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A Sketch of Trinidad: The Canadian Mission and the opening of Presbyterian College in San Fernando, Trinidad by Alice Clark. Ottawa: Hope and Company, Stationers and Printers, 1892.
TO THE READER
The following pages are intended to give a brief sketch of the Mission of the Presbyterian Church in Trinidad. The object we have in view, is to deepen the interest in the Church, in the very successful mission, and at the same time to give information about the Island in which their work is carried on. Any profits arising from the sale of this short treatise, will be applied for the benfit of the Mission. May the Head of the Church more and more countenance the great work with His blessing.
MARY ALICE CLARK
Ottawa, June 1892
Our Recent Visit to Trinidad and the Opening of the Presbyterian College in San Fernando
God has graciously preserved us, and we desire to feel grateful to Him, who has so kindly over us both by sea and land. We are now in the home of our beloved Missionaries in San Fernando, Trinidad, West Indies. To give you a brief account of our movements, let me go back to the 23rd of December, when we left New York in the S.S. “Burnley,” a fine steel boat, built on the Clyde. The Pilot skilfully guided us through the thick fog, and as we cautiously wended our way past the varied islands in the harbor, we sighted numbers of incoming and outgoing ships and craft of every description and size. The “Burnley's” long, straight sides, and rounded bottom, promised that she would roll, and I may say, that the promise was faithfully kept. Captain Handslip is a very genial and pleasant man, and has been long a captain of large steamers. He carries in his pocket a fine gold watch, presented to him (as seen by the inscription), by the Emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro recently deceased. We were sea sick for a day or two, but were told and encouraged, that we would feel like new people after it was over. We spent our Christmas day in our state room, and when the Steward brought in the bill of fare for 6 o’clock
dinner, it was very aggravating to read it down— roast turkey, roast beef, plum pudding, & c., with a variety of fruits, and at last to have to decide on a cup of beef tea and dry toast. I managed to look out of my cabin door and wish them all a “Merry Christmas, not that I felt very “merry” myself, but I thought of the happy people on terra firma, enjoying the family circle, round their “ain fire sides.” Mid-winter as it was, we congratulated ourselves that we were nearing the tropics without the need of “fiddles” on the dinner table. We had only one rough unpleasant night on our outward voyage; one or two days the winds were fresh, and the waves were crested with white foam. The waves went down, and the ports were opened, and we had passed suddenly from winter into perpetual summer, and the salt water was warm in our morning bath. The passengers lounge about the decks in their chairs, some reading and others talking. Mr. Clark was busily engaged studying the Spanish language with Spanish senor, from Caraccas. It was hard for me to know, which was the Professor and which the pupil, as one was just as eager to learn the English as the other the Spanish. Another three days and we are in the tropics. The North-east trade wind blew behind us. The first light we made was on Sombrero, the first of the Leeward Islands. We sailed very near to the islands of Eustachins, Martinique, Antigua and St. Kitta, each island as large as, or larger than the Isle of Man. The most of these islands have lofty peaks, as if thrown up by volcanic action. They are clothed from base to summit with forest trees, with deep ravines, and fringed with luxuriant plains. We sighted the Island of Nevis, and we were much interested in looking at the island on which the great Nelson got his wife, Francis Herbert Nisbet, on the } 11th March, 1787. This island - appeared to be a conical mountain, rising nearly 3,000 feet above the level of the sea. Here we are sailing among the Antilles - the Anterior Isles—which lie like ‘a string of emeralds round the neck of the Caribbean Sea, and during the wars of the last century, were the objects of a never-ceasing conflict between the French and ‘English. April 12th, 1782, was a memorable day in the English Empire. The West Indies were then under the charge of Admiral Rodney, in H. M. S. “ Formidable.” The rock is still shown from which Admiral Rodney watched day by day the movements of the French fleet under De Grasse. We were part of a day passing the Grenadines, a string of small islands, fitting into their proper place in the Antilles semicircle, ‘but as if na ture had forgotten to put them together, or else had broken some large islands to pieces, and scattered them along the line. Here we have a stiff breeze, anti the sea white with short curling waves, but we were running before it, and the wind kept the deck fresh. We had a little excitement on sing the Flying Fish for the first, time, but they were soon as plentiful as robins in June. The sea is an extraordinary blue,—it looks to me sometimes a peacock blue. Again a deep violet color, the shadow and intensity of the light varying the shades, but not the color, and for hours we stand watching the ship plough through the great sapphire shades, into which the sea has turned. The flaming, tropical sunset at sea, is a gorgeous sight, the loveliness of which I can not now take time to describe. Grenada is the next island; we are to go on shore. It is larger than St. Vincent; was taken by the English at the peace of
Versailles. The especial value of Grenada, which made the English fight so hard to win it, is the deep land-locked harbor, the finest in all the Antilles. If Barhadoes had such an harbor, it would be an island without a rival in the world. St. George’s, the capital; stands on the neck of a peninsula, a mile in length, which forms one side of the harbor. After sunrise, on the 1st January, 1892, we were anchored in the harbor, and the island of Grenada lay before us, shining in the haze of a hot summer morning, and as we wished our fellow-passengers “A Happy New Year,” we thought of our Canadian friends, repeating the same good wishes, in a cooler atmosphere. From the deck of the steamer, this lovely island reminded me of views I had seen of Norway; the houses and stores, built of stone and brick, stretching along the shore, painted in the same tints, with the same red tiled roofs, the trees growing down the hill sides to the water’s edge, with the neat cottages and churches nestled amidst them. On three sides, wooded hills rose high, till they passed into mountains. On the fourth was the old Castle, with its slopes and batteries, the Scotch church, the Anglican church, Wesleyan, and Roman Catholic. Everywhere luxuriant tropical trees, overhanging the violet coloured water. Two of Her Majesty’s ships of war, the “Canada” and “Buzzard,” were anchored in the harbor, not far from us, the only objects in sight that reminded me of my old home. After breakfast on board, we dressed in the thinnest clothing possible, for our first step on one of the West India islands. After the harbor master had come to visit us, and we were reported “all well,” and our Royal Mail taken on shore, then we see the crowd of boats, painted in bright shades of every hue, round the
ladder; the clamour of negro mens’ tongues is very confusing. No sooner are we seen, than every boatman gesticulates at us, and beseeches us, to hire him to take us ashore. We may give no sign, but each goes through the pantomime of making believe that we have singled him out particularly for our favor, calling out: “Dis yo’ boat, Sir! Dis one fo’ the Reverend Minister! We, Sir, be tankful fo’ yo’ pat’nage!’” Once on shore, our minds are filled with new impressions. All that I saw was absolutely new and unexpected. As it was a public holiday, the town was all —the blaze of color from the negro woman's dresses (you rarely see a white woman). Some of the women and children struck me especially. They were smartly dressed in white calico, scrupulously clean, and tricked out with bright ribands and feathers, and they carried themselves so well and gracefully. Like the old Greeks, they are trained from childhood to carry heavy burdens on their heads; they are thus perfectly upright, and plant their feet firmly and naturally on the ground. Some had brought in baskets, or large wooden trays, which they carried on their heads, containing fowls and vegetables, bananas, oranges, and sticks of sugar cane, and others had yarns, sweet potatoes, nutmegs, and other spices, from their bits of garden in the country, The men were active enough, driving carts, with donkeys and mules, bringing luggage ashore, etc. We saw a number of the English people and their families, leaving the Quay, in large pleasure boats, probably going to visit their friends on New Years day. Boats were flying to and fro under sail or with oars; officials coming off in white linen suits, with awnings over the boats. Notwithstanding these tropical features, it was all thoroughly English, and
we were under the guns of our own men-of-war. We crept along in the shade of trees and warehouses, till we reached the principal street. We were directed up a steep narrow street, to the Reverend James Rae’s “Manse”. On each side of us were the lovely palms, almond trees, and many more which I could not name; pretty gardens, with the bright hibiscus, and pure white jessamine, which scented the air with sweet perfume. I was presented with a bunch of them, on the road side, and that was my first New Year’s gift in the tropics. We were soon at the “Manse”, and were very cordially welcomed by the Rev. and Mrs. Rae, and were soon at his hospitable table, partaking of a second breakfast. The custom in the West Indies is, coffee between 6 and 7 am., and breakfast about 10, dinner at 4 or 6 p.m., and tea in the early evening. As the Rev. Mr. Rae had an engagement to baptise a child in his church, we all went to the Scotch church, and found a coloured party nd little baby in waiting, and it was at once arranged that Mr. Clark should conduct the baptismal service. As they are fond of long names, this little dusky one was no exception, and was called, James, Sandford, Alexander Burke. ‘We then proceeded to the old Fort, famous in years gone by, and on which the British flag was flying, as when Admirals Nelson, Rodney, and others were carrying on their wars here against the French. The Sergeant- Major (strange to say, a native of Halifax, N. S.), invited us to visit the Barrack-rooms of a troop of native soldiers, who are listed for three years. These rooms were very cleanly kept, and we were pleased to see a fair reading room, with the leading foreign papers and magazines. We then went up to the lighthouse, and had a magnificent view of the island, and
the sinuosities along the shore. The heat was oppressive, being 88 degrees in the shade, and had it not been for the fresh breezes from the sea, we would have found the steep hills of Grenada very fatiguing. We returned to the “Manse” and spent a few hours in pleasant conversation, from which we gained much information about Grenada, its people and its productions. We had letters of introduction to the agents of the “Burnley”, and at 4 p. m. Mr. D ------ very kindly called, with his carriage, to give us a drive. The road, when we left the town, was overshadowed with gigantic mango trees, planted long ago. Some of the old stone residences that had once belonged to English merchants, looked old and dilapidated, but the luxuriant bananas and orange trees in the gardens relieved the ugliness of their appearance. After spending a most delightful day in Grenada, we bade our friends good bye, and we were soon on our way to Trinidad, about 8 miles distant, where we arrived safely the next morning, January 2nd. We had to land in a small boat, as the steamer must anchor about one and a-half miles from the shore, as the water in the Gulf of Paria is very shoal near the land. However, we were at Port of Spain, our luggage through the customs, and were off in the 11 a.m. train for San Fernando.
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Excerpts: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8