The story of a High School in Montego Bay, Jamaica, known as Cornwall College is a story of heroes, of outstanding citizens, of brilliant scholars, of sporting stalwarts, of legends in their own right, of boys who have been converted to men of might.
It isn’t so difficult to fit Sydney Clarke into any of these categories. He could have been a fine sportsman but because he was so modest and never gloated about himself his peers and those following after him might not have known about that side of this quiet, unassuming giant.
Sydney Clarke was born in Montego Bay on the 29th day of August, 1921, the only child for his dear mother Edith Smith. He was a “bawn a bay bwoy” as Montegonians would say. He was also “born unda de clock” as others would say because he used to live on Fort Street as well as McCatty Street in the Second City.
Before they started to label children with the adjective “smart”, he was a bright boy and showed his brilliance at the Montego Bay Infant School. Before long he was proving at Montego Bay Boys’ Primary School that he must be taken seriously and that he had the thirst for knowledge and the aptitude to be a fine scholar.
In those days there was no Common Entrance Exam, only an entrance exam (with a common “e”). So Sydney’s mother made sure her boy sit that entrance test to enter the hallowed walls of Cornwall College, an institution that had just undergone its own name- change .....from Montego Bay Secondary Boys’ School to that of the proud CC.
He entered Cornwall in January 1932 and realized from that day on it would be “Disce aut Discede”.(Learn or Leave). And learned he did. Because, as he progressed in educational stature in that revered High School, Sydney became proficient in the Sciences and Mathematics so much so that he set his sights on being an Engineer.
He spent 6 unforgettable years wearing the Red and Gold and when he left in 1938 he went to Central America where he took up residence in Panama. Sydney clearly contemplated settling down in that rapidly developing area around the Panama Canal.
However, he later left Panama for the United States and enrolled at Pratt Institute of Engineering in Brooklyn, New York.
After graduating with distinction from Pratt, the talented Sydney was recruited by that company RCA, the Recording Company of America, which later was like a factory producing musical hit after hit after hit on the RCA label.
From RCA, Sydney went to the broadcast behemoth NBC, the National Broadcasting Company where he earned praises, accolades and awards for being an outstanding technician and studio engineer.
We have no record of another Cornwallian winning an EMMY for his work in television production. Sydney is the pioneer. He retired from NBC after 30 years of invaluable service.
On the subject of pioneering work, Sydney Clarke and a group of other like- minded past students of CC were instrumental in establishing the New York Chapter of the Old Boys’ Association in 1959. Sydney was not only a founding member but also served in capacities such that of business manager. It is via his mettle as a Business Manager of our Association that Cornwall’s New York chapter’s Annual Dinner Dance became the envy of other alumni associations who later had no alternative but to replicate Cornwall’s successful showpiece.
In later years he proudly served his alma mater as liaison between the NY chapter and Montego Bay.
Sydney Clarke enjoyed 95 bountiful years both in Jamaica, Panama and here in these United States.
He passed away peacefully on Monday, April 4, 2016 in New York and has left wife Shirley, the Cornwall College family, other friends and relatives to mourn his loss.
“ His death leaves a heartache, no-one can heal And his work leaves a memory, no-one can steal “
May his soul rest in peace and light perpetual shine upon him.