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Commentary: Marjorie Basden - A stalwart in education in the Turks and Caicos Islands
Published on January 23, 2017Email To Friend    Print Version

By Dr Carlton Mills

Mrs Majorie Lightbourne-Basden was born in South Caicos on August 1, 1924. She attended the pre-school of the late Miss Mary Robinson. She also attended pre-school headed by the late Mrs Euphemia Lockhart.

Dr Carlton Mills received his early education in South Caicos. He pursued studies at Excelsior Community College, University of the West Indies, University of London, University of Bristol and his doctorate in Education at the University of Sheffield.
Dr Mills taught in the school system in the Turks and Caicos Islands for a number of years. He was also Principal of three high schools on the islands and Vice Principal of the Turks and Caicos Islands Community College from September 1997 – February 2007. He was appointed Minister of Education from 2007 – 2009. He is the main editor of The History of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
At the age of seven, she entered the Government All Age Primary School. Her principal was the famous Mr Christian D. Powell. He had an outstanding reputation in the islands in respect to education and discipline. Following his death, Mr Kenneth Malcolm took over the headship of the school. This did not last very long. He was soon replaced by Mr Arthur Tatem.

Mr Tatem quickly identified her talent and gave her the opportunity to sit first, second and third preliminary examinations in Grand Turk. This required her having to travel to Grand Turk on the mail boat, The Kathleen, to write her examinations as this was the only examination center in the islands. She was successful in all three examinations. Her desire was to become a nurse, but this dream seemed a long way away.

Like most students at the time, Marjorie developed a very close relationship with some of her classmates. These included Mr Samuel Saunders, Mrs Iris (Tita) Stubbs, Mrs Muriel Stubbs, Mrs Jamima Seymour, Mrs Gertrude Seymour, and Mrs Della Basden-Fulford. This group was also an outstanding academic one. They had a passion for mathematics and reading. Marjorie was one who was always called upon to assist her teacher. She probably didn’t realize that this was the preparation for an outstanding career in education.

The kids also played games such as rounders, attended parties and Sunday School together. They were all followers of the Anglican faith.

Teaching Career

In 1936, she and Mrs Iris Stubbs became pupil teachers. They taught with passion, dignity and pride. The salary was the least of their worries. They were disciplinarians but also developed a good rapport with parents. They cared for their students and produced some of the best professionals in the islands from South Caicos.

Mrs Basden was highly respected in the community. When students saw her on the street, they would stop doing whatever they were engaged in and pay her due respect. If she felt that they were idling, she would send them home. They had to obey her instructions. In the classroom, she was one of the ‘sweetest’ and ‘loving’ individuals a parent could entrust with their child. This did not prevent her from sparing the rod where necessary.

She benefitted from numerous in-service training courses including first aid, shorthand and book-keeping.

She retired in July 1980.


On February 13, 1945, she married Mr James Lightbourne. This union produced two children, Lincoln and Rosita. Following the birth of Rosita, her husband moved to Nassau, Bahamas, in search of a better livelihood. Her husband was gainfully employed by the late Wallace Grove on Little Whale Cay. Marjorie became headmistress of the little school where the Groves children were enrolled. She also taught Sunday School and held evening classes where she taught the Three R’s along with needlework and embroidery.

After some time, the Groves decided to relocate to Grand Bahama. Her husband thought it best she returned to South Caicos and he would soon follow. This did not happen until forty years later. Marjorie returned and continued her life. She eventually got divorced and married Mr Cornelius Basden. This union produced Beverley who has also followed in her mother’s footsteps as a teacher. Her mother always reminds her that “teachers are born, not made”.

Life’s Challenges

Her life was not without challenges. Early in her life, her mother left South Caicos and moved to Grand Turk to seek employment. Her mother left her in the care of her grandmother. However, because of their maternal bond, her mother soon sent for her to join her. This bond was soon to be broken. Her mother felt ill and decided to send Marjorie back to South Caicos while she went to Salt Cay to be cared for. Unfortunately, she never recovered.

Soon her beloved grandmother died, leaving her in the care of her grandmother’s sister, Susan Wilson-Williams. Her aunt’s husband Nathaniel (Uncle Nun), planned to send her to pursue her nursing career in Jamaica. However, disaster struck once again. In 1945, he passed away thus shattering her dream.


Mrs Marjorie Basden has been the recipient of several awards. These include:

• Long Service Award as a Teacher

• One of the first recipients of an award from the Native Men’s Fellowship in Providenciales

• In 1993, she received the Badge of Honour from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for her number of years as an educator

• In 1990, the Pierson High School was named in her honour – Marjorie Basden High School

• She was also honoured by the school in November 2015 at their anniversary service.

• On Monday, October 10, 2016, she received the long service award by the National Honours and Awards Committee.

Community Involvement

Despite her age, Mrs Basden continues to be active. She is the second oldest resident of South Caicos. She served as an invigilator for the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). She also invigilated the Pitmans Examinations, General Certificate in Education (GCE) and the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).

She still writes character references for individuals, as well as providing historical information to persons about family ties and the islands. She is regarded as the matriarch of the family and is often resorted to for advice and guidance. She loves preparing meals and reminds those who prepare meals how to go about it, as in her words she loves ‘good’ food.

Despite her not having the opportunity to benefit from formal training at the time, Mrs Basden can be described as an outstanding teacher. She is living proof of her philosophy that ‘teachers are born’. When one looks around and see the quality of students that have passed through her hands and what little or no resources she had to work with, it is evident that she possessed that special gift. Marjorie Basden’s name is synonymous with education. She will go down in the history books in South Caicos as one of the greatest teachers the island has ever produced.
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