The fifth Anglican bishop of Jamaica and the first archbishop of the West Indies, Nuttall was an outstanding clergyman whose influence extended beyond the Church to the wider society. On his death 100 years ago, on May 31, 1916, it is reported that thousands of people filed past his coffin as his body lay in repose for five hours at St George’s Anglican Church, where he had served before his election bishop. Thousands more lined the route to watch the procession travel to the Kingston Parish Church for the funeral service, and then through the city to the St Andrew Parish Church Cemetery where his body was buried.
It is certain that no other church leader — and very few, apart from political leaders — received such national attention on their death. How, therefore, did this man who led the Anglican Church for a record-breaking 36 years, from 1880 until his death in 1916, earn the respect of so many people? The answer perhaps lies in his conviction that, in order to be effective, the Church had to be concerned with the overall welfare of people, as he, of course, interpreted it in the colonial context of the time and personally demonstrated in his pastoral ministry.
He believed education was critical and he contributed greatly to the structure of the country’s educational system. He recognised the importance of teacher training and played prominent roles in the establishment and organisation of both Mico Training College (now Mico University College) for men and Shortwood Training College for women. He served as chairman of both boards for 34 years and 31 years, respectively.
Nuttall also chaired the Jamaica Schools Commission — the forerunner of the Board of Education — and he played a leading role in the establishment and reorganisation of several secondary schools. These included the selection of a new board for the Titchfield School in Port Antonio, the amalgamation of the Kingston Grammar School with Wolmer’s Boys’ School, the merger of the Jamaica High School and the University College to become Jamaica College, and the founding of Cornwall College.
In addition, he drew up rules for the nomination of Rhodes scholars and was also a member of the selection committee.
Nuttall took special interest in elementary (now primary) education, which was more widespread as secondary institutions were few and catered only to a small segment of the population. From his position on the schools’ commission, and later on the Board of Education, for which he was the vice-chairman, he pushed for strong government support for elementary schools.
He also encouraged religious teaching in these institutions and, along with other churchmen, he produced a catechism for use by students. It is not surprising that Anthony Johnson in his history of Kingston College describes him as “Jamaica’s educational czar”.
In 1890, Archbishop Nuttall introduced the Deaconess Order to Jamaica to provide a formal structure for work by women in the Church. The deaconesses established the first training programme for nurses, with the practical work being done at the Kingston Public Hospital. This led to the establishment, in 1908, of a nursing home, which had an operating facility and which was the first private institution of its kind in Kingston.
It was known first as a nursing hostel; and after his death, as the Archbishop Nuttall Nursing Home. By 1921, it had long outgrown its location on East Street in Kingston and land at Cross Roads was purchased for the construction of a new building. The now well-known landmark, the Nuttall Memorial Hospital, was opened in 1923.
Interestingly, the deaconesses also had a strong influence on secondary education as they established schools for girls in several parishes. Although most of them were short-lived, a few of them, St Hilda’s Diocesan High School and St Hugh’s High School, have survived for more than a century.
On the centenary of his death, the Anglican Church is celebrating his contribution to the Church and to the nation by organising several events in his memory.
These include a floral tribute at his grave at the St Andrew Parish Church Cemetery today, and a public lecture by University of the West Indies Professor Emeritus Patrick Bryan at the Mico University College tomorrow, May 31. The National Library will also mount its own tribute with an exhibition which will be opened at its East Street Headquarters on May 30.