Timothy and Lily Mae Burke | Arts & Hobbies
Jamaica, in every parish, had many great primary school teachers who were held in high esteem by their students and in the communities they served. Some have achieved national notoriety. These men and women made significant contributions to nation building, laying the foundation for the new Jamaica they envisioned.
Sadly, many, even when schools and roads are named after them, are no longer remembered to younger generations as they should. They are remembered by those they taught and perhaps by some elders. I heard about Timothy and Lily Mae Burke from a former Goshen Primary School student, Thelma Pottinger Hurst, a Diaspora member who grew up in the Lucky Hill area of St Mary’s. Thelma attended Goshen Elementary beginning around 1941, when Timothy Adolphus Burke was headmaster.
Timothy Burke was born possibly June 9, 1878 in Highgate, St Mary. He was the son of Francis Alexander Burke. I couldn’t find his mother’s name. He attended Highgate Primary and then Mico Teachers’ Training College; yet another Mico man.
On 18 December 1924 he married Lily Mae Dixon, also a teacher, of Carron Hall, St Mary’s. Lily Mae was born around June 11, 1902, to Charles Nathaniel and Susan Dixon, who worked in agriculture and business in Highgate, St Mary. She also attended Highgate Primary School and went to Miss Swaby’s Secondary School and Practical Training Center at Carron Hall.
Timothy Burke taught elementary schools in Hanover before being assigned to Goshen Primary School in 1920. He would remain there until his retirement in 1944.
DEDICATED TO EDUCATION
Professor Burke and his wife, Lily Mae (Miss Lily), were dedicated to education, church and community development.
He was president of the St Mary Teachers’ Association; elder and choirmaster at Goshen Presbyterian Church and involved with St Mary’s Branch of the Jamaica Agricultural Society and Lucky Hill Agricultural Co-operative. He was also President of Lucky Hill Cricket Club and a Justice of the Peace.
Timothy Adolphus Burke died in Lucky Hill, June 16, 1965, aged approximately 87. the gleaner described him as having had a distinguished teaching career and as being dedicated to community development. The Timothy Burke Basic School, Lucky Hill, was named in his honor.
Lily Mae Burke, JP, was a phenomenal woman, described as a “pioneer of good deeds” and considered one of Jamaica’s most outstanding women, who wanted to build the country from the ground up. She was known for her charitable spirit and hard work. She had an impressive career in her own right. She was a teacher, social worker, community organizer, farmer, agricultural fundraiser and politician.
Lily Mae was a member of St Mary’s School Board and a member of St Mary’s Parish Council representing the Jamaica Labor Party. Additionally, she was a parish administrator for the Jamaica Women’s Federation and would become national president in 1962. In 1979, a room in the Federation building at 74 Arnold Road was named in her honor. It seems that in 1964 she got an MBE
Lily Mae Dixon Burke died on March 3, 1968, six months before her 91-year-old mother, Susan. The Burkes had no children of their own.
There is no doubt that Timothy and Lily Mae Burke were highly respected and helpful citizens of St Mary’s. They were among those honored by the people of this parish at a memorial service at Goshen United Church, Lucky Hill, in July 1970.
There seems to be a need in communities and parishes to keep alive the memory of the people of the past who contributed to the national development of Jamaica. Are they now commemorated on Jamaica Day and National Heritage Week? These people should be our role models.
Contributed by Marcia Thomas