Teaching in Fatima College afforded me the opportunity to interface with two of our celebrated National icons, Brian Lara and Ray Holman. I saw Brian grow to become my favourite batsman of all time. As for Ray, not only was he my colleague but we worked in the same department, shared Form Six Spanish and we sat side by side for most of my career. What an honour to be in the company of a musical genius, a recipient of a National Award!
Ray was one of several middle-class college boys who lurked around the panyard at a time when the panman was considered an “outcast”. Ellie Mannette invited him into Invaders Panyard and his musical career simply took off. He was soon organizing a steelband concert in QRC. At age 16, he was arranging for Invaders, even composing his own tune Ray’s Saga for the band. This was a precursor of things to come.
Ray moved on to Starlift where his talent continued to unfold. His arrangement of Penny Lane is a masterpiece. Jane was just another tune in Sparrow’s repertoire until Starlift played it for Panorama. Solo Haromonites won that year but Jane remained one of my favourites. Ray did however emerged triumphant with The Bull and Queen of the Bands. He created his own tune with Socking It With Steel, a trend which he pursued incurring the wrath of panmen and calypsonians. Ray lived to see his idea of playing his own tune for Panorama now become the norm.
It was in 1972 that Ray composed Pan on the Move for Panorama. This led to Pan on the Run the following year. Ray suffered the same fate as Shorty when he created Soca. He became a very unpopular individual. He and Starlift soon parted way and Ray went on to arrange for several bands like Huggins Pandemoniun, Carib Tokyo, Exodus, Valley Harps and Skiffle Bunch. Unfortunately, Ray did not win another Panorama. Ironically, he arranged the music for two of Chucky’s winning renditions for Calypso Monarch 2014 and 2015.
As a Spanish teacher, Ray was brilliant, feared and respected by his pupils. I would always remember my first Form Six Spanish class. As I entered the class and introduced myself, the students erupted in uncontrollable joy. I later learnt the source of their jubilation. I was replacing Ray. This class included Justice Malcolm Holdip and Father Derek Anton. Justice Holdip admitted that in hindsight Ray exerted a tremendous influence in his life. He was thorough and demanding and laid a solid foundation, which has helped him in his career.
Ray certainly helped me in my career also. He was very strict with me when I joined the profession and at one time I was even afraid of him but I learnt so much from him. He showed me very simple and creative ways of teaching. É and Í simply meant I did something. It is from Ray that I learnt of the go, go verbs – tengo, salgo, vengo, digo etc.
Ray loved to deliver lectures. I will never forget the day he lectured me about financial planning and investment. This was at the end of my first year of teaching. There I was, a young teacher, working for a fantastic salary of $669.00 and enjoying life to the fullest. Ray cornered me one day and asked me some searching questions:
“What did you achieve after one year of teaching? What did you buy? How much money did you save? Did you invest any money?”
To all these questions, I answered in the negative. This lecture had a tremendous impact on my life.
Ray had a command of the English language and he would make any topic sound interesting. I’ll never forget the day that he spent discussing the difference between a shirt and a jersey or between very and much. It was fun working with Ray Holman, a pan legend!
By Glen Roach