Monday 25 November 2013

Excursion Up The Rivers & The Woods in Tobago, over 100 years ago: "The Main Ridge"

The Fort

Dear C.
        Will you take lunch with us on.........We will talk about another expediation in the woods, to beat the one up the river hollow.

Yours, L.M.

Lunched at the Mess that day, taled the matter over; it was agreed that they who wished to go should meet me at.........and arrange all particulars necessary foran excursion from W.H. River by the Main Ridge to Charlotteville.
Provision on a liberal scale meat and drink, attendants, cooking apparatus etc. were to be provided
for the three days - at which time we conceived the journey wold be completed.
To each person was allotted the share he was to contribute in the articles necessary for the excursion six followers were to accompany us as carriers, cutlass men etc.
Each of us carrying in a blanket, a suit of clothes, etc., covered with an oil cloth - soldier fashion, gun and dogs, pocket compass, matches, tinder-box; a lot of hard boiled eggs were not forgotten in the list.
Mackie and Cowper came to the “Meet" but whether owing to duty or a consideration that three days and nights in the woods might tend to a fever that would occasion a vacancy and promotion in their Regts, - two were was however put down that they were on Garrison duty.
Sometime in the month of.........everything right and ready, away we went the W.H. River - followed it up until not too distant from the Main Ridge - built out hut at about 4 o'clock p.m. and camped for the night close to the river.
The murmur of the stream, the absence of mosquitoes, a blazing fire nearly 3 ft. high is leeward of us - the coolness of the air - the sweetness of sleep that night, was never surpassed by us since our infant days.
The hut was covered with palm leaves - our bed the branches without the hard or woody part.

Between 4 and 5 o'clock next morning, sleep was at an end, indeed impossible.
On every side not far from us, the gangs of Cocrico, country turn"; agoutis came for their morning meal of gru gru nuts; the King of the wood were enquiring - "Who you", while the whistle and chirp of innumerable brids and insects filled the air and were a prohibition to further sleep.
One of our men took the gun and dogs, and added to our Commissariat a few cocricos and agoutis. We put fire to a couple of gru gru trees for amusement, and two manacoos and some picarry  rate, after climbing up the branches to the top, jumped down and were killed - a help to the followers pot.
A bath, bread and tea, hard boiled eggs, and we bid adieu to the rive for the Main Ridge, which was reached after an hour's walking, in a slanting direction through under bush. Memory fails me as to the course to be steered by the compass - but I think it was N.E.
We observed the soil to be free from stones of great size, a variety of trees viz. the "Pauder", which bears a large bean or pods, especially esteemed by the parrots - the pulp being very sweet - I was informed was sold in the Trinidad market. A few nutmeg trees, the seeds with a scant mace, scarcely deserved the name - a locust tree occasionally the beef wood, the colour and smell of corned beef - the Naked Boy, having little or no bark. Others of which we were ignorant and dependent upon “Celim"  for their names and uses.
I need not refer further to trees for a better description than I could give appears in the well—got-up handbook compiled by the Hon. L.G. Hay - our Treasurer.
We took turn about to steer - compass in hand walking was not difficult, nor the heat oppressive; a few agoutis and armadillas, were added to our store - many cocricos were about, but the talk and noise sent them into hiding, then you can say good-bye to them. Piccarys no where.
No halt was made for lunch, while walking we were eating and drinking. At about 4 o'clock, having selected where to camp - an eye given to the proximity of water - operations commenced for the hut - wattles, posts, vines, palm or other branches, were procured tied together in some kind of way, some palm or other branches thrown inside as bedding was thought quite good enough for fellows who intend to rough it. A large fire was made to last until next morning - water taken from the little stream close by - we went to dinner, and enjoyed it.
Our followers, whose appetites for meat and drink seemed to be at the highest, not content with a fair portion of our fare, had the agoutis, armadillos, rats etc. cleaned, salted, and on sticks over the fire and long after we had retired for sleep, the white rum and roasted game was succeeded by songs and nancy stories; not altogether to our enjoyment, but we slept well.
Thus ended the second day. Under favourable circumstances we commenced the third day — but as we progressed the woods became more hilly, the trees down the sides larger, the soil damp - very little ridge - up one hill - down another - walking not so pleasant.
Came dose upon the rise of a branch of the Goldsboro' river (Dog River) about 15 feet of a slide down the hill put us into it. Large stones surrounded by water, with very little egress under them; a number of good sized mullets were caught by Baptiste; these cooked in greased paper - a squeeze of lime - a few bird peppers - a little salt for a sauce - added much to our breaktast, which we made there and then, and was fit for the veriest epicure.
The other branch of this river has a large water-fall from the Lure Estate, which the fish cannot ascend. As we did not pass it, we concluded that its rise was lower down.
During this day we came upon a part of the Ridge where the soil was poor - the trees stunted and covered with razor grass (those who know this grass avoid its company). All the Cutlass men had to go to work, and we took at the rate of about an hour to walk a mile.
I may say that the Main Ridge proper is both poor in soil - in the size of trees - in animals - in game even in snakes.
Celim Cunningham, our chief man who claimed to be well versed in all the wonders of the Main Ridge, had been accustomed when at Richmond or Glamorgan, as carpenter, to take had wood from the woods for estates purposes.
On these occasions he had seen extraordinary things "a serpent with two heads, another with a comb on its head, and crowed like a cock, etc." The razor grass had not been very pleasant to Celim, and ever and anon a call was made upon him about the serpents; till at last, he could stand the "chaff" no longer and fairly lost temper. Paradise however, was soon regained.
Let me deviate from the Ridge for a moment.

While on the subject of serpents, I may remark that the Honorable LG. Hay's Handbook, which does credit to him as a compiler, is I think correct in stating that most of our snakes are not venomous; but the Boa he leaves doubtful. The Boa, from what I have seen, is neither venomous nor wicked - a woman tramped on one, was bitten on the foot, and several fangs left there were picked out - a hot glass of "Toddy" was given to her, and she suffered no bad effect.
In looking for hard wood, I sat upon one coiled in the cavity of a fallen tree, while eating breakfast; nothing occurred to me, but the carpenter who was with me, taking my place for his "snack" was seen to send plate, ham, and everything himself included, flying - the Boa crawled out from sleep to meet death.
On another occasion my dogs were in chase of an agouti in rather thick scrub, when I heard the death note "Me go pay you". I went to the place gun in hand, peeping, peering, to find the agouti - upon lifting up my head, a large Boa, within a yard of me, was looking right into my face with glistering eyes, rapid movement of its forked tongue, and body erect. In very quick time, the gun was to the shoulder - but had it been inclined, it had the first chance, and could have planted its fangs in my face, and taken a turn round me. It measured 12 feet.
Another, and I close with snakes - out shooting with my man "Quashey", we met about 10 Boas all in a lump - after taking a good look at them we retired to a safe distance, and gave the heap the right and left barrels of two double guns, some remained, the rest, with a kind of moan, scattered in all directions - it was not a pleasing sight.
As a rule, the boa seizes the animals with the mouth, taking immediately a double or two round them - if dogs are present, the animal (dead) is placed at its tail and with body erect, is ready for a fight. These instances were in places near home, and not far in the woods.
The further we advanced, the more formidable were the hills - the more precipitous the sides - in some places we had to change our nature - in place of walking on our feet we had to resort to sliding on our.........
Now and then we were on the Ridge, and got a peep at the sea on both sides of us. A steep descent into another valley, and a terrible look before us. "By George, this is awful work" was sometimes heard, but on we went - eating and drinking went on also.
He we saw the largest tree during the excursion. lt was an Angeline. lts location was at the foot of a valley, the side of which took us nearly an hour, not to walk but to scramble up. Some Greenheart and Cogwood in blossom, had chosen a particular locality, in an adjacent valley.
I forgot to mention that early in the day we sent Celim up a tall tree to look out. Richmond House was in sight on the south.
My military friends said little, no doubt thought it also "awful work" but made no complaint.
Four o'clock - getting dusk, time to erect hut, procure water and dine. Down came torrents of rain, everyone, nearly everything dripping wet - Commissariat almost expended - a bad look out for the night and the morrow.
The followers mentioned as to the building of the hut 7 "We must lie down under the trees“. Seizing cutlasses, we went to work cutting wattles, vines, branches, etc. gathered all the dried sticks and leaves we could find to make a fire and after much difficulty succeeded.
The getting up of the fire drove the sulks away, and things assumed a better appearance.
Our frugal meal by the light of a large fire over,nothing remained for the next day but some tea, salt and part of a bottle of brandy; this latter was put under my care, and placed under my head. I can't say pillow.
        On the 4th morning, after preparing for a start, the bottle was looked for but it had very little in it — that little we took “neat"; we required it. Having resumed our bush clothes that had been drying during the night at the fire, we retraced our way for some time to find a likely valley to lead to a river; following a valley we reached a gully with water - the rise of the Richmond River. this we followed until we arrived at the Works at about 4 o'clock pm.
        Little attention was paid to Geology, Botany, or any other thing, but to get to the end of our journey.
        An incident however occurred at one of the waterfalls I must relate. Baptiste, who liked his grog, had a look about him, not quite right in sliding down the side of one of the fall he fell into the pool below - it was deep - not being able to swim he disappeared, but we were ready on his appearance to give him assistance; he was landed at the lower part of the pool, where he lay for some time. One of the soldiers (an African) put a handful of salt into his mouth, which produced a stream of water - sitting up he said "Massa! I drink enough water". I replied “Who drank the Brandy!" "Oh ne, Massa, I
won't tell lie - da me". Shortly after he proceeded with us.
Arrived at Richmond Works our appearance was not incur favour - a dirty looking set with a remnant only of shoes to our feet - the little girls and boys took to their heels with fright, but the older people, after a good searching look, advanced and had a palaver with the savages from the woods. At a quiet nook in the river, we put our best clothes and left for Inverawe House, the residence of Mr. Gairdner.
Too late for dimer — fried ham and eggs etc. - dreadful thirst during night — little sleep; terminated our Main Ridge excursion.
After breakfast next morning Mackie and Cowper took advantage of a cutter going from Roxbrd Bay to Scarbro'. I went farther to Windward to fulfil a long promised visit.
To have accomplished our intention, it would have taken 3 or 4 clays more.
When we took the last look towards "Pigeon Hill"(near to Charlotteville) the hills seemed as if they had increased to mountains, they towered over one another - to reach Charlotteville seemed almost impossible.
Time wore on - things assumed their accustomed look - discussion upon the Ridge ceased. Death did its work - Mackie died some months after of congestive fever - Cowper was killed at Canton, blowing down a wall - Baptiste drank himself to death.
The Hurricane of '47 swept the tops of their Majesties of the woods, into a broken and tangled mass; and now, I alone am left to tell the tale.

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Thursday 14 November 2013

Tobago Tombstones

Mr. James Clark

Madelaine Ventour

Lieutenant Governor Peter Campbell

Charles John Waller

Frederica Caroline Anderson

James Laird

Betty Stiven and child

John Scott & Joseph Scott

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Sunday 3 November 2013

"From the Gates of Aksum" by Gerard Besson

Vernon Ramesar interviews Gerard Besson on his new book "From the Gates of Aksum".

Click here to view the interview!

Click here to read reviews and find out about the book!

"Refreshingly, the book lacks any sign of 
political correctness."
(Raymond Ramcharitar, 
Trinidad Guardian 29 Sep 2013)

From the Gates of Aksumweaves Freemasonry and European religious and political intrigue into the tapestry of Caribbean and South American political history. 

The book begins in late 18th century Port-d’Espagne, Trinidad, and is told by several narrators. The story spans centuries, from a time when a company of adventurers recovers a mysterious object of an antediluvian science from the secluded kingdom of Aksum in the Ethiopian highlands, on to the first anguished years of the 19th century.

In the riotous wake of the American, French and Haitian Revolutions, the collapse of the Spanish empire in the New World and the rise of the British empire, François de Gurvand, a French colonist, must transport the object from his ancestral home in France to a specific geographical position — the island of Trinidad. A Vatican secret society, the Holy Hermandad, the Emperor Napoleon, various factions of Freemasonry, and another ancient secret society all vie for possession of the object.

From the Gates of Aksum speaks of the role that the early Trinidadians played in that epoch-changing period when the dawning of the Age of Enlightenment altered the course of the history of the world. While the plot and most of the characters are fictitious, the reader familiar with West Indian, South American and European history will find old acquaintances who come to life in this book — such as Francisco de Miranda, Simón Bolívar, and a heroic band of Trinidadians remembered as the Immortal Forty-Five.

ISBN 978-976-8054-97-5 (softcover only)
470 pages, size 7 x 10"

Other books in print by Gérard A. Besson:
The Book of Trinidad (with Bridget Brereton)
Folklore & Legends of Trinidad and Tobago
The Cult of the Will
The Voice in the Govi

Roume de St. Laurent - A Memoir
Tales of the Paria Main Road

Buy "From the Gates of Aksum" (Kindle or Softcover) by clicking here:

Sunday 20 October 2013

Spreading the Love of History

Published: Sunday, October 20, 2013
Click here to read it on the Guardian's Website: Trinidad Guardian by Erline Andrews

It’s not easy being a historian in T&T. Jerry Besson has been chronicling the history of the country as a publisher and writer for more than three decades. This is tough enough but it becomes even more so because of the attitude many citizens have towards the task. “The most significant challenge has been the institutionalised indifference to the maintenance of the history of the island,” Besson said of his experience over the years. “If you were to go to the Registrar General’s office tomorrow morning and try to find out anything about your great-grandmother, you think it easy?” he said. “It’s one of the most difficult things in the world for you to be able to do, because of the disintegration and the bad keeping of those historical records.”

Besson, 71, persists in spite of the obstacles. His Paria Publishing, founded in 1981, prints his books and the books of other history stalwarts like Michael Anthony and Fr Anthony de Verteuil. Last month, he released his third historical novel, From the Gates of Aksum, a mystical adventure saga spanning the 18th and 19th centuries. He was scheduled to read from it yesterday at an Evening of Tea and Readings at Paper Based, a bookshop in The Normandie Hotel in St Ann’s which specialises in Caribbean literature. “He did a lot of important books,” said Paper Based owner Joan Dayal, talking about Besson’s contribution to Caribbean literature. “He’s one of the very few publishers in Trinidad. He also supplies a lot of information to people who are writing. He’s a wealth of information. And he’s a great storyteller, too.” From the Gates of Aksum is the third in a series of historical novels Besson said he plans to continue. “It’s important to do historical fiction, because many people cannot take on the weighty proposition of reading academic history,” he said. “so it is sometimes easier to take the historical narrative and romanticise it by arranging it in terms of action and adventure. It makes it more accessible.”

He added, tongue-in-cheek: “But you have to make sure you get your facts right, otherwise Bridget Brereton would point you out.” Brereton is a history professor and newspaper columnist with whom Besson collaborated on the popular Book of Trinidad. She has given Aksum a thumbs up, writing in a review that it was “definitely a book to get hold of.” Despite the obstacles, Besson—who has also established a number of museums, including the police museum and the City-of-Port of Spain Museum—calls what he does gratifying. While still too many people don’t appreciate it, enough do to keep him motivated. He describes being greeted with awe by the young workers at the National Library, who apparently assumed his books were written closer to the periods they were set in. “They said: ‘You is Jerry Besson? We thought you was dead!’” he recalled with a laugh. Besson is hoping to reach even more people and share with them his enthusiasm for local history. It’s important for reasons other than the enjoyment it can bring. “Trinidad has a very interesting, very compelling history,” he said. “And if people knew it more they would understand the social processes and the political processes that they’re going through.”

Gérard Besson doing a book reading from his latest historical novel, "From the Gates of Aksum", at Paper Based on 19 October 2013

Monday 2 September 2013

Friday 30 August 2013

The Historical Society of Trinidad and Tobago


Publication No 482.

The Chevalier de Jobal, Commandant of Tobago
to the Minister of the Colonies. 1789.

Source: Paris. Archives Nationales.
State Papers Colonial. C 10. E 11.

Published by the courtesy of the Minister 
of the Colonies. Paris.

Translated from the French

                                                Port Louis.
                                                   1st March 1790.



        The Chevalier de Jobal regrets to report that the insubordination amongst the troops has not ceased. A return to order and quiet had been expected when the 1st Battalion of the Guadeloupe Regiment replaced the 3rd Battalion.

Unfortunately, the change was not a complete one since the Compagnies de Mallet and de Cordelier, remained in Tobago. It was these Compagnies which had caused the troubles in November 1789; and they have now infected the other three Compagnies.

On Mardi Gras, the soldiers presented to me some ridiculous and vexatious requisitions. I tried to quiet
them and reason with them but they were very troublesome and only settled down after some money and wine had been distributed.

Two days later, the soldiers took up their arms and refused to obey their officers. They ... Robelin and Darsonval as their Chiefs and made violent threats against those in authority and promised to cut him (the Commandant) into small pieces and sell them at one sol a pound.

In about a week, he had managed to cool them down and bring them back to obedience. In this, he had been greatly assisted by Monsieur Masse, the Ordonnateur, and Captains Despres and Michon. The Chevalier claimed to have discovered the secret cause of this rebellion. He found that the soldiers were talking about Messrs Bosque, Orelier and Guya, all of whom had been convicted in the Criminal Courts and had left Tobago three months before the arrival of these troops.

The Historical Society of Trinidad and Tobago


Publication No 483.

The Minister of the Colonies, le Duc de la Luzerne,
 to the Administrators of Tobago. 1790.

Source: Paris. Archives Nationales.
State Papers Colonial. C 10. E 11.

Published by the courtesy of the Minister 
of the Colonies. Paris.

Translated from the French

                                                   12th March 1790.



        The Minister has learnt with satisfaction that the Chevalier de Johal and Monsieur Roume de St Laurent
have been able to settle their differences in the face of the serious events now taking place in Tobago and the critical times to which France itself, is exposed.

        The Minister has directed the Committee which had been formed to enquire into and report on these mutual complaints, to cease any further consideration of the matter.
                                                                                                                                                 La Luzerne

Wednesday 28 August 2013

The City of Port-of-Spain (Franklin Year Book 1939)

THE BOARD OF CABILDO.    Before the Island of Trinidad became a British possession, it previously belonged to the Crown of Spain, and its chief town was St. Joseph – 6 miles from Port-of-Spain. This town was managed by a Board called ''The Illustrious Board of Cabildo.'' In the year 1783 this body removed its meeting place to Port-of-Spain, which by that time had been officially recognised as the Chief Town. On the Capitulation of the Island, in the year 1797, the management of the Town remained vested in this Corporation. In 1813, its minutes were ordered to be kept both in the Spanish and English languages instead of in the former tongue only as hitherto. By December of the same year, however, only the English language was used.

THE TOWN COUNCIL.    In the year 1840 an Ordinance was passed for ''regulating the powers and constitution, and settling the mode of election of the members of the Corporate Body called the 'Illustrious Cabildo' of the town of Port-of-Spain, and chang-ing the name thereof to that of the 'Town Council of Port-of-Spain'.'' On the 6th June, 1840, the new Council met for the first time under the Presidency of Sir Henry George MacLeod. The Council was composed of the Governor, who was President, and twelve other members.

THE BOROUGH COUNCIL.    In the year 1853 the Town Councillors presented a petition to the Governor-in-Council (Lord Harris) praying for a new constitution based on the same principles as those embodied in the English Municipality Corporation Acts. This was granted, and by Ordinance No. 10 of 1853 which provided for the ''Regulation of Municipal Corporations in the Island,'' the name 'Town Council' was changed into that of the ''Borough Council of Port-of-Spain.'' The new Council met on 31st August, 1853, with Louis A. A. de Verteuil, M.D., as Mayor. The Council was now composed of twelve members, one of whom was Mayor.

THE TOWN COMMISSIONERS.    On the 18th January, 1899 as the outcome of a long controversy between the Council and the Government, an Ordinance No. 1 of 1899 was passed by direction of the Secretary of State, the Rt. lIon. Joseph Chamberlain, abolishing the Borough Council of Port-of-Spain, and substituting for it a new corporation under the name of the ''Town Commissioners," the four members of which were all nominated by the Governor, 'Sir Hubert E. II. Jerningham, K.C.M.G. The first Chief Commisioner so nominated by His Excellency the Governor was Hon. S. W. Knaggs who received for his services an honorarium of £300; while each of the other Commissioners received £100 per annum.

The Water and Sewerage Authority. In 1904 the Water Works and Sewerage Works, which up to then had been under Government administration, were placed under the management of a Board known as the ''Port-of-Spain Water Authority and the Board of Commissioners of Sewerage.'' This dual Committee heldits first meeting on 29th September, 1904 under the Chairmanship of the Hon. R. Gervase Bushe. The personnel of the Board included five ratepayers appointed by the Governor.

THE TOWN BOARD.    On the 1st of May, 1907, the then three local authorities of Port-of-Spain, viz: The Town Commissioners, the Water Authority and the Sewerage Board, were by ''the Port- of-Spain Town Board Ordinance,'' 1907, merged into one body known as "The Port-of-Spain Town Board," also a wholly nominated Corporation. This Board comprised a membership of eleven – the Chairman, the Hon. Adam Smith, receiving as a remuneration for his services the sum of £300 per annum.

    At an Extraordinary Meeting of the Legislature held on the 22nd August, 1913, the Governor, Sir George Le Hunte G.C.M.G. laid on the table a despatch, No. 286 of the 29th July 1913, from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, approving of the resolution passed by the Legislature on the 25th June previously to the effect that the nominated system be gradually superceded by some measure of election of members by the rate-payers ; and the Governor then announced the appointment by him of a committee of sixteen members to consider the details of the proposed change in the construction of the Town Board.

    The Ordinance introduced as a consequence was passed on the 29th May the same year, coming into force on the 26th June 1914.

    By the Port-of-Spain Corporation Ordinance, No. 24 of 1914, (now Chap. 224 of the Revised Edition of the Laws of Trinidad and Tobago), Port-of-Spain is constituted a Municipal "City," and its inhabitants are declared to be a body corporate under the title of ''The Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of the City of Port-of-Spain." The city is divided into five Wards, known respectively as the Northern, Southern, North-eastern, South-eastern and the Western Wards. Three Councillors are returned by each Ward and the term of office of a Councillor is three years. The elections of November, 1917, made the City Council entirely elected it having been previously constituted of partly elected and partly nominated members, the nominated members going out of office gradually each year and being replaced by elected ones. From the year 1919, one Councillor in each Ward goes out of office every year, the retiring member being always the one who has served longest without re-election. In addition to the fifteen elected Councillors, there are five Aldermen elected directly by the Council, either from among the Councillors or from persons outside the Council who are qualified to be Councillors. The term of office of the Aldermen is three years, after which they all go out of office together. The Mayor is elected annually by the Council from among the Aldermen or Councillors ; he is, by virtue of his office a Justice of the Peace for the City, and continues so during the year next after his year of office, unless disqualified ; and he may not serve the office of Mayor for more than three successive years. Provision is made in the Ordinance for the grant to him of an honorarium of £500 a year, and a sum not exceeding £100 a year for the reasonable travelling expenses incidental to the office of Mayor.

    The Councillors are elected by the Burgesses of the City under an Elections Ordinance based on the provisions of the English Ballot Act, and the rules made thereunder for Municipal and Parliamentary elections. To be entitled to vote at elections of Councillors a person must be enrolled as a burgess in the annually prepared burgess roll of the city ; and in order to be enrolled he must be of full age, a British subject by birth or naturalization, or (if a foreigner) he must have been resident in the colony for at least five years ; and in addition he must be either the occupying owner of a house or business place in the city assessed at an annual rental of at least £10 or the tenant of such house or business place for which he has paid one year's rent at least to the amount of £12  10s. ; provision is also made for lodger burgesses paying at least £62  10s. a year for board and lodging combined. Provided that the conditions of actual occupation of the qualifying premises are complied with, it is not essential that a burgess shall reside in the city, residence within a 10 mile radius being sufficient.

    To be qualified as Councillors, persons must be not only actually enrolled in the burgess roll of the city, but must be entitled to be so enrolled ; they must be British subjects by birth or naturalization ; and must be either occupying owners of a house assessed at the annual rental of not less than £50 or tenants of a house assessed at not less than £62  10s. ; or they must, in lieu of the occupation qualification, be in receipt of an income of at least £312  10s. per annum. Inability to speak English, being in Holy Orders, an undischarged bankrupt, having been convicted of treason, felony or any offence involving dishonesty, within the previous ten years, constitute disqualifications for Councillorship. So also do the existence of certain specified interests of a financial character in contracts with the Corporation.

    The Annual Elections take place on the 3rd November every year, and the election of the Mayor on the 15th and (when necessary) of the Aldermen, on the 9th November.

    The City covers an area of roughly about three and three-quarters square miles ; and includes about 350 streets and lanes, of a total length of some seventy-two odd miles. The boundaries are defined by the Port-of-Spain Corporation Ordinance Cap. 224.

    The population of the City as shewn by 1931 Census is 70,334 souls ; but if the waterworks and sewerage districts are included, stretching as far as Maraval, and St. James on the north-west and St. Ann's and Cascade on the north-east, this estimate would be greatly increased. There are about 10,700 premises separately assessed to house rate in the city proper; and the Burgess Roll for the year 1937 comprises a total of 7,881 names. The War Rate District which extends beyond the city includes about 11,000 premises.

    On the 6th November, 1899 the Woodbrook Estate which had formerly been a flourishing sugar estate on the outskirts of the town, comprising 367 1/2 acres were purchased by the Messrs. Siegert & Sons from the Liquidator of the firm of Messrs. W. F. Burnley & Co. of Glasgow for the sum of £50,000. At that time the cultivation of sugar had long been given up, and about 70 acres of the Estate had been already occupied by tenantry who held about 588 lots. About the year 1905 the condition of the streets, which had long been the subject of dispute between the Government, the landlords, and the tenants, was at last settled on the following terms, viz. : That the streets should be improved and laid out, the cost being borne as follows : Government 1/2, Town Commissioners and owners 1/4 each. On the completion of the work which gave general satisfaction to the tenants, the rents in that part of the tenantry were raised by the Messrs. Siegert. About this time the area between Carlos and French Streets was also laid out into lots, and the section between Roberts Street and Ariapita Avenue, where the streets were made, had been nearly all built upon.
    On the 1st November, 1911, the estate again changed hands, the purchasers being the Port-of-Spain Town Board, for the sum of £85,000. The Board at once set about constructing streets where required and were laid out by the previous owners, the cost of which along with some minor improvements amounted to $32,138.21. On the completion of this work the rent along these streets was raised from $1.50 to $2.00 per month. The tenantry at present comprises over 1,430 lots, which are either held under monthly tenancies, or under long leases of 40 years, the whole producing a rent roll averaging over $44,000 a year.

Monday 19 August 2013

Brigadier Arthur Steven Mavrogordato

The name Mavrocordato, Mavrogordato, is that of a family of Phanariot Greeks, distinguished in the history of Turkey, Rumania and modern Greece. The family was founded by a merchant of Chios, whose son Alexander Mavrocordato (c.1636-1709) became dragoman to the sultan in 1673. He became a secretary of state and was created a count of the Holy Roman Empire.

            His son Nicholas Mavrocordato (1670-1730) was appointed hospodar (prince) of Moldavia. He
was the first Greek ruler of the Danubian principalities. He introduced the Greek language and customs, and set up a splendid court on the Byzantine model. His two sons, John and Constantine, both succeeded him as hospodars of Moldavia and Walachia. Prince Alexander Mavrocordato (1791-1865), a Greek statesman and a descendant of the hospodars, was born in Constantinople in 1791.

Dimitri Mavrocordato, was a merchant banker who was born in Chios. We do not know anything further about him, except that he was the father of Stephen Mavrocordato who made a name for himself in the banking world. He was the founder of the Credit Foncier in Constantinople and Paris, which unfortunately went into bankruptcy in 1867. Realising all his assets, he settled with his creditors in full, and was made the managing director of the new company which was formed. He was known as “Stefano il galante”. He died a year later in 1868. He married Frances Sarrell, the daughter of an English doctor who was medical adviser to H.M. the Sultan and the British Embassy. They had six sons and three daughters.

His son, Alexander Stephen (1859-1929) was born in Constantinople, where he lived and attended Robert College (now the American University). With his brothers, Nicholas and John he went to Berlin to school and also to Heidleberg University. In 1880 he returned to Constantinople where he entered his father’s bank for a short time, and then joined the British Relief Mission after the Chios earthquake disaster in 1881. On his return to Constantinople he was given a letter of introduction to the Govenor of Cyprus, Sir Garnet Wosley, by Sir George White, the British Ambassador in Constantinople. In the year 1878, Cyprus had been leased to Britain by the Turkish Government. Alexander joined the British Government in Cyprus, acquired British nationality and stayed in Cyprus as Financial Assistant to the Treasury until his retirement in 1923. In 1886 he married Alysoun Young, a Scottish lady who had come out to Cyprus on a holiday with her mother and sister. Two children were born to them, a son names Arthur Stephen and a daughter named Frances. (With his wife and daughter, he settled in Naples where he died in 1929.)

Arthur Stephen Mavrogordato, “Mavro” as he was known by nearly everyone, was the first and only member of this family to come out to Trinidad. He was born in Nicosia, Cyprus, in the year 1886, where he went to school until he was sent to Smyrna in order to learn the Turkish language. He was fluent in English, French, Greek, Turkish and Arabic. In 1901 he was sent to England to Oakham College in Rutland, where he spent the next four years, after which he returned to Cyprus in 1906. Here he joined the British Colonial Service when he became a member of the Cyprus Police. In 1913 he was sent to Sierra Leone as assistant commissioner of Police and where later he became Commissioner. He married first in 1915 to an English lady who unfortunately became incapacitated and was later hospitalized. She died in 1947.

During the First World War he served with the British Navy in M.I.5 until the end of the hostilities. Then, in 1921 after a period with the Royal Irish Constabulary, he was appointed the first Commissioner of Police in Palestine, after the British Mandate. He remained there until 1931 when he was sent to Trinidad as Inspector General of Police and Commandant of the Local Forces. He held this post until 1939 when he was transferred to Nigeria as Commissioner of Police. In 1941World War II, he was seconded to the British Security Mission in Beiruit and promoted to the rank of Brigadier. He served with the Ninth Army in Syria and the Lebenon until 1942 when he retired from active service and returned to Trinidad. There he joined the firm of J.N. Harriman & Co. Ltd., and in 1948 he married Miss Olga Boos. He remained an active director in the firm until his death in Barbados in 1964. 

For his distinguished Military and Police services he was awarded the O.B.E. He also held the King’s Police Medal for meritorious service and was a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. He was also an Officer of the Order of the White Lion of Czechoslovakia. In addition, he was the proud holder of the Silver Acorn, the highest Scouting award.  He was also a high ranking Mason.
His outstanding qualities and experience as a Police Officer were not forgotten, for after his retirement he was appointed by the Dominion Office to be Commissioner to enquire into Police Administration in South Africa, and he later served as Commissioner to conduct a similar enquiry in the Leeward Islands, St. Lucia, Grenada and St. Vincent.

C. of C. President

He quickly began to associate himself actively with all matters affecting the business community of the island. For many years he served as a member of the Management Committee of the Chamber of Commerce, of which he was president in 1945 and 1946. He was a Second Vice-President of the Associated British Caribbean Chambers of Commerce, in the activities of which he, for a long period, took a prominent part.

But it was not only in the official and commercial fields that he was active. He had a highly developed sense of service for the community, and especially for the physically handicapped. Among the organisations that owe much to his leadership and guidance were, the Boy Scouts (he was Chairman of the executive Committee for many years), the Blind welfare Association, the Trinidad St. Dunstan’s Association, the Church Army, The Tacarigua and Belmont Orphanages, and the Homes run by the Carmelite Sisters.

He was keenly interested in all forms of sport and served as Chairman of many governing bodies. Perhaps Rugby Football took pride of place with him, and for many years he was President of the Trinidad Rugby Football Union. The progress that the game has made in Trinidad is in no small measure due to his guidance, encouragement and support.

Sources: Olga Mavrogordato and Roy Alston

The Royal Cedula of 1783 translated into English by Governor Chacon

Whereas by our royal instructions given the 3rd of September 1776 to captain of foot, Don Manuel Falquez, at that time governor of our island of Trinity to windward, and by our commission afterwards granted to Don Joseph de Abalos, when we conferred on him the general superintendency of the province of Caracas, we thought proper to form rules and grant various privileges for the population and trade of the island aforesaid; we have now resolved, in consequence of the representation our said intendant, as well as at the desire of some inhabitants already established there, and others who are anxious to become inhabitants thereof, to form a system of colonization and trade, by the following articles:-

Art. I. All foreigners, natives of nations and states, in friendship with us, who would wish to establish themselves, or are already settled in our said island of Trinity, must make it appear, by the means prescribed by our government of the island aforesaid, that they profess the Roman Catholic religion; for without this indispensable condition, they cannot be admitted to settle there. But this justification shall not be required from the subjects of our own dominions, as no doubt can be harboured with respect to them on this head. 

Art. II. Of foreigners who are admitted agreeable to the foregoing article the governor will receive the oaths of allegiance and fidelity by which they will bind themselves to observe and abide by those laws and ordinances of the Indies to which the Spaniards are subject: in virtue of which oaths, we will in our royal name grant unto them gratis and in perpetuity, the lands they many be entitled to claim by virtue of the following regulations.

Art. III. To each white person, either sex, shall be granted four fanegas and two sevenths of land (equal to ten quarrees French measure, or thirty-two acres English measure) and half the above quantity for every negro or mulatto slave that such white person or persons shall import with them, making such a division of the land, that each shall partake of the good, bad and indifferent. And these distributions shall be recorded in a vellum book of population, specifying the name of each inhabitant, the date of his admission, the number of individuals of his family, his quality and rank; and every such inhabitant shall have an authentic copy from said book for the parcel of land alloted to him, which shall serve as a title to his property in the same.

Art. IV. The free negroes and mulattoes who shall come to settle in the said island, in quality of inhabitants and chief of families, shall have half the quantity of land granted to the whites, and if they bring with them slaves, being their own property, the quantity of land granted to them shall be increased in proportion to the number of said slaves, and to the land granted to said negroes and mulattoes, this is, one half of the quantity granted to the slaves of whites; and their titles shall be equally legal and granted in the same manner as to whites.

Art. V. After the first five years establishment of foreign settlers in the said island, they shall, by obliging themselves to continue therein perpetually have all the rights and privileges of naturalization granted to them, and to the children they may have brought with them, as well as those that may have been born in the island, in order to be admitted in consequence to the honorary employ- ments of the public, and of the militia, agreeable to the quality and talents of each.

Art. VI. No capitation or personal tribute shall at any time be laid on the white inhabitants; they shall only be liable to pay one piece of eight yearly for each of their slaves, of whatever cast, and that only to commence ten years after their establishment in the island, and this tax shall never be increased.

Art. VII. During the first five years the Spanish and foreign inhabitants shall be at liberty to return to their native country or former place of abode; in which case they will be permitted to carry with them such property as they brought to the island free from any duty of exportation, but on the increase during such time they will be liable to the payment of ten per centum: and it is to be understood that the lands which have been granted to such inhabitants as voluntarily quit the island shall devolve to out royal patrimony, to be disposed of for the benefit of others, or as shall be found most convenient.

Art. VIII. We grant to the old and new inhabitants that shall die on the island, without having apparent heirs there, the power of bequeathing their fortunes to their relations or friends, wherever they may be; and if their successors should choose to settle in the island they shall enjoy the privileges granted to their constituents: but should they prefer carrying away the inheritance, they may do so by paying upon the whole amount fifteen per centum duties of exportation, where the testator has been five years established, but if he died before that period, only ten per centum, as provided in the foregoing article, and as to those who die intestate, their parents, brothers, or relations shall inherit, even should they reside in foreign nations, provided they are Roman Catholics and settle in the island; but in case they cannot or will not become inhabitants, they shall be permitted to dispose of their inheritance by sale or gift, agreeable to the rules prescribed in the two foregoing articles.

Art. IX. We also grant to all the inhabitants of landed property in the said island power, agreeable to the Spanish laws, of bequeathing or otherwise disposing of their said landed property, without making any division thereof, to one or more of their children, provided that no injustice is done to the rights of the other children, or to the widow of the testator.

Art. X. Any inhabitant who, on account of a law-suit or any other pressing or just motive, may have occasion to go to Spain, or any province of our Indies, or to foreign countries, shall ask leave of the governor, and he will be entitled thereto, provided he is not going to an enemy's country or carrying away his property.

Art. XI. The Spanish as well as the foreign inhabitants shall be exempt for the space of ten years from the pay- ment of tithes upon the products of their lands; after which period, which is to be reckoned from the first day of January 1785, they will only pay five per centum, which is half tithes.

Art. XII. They will be also exempt for the first ten years from the royal duties of alcabala upon the sale of their products and merchandizes and afterwards they will only pay an equivalent of. five per centum; but when they ship in Spanish bottoms for our kingdoms of Spain they will be always exempt from any duties of exportation.

Art. XIII. Whereas all the inhabitants ought to be armed, even in times of peace, to keep their slaves in
awe, and oppose any invasion or depredation of pirates,we hereby declare, that this obligation does not comprehend them in the class of a regular militia, and thatthey will acquit themselves of this duty by presenting their arms every two months at a review, to be taken by the governor, or by the officer he may appoint for that purpose; but in time of war or disturbance of slaves they ought to assist in defence of the island, agreeable to the disposition that may be taken by the commander-in- chief.
Art. XIV. The ships and vessels belonging to the old and new subjects, of whatever tonnage or build, must be brought to the island and registered there, with a proof of the property, and they will be made Spanish as well as those obtained from foreign nations, by purchase or any other lawful title, till the end of the year 1786, and they will be all exempt from the alien and qualifying duties; and those who may choose to construct vessels in the said island, government will permit them to cut the timbers necessary for that purpose, excepting only such timbers as may be necessary for the use of the royal navy.

Art. XV. The trade and importation of negroes into the island will be entirely free of duties for the space of ten years from the beginning of 1785, after which time the inhabitants and dealers in slaves will only pay five per centum on their current value on importation; but it shall not be lawful for them to transport said negroes from said island to any part of our dominions in the Indies without our royal permission, and a considera- tion of six per centum when thus imported into any ofthem.

Art. XVI. The inhabitants themselves can go (having the governors leave) with their own vessels, or freighted ones, being Spanish, to the islands in friendship with us, or to the neutral ones, to look for slaves, and take with them produce, effects, or any other property sufficient to pay for them, it being registered in the custom-house, and paying five per centum for exportation, which duty shall likewise be paid by the traders who with our permission shall bring slaves to the island, besides that which they will pay on importation of said slaves, from which we exempt the inhabitants, in order to encourage
their cultivation and commerce.

Art. XVII. The course of trade between Spain and the inhabitants of Trinity, and that which they may carry on with such of their produce as is admissible in our islands and American dominions, will be totally free of all duties from the 1st January 1785, for the space of ten years and even at the expiration  of said time they will be likewise exempt of all duties of importation into our kingdom of Spain, agreeable to the rules laid down in our last regulation of free trade; so that they can never be encumbered with any taxes other than such as will be fixed on the products of our other West Indian dominions.

Art. XVIII. In like manner Spanish and foreign goods and merchandize and also the fruits and liquors of this our kingdom, which shall be entered in our custom- house and transported to said island shall go free of all duties for the said term of ten years, and shall be in like manner introduced and expended therein; nor can they be reshipped for any other part of my dominions in the Indies; but in case it should be permitted on any urgent or just occasion, it shall be only such articles as are real Spanish, and on paying such duties as are provided by the regulation of free trade.

Art. XIX. In order to facilitate by every means the trade and population of the island, I permit for the said space of ten years, from the commencement of 1785, that the vessels belonging to the inhabitants of the said island, and likewise to my subjects of Spain, may make voyage to the said island, sailing directly with their cargoes from the ports of France, where my consuls reside, and returning directly to them again with the fruits and productions of the island, excepting cash, which I absolutely prohibit the exportation of through that channel; but with the indispensable obligation that my consul shall take an exact inventory of every thing that is shipped, which he shall deliver signed and sealed to the captain or master of the vessel, to be by him delivered at the custom-house in Trinity, and also with the condition of paying five per centum on the entry of the goods and merchandize, and the like quota on the exportation of the produce they shall ship in return to France, or to any other foreign port; but they must not touch at any Spanish port qualified to trade to the Indies.

Art. XX. Upon any urgent necessity, which may appear to the governor of the island, we grant to all its inhabitants, permission similar to that contained in the fore- going article, to enable them to have recourse to the French islands in the West Indies, under the indispen- sable obligation, that the captains or masters of vessels take exact invoices of their cargoes and deliver them to
the officers of the royal administration, in order to compare them individually with the effects they bring, and exact the same contribution of five per centum on their current value in Trinity.

Art. XXI. In order to furnish my old and new inhabitants amply with what may be necessary for subsistence, industry, and agriculture, we have given effectual orders to the commanders of the province of Caracas, for the purpose of conveying to the island such quan- tities of horned cattle, mules and horses, as may be deemed necessary, at the charge of my royal revenues; and they shall be given to the inhabitants at the first cost and charges, till they can form a breed of them sufficient for their purposes.

Art. XXII. We have made the like provision for a sufficient quantity of flour for the space of ten years, and if through any accident there should happen to be a scarcity of this article on the island, the governor will permit the inhabitants to go to the foreign islands with their own vessel or vessels belonging to my subjects, to purchase as much as may be wanted, carrying for that purpose produce equivalent, and paying five per centum on the exportation thereof, and the same on the importation of the flour.

Art. XXIII. We have likewise ordered to be sent to said island from the manufactories of Biscay, and other parts of Spain, for the said space of ten years, all the instruments and utensils necessary for cultivation, that they may be given to the old and new inhabitants at the first cost; but after the expiration of said ten years, it will be their business to supply themselves; and if during said time, through any cause, there should happen to be a scarcity of said articles and expressing want of them, they shall be permitted to be sent for to the foreign islands in friendship with us, subject to the same regulations provided for flour.

Art. XXIV. We have also directed that two secular andregular priests, of approved learning and exemplary virtue, and well acquainted and versed in the foreign languages, shall go to Trinity to serve as pastors to the new inhabitants that may be there, and we will appoint a competent living for them, to the end that they may support themselves with the decency due to their character, and be no incumbrance to their parishioners.

Art. XXV. We permit the old and new inhabitants to lay before us, through the hands of the governor of the island, the regulations they may think most convenient and proper for the management of their slaves, and to prevent their running away; in the meantime, we have instructed our said governor as to the regulations he is to observe on that head, as well as with respect to a reciprocal restitution of runaway slaves from the foreign islands.

Art. XXVI. We have likewise instructed our said gover- nor to use the utmost diligence that the plague of ants be not introduced into the island; to prevent which all the goods and effects coming from such of the Antilles as have been infested with this vermin, must be  individually inspected; and whereas the inhabitants are the most interested in this point, they shall propose to government two persons of the greatest confidence and activity to examine the vessels, etc., and carefully attend to the performance of this point.

Art. XXVII. When the sugar crops shall become con- siderable or abundant in Trinity, we will grant to the inhabitants the liberty of erecting refining houses in Spain, with all the privileges and exemption of duties which we may have granted to any of our natural born subjects or foreigners who have erected such; and we will likewise permit, at a proper time, the erection of a council board in said island for the advancement and protection of its agriculture, navigation and commerce; with immediate direction to the governor in his particular instructions, and to the other judges, to use humanity, good treatment, and impartial and speedy administration of justice to all the Spanish and foreign inhabitants, and not to trouble or injure them in anyway whatever, which would be very much to my royaldispleasure.

Art. XXVIII. Lastly we grant to the old and new inhabitants of said island when they have motives deserving our royal consideration, liberty to send us their remonstrances through the means of the governor and minister for the universal dispatch of India affairs; and in case the business should be of such a nature as to require a person to solicit it, they shall ask our leave for it, and we will grant it, if their demand is just. And in order that all the articles contained in this regulation-should have their full force, we dispense with all the laws and customs which may be contradictory to them; and we command our council of the Indies, the chancellors and courts of justice thereof, vice-kings, captains and commanders-in-chief, governors and intendants, common justices, the officers of our royal revenues, and our consuls in the ports of France, to keep, comply with, and execute, and cause to be kept, complied with, and executed the regulation inserted in this our royal Schedule.

Done at St. Lorenzo, November 24th 1783, Sealed with our private seal, and subscribed by our under-
written Secretary of State, and also Secretary for the
universal dispatch of India affairs.

We the King. Joseph de Galvez.

Source: P.P. House of Commons, 1826-1827 (428) XXIII,
Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the
subject of Titles to Lands in the Island of Trinidad,
pp. 191-194.