Two weeks ago, I had the privilege and pleasure of travelling to Cherokee Sound, Abaco, for the rededication of the old schoolhouse there. For those of you who don’t know the story, it’s an inspiring one. Cherokee Sound is a small settlement, isolated from the rest of Abaco by the fact that until the 1990s the most efficient way to get to it was by boat. Only recently has the settlement been connected to the rest of Abaco by a road, and that, together with the changing economic fortunes of the entire Bahamas, has made it a very prosperous settlement.
In the middle of the settlement is an old building — the Old Schoolhouse, built of limestone with walls easily two feet thick, with buttresses on the side like any good church, and shutters and a roof made of wood. It was built, as near as anyone can tell, during the late 1800s, making it well over a century old. Ten years ago it was decrepit, in much the same shape as too many buildings of that age; the roof was falling in, the doors falling off, and the walls had settled so much that cracks were appearing and some of the buttresses were crumbling. The Ministry of Works marked it down for demolition.
But there was something about this schoolhouse that the Ministry of Works — that indeed most Bahamians — didn’t know. For all the isolation of its community and the insignificance of the settlement, this schoolhouse — under the leadership of its mid-century schoolmaster, Mr. W. W. Sands — had turned out some of the best minds in the country, among them Mr. Patrick Bethel, educator extraordinaire.
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