A memorial service will be held this evening, January 24, at the Eight Mile Rock High School Gymnasium beginning at 6:00 p.m., in memory of the school’s first principal, Urban Gibbs.
Gibbs, an outstanding educator in The Bahamas passed away earlier this year at the age of 79.
This daily had the opportunity to interview a few of his colleagues, as well as a former student, recently, who all reflected on Gibbs’ humble spirit, passion for education and discipline, and his spirit of integrity.
Having had the opportunity to work with Gibbs for three years, Allan Warburton travelled to the island with his wife, to once again rekindle the relationship he had forged with Gibbs over 50 years ago; however, as fate would have it that would not be the case, as Gibbs passed away the day he returned to Grand Bahama. Warburton, along with his new wife, Beverley, former educator Cecil Thompson and former student Rev. Lindy Russell, each shared fond memories of a life well lived in the form of Urban Gibbs.
“My first wife and I came to The Bahamas in 1969; we were hired through The Times Educational supplement of England. There was an advertisement there, for teachers in The Bahamas and they had to be married couples, both teachers. The husband was given a three-year contract, and the wife was employed on local terms. Interestingly enough, the wife was paid far less money than the husbands, but most of the time the wives were the better teachers.
“Everyone flew into Nassau and then we were sent to the different out islands. We were sent to Grand Bahama and to Eight Mile Rock. We lived in Freeport, but we all went out to the school and it was there that we met Mr. Gibbs. I did not realize it, but he was only a few years older than me, and yet he had a presence about him. This was a new situation for him; we were about eight couples and so it was about 16 of us, suddenly arriving in this brand-new school; very qualified teachers from England, but he was still in charge. He was running the show and he made that very clear. That was fine with us, he did not have to tell us he was in charge, he demonstrated that and we accepted it.
“He was a very fine man to work with, I found personally. I was employed as the Physical Education teacher. When I first came here, I was teaching the children track and field, but did not realize the talent that they had,” informed Warburton.
“I came back, now, to meet with Mr. Gibbs. I checked online recently and saw that he had been given an award last year, in July, so I thought it would so good to be able to connect with him again. The very day that we arrived on island we learned that he had passed away. It is surreal.
“It is very sad, but then in a way, we can be here to honour him, which is gratifying from our point of view. He was a man who bridged the gap for us, he allowed us to come somewhere very strange and different to us, a different system and everything else, but he smoothed the way, he helped us and showed us the way out here, how you do things; the discipline.”
Warburton was a teacher at Eight Mile Rock High for three years, from 1967 to 1970.
The men were each questioned what they will most remember about Gibbs and the impact he had on their lives as well as the others whom had the privilege of being one of his pupils.
Veteran educator and colleague of Gibbs, Cecil Thompson expressed, “Urban Gibbs had a big reputation prior to coming to Eight Mile Rock All Aged School. In my own personal life, I met Mr. Gibbs in 1978. He was so quiet. What I did not know at the time was that this man had this huge reputation, because he did not brag. There was an aura about him; people just respected him. What I learned from him when I was a young vice principal of Hawksbill High, was how to conduct yourself; and I always carried a cane, of course mimicking Mr. Gibbs!
“He was a disciplinarian, but he always said that we must do it with love because when you do it with love the kids will love you in return.
“Urban Gibbs impacted at least three Directors of Education – Anthony ‘Tony’ Wilson, Iris Wells- Pinder and Cecil Thompson – all of us were impacted by him.”
Rev. Russell, a former student of Gibbs added, “I was a former student of Eight Mile Rock All Age School, under Mr. Gibbs. I met him in 1967, when he came to the All Age School in Hepburn Town, Eight Mile Rock and I transferred with him to the new school in 1967, where I stayed for two years and then I moved to Freeport High School.
“With all that has been said about Mr. Gibbs, I found it to be the case. One of the things that Mr. Gibbs did, was set a standard. He would have visited every house in Eight Mile Rock, he knew all the parents by name. He had rapport with everyone.
“It was a wonderful experience knowing him. I learned so much from him, with his commitment and dedication and how much he cared for his former students. He was very proud of all of his students and the accomplishments that we have made.
“I had the good fortune of having come from the All Age School to the new school and so I had the best of both worlds under Mr. Gibbs. I want to express sympathy again to his family. He will be missed and remembered for a very long time. He had a major impact in Eight Mile Rock and Grand Bahama, as a whole, for all of the contributions that he made,” concluded Rev. Russell.