboard.  Every morning she began the day with a lesson from the Bible.  A tamarind switch from a nearby tree helped to keep order in the classroom.

What we may consider today a simple education, Dad had utmost appreciation for the wisdom and  instruction he received.   At the age of 15, he embarked for Nassau to start a successful career and emerged as a respected businessman in the Bahamian community for nearly 50 years.

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The Amy Roberts Primary School – 2014
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Herbert Roberts on the left. Photo found in Dad’s album.

While in Nassau, Dad reconnected with former principal, Herbert Roberts, who became a lifelong friend and mentor.  Not only was Mr. Roberts a great educator, but also a successful businessman.  During the era that Dad operated and managed one of Nassau’s thriving furniture companies, he would swing by the office of Mr. Herbert Roberts just a few miles away for counsel.  At that time, Herbert owned Home Furniture in Palmdale, a friendly competitor who often joked with Dad about joining forces with him.

Richard HERBERT Roberts, M.B.E. was born in 1911 in Green Turtle Cay and died in Nassau in 2003 at the age of 92.   In 1929, he and Lambert Lowe were sent by the Bahamas government to Alabama to study agriculture.  And in 1931 he became the principal of the All Age School in Green Turtle Cay, a calling that he would embrace for approximately 12 years.  Joy Lowe Jossi reflects on her Uncle Herbert…

He married my dad, Clarie Lowe’s sister, Emma. Quite the romance with the young school monitor sent about 1929  from GTC to Marsh Harbour to relieve the long-career teacher John GOODWIN Roberts for a sabbatical of travel to Portland, Oregon to visit his oldest son. He befriended Emma’s father, Eldred Lowe, built a boat for him, and asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage in 1932. They married in August 1932 at Marsh Harbour, moved to GTC just before the terrible hurricane in September.

An energetic, friendly, talented teacher who turned business man in Nassau to better provide for his growing family. Downtown Nassau furniture store owner, Joe Garfunkel, tapped the young teacher to come work with him. Many years later, Uncle Herbert became owner of Home Furniture. His three surviving children are in the store today.   Every summer Uncle Herbert and Aunt Emma and family spent a month at Abaco between her Marsh Harbour and his GTC.

Uncle Herbert’s bearing and manner exemplified diligence.  He was a tall, slim man – black hair, dark brown eyes – a quick wit with humour – kind and generous.  His influence impacted his students like your dad, Tony Roberts, Peter Lowe, and Donald Saunders. All became leaders in Nassau’s industry. Their bond with him and esteem stayed strong. He taught them bookkeeping at night school.

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Mr. Herbert Roberts at Green Turtle Cay All Age School. Mrs. Amy Roberts in the back row.  Photo courtesy of Annabelle Cross, granddaughter of Amy Lowe Roberts.
 
In honor of his years of service to the community, R. Herbert Roberts received the award and title Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (M.B.E) from Queen Elizabeth.  The April 15, 2003 issue of the Abaconian stated,

After moving to Nassau, he never forgot the people of Green Turtle Cay and was there to offer assistance when asked.

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As my kids walk down those steps, I found myself reminiscing on that day in 1992 when Dad and I made the same trek.  Not long afterwards, a message came to us.

…I received a message that my former school teacher would like to see us. Her home was about one hundred yards away. I was very glad to see her after many years. She was then a retired school principal. The school building was named in her honour, The Amy Roberts School. Later in life she was honored by the Bahamian government for her dedicated service…     Journals of John W. Lowe

Amy Isabelle Lowe Roberts, B.E.M. was born in Green Turtle Cay in 1910 to John and Maysie Lowe and died in 1993 at the age of 83.  I considered myself blessed to have met her a year before she left this earth on that day when she summoned to see Dad.  As it is not uncommon for residents of GTC to find a common ancestor, likewise Dad and Amy were 3rd cousins, tracing back to patriarch Captain Gideon Lowe.  She married Mr. Albert “Nick” Roberts in 1937.   In recent days, I was able to connect with a granddaughter of Mrs. Amy Roberts, who shared her grandmother’s unpublished autobiography written in the late 1970’s. Some excerpts…

The structure was a two story building with two floors, an open floor downstairs, two rooms on the second floor, which were connected with wooden steps. There were three porches; one to the East side, one on the North and one on the West.  There was a small room on the South East corner where students hung their hats and coats on pegs, when they arrive at 9:45 A.M. giving ample time for an Assembly on the school grounds at 10 A.M.  The Assembly consisted of the singing of a hymn or multiplication tables, followed by the Lord’s Prayer.

In 1915, at the age of five, Amy herself attended the All Age School with Miss Annie Saunders as her Grade I teacher. At age 12, she was appointed a Monitress (student in training) and later Pupil Teacher at the age of 15.  Amy developed her passion and talent under such notable head teachers as Maitland Malone of Hope Town, Lucerne Pinder of Spanish Wells, Mr. R. Herbert Roberts of Green Turtle Cay and Mr. Lambert Lowe of Marsh Harbour.  In her autobiography, she esteems principal R. Herbert Roberts…

He was determined with the Staff’s assistance to bring the school to the top in Education. Mr. Roberts and I worked together for 12 years, studying day and night the best methods to explain the various subjects to the students in the school.

Amy taught for over 55 years, filling in as principal whenever there was a vacancy. Teaching 4 generations of Green Turtle Cay students, her pupils, scattered around the globe, have been successful businessmen, teachers, ministers and leaders in the Bahamian community.  Amongst her many medals, accolades and achievements, in 1983 she was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for meritorious civil service by former Governor General of the Bahamas, Sir Gerald Cash.

At the age of 77 years, I attribute all praise to my Heavenly Father, and my redeemer Jesus Christ, for the years I have lived, and all the accomplishments I have obtained, and my assistance I have given to the 1st – 2nd – 3rd – 4th generations on the island.

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BACK ROW (standing) L-R: Joyce Curry, Lurey Curry, Gerald Key, Zeddith Saunders, Neville Key (brother of Gerald), Delores Saunders and teacher, Amy Roberts. FRONT ROW (seated) L-R: Anthony Roberts, Merriel Roberts, Joyce Pinder, Iris Roberts, Merlee Lowe. Photo courtesy of Annabelle Cross with facial identifications by Amanda Diedrick
The Girl Guides welcome the Governor General of the Bahamas to New Plymouth.
The Girl Guides welcome the Governor General of the Bahamas to New Plymouth.  Estella Curry, Ena Roberts, Shirley Roberts, Anne Roberts, Beverly Curry, Ivy Saunders,  Julieann Key, Linda Roberts, Rosie Saunders, Hilda Curry, Mavis Lowe, Cynthia Lowe, Amy Roberts & Linda Key (holding flowers).  Photo courtesy of Annabelle Cross, granddaughter.
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Amy Isabelle Lowe Roberts June 12, 1910 – October 13, 1993.  Photo courtesy of Annabelle Cross, granddaughter.

The school was later renamed Amy Roberts Primary School in her honor for her years of service and remains in operation today.  Their mission…

to inspire each child to reach beyond their potential so as to secure the future of our country.

14 thoughts on “School Days

  1. Great post and photos, Evan! Do you happen to know what year the photo of Herbert Roberts with his students was taken? Also, funny how few girls there are — looks like they may have been relegated to the back rows. 🙂

  2. Hi Evan! Great post. An up-close look at that picture with Mr. Roberts and I see faces that look very familiar. The third boy from the left (with hands folded in front of him) looks like it could be Chester Lowe. The 6th from the right (front row) looks like a Sawyer.

  3. Reblogged this on Little House by the Ferry and commented:
    If you haven’t checked out my cousin Evan Lowe’s blog, Out Island Boy, you should do so. (Evan’s grandmother, Bessie, and my great-grandfather, Herman Curry, were siblings.) Out Island Boy offers glimpses into Abaco and Green Turtle Cay history from Evan’s father and other relatives. His latest post about Green Turtle’s Amy Roberts Primary School is fascinating.

  4. This is Michelle McRill Driscoll. RH Roberts was my grandfather and a great inspiration to all. Granny Emma was a character!! My Mother was Jennifer, who I lost to cancer. Looking at these pictures brought back so many memories spent every summer on the Cay. My hope is to get my two girls there next summer (2016) to see where there family came from. Look forward to more posts.

    1. Thank you! My dad never ceased talking about Mr. Roberts. In recent months I’ve discovered that my mom is related to both your grandfather, RH Roberts and his wife, Emma.

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