Did St Mary’s have the first school pan side?

The Trinidad Guardian

Silver Stars conductor Donnell Thomas known for his theatricality had patrons at Pan with the Saints intrigued by his costume for the band’s performance of music from Phantom of the OperaTrinidad and Tobago, W.I. - ....A surprising revelation was made early in the proceedings by St Mary’s Dean Enrico Rajah, one which sent pan archivists and Pan Trinbago officials searching their memories for verification.


Rajah said he had been informed the previous Thursday, by St Mary’s alumnae Ernest Ferreira, that St Mary’s College had a school steelband in 1947. Rajah added that students of St Mary’s and St Joseph’s Convent also produced a Carnival band in 1951. Rajah said the well-beaten belief that Catholic priests outlawed the playing of the national instrument by students is a myth, and that students were neither given detention or suspended for playing pan. But, a few St Mary’s alumni, who attended the College in the ‘50s, said that they were disciplined for playing in steelbands.
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  • Ken Duval and Cecil Edinborough ( relative of Walton and Felix) bought a tenor pan from Neville Jules in 1948 for $3.00. They got the money from Ken's father, Edwin Duval. They then got a "bass kettle" and a "second pan" and invited other school mates from CIC to form a band. They practiced at the Duval's property in Diego Martin. The band was then moved to Ernest Ferreira"s yard in Corbeau Town. That was the humble beginnings off Dixieland Steelband. The band was never based in CIC. It is erroneous to say that "St. Mary's had a school band in 1947 (sic)." (This is taken from "The Birth of Steeldrum Music and the History of Trinidad All Stars" by Bukka Rennie.


  • My first recollection of the steelband was about 1950, and it was so established in Trinidad life by then that I took it for granted.

    We got a Reddifusion ( which was basically a hard wired radio network) about 1951 or 52, and by then there was steelband music being played on the radio.

    I've always thought that the real development of the  steelband started as restrictions were lifted and the bands returned to the streets at the end of the war, though obviously some work had been done before.

    But I was born in 1945, and by the time I became aware, the steelband was a fixture of Trinidad life.

    This was also around the time of TSAPO.

    So a lot had been done in a relatively short time to solidify the place of the steelband in Trinidad culture, and to prepare it to be introduced to the world.

    So it seems that the mid 1940's was the critical time in the development of the modern pan.

    I would really like to see a chronological documentation of what happened in that period, and how pan established itself throughout the Island and as far as Antigua so quickly, especially at a time of more limited communication.

    • Glenroy: I have long wondered about that "Antigua Connection" and how it developed so quickly!!!

      • I've heard a story about a sailor taking some Invaders pans to Antigua in 1947. In those days there was a lot of shipping between the islands.

        And I'd bet in those days people moved more freely between islands. I always say that there'd be a lot fewer Afro Trinidadians if it weren't for Grenada, Barbados and Antigua :)

  • Oh, How sweet it is.

    My brother in law, Albert Baptiste was one of the Dixie Land group, several of which broke away

    to form Silver Stars.

    yes it was true that some of the St. Mary's boys were probably disciplined or at the least , spoken to by the St. Mary's

    Administration  and that this action was spurred on by our parents. This was all to the good. The bands moved underground,

    the limes at the pan yards after school increased, but man, St Mary's with its own panside !!!!!!!!

    How sweet it is.

  • There were boys in St. Mary's College in the forties and fifties who played pan in bands like Dixieland, Silver Stars, Demboys, Boystown, Dixie Stars and Tropitones. Some of these boys were Curtis Pierre, Sello Gomes, Nick Inniss, Hugo Blaize, Lawford Dupres, Denzil Jones, Dennis Awang, Peter Quong Sing, Cecil Louis and myself. There was no steel band associated with St.Mary's College. We had to be clandestine in playing in steel bands. And yes, we were disciplined if we were caught playing with steel bands. One of my colleagues mentioned above was expelled.
    • Many of the boys mentioned in the comments above who attended St. Mary's College and were pan players did so on their own. There was no organized St. Mary's College steel band. The priests at St.Mary's College frowned upon it. I taught at St.Mary's College from 1956 to 1960. I played pan outside the school. The priests did not know. Maybe I would have been fired.
      And yes, the band at Mount St. Benedict under Dave De Castro was probably the first sanctioned school band in Trinidad and Tobago. Dave who lives in Florida has pictures to substantiate these facts.
  • Ken Duval son of Edwin Duval, developer of the Diego Martin lands, indicated that in 1948 he was taken to All Stars yard by Cecil Edinborough (relative of Walton and Felix) to purchase a tenor pan from Neville Jules for $3.00. Ken and Cecil then invited their CIC friends (Ernest Ferreira etc.) to form a band after they also got a "bass-kettle" and a "second-pan" in addition. They jammed for a while on the Duvals' property and then Ernest was made Captain and the band moved to the Ferreiras' yard in Corbeau Town. Ernest himself when he received the 2008 Sunshine Award in New York talked about the tenor pan bought from Jules and "painted in All Stars colours." Ferreira also talked about the transformation of this band from being a CIC-Boys band to "Boys from Iwo Jima" to "Melody Makers" and eventually to "Dixieland." Also Dr. Leroi Boldon, presently a Vet in Carlifonia, uncle of Ato Boldon, joined All Stars in 1948 at the age of 12 and was one of the witnesses to Jules' creation of his "Family of Pans" ie the Steel-Drum Orchestra. Boldon indicated that a Father Maybeen in charge of the Symphony Orchestra at CIC went to the Boldons' home to complain to Boldon's mother that her son was refusing to be part of the college's music programme and chose instead to "beat ends of dustbins." Boldon at the age of 15 became Secretary of All Stars until he left T&T in 1959.

    (Extracts from "The Birth of Steel-Drum Music and the Story of Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra").

  • In 2012 for my Final year Thesis in UWI I did a Biography of  Mr. Nervin "Teach" Saunders a former arranger for Invaders. In my interviews with him he said that he started a steel orchestra with the  Blanchisseuse Government School, where he used to teach, together with a lady named Bernice Walker. He said this was in 1962!!. Through my research it seemed as though he was the first (documented) person to put a Steelband in a school. And he is widely accredited in the pan world as doing so. I even asked him personally if he really was the person to do so and he really wasnt sure. He said he just wanted to give the students "something that was fun to do" as he was a panist himself and that he never did it to become a "pioneer of any sought". But what he assured me of was that at the time he received a lot of opposition from a few teachers (and a few parents) because he was doing such a thing. Ofcourse we all know the bad stigma pan had at the time!! (At that time meaning well before 1962 and well after too!!). So my point is, if  what Mr Enrico Rajah is saying is true...well we need to re write the history books. And how come this hasn't been documented before??

  • Fellas.. You can't change the facts. It is well documented in the history of the Abbey School at Mt. St. Benedict that there was a steelband in existence at the school by the name of "Mount Mariners"in 1949.   Futher more, this panside had the blessings of the Priest in charge at that time, so it wasn't that no one had to hide to play pan, these students actually had permission to play their pan. Secondly, you have the living founder of the band in the person of Mr. Dave De Castro telling you that he is the founder of the said steelband and to back it up, he has the proof in the pictures along with witnesses and other pan players in that band. I rest my case ! 

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