A Sketch Of Trinidad - Excerpt 8

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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.


On Sabbath, the 21st March, Mr. Grant opened two small places of worship. For years he had a desire to occupy the ground in two villages growing in importance, but did not wish to call on the church at home to provide the funds, but a couple of months ago, a sugar shed was offered for sale, containing a. corrugated galvanized iron roof, sufficient for these small churches which he purchased cheaply, and on calling the villagers together, such was the readiness to aid, that he felt it to be his duty to go forward.—He reserved for Mr. Clark the honour of first lifting up his voice in these places of worship, but an attack of fever and ague kept him in bed all day. I represented him, singing one or two of our sweet gospel hymns, assisted by some present, who understood English. In the larger house, about 100 persons were seated, in the smallest 50. Rev. J. G. Coffin read in Hindi and Mr. Geddes Grant in English. Mr. Grant then preached in Hindi from 1 Tim 2-5. “There is one God and one Mediator” &c. He was followed by Rev. Lal Bihari in the same

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language. The attention at both places was all that could be desired, quite as reverent as in our churches at home. When Mr. Grant reported that the amount received was far short of what
was required a young Brahmin Mahabir, (not a christian) a shop keeper in the place, who had given $10 said he would give ten more. At the close of the service in the smaller place, Marabella, a lad who had been taught a prayer by his Indian teacher (who composed it,) repeated it very well

A marked feature of the Mission in Trinidad, was the early, warm, liberal and sustained interest shown by the proprietors of the Sugar estates on which the East lndians labor. Chief among these are Sir Charles Pennant and Sons, J. Cumming & Co., Wm. Burnley &.Co., the Colonial Company, Gregor Turnbull & Co, J. Lamont, Esq. But as most of these proprietors (perhaps Mr. Cumming being the only exception), reside outside the Colony, it will be at once noticed how much the absentees must be influenced in their good opinion, by their attorneys and business men, under whose eyes the mission operations are carried on. Indeed looking at the environments of the Mission, the Missionaries may say “The lines have fallen unto us in pleasant places.” What is asserted of the planters, we think may be also said of the general community. The enthusiasm manifested at the opening of the new College in San Fernando as proof; and just now we are informed of liberal

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donations from the mercantile body that have fully paid off every vestige of liability in connection with the premises. And rising from the general public, to the powers that be, we are glad to know that from the inception of the Mission to the present time there has been growing interest on the part of the government to advance the educational part of the work.

During our sojourn we have had frequent opportunities of noticing the intelligent training that the young men have received under Mr. Grant’s special care. Honorable mention ought to be made of the very intelligent part they take in the Sabbath School, and prayer meetings as teachers and superintendents. Specially were we struck by the masterly way in which a young Chinaman Mr. Jacob W. Corsbie conducted the review in the Sabbath School, on more than one occasion, equal to any we have heard at home. So much were we impressed by his efficiency that we made some inquiries about the incidents of his life, and found that he was born in China, during the time of the great Civil war, or the Tai-ping Rebellion, that both of his parents were Chinese, he came to Trinidad just at the close of the war in 1865. Being only then seven years of age. he was too young to remember much of the stormy period in China, In his very early years he had not much opportunity of going to school, as at eight years he had to work for his living. From the year 1872 he came

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under instruction in the Mission School San Fernando, and made rapid progress. Mr. Grant on a visit to Canada in 1876 expressed his anxiety that Mr. Corsbie should receive a good training; and under the guidance of Miss M. A. Stark was led to the Rev. J. K. Smith, then pastor of Knox Church, Galt, whose congregation generously provided the whole cost of his passage to and from Canada, and paid for two years course of instruction under the famous Dr. Tassie, whose educational work is so well remembered by many in Canada. It is very pleasant to note the sense of indebtedness which Mr. Grant evidently cherishes to Miss Stark, under whose guidance he was led to make such favorable arrangements for his chinese protégé. Could the many friends in Knox congregation, Galt, really know the excellent work he has done as a teacher, and as a devoted christian worker in all this most interesting field, they would have no reason to regret their large hearted beneficence in helping forward this very worthy young man.

Our Mission which is firmly rooted in the rich soil of Trinidad, while planted and watered by the faithful labors of our Canadian agents, has been greatly aided by the self denying intelligent services rendered by East India converts who not only accepted Christ themselves, but have sought to commend him to the acceptance of their fellow countrymen. We have met many of these

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workers in the several districts and have been impressed with the importance of utilizing these humble faithful men, who not only understand the language, but the peculiar difficulties begotten by the belief and traditions of the ages, and how best to dislodge them. And it may be said that on all hands, it is admitted that the Rev. Lal Bihari is like ‘Saul among his’brethren’. Let me speak especially of the noble aid Mr. Grant and his Mission have received from the very faithful efficient service of the Rev. Lal Bihari. This humble devoted minister of Christ was born near Arrah about 36 miles from the sacred city Benares, India. His father died when he was sixteen years of age. While his father lived be had good opportunities of getting instruction: but at his death according to Hindi patriarchal custom, he was put under the over-sight of his uncle; whose eldest son tyrannized over his cousin, especially scoffing at his religious feelings, which were strong and deep from his childhood. Such was the tyranny, he determined to escape from it, and left for Benares, where he heard that the government would continue to give him instruction, he being fatherless, further he had heard that could he bathe at Benares during the eclipses, he would receive as a reward a thousand cows. He did not meet with any who could tell him how his education should be carried on, nor did he receive the above reward; but he met a recruiting agent, who sought to enlist those who would go out to Trinidad to work amongst sugar, and such was his roseate description of the service and its wages, that he concluded that by acceding to his terms, he could save money enough in three years in Trinidad to enable

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him to return and obtain at least four years instruction without any aid, and thus he purposed to fit himself to be a teacher. But it was with him as many others, that “Man proposes but God disposes” and we find that instead of returning to India,’he was to become the coadjutor of Mr. Grant, which position he has filled with great faithfulness for the past eighteen years.

We thank all our very kind friends in Trinidad, for the attention they paid us, during our sojourn with them, and deeply regretted that we could not accept all the many invitations that we received before leaving. We will not forget the pleasant hours we spent at La Retrait, the residence of the Mayor, who for kindness and hospitality, stands unrivalled. Theirs is a charming villa, surrounded with lovely palms and ferns. Another delightful retreat ‘Caledonia’ a mansion replete, with every luxury, having extensive grounds to match, over looking the broad expanse of the gulf, and one or two other, lovely spots on an high eminence, where the varied and beautiful combination of trees and shrubs, and flowers peculiar to all climates makes the picture one of perfection. The picturesque road leading to Mr. and Mrs. Geddes Grant’s pretty home, first down in the valley, then up a steep, road, then round a curve, down and up, until we come to a fine avenue of trees, the cottage with its verandah tasseled with gorgeous mauve climbers, and the Quisqualis a shrub twenty

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feet high with clusters of crimson, pink, and white blossoms. Behind is a grove of oranges, limes, and star apple, the cocoanut palms with bunches of nuts at the base of the towering plumes. We also thank Rev, and Mrs. Wilson for their kind attention, and many delightful drives they gave us. During our stay amidst such lovely scenes, we could not fail to enjoy the treat; our time was drawing to a close, when those ties of friendship would be severed. Still although time and distance may separate us, there is a certain amount of satisfaction in looking back on the days spent here, with feelings of pleasure; and I cannot refrain from saying that as regards those with whom we were on terms of friendship, in many parts of the Island, their goodness, cordiality, and noble generosity combined with that hospitality, which makes a friend’s house one’s borne, can never be forgotten.

After the Sabbath school exercises, were requested to remain and take seats on the platform when a deputation came forward and modestly presented us with an address, written in English, Tamil, Bengali, Hindi and Urdu expressive of our interest in the Asiatic people and wishing us safe voyage home, and every needed blessing. The communion service was held in the evening conducted by Mr. Clark, and assisted by the Missionaries present. It was a very solemn touching service and when the large congregation stood up

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to sing the last hymn “God be with you till we meet again” it affected us all very much. Very busy packing the next day, the valuable souvenirs that were presented to us, such as the large family Hindi pipe, the brazen vessels which they use, specimens of musical instruments. Sandal wood fan, richly carved in India, beautiful wrought, India dress, &c. Every one was so kind and eager to bring up some curiosity, good thoughtful Bessie and Rachel were packing away tamarinds in a canari to go in a corner of my trunk they said Mrs. Grant had pots of granadillas and jelly, for corners, that were all taken up with some thing else. Mia Lal Bihari’s aged mother, come to bid us an affectionate farewell, bringing us a curiosity in the shape of large Hindi pipe. Bessie Girdharrie brought her handsome Indian silk Orhrnee, or veil, and the jullab. Mrs. Aaron a pair of silver bracelets made by the Indian jeweller, and sent a card conveying her compliments, written in fine penmanship. The saw of a Saw fish, caught in the Gulf of Paris, to be strapped on my trunk but found it far too long, and it was packed separately. Dear Claudia did not forget me, a fine handkerchief worked in India, nor Harriet and her three little darlings. What am I to do with the calabashes, the sugar cane and the vanilla beans? must find space for them some where. Even old Dolly came with her gift, a small bottle of Castor oil, made by her own hands, from the castor oil seeds, it looks very clear and good, but I put off the testing of its qualities from day to day. In the evening we had quite a Concert of Hindi music and singing a number walked in fourteen miles from the country, bringing with them the drum, cymbals and conduli, for our special

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benefit. We had made a delightfully long stay, amongst such kind friends of whom it pleasure to speak. There was a goodness and cordiality with their hospitality and warm heartedness, that can never be forgotten by those who know them. The next morning all our friends in the compound and the school children were gathered around us to say “Farewell” as we entered the carriage with Mr. Grant who accompanied us to Port of Spain. Rev. E. A. McCurdy met us at the Station he told us the S. S. “Alps” was detained a day or two, and we made our home with Mr. and Mrs. McCurdy till the day of sailing. April 9th, we leave to-day, Mr. and Mrs. McCurdy and son saw us on board the “Alps.” It was a lovely evening! not a single breath disturbed the glassy surface of the silent water; and yet how eloquently that silence spoke to the heart! We can scarcely describe our feelings as we thought of our Missionaries and friends we were leaving behind us, and the wonderful work God has wrought by them, and our prayer to God is that they may bring the East Indian people in still larger numbers to Christ.

Once more upon the sea, on our home voyage on board S. S. ‘Alps,’ we quickly lose sight of the island, in all its luxuriance and beauty, robed from the rounded peaks, to the base in its perenniel green; and my mind dwelt on the thought that we were bidding it a long, long ‘Farewell.’

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Before us are the Bocas, a huge rocky promontory, cut into four islands by the opposing forces of the Caribbean and the Orinocco; through the largest of the channels, called the Dragon’s Mouth, we leave the Gulf of Paria—passing the peninsula of Paria a part of Venezuela, South America. The next morning we steam very slowly into the anchorage of St. George’s Grenada. The harbor is a deep clear basin, surrounded and shadowed by immense volcanic hills, all green On deck, the creole women have spread their merchandise, necklaces of Mimosa beans, pots of Guava Jelly, and Tamarinds. all kinds of spices, and varieties of fruit—Mango, Sapodilla, Soursop, and Avocado pear. The Mango, looks like a large flattened apple, with an oval stone, the Sapodilla, has a peculiar appearance, some what like a russet apple, but larger, filled with a sugary brownish pulp. At the core are several seeds, of a dark brown color, and having a narrow white fibre running along the inner edge. It is of this fibre that the incense used in the Roman Catholic Churches in Spain is manufactured. Its odour is very sweet, and it brings a big price it ought to be good and sweet—$160 per pound. The Avocada pear and Soursop does not create a desire for any more,—after the first taste—Land is hardly ever out of sight; one island no sooner turns grey in the distance than another unwreathes itself with a repetition of the waving, palms and close ribbed hills, steeped in every shade of green which we have just left behind—In these tropic latitudes night does not seem “to fall “, it appears to rise up, like an exhalation from the ground. The coast line darkens first,—then the slopes and the lower

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hills and valleys become shadowed, --then very swiftly, the gloom mounts to the heights, whose very loftiest peak, may remain glowing like a volcano at its tip for several minutes, after the rest of the island is veiled in blackness, and all the stars are out. Tropical nights have a splendor that seems strange to northern eyes. The sky does not look so high, —so far away as in the North, but the stare are larger, and the luminosity greater. Just above the horizon, is the Great Southern Cross, the four stars. stand out large and clearly defined. Over the beautiful blue sea and under the charming blue sky, we make splendid progress. Nothing of note occurs except the occasional appearance of flying fish, and a vast quantity of sargasso float by, a light yellow sea weed. The Captain procured a fine specimen, and had it placed in a bottle of sea water for me, I have it among my treasures. The passengers nine in number are seated on long lounging chairs under the white awning on the deck. We are all enjoying the warm weather while it lasts. The chief officer had a large black and yellow snake, about five or six feet long, in a box, and when he wanted to have a scamper on deck, among the passengers, he would let the snake out, for a walk on the deck, he said it was not a poisonous reptile, and took hold of it by the neck, and gave it a drink of water out of a saucer. Below in the forecastle were large cages of monkeys of different species, many varieties of parrots and choice birds.—Each morning the air seems a little cooler, a gradual lengthening of the hours of light, is perceptible. When we came to the Gulf stream we found a great change in the weather, and the sea very much rougher,—it drove half of

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the passengers to their berths for two days. The waves were not as high as I have seen the north Atlantic produce. Off Cape Hatteras we met a strong gale, the waves sweeping the deck from stem to stern, and frequent[y dashing over the funnel. The next morning, April 18th, we found the storm had abated, and the surface of the ocean still undulating but glassy calm. We made good progress northward, and toward evening, the pilot came on board and the next morning at seven, we were through with the medical health officer, and slowly wending our way to the Union Docks, Brooklyn. The custom house inspection over, we bade good-bye to the genial Captain, officers, and stewards, who anticipated all our wants and desires, and the excellent stewardess Mrs. McCrombie, who was indefatigable in her attentions. Driving over the long Brooklyn bridge, and through the city of New York, we came to the Grand Central Station, and took the first train for Ottawa, where we arrived the next day, just four months absent from our Canadian home. This trip has been one of great delight to us, and I cannot conclude without expressing our thankfulness, that we have returned in safety, and found that our people have been so thoughtful in relieving us, from care and anxiety by keeping every thing running as if we had been in their midst, and that God had provided such efficient supply in our absence.

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“Much bless’d by Providence is Trinidad;
Flowers and fruits perpetual, trees ever green,
Our scenery most rich and beautiful;
The people of ‘all nations, countries, races,
French, English, Spanish, Scotch, or Portuguese.
From Afric’s or fair India’s hotter shores;
Creoles, Coolies, Chinese, their language,
Manners, customs, every thing so different.”



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