a posse ad esse

... about Mr. Ivan P. Bissessar

.. ~ the legend

His name was spoken in whispers, the most fearful mantra of old Naparima.


Doc administered corrective medicine in the form of his collection of weathered canes.

In the earlier days, especially with the dormitory on the hill bringing together boys from a wide range of backgrounds, such therapy was considered essential to the maintenance of strict standards of behaviour and effort amongst an otherwise unruly mob of boys.

Doc's prescriptions were in dosages of two: two "strokes" for simple misdemeanours like pelting another fellow with a chalk duster; four strokes for graver infractions, which clearly flaunted school rules and authority, such as placing roller-bearings under the feet of the master's platform-elevated chair; and six strokes for fighting, stealing, or repeat offenders. The only penalty exceeding these was expulsion.

When a boy was called out of class to visit the Dean's office, his classmates would fall to toiling over books in mendacious earnestness and an unpoised hush, each intently awaiting the distant sharp communal report of strokes, by whose measured toll the severity of the culprit's adjudgment would be conveyed. Elaborately casual but close attention would then be accorded to the hapless one's returning gait and sessional ease.

During the war years, Doc took to wearing a unique khaki tunic, always pressed and starched, buttoned straight up the front. He must have had them custom made for himself - and thereby, in fact, invented the 1960's Trinidad shirt-jac decades before its time! Together with steel-rimmed glasses, a steel-grey crew-cut, his tall stiff bearing, a stern unsmiling demeanour, a seasoned four-foot cane, and a patented ectoplasmic trick of suddenly materializing out of thin air at the most indefensible moment, his appearance would well strike cold terror into the heart of the most rebellious and delinquent of juveniles.

~ the teacher

Early on in the 'twenties and 'thirties, Mr Bissessar was one of our first sports masters, a keen cricketer and footballer. And later on, well-hidden, but revealed to the senior forms who had him for a math teacher, was a rational steel-trap mind, and a determination to teach logical thinking.

Yes, Doc could administer discipline to the mind as well as the body. In his geometry and algebra classes, he would show his best as a Naparima master: how to transform the turbulence of adolescent thought into controlled, well-ordered mental process and methodology. In a subtle way, he would show you a different region of thinking, and how to apply it. If you attended those classes, you know that there is still a part of Doc inside you, that works for you. Strong medicine, indeed.

A graduate of QRC, Mr. Bissessar served at NC from 1928 to 1960's. At times he filled the role of Vice-Principal and Acting Principal, and along with Mr. Sammy and Rev. Walls, he was considered one of the three pillars of old Naparima.