Priory Website Archive

This Site Was Last Updated on Sunday, 21 May 2006

Site Owner - Stephen Smith

Catching up with Mrs Marie Gregory

Reading the interviews on the site week by week, one obvious trend is that the most mentioned and most affectionately remembered teacher at Priory, for a large number of people is Mrs Marie Gregory. Modest though she is, I asked her to share some of her views and memories of her life at Priory.


How did you first become involved with Priory?

I was first involved with Priory through Mr. Fowler himself. I had been living in Montego Bay where my husband represented to Gleaner Company. I taught for four happy years at Cornwall College then the company recalled us to Kingston. Mr. Fowler heard about this and immediately sent a telegram inviting me to call on him with a view to taking a position at Priory. When I told my Cornwall colleagues, they were horrified and said I wouldn't last five minutes in such a place. I went to Mr. Crick, the head of Cornwall and told him the reactions. He advised me to go with an open mind saying he had known two people who had gone to Priory, one left very quickly, the other stayed for years. He assured me that Mr. Fowler was a very nice man and that I would enjoy working with him.

I stayed for 21 years.


What were your first impressions of Priory?

I think I loved it from the very first day. It would be wrong to single out memorable students, there were so many. All Priory students were individuals, not out of a mould, that was something I liked very much. Priory gave students a chance to express themselves. They were not expected to be Einsteins, they were encouraged to explore and extend their special talents, to get along with people of very different backgrounds and to recognise qualities in others which , though they themselves did not possess these or indeed would want to, were what made the community exciting. At one time we had over fifty nationalities, many languages, every shade of skin tone all blended into one Priory family. We used to say we were a mini United Nations.


Who did you most admire during your time at Priory?

The person I admired most in all my years of involvement was Mr. Fowler himself. He was a man with vision.

He could see the best in every single student who came to Priory. He would give a chance to any student, whether they had been withdrawn from another school, seemed to be  misfits, whatever. he believed that given the right atmosphere, firm but non-threatening, they would learn and they usually did.


As a teacher you must have had to deal with many difficult situations. Is there one in particular that stands out in your mind?

The most difficult situation I had to deal with was the death of Mr. Bourke. I was the first person on the scene having received a call at 3.30 in the afternoon that he had "Taken a shot". Fortunately, I called Edward Ashenheim, his good friend and lawyer before I left  home to ask who was the best doctor to take him to. I drove like mad up the back way to Jack's Hill and my car, a Lada, broke down halfway up. I had a terribly ominous feeling, left the car and started to run up the hill thinking I would drive his car to the doctor. Someone passed by and gave me a lift. To this day, I could not say who that person was.

I ran up the steps to the house and was almost in the room when the houseboy called and told me not to enter as Mr. Bourke was dead. At that very moment the police arrived, grabbed me as the woman in the case trying to escape although I had not been in! There were some very rough moments until Edward Ashenheim arrived and explained what had happened and the police themselves had seen my car at the side of the road on the hill. I then had to call Mr. Fowler in England and tell him, not an easy task.


What do you do nowadays?

Nowadays I teach part time at Campion College, the equivalent of A level literature, now called CAPE, the local version. I also work part time at the University teaching a writing course.

I try to travel whenever I can (and can afford to ) . I go to England regularly. Favourite places are probably Australia, parts of the Far East and Haworth, the home of the Brontes in Yorkshire. I do not recommend that in winter, it is bitterly cold.

Who is the most interesting person you have met during your life?

Most interesting person I have met professionally was Derek Walcott the poet from St. Lucia and Nobel Prize winner for Literature. He visited Jamaica last year to give a couple of workshops and a lecture at the university. I had a student form St. Lucia who was helping to arrange his programme. I told her she would not pass my course unless she arranged for me to meet him. She did and I behaved like a teenager even asking him for his autograph!

He has a wonderful facility with the English Language and I like to think that my Campion students  have caught my enthusiasm for him.

Derek Walcott

Lastly, the burning question! What do you think of the think of site?

Finally I think the website is wonderful. I look forward to the updates every Sunday. It is actual proof of what we were trying to do. The successes of former students are the long term rewards teachers enjoy. We are always  told that we touch the future yet  we need patience as we wait a long time to see how those who pass through our hands turn out. This website is my weekly reward and I am forever grateful for it. I love to hear from  former students and am delighted at their successes. Mr. Fowler has been vindicated over and over .

I will always be grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to contribute to his life's work.   


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