• ERIN


Deep Ravine is a settlement on the Naparima-Mayaro Road that lies about nine and a half miles westerly between the end of the Naparima-Mayaro Road (at Mayaro) and Rio Claro. Beside it is a ravine and this ravine is part of the same river that Spanish surveyors had called Rio Claro, which village today is on its banks a further distance away. (The Spanish surveyors, Juan de Catilla and Augustin Crame, surveying Trinidad in May, 1777, on assignment by the Spanish Crown, seemed to have been so surprised to find the waters of this forest stream as clear as crystal — so clear that they called it Rio Claro, meaning “Clear Water,” or “Clear River”).

The name of the little district of Deep Ravine could only have appeared, though, long after the laying down of the Naparima-Mayaro Road in 1850, and long after the settlement of the village of Rio Claro after the turn of the 19th century.

It may well have been hunters from Rio Claro who named this place “Deep Ravine” for they frequented the forests thereabout, and of course found out that the ravine was deep! There are no statistics in the records for Deep Ravine, for it has never really been considered a village. Up to the year 1940 the area was completely forested, with the long, lonely Naparima-Mayaro Road lying between. By the mid-1940s there were two or three structures, apparently hunters’ shacks. But today Deep Ravine has opened up, even giving way to a housing development scheme.

And what is the name of the housing development? The name of the housing development is the name by which Deep Ravine is sometimes called: Clear Water.

Copyright NALIS, 2008


Although “Erin” is officially the name of an entire ward, it is in fact the original name of the village upon which the name “San Francique” has been imposed. This is directly to do with Spanish missionaries of the order of St Francis who came to Trinidad in 1757. They established a mission church for converting the Amerindians of Erin and dedicated this church to Saint Francis, naturally giving him his Spanish name of San Francisco. When the French planters and their slaves came to Trinidad under the Cédula of 1783, they no doubt gave the French version of the name to the church and the area, namely: Saint Francique. But the culprit may have been the British sector coming in at the conquest of 1797, who changed the French “Saint” to the Spanish “San” but left “Francique” as it was!

The earliest maps show the settlement of “Herine” (silent H) at the mouth of the River Herine, which emptied its waters in a bay that came to be called Erin bay. The word “Herine” is certainly the corruption of a native word by the Spaniards who made those maps, but to what extent it has been corrupted one does not know. However, the idea of naming a whole region by the name of the original village proved to be troublesome. It had become confusing ever since the Spanish Franciscan missionaries dedicated their mission to San Francisco, with the French calling it San Francique but with “Erin” remaining the official name of the village.

The church on the hill overlooking the village of Erin was first built in 1876, and rebuilt around 1916. It is interesting to note that although the village has been named San Francique because of the church, an inscription calls on St. Francis to “Protect Erin.”And well should Erin be protected. For it is the village of which we have the earliest evidence of civilization in Trinidad — evidence stretching back to a thousand years before Columbus. For this information we have to thank the archaeologists John Carter and his wife who in 1941 unearthed an Amerindian graveyard in what is now the village centre. They dated it to around 500 A.D. On the occasion they dug up a grave from which mummified remains were taken to the Victoria Institute — now the National Museum.

Of course Erin’s Spanish days would be considered recent as compared to that time. When the Capuchin missionaries began arriving in the area in 1758 the few natives in the Erin area would have been placed on missions. Not much could be known as to what was happening in Erin at that time, but a little over a hundred years later Erin happened to be one of the vibrant little places. Because of a Spanish “Cédula” already referred to, and which brought in French planters and their slaves, the area became covered with sugar-cane, coffee, cocoa, and cotton, and doing well under Monsieur Lesade. There were not many settlers in Erin at the time — only 79 — comprising five Whites, 61 Free Blacks, and 13 slaves.

Although Erin has kept on being essentially agricultural, it is one of the most important fishing villages in Trinidad and commands extensive fishing grounds. Yet, despite the activity, Erin has never had a big population, and figures for the census of 1871, which was given as 175, was only just above 1,000 in 1970. The figures for 1980 gives the population as 2,765, but it seems clear that the boundaries were not the same. The church dedicated to St Francis overlooks what was up to recently the only school in the village, and with a roll-call of about 220 in 2007 these are the children who, with some luck, will grow up to protect Erin.

Copyright NALIS, 2008


Fifth Company Village, which lies on the Moruga Road, was settled in 1816 by the fifth of six companies of Black American soldiers. These were ex-slaves who had helped the British fight during the American war of 1812, and therefore when the British lost the war they could not remain in that country.

Soon after the arrival of Sir Ralph Woodford as Governor of Trinidad in 1813, he petitioned the British for some of these ex-soldiers. For he was appalled to find Trinidad still a wild, forested place and he wanted the soldiers to help in the clearing up of the island.

The British Secretary of State for the Colonies approved the sending of six companies and Woodford decided the best place to settle them was in the thickly forested area near to a former Spanish mission to the natives called La Misión de Savana Grande.

Without a doubt Woodford was counting on assistance from people in the area.

The soldiers and their women and children numbered 574 persons. They were disillusioned on their arrival to find that they were in a wilderness instead of being in fine homes as they were promised. They never forgave Woodford for the deception but had to set out busily to establish homes for themselves.

The trees fell, thus clearing the area, and they also used the wood of those very trees to build houses. They planted crops and while the garden grew they had to depend on the Amerindians of the former mission for food. They also set about the task of making roads, and many of the roads that are in Fifth Company today were established during that period.

Road-making was the most crucial and difficult task of all. And of course, being dirt roads, they were almost impossible to maintain without official help, and this help never came. These settlers were for decades ignored by the government. Even as late as 1849, when Governor Lord Harris created the wards and appointed wardens to ease problems like these, Fifth Company never got good roads.

To the hard-working black American soldiers the lack of roads was a great drawback because they had transformed the area into plantations of cocoa, coffee, and sugar-cane, and now the problem was to get their produce to market. Matters remained much the same over the succeeding decades and roads became of such critical importance that in 1888 a descendant of one of these ex-soldiers could tell a Royal Commission of Enquiry: “The people we would elect to help us would know how much we are suffering for roads…Look at these houses all in the bush. Every year they spend a lot of money on roads, but not for Fifth Company.”

These were the words of Pastor Robert Andrews of the Fifth Company Baptist church. The date was April 14, 1888, and the first Royal Commission on Franchise was at Fifth Company to take evidence at the Baptist church. This situation arose because in June 1887 Pastor Andrews had gone to San Fernando to see the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria and had been so impressed with them that he wrote to Queen Victoria saying how much the people of Trinidad loved and cherished her but how the men carrying out her wishes in Trinidad were very unkind to the people and were very inept and useless. He then asked Queen Victoria if she could see her way to allow the people of Trinidad to choose their own representatives.

This request startled Queen Victoria and led her to instruct the governor of Trinidad to appoint a Commission of Enquiry. She also told the governor, who was Sir William Robinson, that in the course of taking evidence the Commission must definitely go to Fifth Company “to find out what it was that Pastor Robert Andrews really wanted.”

(It was that Royal Commission which set the stage for political reform and which eventually led to the Independence of Trinidad and Tobago.)

In extent, Fifth Company today is much the same as it was at its first settlement. Many of the original 16-acre blocks, the grants made by Governor Woodford in 1816, are intact today, and some are still in the possession of descendants of the first settlers.

Fifth Company for more than a century earned the reputation as the home of hard-working and self-reliant people: tillers of the soil, men of action in the face of adversity; brave, simple people — folk prepared to stand up and face every challenge. If today there are no waving fields of sugar-cane in the area, or fields of coffee or cocoa, it is just that life has changed.

But there are a few aspects of the life of Fifth Company that has remained the same, and one thing is religion. This is the Baptist faith that the soldiers brought with them. These soldiers had come from the southern states and had been followers of John Williams of Holland who had gone to America in the wake of the Pilgrim Fathers. Later the Baptist Church of Fifth Company became affiliated to the British Missionary Society of London and their congregations became known as “London Baptists.” From Fifth Company and the other Company settlements the religion spread.

Copyright NALIS, 2008


Flanagin Town, one of the serene and picturesque villages in Trinidad’s Central Range, came into being at the very dawn of the 20th century. Because of the unusual activity at the time, villages would certainly have been established in this region, but this village owes its existence directly to Clifton Flanagin.

Flanagin came to the region as Warden in 1900. He was no stranger to the area for he had been warden of the neighbouring ward of Montserrat from 1899 to the time he had been transferred in 1900. It would seem that the reason he was sent there was to give his assistance to the development of certain fast-growing areas. These areas were fast-growing because of their new crop, cocoa. The new activity in the district had followed the coming of the Trinidad Government Railway to the Caparo valley in 1898.

Ever since the 1880s planters had been bringing cocoa into this region, and harassed by the lack of roads they had clamored for the railway to transport their produce. They had watched the first stretch of line to Arima in 1876 extended to Sangre Grande in 1897 to favour cocoa planters in that region, and they had seen the San Fernando line, established in 1882, and this line was especially for sugar growers. They were already producing abundant cocoa and were struggling to get their crop to market but the railway authorities took no notice of them! But was that fair to the railway authorities? By 1898, purely because of the amount of cocoa they were producing, the government extended a branch line from the Cunupia farm and through the Caparo valley right on to Tabaquite.

The establishment of this line gave an incentive to the opening up of more cocoa estates in the region and a good many more people moved into the district. By the time Clifton Flanagin arrived, on transfer, in 1900, there was a great deal more crown lands already set aside to be sold, and this warden had to attend to the surveying of these parcels, as well as to the making of roads and crown traces.

The railway extension from the Cunupia Farm formed one of the biggest and busiest junctions of the railway — Jerningham Junction. But if the junction commemorated Governor Sir Hubert Jerningham (1897-1901) the extension did much more for Clifton Flanagin, for it presented him with a town. This came about because at the establishment of the line too many people found themselves living between two railway stations in the Caparo Valley, Brasso Piedra and Brasso Caparo.

It was unreasonably far for those who were “caught in the middle,” and by 1903, with pressure from Clifton Flanagin himself, the authorities decided that a railway station was needed to serve those people. What about the naming of this new railway station? That was not as easy as the others because it was not on a recognized spot like Brasso Caparo, Brasso Piedra, and Tabaquite itself, which all existed before the railway. So although the warden, Clifton Flanagin, must have been regarded as a nuisance, everybody recognised his energy and his hard work. So what more apt name to put on the station sign but: “Flanagin Town”?

Copyright NALIS, 2008


Flat Rock is a seaside “shelf” and is located beside the Lady Hailes Avenue in San Fernando, just about a quarter-mile from the San Fernando wharf. It has been attractive to bathers ever since the very founding of San Fernando and the attraction is that at low tide it enables them to walk quite a distance into the sea without being out of their depths.

In the days when horses used to be in great use as animals of transport, Flat Rock was the favourite place for bathing horses but later it became very much a place of recreation for the townspeople, especially on Sunday afternoons. Today it looks rather desolate and may have declined somewhat. San Fernando has developed very much on its southwestern side in that sweep from Cross Crossing past Embarcadere, and past the fascinating Flat Rock, and on to the San Fernando wharf. But development has not touched Flat Rock. There is not even a sign to identify it, let alone a “sprucing up” of the area, with a few changing rooms, fresh-water baths, and benches outside.

San Fernando has no sandy bathing beaches, and at various parts of its sea wall, for example, in the north as far as the Vista Bella “Iron” to the old “Third Trinidad Sea-scouts” site in the south, swimmers, swimmers mainly, risk some moments of fun. But there is really no other bathing site as safe as Flat Rock in the San Fernando area. Flat Rock is also especially fascinating as at evening time on a bright day it shows a remarkable sunset. The islet of Farellon, perhaps about two miles away, and upon which there is a ramshackle house, is usually lit up by the orange sky, and often seems ablaze.

It is a pity that Flat Rock is on the wane so far as popularity is concerned, but it has for more than two centuries been a popular bathing spot for San Fernandians.

Copyright NALIS, 2008


From an industrial point of view Fyzabad is easily the most historic village in Trinidad. Lying about 28 miles due south of Port-of-Spain, and just 10 miles south of San Fernando, seven miles from La Brea to the southwest and just three miles away from Avocat to its north, it could be considered to be at the centre of the oil belt.

Fyzabad was founded around 1871, long before the era of oil came in, and it was a personal project of the Canadian Missionary to the East Indians, Kenneth Grant. Grant was then in charge of the southern field of the mission.

The objective of Kenneth Grant was to convert the East Indians, mainly Hindus, to the Presbyterian faith, and not only to convert them but to keep them converted. So after having some success in San Fernando and in the rest of the Naparimas, he bought a piece of land which he thought was sufficiently far, and isolated, and settled the new converts. And what would these East Indian workers call the place? They would call it by the name of a little village in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The name of this place: Faizabad.

If one must judge from the little Canadian Mission School that existed at Grant’s “Faizabad,” one would say that in its earliest days this was a tiny settlement of no more than a few dozen people. The school had just 25 children in the year 1880. However, the village grew fast, for in 1888 Grant had to build a bigger school. By 1900 Faizabad, or Fyzabad, already had a few hundred people.

These converts were not supposed to go to work on sugar estates, so as to risk any relapse into Hinduism, so they were engaged in agriculture, especially in kitchen garden produce. They also grew a little cocoa and coffee. Although at that time one could not dream of anything else but agriculture, Fyzabad was due to awake abruptly from its placid days.

By the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 oil prospectors were all over the district. Petroleum had already been found in Trinidad and prospectors were sure that since oil was a residue of asphalt (or pitch), the substance was bound to be found in the region of “La Brea,” a district with so much pitch that it is called by the Spanish word for pitch. And now that there were the oil-hungry machines of war the search became more intense. Ironically, as the war began to decline in 1917 prospectors drilled and found oil in Fyzabad. This suddenly transformed the area. Hundreds of people came in and in less than five years Fyzabad looked a different place. By the census of April 1921 the little settlement of a few hundred people, formerly, already had a population of 2,649.

The company that had drilled for oil in Fyzabad was at once successful. It was the highest producer of oil, and, appropriately, called itself “Apex Trinidad Oilfields.” Later the same year another company, Trinidad Leaseholds Limited, found a great deal of oil in the area and introduced thousands of Grenadian labourers into Fyzabad. Since it began to appear that the oil companies in Fyzabad were making huge profits but were paying what was called “starvation” wages to its workers, this hitherto quiet village began becoming a hotbed of protest and agitation.

But before looking at the effect of this, let us look at the biggest oil event of Fyzabad in the 1920s. The family Partap, who owned a 10-acre plot within the Apex lands, decided to hire a private driller and drill for oil themselves rather than yield to pressure and sell the plot to the Apex Company. On Saturday, December 8, 1928, the driller struck oil, and the superintendent rushed for the Partap family who arrived with great jubilation to see their well gushing. It was dusk, and the superintendent’s car was still switched on. As he tried to focus his headlights on the well a spark from the car engine ignited the gas-laden atmosphere. The explosion which followed turned everything around to ashes — everything including the 16 people who were there at the time. These were four members of the Partap family, four friends of the Partaps, the driller, the drilling superintendent, and the six crew members on the night shift.

Notwithstanding that tragedy of Saturday, December 8, 1928, Fyzabad entered the 1930s as one of Trinidad’s most attractive oil-bearing areas, as can be seen by the fact that in 1932 there were as many as eight oil companies there, among them Apex, General Petroleum, Petroleum Options, and Trinidad Leaseholds Limited. Oil was gushing, and it brought new times — and new trouble — to Fyzabad.

Among the Grenadian workers who had been entering Trinidad at the end of the First World War was a man called Tubal Uriah Buzz Butler. Butler arrived in Trinidad in 1921 when tension was beginning to develop between the oilfield workers and the oilfield employers. The workers felt that they were being exploited, that their wages were kept to the lowest level while the oilfield employers were wallowing in prosperity. The labour leader and agitator, Uriah Butler, at once joined Apex and began fiery agitation on behalf of its workers.

The Butler flashpoint took place on June 19, 1937. Butler had been charged with sedition owing to one of the speeches he made but had not attended court and there was a warrant out for him. On June 19 the police came upon him addressing a crowd of workers at Fyzabad Junction. When they tried to arrest him the historic riots broke loose.

The toll of that day was the shooting to death of English police officer William Bradburn and the burning to death of Corporal Charlie King. Casualties were widespread and unrest swept the region. The riots led to several British royal commissions of enquiry, including the Moyne Commission (1939) which recommended Adult Franchise, and therefore opened up a road to Independence.

Today, although oil has declined, Fyzabad remains one of the most prosperous of Trinidad villages. There are no shortage of schools, among which is a Senior Comprehensive, an elementary Roman Catholic school, an intermediate Anglican school and two Presbyterian schools.

Fyzabad is also one of the hubs of southwest Trinidad, and from its centre, roads lead to the north, the south, the northwest and southwest, and from San Fernando to the east coast. The road to the north, which forms Fyzabad junction, leads to an old building, Paramount Hall, which used to be a favourite meeting place of Uriah Butler and his companions. The junction is also faced with a statue of Butler himself. On the south the road leads to Palo Seco and Erin, and on the northwesterly side is the road that leads to La Brea. On the southwest is a direct route to Siparia and Cedros.

Copyright NALIS, 2008


Guayaguayare is unique in the history of Trinidad because it was the first part of this island sighted by Christopher Columbus. This took place on his third voyage in 1498.

Columbus, who had founded the settlement of Isabella in Haiti, on his second voyage, had used Haiti, which he called “Española,” as a base for exploration and for finding out where gold and other precious metal were to be found. It seemed that wherever he went — whether to Cuba, Jamaica, or other parts of Española — they directed him to the south, where he knew the Equator lay. They may have sent him in that direction for the purpose of getting rid of him, for the Spaniards in general had become a nuisance, but as a coincidence he had cause to believe a land of gold and precious stones bestrode the Equator because an earlier Portuguese king, Henry the Navigator, had said this was so, and had established this theory as one of the main findings of his life.

Therefore Columbus regarded the third voyage in 1498 as the voyage to put this theory to the test, for he felt that those in Cuba, Jamaica and Española who had pointed to the south when he had asked about gold, had at least heard something about this land.

Although he had dedicated the voyage to the Blessed Trinity and vowed he would name the first land he met La Santísima Trinidad, which itself means “The Blessed Trinity,” he set his course almost due south to the Equator, having no idea what he would meet in those hot regions. But as he got to those latitudes he panicked, and exaggerated so much as to say, “The wheat burned like fire.”

It was after he fled the Equator and was heading north for Española that he encountered what we call Guayaguayare today, the main feature of which is the headland which he named. For when the sailor on look-out, Alonzo Perez, shouted “La Tierra!” meaning “Land ahead!” Columbus wrote in his log: “And at the end of 17 days, during which the Lord granted me a favourable wind, on Tuesday, 31st of July, at noon, land presented itself to our gaze. And as the Lord on High, has always been merciful to me, the man on the masthead, a sailor from Huelva, my servant, saw a range of three mountains in the distance. Thereupon we made merry on board and we sang the Salve Regina and gave thanks to the Lord.”

It is not important that Alonzo Perez could not have spotted any range of three mountains because it is non-existent. He came upon the Arawak island of Kairi, and called it Trinidad to honour his promise.

Guayaguayare first gained recognition in 1690 when capuchin priests from Spain set up a mission church in the area. The group had arrived here in 1687 and they crossed the country leaving their colleagues at missions they founded along the way until the very last of them set up the mission of Guayaguayare.

One does not know how successful the mission was but under Spanish “Cedula of Population” of 1783 French planters and their slaves settled in Trinidad. Captain Mallet, who did a census at the British conquest of Trinidad in 1797 counted, at Guayaguayare, 408 persons: 61 whites, 301 slaves, and 46 “free people of colour.” The main crop there was cotton.

By 1812 we saw the crops being coffee and cocoa, but before too long the sugar-cane industry came in. However, by the 1860s the coconut industry was introduced as a result of coconut being tried out in Mayaro.

In 1849, when Lord Harris introduced the system of Counties and Wards it may have been carelessness and a little ignorance that led to the whole county being called Mayaro, but with the Ward of Trinity, comprising Guayaguayare Village, and the Ward of Guayaguayare having the original and historic village of Mayaro.

In 1902 Guayaguayare became the first place in Trinidad where oil (petroleum) was found in commercial quantities. The origin of the finding of oil here had to do with the surveyor Albert Gilkes, who had seen pools of oil in the Guayaguayare forests, and had shown it to a shop-keeper called Lee Lum. Lee Lum showed the liquid to Randolph Rust, who came on the scene as a driller and, justly, the discoverer of oil. Gilkes has never been properly recognized.

Guayaguayare has never grown into a large village and at the census of 1980 it showed the unbelievably small figure of 1,477. Yet it continues to play a big part, economically, and today the off-shore drilling of oil and gas helps to keep Trinidad afloat.

Copyright NALIS, 2008