Wednesday, April 27, 2016
|104-year-old ex-cop Howell Burke (left) talks police business at his|
house in Rock River, Clarendon with Senior Superintendent Fitz Bailey
on Monday afternoon.
If you were in a room next to Howell Burke and heard him talking you’d never guess that he’s a centenarian. There’s no quiver in Burke’s voice as he states firmly that he joined the police force on “January 7, 1939” and that he’s “104 years and eight months” old. “I will be 105 on August 5,” he declared as he graciously granted the Jamaica Observer an interview while members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in Clarendon, led by divisional commander Senior Superintendent Fitz Bailey, listened in awe to Howell Granville Buxton Burke’s life story.
Standing on the verandah of his house in Rock River, Clarendon on Monday this week, the former cop pointed out that he was better known in the police force as HG Burke.
He was born in Fair Prospect, Portland and stated that he started working at the Fair Prospect Elementary School as a pupil teacher when he was just 14 years old.
However, he lost the desire to remain in that profession after three unsuccessful attempts at getting into Mico Teachers’ College, despite passing all his examinations.
Eventually, he joined the police force.
“Training in those days was six months, but because of the war (World War II) my squad, which was the first squad, spent eight months because we had to do duty aboard the ships that were running away from submarines,” he said.
“All of them were packed like sardines in Kingston Harbour; it was the responsibility of the Government to protect them, so instead of sending us out like the other men, they kept back the first squad,” Burke related.
Upon completion of his training, he was assigned to the Chapelton Police Station in Clarendon in October 1939.
Those days Jamaica was still under British rule and the constabulary was run by the colonial masters.
“During the colonial days it was like going through hell, because, not that we were looking freedom, but it was sorta half slavery going on with us,” he said, pointing out that a policeman’s pay at that time amounted to five shillings per day.
“But after the change came (Independence in 1962) we could breathe a little better,” he said.
Burke remembers when Basil Robinson became the first black man to be appointed police commissioner. more