Tribute to One of Christian Brothers’ Great Educators, Gbarnga City, Bong County
Mankind, down through the ages has come the cry for knowledge and more knowledge. Around us, everything is changing and nothing seems permanent and fixed. The mountains crumble away, the rivers dry up in the Sahara Desert, and cease to flow, islands sink and new seas are formed. The great oaks, in all their majesty must succumb to transition, to change, or death. Man goes on his way and crosses the borderline into the unknown and seems to end his existence in the twinkling of an eye. Is there any part of man, therefore, or any part of nature, that is immortal, unchanging permanent and conditional? Still, there was always the quest for knowledge and the desire for answers to problems unsolved. Why are we here? Who are we? Whence have we come? And where do we go? Is this personality of ours, this individuality which we strive to build up through idealism and the elimination of undesirable traits, merely a temporary or imaginary creation of our minds?
I met Rev. Brother Walsh in 1971, when I was just in the 8th. Grade at the time, at Carroll High School, Grassfield, Lamco, Nimba County.
He was born in Cappamore, County Limerick, Ireland. He came from a devout family as shown by two of his sisters entering Religious life as he did in 1949. Donal , as he preferred to be called, went to England for his religious and academic training. He had a Teacher’s Certificate from the London Institute of Education in 1959. Donal taught in various Brothers’ schools in England especially in Liverpool from 1960 to 1971.
He was in Grassfield, at Carroll High School, Yekepa, Liberia, from 1971 to 1975. And after an interval in U K, he was back in Gbarnga, Liberia from 1980 to 1985, as Principal at St. Martin High School. He also worked, as an Educator in Makeni in Sierra Leone, from 1985 to 1988. He returns to Yekepa , Nimba County, from 1988 to 1990. Due to his health condition in 2000, he took residence at the Brothers’ house in Twickenham, U K. Irrespective of his health conditions, he tirelessly, made mission appeals all over England raising funds to support various African missions.
Rev. Brother Walsh, suffered from heart attack and lung trouble as well. Due to his health conditions, he had to retire to Woodeaves, near Altrincham, in 2011 and eventually to the Augustinian Nursing Home near Liverpool, UK, in 2019. After a protracted period of his serious medical situations, he died peacefully on August 23, 2020, UK.
Brief History of Christian Brothers in Liberia
Bishop Francis Carroll High School was founded in 1969, by Archbishop Carroll, under the management of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, a Catholic religious order founded by Edmund Ignatius Rice. This school was organized as a secondary school, whose purpose was to provide inexpensive education to young men of Liberia. The school was also intended to serve as a minor seminary, which would attract Liberians to the Catholic priesthood.
The location of the school, Grassfield, was selected after a meeting involving Archbishop Francis Carroll, the Brother Superior of the Christian Brothers and the management of the Liberian American and Swedish Mining Company (LAMCO). Grassfield had served as the first operational site of LAMCO, when the company began mining operations in Liberia. Now that they were moving to Yekepa, they decided to lease their facilities at Grassfield to the Christian Brothers.
The history of Carroll High School can be divided into four periods: The Grassfield Days, The Yekepa Days, The Civil War years and the Post-War Carroll High. The Grassfield Days cover 1969-1979, the Yekepa Days 1980-1990, and Civil War period, covers 1991- 1997. The post war Carroll High period, began after the national elections in Liberia in 1997 and covers through to the present day.
The Grassfield Days
In January 1969, three Brothers, the late Br. Doherty (1st principal), Br. Fogarty, Dean of Boys and Br. Chincotta, Music Director, arrived to start an all-boys boarding school in the interior of Liberia. Later that year, 70 students enrolled at the school and the school population grew to as many as 500 during this period. The campus consisted of 40 family bungalows and wooden homes, equipped with hot and cold-water facilities, a rarity in those days. In addition to taking first place in the national exams for ten consecutive years, the school became known for its staging of rock operas including Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Godspell, Tommy, Rock and Ipi Ntombi.
The Yekepa Days
The second phase of CHS’s history began with the transfer of the school from Grassfield to Yekepa. The school was transformed from an all-boys boarding school, to a co-educational day school. Many of the musicians in Liberia attribute the CHS influence to their success. Before the war, Cobras were instrumental in starting musical groups around the country including the Cuttington Music Society and the University of Liberia’s band. In 1990, the school was closed due to the outbreak of the civil war.
The Liberian Civil War Years
The school was opened several times during the fourteen-year period of the civil war, but its continued existence, although, was always threatened by harassments and intimidations ( destructions that came with the war).
Post-war Carroll High School
Presently, the school is in operation in Yekepa. The staff consists of Liberians.
• The school colors are navy blue and sky blue.
• The school mascot is the Cobra.
• The motto is Ad Astra Per Ardua (To the Stars Through Hard Work).
Edmund Ignatius Rice, founded the Congregation of Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers. He was born and lived in Ireland from June1, 1762 to August 29, 1844.
Christian Brothers, include men from Africa, Europe, India, Australia, New Zealand, Papua-New Guinea, North and South America. Christian Brothers are in Africa such countries as: Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and The Gambia.
Whenever I hear the death news of individuals, especially those who have given so much of their time to the improvement and advancement of Liberian lives, it saddens me. Are we truly ready to follow their path, are we ready to make the sacrifices which they rendered on our behalf, are we conscious enough to take up the cross of service and are we ready to learn the lessons of our turbulent and brutal, historical experience? It is this experience that expectedly culminated in our recent, fifteen-year national tragedy, the historic nightmare of wanton destruction, population displacement, atrocious brutality and human suffering. Each Liberian has an obligation to carry on the legacy of this great missionary. Rev. Brother Walsh lived his life in the service of Liberian youth. He was indeed a great Soul.
Let me close with the following eulogy verse:
“Nature it seems stands on its head
When you mourn the loss of a great man
Today we remember his life with us
The years of laughter and fun ,
We’re thinking of all the times that we shared
And though we are bowed with grief
Today we celebrate the great man we once had
Because it is our firm belief
That his life enriched us in so many ways
Brought sunshine and happiness into our days
And though we are heartbroken and very sad
Today we admit that we’re also glad
That we had him, if only for too short a while
Not yet but sometimes, we’ll remember and smile.”
(by Author Unknown)
MAY HIS SOUL REST IN PERFECT PEACE.
FAREWELL GREAT EDUCATOR, SLEEP AND TAKE YOUR REST TILL WE MEET AGAIN.
Mr. Edmund Zar-Zar Bargblor is an Educator. He is a graduate of Cuttington University, Liberia; Howard University Washington, D.C, and Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel. He is a former Deputy Managing Director of the National Port Authority of Liberia, NPA. He is a graduate of Bishop Carroll High School. The author is grateful to Rev. Brother Edward Egan, for providing relevant information, that helped for the successful completion of this Tribute.
He can be contacted at: [email protected]