The Story of the Wolmer's Auditorium

Part 1: Lauriston Jones - Ouantity Surveyor

After 23 years without an auditorium, the students at Wolmer's Boys' have had to endure the harsh weather conditions for Assembly and various presentations, which are held outdoors. Thanks to the initiative of the Wolmer's Trust, led by Trustee Douglas Orane, a new auditorium will become a reality by the end of the 2014/2015 school year.

This series entitled: “The Story Of The Wolmer's Auditorium" will highlight the members of the project team, most of whom are Wolmerians, and almost all of whom have donated their time free of cost to design and construct the Auditorium. We begin the series with Mr. Lauriston Jones (alum 1949 – 1955) who is the Quantity Surveyor on the project.

Laurie as he is affectionately called, attended Wolmer's between 1949 and 1955 on a government scholarship from Central Branch Primary. His early career plans were set in the sciences, but he decided to put that plan on hold after receiving a job right after leaving Sixth Form. He went to work at the Ministry of Works Public Works Department (PWD) on Maxfield Avenue, Kingston from 1955 to 1958 in the Water Supply and later the Irrigation & Drainage Branch. Laurie left PWD to begin his technical studies in the first cohort at the College of Arts, Science & Technology. He only spent two terms there as he won a government scholarship to pursue a Diploma course in quantity surveying at the Regent Street Polytechnic later to become the University of South London.

After graduating he took the examinations of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and became an Associate of the Institution in 1968. During this period he worked with a private quantity surveying firm R. T. Dadson and also at the London County Council and the National Building Agency. He returned to Jamaica in 1969 and took up a position at Rutkowski, Bradford & Partners a firm of Architects, Engineers and Quantity Surveyors in their quantity surveying section. Laurie moved on to the Ministry of Works in 1972 as Chief Quantity Surveyor, where he spent the next three years. In 1975, he left the Ministry and became a Partner in the quantity surveying firm B. G. W. Cawston & Partners, where he still is, nearly forty years later.

When he was asked why he was volunteering his time and expertise to the auditorium project, he said it was about time that he gave back to Wolmer's. He was approached by alum and civil engineer Tommy Lyew and he never hesitated. “I feel privileged to assist with the construction of the auditorium. When | attended Wolmer's there were about 300 students. I was surprised to learn that sixty years after I left, the Wolmer's schools now have a total enrollment of over 3,500 students, of whom 1500 are at the boys' school. What also struck me was seeing that most of the original buildings were still intact."

Laurie's message to current students: "Always keep up the fine tradition of Wolmer's. Being a Wolmerian is something to be proud of and our tradition requires that our standards be kept extremely high."

Part 2: Tommy Lyew – Structural Engineer

In part two of our series on the Wolmer's Auditorium, we feature alum Tommy Lyew who is the structural engineer on the project. Tommy attended Wolmer's between 1948 and 1951 after a short stint at St. George's College. After leaving sixth form, he started his career at the Barclay's Bank (now National Commercial Bank) but realized after three years in the job that banking was not for him. He left for the United Kingdom in September 1952 to study engineering at the Battersea College, University of London. After graduating, Tommy's internship was at Ove Arup & Partners where the experience was at a higher level than what he was exposed to at the undergraduate level. In the true Wolmerian spirit, he went back to pursue his post graduate studies so that he could better appreciate the challenges of engineering. He received the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) Scholarship to complete his Master's in Civil Engineering at Imperial College.

Despite an offer to take up a lucrative job at Ove Arup & Partners, Tommy decided to return home in January 1961. Almost immediately, he was appointed the Resident Engineer for the building of the National Stadium, which had to be completed by April 1962 in time for the Commonwealth Games.

After completing the National Stadium, he went to work at Alcoa Minerals where on one of his excursions, he met and became lifetime friends with a young businessman by the name of Francis "Paco" Kennedy. Paco was very impressed with Tommy's engineering ideas and encouraged him to start his own business, which he did with two other friends: Lloyd Hue and Noel Chin. That business, Hue Lyew & Chin is one of Jamaica's most respected engineering companies today. Tommy's engineering skills can be seen at the Scotia Centre, Seabed Authority Centre and the National Gallery to name a few.

Tommy was approached by fellow alum and Trustee Douglas Orane to join the project committee. “I immediately said 'yes' and asked when were we going to begin" he said with a warm smile. “After hanging up with Doug, I called Laurie and asked him if he would like to be the Quantity Surveyor, which he happily agreed to do.”

Tommy is encouraging current students to pay close attention to the changing World of technology. “You should consider engineering and other technological studies as viable career options" he said. “I am happy that I was able to advise Wolmerians such as David Goldson and Yannick Eatmon to consider engineering as a career. In fact, David is now one of my partners at Hue Lyew & Chin and Yannick is doing well at MIT where he is studying Chemical Engineering. I hope more Wolmerians join the field of engineering in the near future."

Part 3: Paul Thorbourne – Architect

Alum Paul Thorbourne is the architect for the Wolmer's Auditorium. He attended Wolmer's Boys' from 1961 to, 1968 and was a member of both the track team and combined choir. Paul knew he wanted to become an architect from an early age and therefore decided to leave Wolmer's at the end of Lower Sixth to study for external exams in more relevant subjects. He spent the next half year working as a sales clerk for office equipment and supplies at Bryden & Evelyn and attended classes after work. He also played keyboards in a Band which eventually morphed into the "Inner Circle." With the help of his parents and a relative, he got the opportunity to leave for New York in 1969 to continue working while enrolling for part time studies at the City University of New York.

After two years he was accepted in the School of Architecture when he applied for and was awarded a Jamaican Government Scholarship to complete his Bachelor of Architecture Degree. He returned to Jamaica in 1975 and worked at the Ministry of Works for the next eight years which culminated in him being appointed Chief Architect.

Although he enjoyed his tenure at the Ministry, Paul wanted to be more involved in building design and took the bold step in 1983 to go out on his own and has since operated his own firm, except for a brief three year stint when he worked in a friend's office in Washington D.C. from 2000 to 2003. His designs include buildings for the Churches Cooperative Credit Union head office (Now First Heritage), New Ministry of Finance Office(National Heroes Circle), Jamaica National Building Society office in Half Way Tree, Campion College Auditorium and the monument for the late Prime Minister Hugh Lawson Shearer, which now stands at the National Heroes Park.

Paul was contacted by alum Tommy Lyew, who referred him to Douglas Orane who had decided to put together a team of old boys to undertake the project to design and build the new Wolmer's Auditorium. Paul immediately accepted the offer to be the architect. . He produced a design based on the needs of the various stakeholders, the land space available, and a market survey done to determine the desires of those who may want to rent the auditorium for functions." I have great memories of Wolmer's and it was the least I could do as my contribution to the school that helped make me what I am today."

His wish is that more students would pursue their passion based on their talents when choosing a career path. “Once you are doing something you love, it will lead to a more satisfying life. I know it worked for me and hope more Wolmerians will evaluate their natural talents to see how best they can assist in nation building."

Part 4: David Goldson – Structural Engineer

David Goldson regards himself as a true Wolmerian as he is an old boy of both Wolmer's Prep (1970 – 1977) and Wolmer's Boys' (1977 – 1984). In fact, David was at the prep school when it was relocated from Arnold Road to its present home on Connolley Avenue. Additionally, David is the second of three brothers who also attended Wolmer's. After his successful Common Entrance placement at Wolmer's Boys, David involved himself in several extra curricular activities including Swimming, Water Polo and the Photo Club. Starting in Fourth Form, David spent his summer holidays at Hue Lyew Chin (HLC) learning the basic elements of structural and civil engineering. He was so inspired by the work experience that he chose this field when he left to pursue his Bachelors of Science Degree at the University of New Orleans.

He returned to Jamaica after completing his first degree and worked with HLC for eight months before leaving for the University of Florida to study for his Masters in Structural Engineering. David worked in construction for a few years but after receiving a call from Tommy Lyew, he returned to HLC in 1999 where he is now a partner With the firm.

David was the lead engineer on several projects across Jamaica including the Scotia Bank buildings on Constant Spring Road and Montego Bay as well as the luxurious Sandals Resort property in Grenada.

David was informed about the Wolmer's Auditorium project by Tommy Lyew and he decided that he could not let this opportunity to give back to Wolmer's go by. “I knew that I had to be involved in this historic exercise at Wolmer's. This school has done so much for me and this is the lease I could do to contribute to Wolmer's development. I am very proud to be a part of this team." David followed his dream of being a structural engineer and wants to encourage existing students to do likewise. “It doesn't matter if you are not academically inclined, follow your passion and you will find something fulfilling."