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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.
It is a very pleasant drive to Princestown, about
eight miles from San Fernando. En route we passed large sugar estates, and a number of villages, namely Cocoye Mount Stewart, Palmyra, and Iëre, in the last named, our Trinidad Mission was commenced, a quarter of a century ago, by Rev. Dr. Morton, now stationed in Tunapuna. We drove past the dwelling- places of the East Indian and creoles. Their cabins are built of bamboo, thatched with palm leaves. The more free the passage given to the air under the floor, and through the side, the more healthy the habitation. A roof which will keep the rain out is all that is needed. They are overhung with breadfruit trees,
mango, and calabash trees, out of which they make their cups and water jugs: plantains throw their cool shade over the doors; oranges and limes perfume the air, and droop their boughs under the weight of their golden burdens. There are yams and sweet potatoes in the gardens; cows and donkeys in the paddocks. The bright colours and graceful drapery, worn by the women of India, make the whole surroundings very picturesque. We were kindly received at the “Manse “, by the Rev. W. L Macrae, who had invited us to spend a few days with him and his dear little John, a bright intelligent boy. The “Manse” is large and airy, with shades to keep out the sun. The first noticeable feature about the place, is its neatly trimmed hedge of croton and catcus. Around the “Manse” are fine old trees. A large orange tree, loaded with luscious fruit, was very near our bed-room window; and next to it, an old lime tree, the stem and branches of which were hung with orchids; they had probably been collected in the woods. Princestown is considered the prettiest, little village, or town, in Trinidad. It was originally known as the Mission, but from the time of the visit of the two sons of H. R. H. the Prince of Wales, in January, 1889, the name, in compliment to them, has been changed to that it now bears. In the pretty church yard, are two thriving young pouis trees, planted by the princes, and enclosed, in 1887, within iron railings, in commemoration of Her Majesty’s Jubilee. As we gazed upon these trees, full of life, we thought of the hand that planted one of them, now still in death, over whom the nation is now mourning. Several friends called to see us, and kindly asked us to 5-o’clock tea. We had an opportunity of walking in their pretty grounds and lawns,
and looking at the fragrant lilies, the purple Dracaena; and what is this, which hangs over into the road? some thirteen feet in height, long, bare, curving sticks, carrying each at it end a flat blaze of scarlet leaves. It is the Poinsettea, paltry specimens of which adorn our conservatories. In company with Mr. Macrae, and his Catechist, Mr. Soudeen, we visited a number of Mission schools, Jordan Hill, Lingua, and Inverness, and were highly delighted with the progress made by the Indian children. We took our lunch in picnic style, of roast chicken, good bread, oranges and bananas, with a delicious cup of coffee (the mixture was prepared by a firm in Truro, Nova Scotia), the boiling water was kindly brought to us by Mehindebeg, a Christian now, formerly a Mahommedan of high caste. Another day we visited Miss Archibald’s school, which is near the Mission church and “Manse”, in Princestown. We found her school with an attendance of over 150 pupils, taught by herself and three or four assistants. We were much interested in hearing them read and recite in English and Hindi, and singing sacred hymns in both languages; the boys and girls read very distinctly in English. They answer very readily questions in grammar, geography, and arithmetic, and we wondered at the progress made in view of the difficulty in securing their regular attendance. Each scholar leaving the school received from Miss Archibald a prize, which kind friends in Nova Scotia and Cape Breton had contributed. Could I describe the joyful faces of the little girls, as the each received a doll (some of them never having had doll before), and the boy’s bright eyes were beaming with delight, as they got their books, and cases, containing pens and pencils. Could the Mission Bands of Canada
and elsewhere have looked on, it would have encouraged them more and more in their good work, and lead them to resolve to be more in earnest in gathering suitable rewards, for regular attendance, and success in studies.
The second of February, 1892, the “Presbyterian College of Trinidad” was formally opened, in San Fernando. The exercises were of a most interesting kind. The Presbytery of Trinidad, with a large congregation of Hindus met in the College in the afternoon, and 36 intelligent East Indian young men were enrolled as students. Mr. Paul Bhukhan, one of the catechists, then presented a vote of thanks to the Missionaries, who had labored so long and so faithfully among the Indian people; to the Canadian church, which had sent them, and to all the friends of the Mission, who had contributed so freely to its support, and to the erection of the College. The motion as most cordially supported by all the Asiatics who were present. In the evening, the College was packed to overflowing by the leading people in the island; seated on the platform, were merchants, doctors, lawyers, and clergymen. After singing the 100th Psalm and the reading of the 35th chapter of Isaiah, and a very earnest prayer, chiefly of thanksgiving by Mr. Grant, he narrated the steps leading to the erection of the edifice. The chair was taken by His Worship, W. Sloane Robertson, Mayor of San Fernando, who is ever ready and willing to help in every way the work of the Mission. I am
sure those interested it the Mission will be glad to read Rev. K. J. Grant’s and His Worship the Mayor’s speeches, as reported in the Gazette, as follows :—
Mr. Grant then proceeded to trace the successive steps which led up to the happy circumstances under which the meeting was convened. He stated: No church can expect any great success that has to rely upon an imported ministry. The Canadian Missionaries who labour amongst the East Indians in this colony are deeply impressed with this conviction. They believe that God has a work for them to do in this mission that at the present stage could not be very well carried out by the native agents, and yet they are as deeply convinced that no great results will be achieved without the co-operation of faithful converts, however humble, who are taught of God. Consequently, at an early stage, such men were selected, and instructed as the missionaries had opportunity to give instruction. Of course much depended on the personal application and consecration of the individual. A few made good progress, and they now occupy places of usefulness, being held in honour by their countrymen, and two have’ been set apart, by ordination, to the office of ministry. But “the King’s business requireth haste.” Through the kindness and liberality of all our leading sugar proprietors, seconded by the Government, our Indian schools now number fifty. By means of these a primary education is brought within the reach of a very large proportion of our East Indian population. These efforts to educate the young, render it increasingly imperative that our evangelists should be well instructed, that they may be qualified to teach others who are rapidly growing in knowledge.
To provide the necessary facilities to meet these requirements has been to the Missionaries a matter of deep concern. To provide suitable premises with equipments called for an outlay that they were not prepare to meet. Various proposals were made to meet the exigencies, and at that stage, 18 months ago, accompanied by my family, I went on leave to Canada. Having the privilege of addressing the General Assembly at Ottawa, I stated the case as it presented itself to my mind, and appealed for aid, asking $4,000. Within forty-eight hours I received two donations, ach &1,ooo. It was my good fortune to have been the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Clark, who are on the platform with us tonight, and to whom we are indebted for our first donation; and when we remember in entering on new enterprises how
much depends on a good start, it is hardly over-estimating their liberality, and that of the saintly old lady that gave a similarly liberal donation, to say that to them we are indebted at this early day for our new premises. Donation after donation followed, and to date our scheme has received not only; the $4,000 but upwards of $5,00o, and if this large and influential meeting should place in the plate tonight about £5o, or if not to-night, cheques, bank notes or donations in any form, tomorrow, it would enable us to declare that we have opened shop with our stock-in-.trade unencumbered. Pray don’t think me ungrateful. To some of you we are indebted for your gifts and are thankful. I may name His Worship the Mayor and Mrs. John Drennan. I can’t enumerate all our donors. That collection of new books (pointing to a book case), costing £15, is the gift of George Goodwille, Esquire, Port-of-Spain. In furnishing for the students quarters, we are indebted to Dr. Morton for nearly an equal amount. It is only the other day that I received one of the most pleasantly written little epistles that has come to my hand with an order for £25 in aid. Mr. Edward Tennant, son of Sir Charles, was the writer.
One pleasing feature of the whole movement is the interest taken in it by the East Indians themselves. One of their number, Mr. Albert Sammy, whose services were given to this building continuously for five months, without any charge, was today presented with that book case which contains, in 30 volumes, an American edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, from the Foreign Mission Board of our Church, and he in turn for three years leaves it within these walls for the benefit of the Institution. Contributions have been sent in, not only by the Indian congregation of this town, but also from Tunapuna, Princes Town and Couva.
This afternoon this Institution was formally declared opened by the Presbytery of Trinidad, and the teaching staff designated. Dr. Morton, who will be President, to teach two days weekly; N Mr. Coffin one day; myself two days, and Babu Lal Bihari at intervals. Our subjects are quite distinct, so that one need not encroach on the work of another. When we turn our eyes to the ponderous tomes that you see on yonder shelves, the wisdom of appointing a native of India himself brought up in early years at the feet of a pandit, well versed in the lore of these books, will meet your approval.
We would be modest, and yet it is not improbable that this Institution will, for a time at least, do service for Colonies other than Trinidad. We have given men to a very interesting
Mission in Grenada under the Rev. Mr. Rae; we have a branch Mission in St. Lucia under Mr. Jas. Cropper, which an ordained Indian this week goes forward to visit; and within a week, I had an intimitation from a Presbyterian Minister in Demerara, that he is sending up a Christian helper to this school for higher instruction. Speaking as a Presbyterian, it would appear as if Trinidad were to be for a time a recognized centre, and glad would I be, as almost a son of the soil, if we could be useful to the regions beyond. I can almost anticipate the time when from this western abode a company taught of God may be sent back to carry to the place of their nativity in the East, the riches better than gold acquired here—even the blessing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (Applause.)
The Rev. Dr. MORTON then addressed the meeting, and called upon His Worship the Mayor to take the chair: Mr. Robertson, said the speaker, was ever ready and willing to help in every way the work of this Mission. The speaker then paid a compliment to His Worship on the improvement which had been made in Coffee Street just in front of the building in which they were assembled that night.
His Worship THE MAYOR took the chair and, addressing the meeting, said: In response to an invitation of the Mission Council to preside on this occasion, I have much pleasure in taking the chair, and I feel it is a high compliment indeed to preside at such a large, influential and respectable a gathering as that assembled here this evening, composed as it is of all classes and of members of nearly all denominations in this town. I think this fact alone bears ample testimony to the interest that is taken generally by the community in the work of the Canadian Mission, and particularly of that section of it with which Mr. Grant has been connected for the last 20 odd years. (Applause.) Today he has had the satisfaction of seeing favourably opened the Training College for the native teachers that he has been so long striving to accomplish and bring into working shape, and we must congratulate him and the whole Mission on the success that has so far attended these labors, for I feel sure that he must have had many an anxious hour before he saw his way to get the funds necessary to enable him to undertake the erection of this building. Thanks, however, to the kindness of generous friends he has been able to do so. It is in a measure to celebrate the completion and opening of this institution in a more general and less formal way than has already been done that, I take it, we are assembled here this evening, and I am pleased to see that the meeting is such a large one. When,
however I took around and see such a formidable array of clerical friends, several of whom are to address us this evening, it makes me feel rather diffident in giving expression to any of my views, as I feel it is not to listen to anything that I have to say that so many are present, but to hear from these clerical friends what they have to tell us, and especially, I should think, those from outside the Colony, such as our friend the Revd. Mr. Clark, of Ottawa, who is here at present on a visit to Mr. Grant, and who I know takes a lively and personal interest in the work of this Mission. (Applause.) However, placed as I am in the chair on this interesting occasion, do not think it would be right of me to sit down without saying a word or two regarding the work of the Canadian Mission generally, and particularly as regards the share that Mr. Grant has had in it during the time that his lot has been cast amongst us. Coming here, as I have already stated, something over 2o years ago—I remember well the very day that Mr. and Mrs. Grant arrived in Trinidad. I happened to be in Port-of-Spain that day and came down with them by steamer to San Fernando—Mr. Grant has been since then actively engaged in the work among the East Indians—in fact Dr. Morton and he were the pioneers of the Mission of the Canadian Church to the East Indians in this island—and I feel confident in saying that, so far as Mr. Grant’s work is concerned, no one in this community who has watched what has been going on will gainsay that this work has been eminently successful. Of course the other sections of the Mission have also no doubt met with very marked success, but of them I am not in a position to speak, as I am not so intimately acquainted with their work as I am with Mr. Grant’s. That of course, is natural, as being settled in our midst we see from year to year the success that has attended Mr. Grants labors, and one very visible sign of that success is the very handsome building next to this—I mean the Susamachar Church—and connected therewith a very large and appreciative congregation, composed principally of East Indians and Chinese, most of them trained in his own schools and all more or less contributing liberally to the support of this their own church. In evidence of this we have only to turn to Mr. Grant’s report for the past year in, which you will see it stated that this church contributed $1,474.62 and the out-stations $392.45—in all $1,79.o7, surely a very gratifying and tangible sign of the interest taken by the members in their church and in Mr. Grant’s work among them. Regarding the building in which we are this evening met, it is, I understand, to be used in future as the Presbyterian College—and a very
nice building it is—and seems to he well suited for the purpose. The Inauguration of this building I take as another sign of the vitality of the work in which Mr. Grant has been engaged, and I have no doubt under his able direction and control, and with the assistance of the other members of the Canadian Mission will soon be sending out many native evangelists to assist and continue the good work that has been so long carried on by Mr. Grant and those associated with him. That this is a step in the right direction, I do not think any one will doubt, and with the thorough and conscientious training that these teachers are sure to get in this institution I feel that they will go out among their countrymen well armed and equipped for the work; and if Mr. Grant can only succeed in infusing into them some of his own earnestness and enthusiasm there is little doubt that they will, under God’s blessing, accomplish much good among their countrymen, and lead many of them to give up their superstitions and embrace the light and truth of the Living Gospel. (Applause). In connection with the Mission work in this town, there is also a large and eminently successful day school, where the children are being taught not only the truths of Christianity but also getting a good sound education; and that the school is doing an immense amount of good among the young people I am sure few will dispute. Look in San Fernando alone, there is scarcely a business house in the town but has one or more young East Indians employed (applause), and thoroughly exemplary and reliable clerks they make; and I have little doubt will also make good and intelligent citizens. (Applause.) There is also the Sabbath school to notice, which is evidently doing a vast amount of good, judging from the interest that is taken in it, as I see from Mr. Grant s report that there were 211 scholars present on the last Sabbath of the year and that he had 24 young men in his own class. There were about 21 teachers, half of whom had been present every Sabbath in the year—very satisfactory results I think; results that we must admit Mr. Grant has every reason to be proud of, I wish also to bring to your notice, in connection with the work here, a very valuable institution that was started some four years ago—I mean the Penny Saving’s Bank. It, too, has been a wonderful success as you will b able to judge when I state that at the 31st December last year there were 280 accounts open; that during the year 6,2 transactions took place: 5,252 deposits and 1,190 withdrawals—amounting to $3,192.66 deposits, and $3,463.09 withdrawals —showing a turnover of $6,655.75; and there is now in the Government Savings’ Bank, on behalf of the depositors $1,008.04.
Since the bank was started the total number of transactions have been: deposits 21,851, amounting to $9,107,44; withdrawals 2,732, amounting to $8,099 40—total transactions 24,583, amounting to $17,206 84—demonstrating surely, that this institution is quietly and unobtrusively doing some good among the people here generally—for the depositors are not confined to East Indians alone—in inducing them to put a little aside for a rainy day, and in a way inculcating habits of thrift and saving which, in this community especially, is so much to be desired. This work is more specially under the direction of Mr. Geddes Grant, who is ably assisted by several of the young men connected with the Mission, and by two or three others from outside, but as treasurer, Mr. Geddes Grant gets the bulk of the work thrown on his shoulders, and that it entails a lot of labor and the sacrifice of a great deal of time, you can easily imagine from the figures I have already placed before you. In this connection I would say, as President of the Bank, that the work is getting too heavy for those now carrying it on—the transactions on a single evening at times having amounted to over 250—and further assistance is urgently required; and if any of the young men here this evening who have an hour or two to spare during the week will only come forward and lend their assistance they will be engaging in a good work and have the satisfaction of feeling that they were doing something for the benefit of those among whom they live. (Applause) Now all this work in San Fernando is carried on more or less under Mr. Grant’s care and supervision; but do not for a moment imagine that this is the measure and extent of the work in which he is engaged—oh no; just look around on the estates and see the number of schools there are earned on under his direction. It would take more time than I care to detain you to mention them all, and to go into details of the other labours in which he is engaged outside of the town. Suffice it to say that the proprietors of the sugar estates around evidently feel and know that he is doing a good work that is of benefit to their people on these estates, as evidenced by the liberal support that the Mission receives from nearly all of them for the support of schools, etc. Referring again to Mr. Grant’s report I see that there were open 17 schools with teachers and assistants, with a roll of 891, of whom 619 were boys and 272 girls—having a daily average attendance of 609. Surely this is very gratifying evidence of the success that is attending Mr. Grant’s labors in this direction. We must not forget, too, that in all this good work Mr. Grant has had an able and willing helper in his good wife, especially in her relations to
the women who, in their own position and duties, are keeping pace with their husbands and brothers. (Applause) Looking at the whole work even on the lowest grounds, I say surely the community is deriving a great deal of benefit from it in the education and enlightenment that is being spread among them; and if such is the case, is it not our duty, as a community, to assist and encourage in every way we possibly can the good work of the Canadian Mission? Those people are brought here for the purpose of tilling our lands and are necessary for the agricultural development of the island, and surely there is a duty to them beyond the mere carrying out of the agreement to pay them so much for their labour, a duty that entails on us the necessity as far as lies in our power of not allowing them to return to their native land without offering them some of the advantages we possess. (Applause.) There has been a lot of controversy lately in some of the English papers as to the good that is being done by Missions in the East, and much has been said to try and bring Missionary effort into disrepute, as not being not ‘ worth the money that is spent on it. I do not wish to express any opinion on the matter, but this I know, that, so far as this Mission is concerned, we have only to look’ at what is taking place in our midst to see that this Mission is a success and giving ample testimony to the fact that the seed sown here is bearing good fruit. (Applause.) We are not all born to be Missionaries, like Mr. Grant, but each and all of us. especially those who have had the benefit of early Christian training, can to some extent show those people, by our., conduct and actions, that Christianity with us is not merely a name, but a living principle guiding all our actions, whether in the field, the store, the counting house, or in our own homes. I am confident that I only express the earnest hope and desire of all present this evening that Mr. Grant and those associated with him will be long spared to carry on the good work in which they are engaged, and that the Canadian Mission here may enjoy continued prosperity.’
The Rev. Dr. Morton, addressing the meeting, said: “On an occasion such as this, I always think of those who are no longer with us, but who contributed their share to the work that has been done. When in Canada two years ago, I came across, in the Records of the Foreign Mission Committee,
the first written suggestions that looked toward this College. They were drawn up by the Rev. T. Christie, who for ten years laboured in Couva when there was neither railroad, nor macadamized roads, and his remains sleep in California. United States, and those of Mrs. Christie in Canada. For five years Rev. J. W. Macleod worked faithfully at Princestown, and built the church there. We consecrated our graveyard at Tunapuna by lying his body in the first grave. Mrs. Macleod is buried at Truro, N. S. Miss Archibald rests in the graveyard in San Fernando, and Mrs. Macrae, at Princestown. These have all been called away, while we have been spared; let us not this night forget their work. Rev. Mr. Wright, who built the church in Couva, left his child buried there. We have buried our dead in every district, and throughout these years, Mr. Grant and myself have been spared. There is no credit to us in that. God called the others; He spared us to see the College open this day, and to Him be the thanksgiving and praise. With life and health granted us, it would have been disgraceful had we forsaken the work. But it is well for us all, to recognize that this work does not depend on Mr. Grant and myself. We are more men of the past than of the future. The men of the future are Messrs. Macrae, Coffin and Thompson, behind me on the platform, and Lal-Bihari, Ragbir, Sooden, and other East Indians in the audience before me. More and more must we give place to those men; and you must receive them and cheer them on as God’s agents for carrying forward the work, which we were permitted to begin, and in which we were for a time aided and cheered.” After the other speeches were over, the Rev. Mr. Grant proposed a vote of thanks to the
chairman, which was received with loud applause. His Worship replied, and after singing hymn 494, ”God be with you till we meet again,” and the pronouncing of the Benediction by the Rev. G. M. Clark, the meeting was brought to a close at 10 p.m. We felt it to be a pleasure indeed to be present at the opening of the College, certainly an epoch in the history of our Mission; and to all interested in the cause, it was felt to be a “red letter day”. If those who speak coldly of the results of Foreign Missions, could only have seen, with their own eyes, the so speedily wrought, and have heard with their own ears, the appreciative words in which the labour of our Missionaries were enthusiastically commended, there would be found at home a more widespread and abiding interest in a work, the full issue of which, eternity alone shall reveal.
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