Welcome to Alpha Boys' School, Kingston, Jamaica

 

           

Sister Mary Ignatius Davies
(1921 - 2003)

This website has been set up to honor one of Jamaica's greatest figures, Sister Ignatius. It is both a tribute and an attempt to carry on the late Sister's work by raising money and awareness for the Alpha Boys' School.

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Sister Mary Ignatius Davies of the Alpha Boys' School in Kingston, Jamaica, died at the University Hospital of the West Indies on Sunday, February 9, following an extensive heart attack. She had been with the Alpha School since 1939, serving as a mentor and spiritual guide to the world-famous Alpha Boys' School music program. Sister Ignatius was 81 and is survived by a niece.

Sister Ignatius was born at Innswood, St. Catherine, on November 18, 1921. She was baptised at the Roman Catholic Church in Spanish Town, and went to the elementary school in that town. Later her family migrated to Kingston and she attended Mico Elementary School and then Alpha Academy. The sisters there made such an impression on her through their concern for the poor, that she joined the Sisters of Mercy on February 1, 1939 and stayed in residence for the remainder of her life.

The Alpha Boys' School was founded in the 1880's in Central Kingston as a home for wayward boys, providing them with an education and practical training. The musical program of the School matured and gained a unique stature during the jazz-era of the 1940s and '50s. This period saw the training of the majority of Jamaica's top hornsmen, many of whom would go on to be instrumental in the development of the island's first indigenous pop music: ska. Ska's most famous supergroup was the Skatalites, and four of its founding members -- Tommy McCook, Johnny "Dizzy" Moore, Lester Sterling and the internationally-recognized Don Drummond -- were all graduates of the Alpha Boys' School. The Drummond-composed ska instrumental "Eastern Standard Time" (1964) was a perennial favorite for the Jamaican-born Sister Ignatius, who also ran Soundsystem dances for the students at Alpha. Alpha graduates went on to feature prominently in the emerging musical styles of rock steady and then reggae.

The "old boys", as Sister Ignatius called her former students, provided a network of family for her visits overseas. During more recent years, Sister Ignatius remained a constant presence at Alpha, actively promoting the Alpha Boys' School Band and hosting numerous foreign visitors and media institutions, all intent on learning about the School's historical role in the development of Jamaica's musical identity. Many of Jamaica's musical luminaries also paid her the highest respect, including frequent guest Clement "Coxson" Dodd, Jamaica's most famous producer. Dodd recently assisted Sister Ignatius in completing the Alpha Boys' Band's new CD recording: mail@alphaboysschool.com

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