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A Reminiscence of Archie Hudson Phillips

A Reminiscence of Archie Hudson Phillips

Founding UWIM Curator Suzanne Francis-Brown, Alumni Aggrey Burke and the late Archie Hudson Phillips (sitting)

Every so often, Archie Hudson Phillips would appear at the door of the UWI Museum office with an utterly impish smile on his face and a truckload of UCWI memories tumbling faster than pen could write. He flatly refused to let us tape him – he felt that it would require him to censor himself. So instead of sharing his memories in his own voice, this small recollection draws on the pages of swift, bulleted and sometimes incomplete notes that he cast his eye over on a subsequent visit.

Dr Archie Hudson Phillips was born in Trinidad & Tobago and attended the prestigious boys’ school, QRC (Queen’s Royal College). This was an important point – never to be forgotten! Persons of real class attended which school? …QRC! He was one of the children of Henry William Alexander Hudson Phillips LLB, the first West Indian to successfully sit the LLB as an external student of London University, UK. The younger Hudson Phillips expressed an interest in medicine and convinced the early UCWI interviewing panel to grant him a place in the 1951 class, travelling north on October 5 with George ‘Champ’ Alleyne of Barbados among others. ‘Champ’, later Sir George Alleyne, Chancellor of the UWI; along with Murchison Wilson, Knox Hagley, Jimmy Munroe, David Thwaites, Derek Schiletto, Aubrey Burrowes, Quintin Richmond and Bud Lee would be some of Archie’s group at the UCWI and beyond.

Starting, like many others then, without necessary credits in science, he had to rectify that, and then he got involved with a lot of things – the stage, football, cricket; he was secretary of the Union for two years. So, it was not until 1960 that the versatile Dr Hudson Phillips graduated, and went on to intern at the Kingston Public Hospital.

He would marry Angela Lewis, who herself matriculated at the UCWI in 1956. She was a niece of the UCWI’s first West Indian Principal, Arthur Lewis (later Sir Arthur) and daughter of former, Sir Allan Lewis, Chancellor Of UWI (1975 – 1989). In fact, Dr Hudson Phillips’ first visit was to an exhibition that we had to mark the Lewis Centenary in January 2015. He started talking about the Lewis family – every one a star in his own firmament – and that was the first time that we recognized how much more information we would capture if he would just let us tape him as he set us straight on people, places and things.

Archie with a Pelican Annual Magazine

We talked about art – some of the interesting pieces in his personal collection; the Museum’s small collection and its possible directions. We talked about artifacts, like the collection of Pelican journals which provide so much information on the early social history of the UWI – and he took two Pelicans that were in bad condition down to Mona Rehab Centre to be rebound. But mainly he loved to recall the days when he would, on invitation, do readings of West Indian literature, and his love affair with the stage. Drama at the UCWI was on the leading edge, and Archie’s first outing was as Vasti in Derek Walcott’s ‘Christophe’, produced by the university’s Dramatic Society.

Award for best actor in the 1956 all island Drama Festival

His second performance was in Drama Tutor Errol Hill’s ‘Man Better Man’; and then he won the award for best male actor in the 1956 Adult Drama Festival for his role as Afa in Walcott’s ‘Sea at Dauphin’. He said that after that, he got busy.

The other thing that was near and dear to his heart, was the UWI Steel Band – with which he memorably sang ‘Hol’ Im Joe’ in a recording done late at night (to avoid noise), in front of the Old Dramatic Theatre. He remembered Arden Williams playing the first pan at Mona at a New Year party at the Students Union in the mid-1950s. Williams had brought the tenor pan with him from Trinidad. Other early steel pans were made by the students on a concrete pad at the back of Irvine Hall.

Archie Hudson Phillips singing with the Steel band ‘Hol Im Joe’

Archie had a lot of other memories, and he was willing to roll in his friends to help fill in gaps – witness the day he called up his good friend ‘Murchie’ Wilson in Port of Spain to fill us in on details of the Steel Band’s early adventures. Of course, the steel band became tightly connected to another early import from the southern Caribbean, via the students who trekked north to Mona – that was Carnival. It was from an anecdote of Archie’s that we drew the title for our 2017 ‘work in progress’ exhibition on UWI Carnival: Le’ Wi Play Mas. “It started about 1954/1955…” he remembered. “There was no steel band yet….It was coming up to Lent, and we say: Le’ wi play mas! We dress in all kin’ a ole ting; if we playing Zulu, we bought mops for hair…”

Archie Hudson Phillips and Christian from George ‘Gemmie’ Morris

The University College of the West Indies, precursor to the UWI, was Archie Hudson Phillips’ beloved stomping ground and he revelled in the memories it offered; and delighted to share them so that they could be part of the record. It was such a pleasure to spend time with him. The UWI Museum was very much the beneficiary.

Our condolences to his widow, his wider family and friends.

Suzanne Francis-Brown (PhD)

Founding Curator, UWI Museum


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