Tag Archives: Greyfriars Church of Scotland
Minister of National Diversity and Social Integration Rodger Samuel reacts after arriving while the Greyfriars Church, Frederick Street, Port of Spain was being demolished on Sunday morning. Photo:ROBERT TYLOR
Greyfriars Church demolished
By Richard Charan email@example.com
A demolition crew moved onto the compound this morning and tore down the church hall. An excavator was ripped into the walls of the church when Dr Nurah Rosalie Cordner, an advisor to Minister of Social Integration Rodger Samuel, arrived on the scene and was able to stop the work by standing in the way of the machines.
Samuel later arrived, and said the buildings were demolished even as talks were underway to list the site as a heritage site, which would have given it legal protection. The church was sold to aprivate developer in August, and since then, there has been widespread anger over the plan to demolish the historic site.
In the church were memorial tablets commemorating the work of Rev Kennedy and Rev Brodie, as well as congregatio¬ners who fell during the two World Wars. The graves of three children are on the compound, which is located near Woodford Square, the Red House, Public Library building and Trinity Cathedr¬al. The church was the subject of a painting by Trinidad and Tobago’s famed artist, Michel-Jean Cazabon, in 1870.
According to the record, the church site at Frederick Street was bought for £300 and the foundation stone in April, 1837, completed at a cost of £4,858 and opened for public worship in January, 1838. The church was named “Greyfriars” after the mother church in Glasgow, Scotland.
Three years later, a manse was built next to the church for its reverend, Alexander Kennedy, who was succeeded by Rev George Brodie, who died in 1875.
from today’s Trinidad Guardian (copyright)
Businessman Alfred Galy applied to the Port-of-Spain City Corporation yesterday for a demolition notice for the former Greyfriars church on Frederick Street.
This comes a week after the corporation ordered work on the site stopped after Galy’s workmen removed the roof of the church hall and part of the roof of the church itself.
Fears that Galy was demolishing the building led to protests last week from the NGO Citizens for Conservation, and National Diversity Minister Rodger Samuel said the deconsecrated church would soon be listed as a protected historic building.
But in an interview yesterday, chief inspector at the city engineer’s office Deoraj Ramtahal confirmed Galy had submitted a demolition application to his office. He added that Galy had also met with the corporation yesterday to discuss ways to save the property by converting it into a suitable business.
“He submitted the application in order to comply with the corporation’s regulations,” Ramtahal said.
Galy is expected to meet with Ramtahal and members of Town and Country Planning at the Ministry of Finance today.
Yesterday, the site remained quiet, with no signs of workers.
In a letter to the editor in today’s T&T Guardian, historian Michael Anthony, appealing for the church to be preserved, recorded that it was founded by the Rev Alexander Kennedy of the Church of Scotland, a man he described as the most dynamic and zealous of local missionaries. Anthony said Kennedy came to T&T in 1836 and converted an unused building on Cambridge Street (then part of St Vincent Street) into a little chapel, then began building his own church the next year. Kennedy was an ardent abolitionist. (See letter on p25)
A petition calling for the preservation of the property and addressed to the Town and Country Planning Division had gathered over 600 online signatures as of yesterday. The petition, started by concerned citizen Joshua Lue Chee Kong, expresses concern over the potential demolition of the church, and says it should be preserved at all costs to benefit future generations.
“Therefore we wish with all the power granted by your office, that this matter be resolved immediately and that the church gains the necessary protection it deserves as a heritage site as quickly as possible,” it reads.
A plea for Greyfriars – from the Trinidad Express
WORK HALTED: Workers on the Greyfriars Church compound in Port of Spain last week before a stop work notice was served by the City Corporation.
Drowned by the nation’s futile wailing over the atrocities in Brasso Seco were the events in downtown Port of Spain last week, when work began to erase a piece of Trinidad’s history. How far the demolition crew would have gone, had it not been for the protest of a small group that forced the intervention of the City Corporation, is anyone’s guess.
So as it is now, the gutted Greyfriars Church still stands on Frederick Street, but the roof of its adjacent church hall is gone and it’s likely that only State intervention can save what is one of the city’s oldest properties, held in the fist of a real estate developer whose interest may be more about money than national heritage.
In the meantime, the usual criticism has come. Some want to know why these “annoying” people from Citizens for Conservation are blocking progress. Is just an old building they planning to lick down. No big deal. Christian people again. There are more important and scary problems being faced by this country, to care about an empty church and a few graves.
But anyone with interest in this country’s past should take note of the appeal of Eileen Brodie Hubbard. Here is a woman who lives in England and whose roots go back to a place you probably didn’t know existed—Selkirk, Scotland—and who has never set foot on this island, but who can tell us exactly what we stand to lose should the church fall. Hubbard spent eight years researching her family ancestry. She discovered recently that her great-great-grandfather was the Rev George Brodie, one of the earliest missionaries from the Church of Scotland, who ministered at Greyfriars in Trinidad from 1840 to his death in 1875.
Then she learned that the church was intact. Only to find that it had been sold.
She penned this lament some weeks ago. “May I add my thoughts to the debate about the recent sale of Greyfriars Church and express fears for the future of the building, the grave markers, the memorials, the records and all the historic documents. As the building has been sold, we must hope that negotiations currently taking place can resolve this situation to its best possible conclusion. I believe the grave markers have already been removed from the site. Three were placed following infant deaths and have links to the earliest missionaries, Rev Alexander Kennedy, who founded Greyfriars, and Rev George Brodie, who continued his work there from 1850.
I wonder if any thought was given to the possibility of contacting the living relatives of these little infants in order to determine their wishes about the future of the markers. This would require the will to accept that such a connection to the founders and to the history of Greyfriars is significant. Sadly it seems those responsible are unwilling or unable to see their relevance. The lack of regard for the grave markers raises concerns about the contents of the building which are to be removed for storage to St Ann’s.
Can we trust that documentation and all recorded material, said to be in a fragile state in the 90’s, will be sensitively catalogued, restored and preserved? Such a cavalier approach to the sale of the building does not give confidence that this will happen. The memorials too are to be removed to St Ann’s. Again I raise fears for their future, particularly as I am aware of a comment made by the member of the church responsible for the transfer of these special items. This comment seemed to suggest that ‘Buildings and memorials are not what is important: what is required is ‘Congregation and worship of the Lord’. If this is a fair representation, this is alarming!!
I am frankly appalled at this attitude that chooses to ignore history and refuses to acknowledge the incredible endeavours of those early ministers whose work was truly a ‘Mission’. To them it was about ‘serving the Lord’ and establishing a church to support the community. In creating a place of worship they also provided an opportunity for education and a refuge for displaced protestants escaping persecution.
Both the early ministers were unstinting and outspoken in their support of those not free to worship as they chose. Rev Kennedy and Rev Brodie both gave shelter and tried to find them work that was not ‘indentured’ which, in principle, did not meet with the approval of either. As the number of Portuguese parishioners increased, Rev Brodie was said to have conducted services in both Portuguese and English. Rev Kennedy named the first church Greyfriars after his own church in Glasgow. It was this congregation in Scotland who sponsored and fund-raised to support Rev Kennedy’s mission to Trinidad and to provide the money to build that first church, and named it Greyfriars.
In the same way the parishioners of Selkirk, Rev Brodie’s home parish, supported him from the start of his mission to Trinidad in 1840. Initially this was to help to set up the Presbyterian church in Arouca. Later support was given to Greyfriars, as Rev Brodie moved there to continue the work of its first minister, after Rev Kennedy had to leave for health reasons associated with the climate. About this time, the Missionary Board in Edinburgh had wanted to send Rev Brodie to Jamaica.
The parishioners of Selkirk objected so strongly that Rev Brodie duly moved to Port of Spain and remained in Trinidad for a total of 35 years, maintaining connections with Selkirk throughout. The British settlers overseas have much to be ashamed of prior to, and including the early years of the 19th century. We should never forget their responsibility for that abhorrence. What, on the other hand, is so wrong with honouring the positive achievements of those early missionaries and pioneers who tried so hard to improve the situation of those in Trinidad after emancipation? These were indeed remarkable men deserving of honour and memorial. Their role extended way beyond that of minister providing pastoral care for a diverse and fractured community: they were administrators, they were educators, they were social reformers prepared to speak out against continuing injustice. Both Rev Kennedy and Rev Brodie were well educated, an advantage they chose to use to good effect. They set up the first lending library, open to the wider community.
Traditionally the Presbyterian church in Scotland also provided education. Schools were often run by female members of the minister’s family. This tradition was continued, Rev Brodie was supported by his wife Charlotte Lawson and together they provided schooling for children and opportunities for adults who had had no previous access to education. I have never been to Trinidad, it is an ocean away, but at this point I declare a connection. I am a direct descendant of one of those earliest missionaries, the Rev George Brodie, was my great-great-grandfather. I grew up knowing that my great-grandfather, Ballantyne Brodie, was born in Arouca, Trinidad, during a time when his father was a Presbyterian missionary on the island. The family still has a print of the first little church built at Arouca. That was the extent of my knowledge, the time there may have been brief. It has taken me eight years to get to this point, slowly piecing together information to uncover the history.
I only recently discovered that Greyfriars was still standing; within weeks I hear that it has been sold, that the building, its contents and all it represents is seriously at risk. In the UK we value our history and make every effort to preserve it. It is difficult for me to understand those who disregard social history and give scant regard to their built heritage. Greyfriars is sold and there may have been sound economic reasons for that, but its contents can still be preserved and sensitively restored. I appeal to whoever has the authority to make this happen, to actively address these issues before it is too late. At this point there may still be an opportunity to separate the contents of Greyfriars from those who, unwilling to acknowledge their importance to history, would relegate them to a life in storage. Here, already fragile paper records would disintegrate; these should be catalogued and preserved by experts. Neither should there be a time limit on any memorial. All commemorate worthy lives, lives of service to church and community, lives lost in war, all deserve to continue to be displayed, not dismissed as no longer relevant. It is perhaps too much to hope for, but not unheard of, certainly in the UK, that a restored Greyfriars be given a new identity and change of use. The markers and memorials could be reinstated; exhibits which chart the history of the building could go on display retaining the building’s heritage. This would be a way to pay homage and show respect to Greyfriars’ past, and allowing it to be a visible and integral part of its future.”
Meanwhile, over in Tobago lives Jennifer de Verteuil, another great-great-granddaughter of Rev Brodie, who has channelled her seething anger over the whole mess by writing and contacting as many stakeholders as she can find, bringing attention to her family’s past. The church, she notes, is where her navel string is buried, where her father Wilson Brodie Thomson had his farewell service in June 2001, his brother Philip Thomas Thomson in February 1997, their mother Alice May Brodie-Thomson (that WWI nurse written about in this space recently) in March 1947, her father Charles Brodie in August 1895, and his father, the Rev George Brodie, in October of 1875.
As of yesterday, 584 people had signed an online petition at https://www.change.org/p/town-and-country-planning-to-prevent-the-demolition-of-greyfriars-church-port-of-spain that urges the Minister of National Diversity and Social Integration Rodger Samuel to list the church as a National Heritage site, giving it legal protection.
What happens next will tell us much about ourselves.
from the Trinidad Express
‘I felt compelled to buy Greyfriars’
By \\\\\ Michelle Loubon
Port of Spain businessman/Natrust Ltd chief executive officer (CEO) Alfred Galy said a team comprising an architect and an engineer will advise him on the future of Greyfriars Church of Scotland, on Frederick Street, Port of Spain, by mid-September. He also said the National Trust should prioritise which buildings it intended to save since it was virtually impossible to save all the dilapidated historical edifices.
National Trust moves to protect historic Greyfriars Church
By the Multimedia Desk – from the Trinidad Express
Conservationists have reacted with alarm over the news that the church would to demolished, with a social media campaign and appeal to have the State step in.
In a press statement yesterday, the Council of the National Trust “noted the public’s concern regarding the sale of one of our architectural treasures, Greyfriars Church of Scotland located on Frederick Street, Port of Spain”.
According to the National Trust: “Prior to its sale the National Trust through its member and technical advisor, the Historical Restoration Unit, Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, advised the Town and Country Planning Division as to how this property should be managed as one of our built heritage monuments, in keeping with conservation guidelines. The building is on the Trust inventory and is soon to be listed by law.The National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago is established by law (Act 11 of 1991, amended by 31 of 1999), to oversee the preservation of our built and natural heritage. The major responsibilities of the Trust include the following:-
– Listing and acquiring such heritage property as the Trust deems appropriate;
– Permanently preserving lands that are heritage sites and as far as practicable retaining their natural features and conserving the animal and plant life;
– Preserving, maintaining, repairing and servicing or, arranging for the preservation of heritage property and where such property comprises buildings, augmenting the amenities of such buildings and their surroundings;
– Making provision for the access to and enjoyment of heritage property by the public;
– Encouraging research into heritage property;
– Making the public aware of the importance of our heritage;
– Advising Government on the care of our heritage
The Greyfriars Church of Scotland, is one such heritage property identified on the National Inventory of Cultural and Natural Heritage as an historical site. It is also one of the sites which is in the process of being listed by law. Once listed, in accordance with Section 8 of the National Trust Act (No. 11 of 1991 and Amendment No. 31 of 1999) the property is deemed a heritage property and is entitled to legal protection.
The first minister, Rev. Alexander Kennedy of Greyfriars Secession Church, Glasgow, arrived in Trinidad on 25 January, 1836 to begin a mission to the newly emancipated Africans. At that time, there were in the town of Port of Spain, the Roman Catholic Church (Immaculate Conception), Church of England (Trinity) and a Wesleyan chapel (now Hanover Methodist Church). Rev. Kennedy opened the first place of worship on 25 September, the same year. This building, soon discarded, was on Cambridge Street (formerly, the section of present day St. Vincent Street from Park Street to Oxford Street). The first moves to build a church in Port-of-Spain were in 1837. The building commenced on 10 April, 1837, with the first service being held on 10 January, 1838. It then opened under the historic name of Greyfriars on 25 January.
The National Trust considers it a matter of great significance to protect and preserve this monument of our heritage and wishes to assure the public that it is working assiduously to safeguard our nation’s heritage.
In addition, the Trust wishes to urge citizens to be aware of other historical structures in their community which may be added to the National Inventory of Cultural and Natural Heritage.
The Trust encourages all Trinidadians and Tobagonians to join with us in preserving our heritage in any way possible. It is incumbent upon this generation to preserve all aspects of our heritage for the benefit of future generations”.