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Frank Appleton Collymore

Frank Collymore was a central figure in Barbadian arts and literature for most of the twentieth century. Although he was a talented writer and artist in its own merit, his major professional accomplishments were as an English teacher and associate headmaster at the prestigious Combermere School and as an editor of BIM, a literary journal.

Background

  • Frank Appleton Collymore was born on January 7,1893, in St. Michael, Barbados, to Wilhemina Clarke and Joseph Appleton Collymore, a customs official.

  • Education

    • Collymore was an only child raised by doting parents and relatives. He developed an interest in the arts as a young child, although his formal education was limited to attending Combermere between 1903 and 1910.

    Career

    • After graduation he was asked to work as French and English teacher at the school. He later became its associate headmaster. Collymore taught at the school until he retired in 1963. He is considered an early source of inspiration to Caribbean writers such as Sam Selvon, George Lamming, Austin C. Clarke, and Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott.

      One of Collymore's more important contributions to Caribbean and West Indian literature was his work as editor of the literary magazine BIM. The publication was started in 1942 by Tony Crozier, a Barbadian journalist, who invited Collymore to become its editor. Collymore held the position of editor from 1942 to 1975. BIM collected and published the works of aspiring writers such as Lamming and Walcott. It has been credited by many as the most important outlet for the early work of West Indian writers and is noted for its dissemination throughout the Caribbean. It was also one of the earliest literary publications to emerge from the area.

      Collymore also played an indirect but important role in giving widespread recognition to Caribbean writers through the world in the now legendary BBC program Caribbean Voices, which presented West Indian literature to Great Britain and the rest of the English-speaking world. It was aired between 1943 and 1958. Because of his friendship with Henry Swanzy, editor and producer of the program, Collymore suggested to many of his students and BIM writers that they submit their works to be broadcast. If the works were chosen, they were read and criticized on the air. In fact, when many of these writers relocated from the West Indies to Great Britain to study or work, they found work with Swanzy as readers and critics.

      Collymore was also an accomplished artist and writer. Between 1942 and 1948 he published romantic poetry. His poetry explored the Caribbean landscape and his West Indian heritage in relationship to Great Britain. He also wrote short stories that mostly appeared in BIM. According to Edward Baugh, one of his most important critics and biographers, Colllymore's stories "deal with solitaries, eccentric, psychotics, and involve some of the morbid". One of Collymore's lesser-known talents was his ability as a visual artist. Many of his poems were initially accompanied by individual drawings. His drawings also appeared on covers and pages of BIM. He was also an accomplishd actor, who played a central role in Combermere's dramatic activities and belonged to several theatrical groups, appearing in more than 41 theatrical presentations.

      The issues of BIM edited by Collymore are thought to contain a treasury of West Indian original literature. He published three books of poetry during his lifetime: Thirty Poems (1944), Beneath the Casuarinas (1945) and Flotsam: Poems 1942-1948 (1945). He also published Notes for a Glossary of Words and Phrases of Barbadian Dialect (1955). This work is considered to be one of the first attempts to capture the richness and uniqueness of West Indian language within a scholarly work.

    Major achievements

    • Collymore received many awards during his lifetime. In 1968 the University of the West Indies at Mona bestowed on him an honorary masters in art in recognition of his literary career. The Central Bank of Barbados established The Frank Collymore Literary Endowment in 1998 to celebrate the memory of this notable teacher and writer and to foster the development of Barbadian writers. The Frank Collymore Hall, a multi-purpose building, is one of the premier cultural centers in Barbados' capital of Bridgetown.

    Personality

    Quotes from others about the person

    Collymore, known as "Colly" to his fellow Barbadians, was considered an extraordinary teacher who instilled a love for English literature in his students. He had a large library at his house and made it available to Iris students to read and amplify their literary knowledge. Barbadian author George Lamming recalls:

    "The importance of him for me was discovering the meaning of books. He really introduced me to the world of books and to the possibilities of discovering oneself through books. He had an extensive library; 1 used to go to his house on Saturday morning to make use of his library, I would say that he was essentially the most critical influence in the shaping of my direction in what was called literature and in any ambitions I had about becoming a writer. He was solely responsible for that."

    Frank Collymore
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    Born January 7, 1893
    Died July 17, 1980
    (aged 87)
    Nationality
    • 1942
      Editor, Magazine BIM
      New York, United States

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