San Juan was established around the year 1790; only six years after Governor José María Chacón arrived here to assume the governorship. Its site was in an area called Aricagua, named after a river or stream in its environs, and at its establishment it was known as San Juan de Aricagua. For just about a century before, capuchin missionaries from Catalunia in Spain erected a mission church in that region named after San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist).

When Chacón came in 1784 the mission of San Juan de Aricagua might have long disappeared, but he established a carriage road of six-miles to link Puerto España and San José de Oruña, the former capital, and he thought the founding of a village somewhat midway between these two towns would enhance communication. He called the settlement San Juan.

It is not unreasonable to think that what stirred him to settle that region, Aricagua, was the number of immigrants streaming into Trinidad under the Spanish Cedula of Population. These were French-speaking people, hard-working estate workers, but although they made San Juan an area of high produce and industry they never learned to cope with the Spanish pronunciation of the name of their village, and even today the name of the village is considered to be properly rendered as Seh War.

From the start San Juan became a busy mart, and quite apart from the activity of its workers, and its heavy producing estates — especially of cocoa — it also provided both a gateway and a crowded carriageway from the nearby easterly regions to Puerto España. By the time the 19th century appeared both the village of San Juan and the rest of Aricagua had their own Commandants – Francis Derieux for the village and De La Haute Belisle for the rest of Aricagua.

San Juan was established on the hill, above the River Aricagua. The carriageway through it was known as the Camino Real, of which the present day Real Street forms a part. The area of this old village is marked by the San Juan Roman Catholic Church and the police station, and is bounded by Real Street, San Juan Street, St Joseph Street, and San Antonio Street. After Emancipation in 1834, and especially after the Abolition of slavery in 1838 the freed people crowded into the old village. It was at that time that San Juan got a Police Post. Constable Charles Mason was listed as being there in 1851.

A highlight in San Juan’s history came in 1876 when it had the surprise of seeing the railway train. It was the first station on the line that ran from Port-of-Spain to Arima, and on the big inauguration day, Thursday August 30, crowds must have cheered lustily as the steam engine and carriages rumbled by. San Juan became a bustling centre for the Trinidad Government Railway and the area called the Croisee (cross roads) seemed always throbbing with life. But even then, San Juan was a tiny village. Just under a hundred years later, on December 28, 1968, when the Trinidad Government Railway saw the withdrawal of the last leg of the line (the Port-of Spain to San Juan leg), San Juan had grown from a population of a few hundred people to a population of 30,000.

Copyright NALIS, 2008


The little village of Sangre Chiquito got its name from the tributary which crosses the Eastern Main Road to the south of it. This stream, which was a little river at the time, was so called by two surveyors who were sent here by the Spanish government in 1777. Their duty was to survey Spanish possessions in the New World and to plan military defences for these possessions. These two surveyors, Juan de Catilla and Augustin Crame, arrived here in May 1777.

In carrying out their work these men happened to name many of the waterways and other geographical features of Trinidad, not just for the sake of naming but for identifying what they had dealt with. While operating in the eastern region of the island they came upon a little river with water as red as blood. For the rainy season had set in, and this tributary of the River Oropouche was heavily tinted by the red sands of the quarry — a place they themselves had called Quaré. The water resembled blood, and deciding to give it that colourful name, they wrote on their map "Sangre Chiquito," literally meaning "Blood, little," as opposed to another and bigger tributary of the Oropouche River which they called Sangre Grande, meaning "Blood, big." Since in the English language the adjective usually comes before the noun, the normal translation would have been "Little Blood," and "Big Blood," the "little" and "big" referring to the sizes of these blood-red rivers.

Sangre Chiquito became settled after the turn of the 20th Century, at the time when the track from Sangre Grande to the east coast began to become a little more frequented than before. This track, of course, became part of the Eastern Main Road. A little over a hundred years after the surveying of Sangre Chiquito, another track, this one of about five miles, was made just beside this river by the planter St Rose Phillip, in order to lay down a cocoa plantation. This led to the opening up of a settlement called Caigual, four miles to the eastward, and Caigual became important enough to have influenced the growth of a village beside the Sangre Chiquito River. But of course the original track which went right on from Sangre Grande, winding southeasterly, to the coast, and which had been formed since 1822 by soldiers of the Third West India Regiment settled at Manzanilla, was now very much a well used path. For at this time, around the first decade of the 20th Century, motor vehicles were already able to go along that road to reach the coast. This fact recalls the words of Inspector Brierly, who, making such a trip in 1910, declared ith amazement: "We came from Port-of-Spain and seen the sea, all in one day."

With the advent of motor traffic that leg of the Eastern Main Road between the town of Sangre Grande and the east coast did not merely become a route to enable one to see the sea, passing through the old soldier settlements of Manzanilla, but it became a veritable gateway to the estates of the Cocal and St Joseph, and more importantly to the districts of Mayaro and Guayaguayare. So settlements began to grow all along the route, and Sangre Chiquito became one of the most recognized.

However, the village of Sangre Chiquito remains what might be called a roadside village, largely the home of small-time agricultural folk and land proprietors, as well as small businessmen who are able to draw upon the needs and resources around them as well as the reflected commercial activity of Sangre Grande.

Like many other communities in Trinidad, Sangre Chiquito is a community that is growing fast. At present, its population is just about 4,000. It is not yet regarded as one of the standard villages in that one does not see the name on maps. Not yet. Maybe it is looked upon as part of Greater Sangre Grande? It may appear, though, from the development taking place in the area, that Sangre Chiquito has no intention of remaining "Chiquito," and may soon grow to have an image of its own.

Copyright NALIS, 2007


Scarborough, Tobago’s capital, could be said to have been founded since 1654, one hundred and thirty years before Trinidad chose Puerto España (Port-of-Spain) for its capital. For Scarborough had its inception when in 1654 the Dutchmen Adrian and Cornelius Lampsins established a settlement which they called Lampsinsburg, and protected it with a fortress. In December 1677 the French, under Vice Admiral Jean, Duc d’Estrees, “blew up” the Dutch fortress in Lampsinsburg, but the French did not settle, oddly enough, and in any case in 1679 the Treaty of Nijmeguen returned Tobago to the Dutch.

But the English, French, and Dutch were unhappy about the number of clashes for Tobago amongst themselves with none being able to hold it, and in 1684 they declared Tobago to be independent and neutral, with everyone, including the Caribs, being free to settle. Remarkably, this agreement held for 64 years, but in 1748 settlers from Martinique went to Tobago, seemingly in a bid to conquer and settle it.

The French government ordered them out, but in 1760 this same government allowed French settlers from Martinique to return. This angered the British who moved in force and conquered Tobago in 1762. That seemed to have been the signal for people from Barbados to rush to Tobago. They landed in what came to be called Barbados Bay, and although a number of them founded a little town named “Georgetown,” in honour of George III, larger numbers settled in Lampsinsburg.

Some may have come from Scarborough, a seaside town in northeast England, for it was the name Scarborough they gave to the old Lampsinsburg.

In 1769, a House of Assembly which was established in Georgetown the year before, was transferred to Scarborough, thus making this town the capital. Between 1777 and 1779 Fort King George was built on the northern heights commanding the town of Scarborough.

But in spite of all this, the French were not to be denied. In 1781, a powerful French fleet, unable to land troops outside Scarborough, landed them in Courland Bay, and fought their way for months, against tough opposition, in a bid to retake Scarborough. They triumphed in the end, and renamed Scarborough: Port Louis, as a tribute to Louis XVIII, the then king of France. They then re-named Fort King George: Fort Castries, for the Duc de Castries, and appointed a governor, Monsieur de Peynier.

However, when the French Revolution broke out in 1789 it created great unrest in Tobago, with the soldiers in full mutiny, crying out “Liberté! Egalité! Fraternité!”* — watchwords of the revolution. Finally, they imprisoned their officers and burned Fort Castries to the ground.

This was the chance for the British to make another bid. They captured Tobago again, restoring Fort Castries to Fort King George and Port Louis to Scarborough. But it was all in vain, for in 1801, a peace agreement at Amiens returned Tobago to the French in 1802.

However, just when the French Governor, General Caésar Berthier, was considering sending to France for replacement of troops, the British struck yet again, taking Scarborough, and, of course, Tobago. And from then Scarborough could have been said to be a British town, for it never changed hands again. Twelve years afterwards the Peace Treaty of Paris (1814) formally ceded Tobago to Britain.

*Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité: French for: Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood

Copyright NALIS, 2007


Spring Vale does not at all look like a valley, let alone a valley that makes one think of the awakening of sea zephyrs or the voices of spring. It is a place where the rugged, hilly terrain that forms part of the northern ridge of San Fernando comes down towards the sea, and this is in the area of Panco Lane, Victoria Street, St. James Street and, indeed, San Fernando Street.

So one can picture then the area that is Spring Vale, and maybe, since no picture survives, with a little effort in imagining a structure fancy and grand, one can see the house that gave life to the name, for it was called Spring Vale House.

Whether the house was more elegant than the vale one cannot say for few of the great houses of San Fernando have survived in pictures, but it seems without a doubt that it was the attractiveness of the house itself that gave a permanent name to the area.

This house was owned by Joseph Lambie of the sugar estate he called Vista Bella. Joseph had come to Trinidad from Scotland with his brother, George, who became one of the most important merchants in the Naparimas, especially for the sale of sugar estate equipment. The brothers were closely associated, and made a fortune out of sugar. By the 1850s they were perhaps the most outstanding businessmen in San Fernando. And this must have been the time when the elegant Spring Vale House was built.

Joseph Lambie and his brother did not just remain in industry. They were very active in the municipal life of San Fernando, and have both been councilors on several occasions.

George himself was mayor from 1862 to 1864 and from 1865 to 1867.

Many young Scots were brought down to Trinidad by these two brothers, and they also formed a key part of San Fernando’s industrial, mercantile and municipal life. Indeed, one might be tempted to say that since these Scotsmen, and others, joined the Borough Council and framed the borough regulations themselves, life must have been very comfortable for the San Fernando merchants.

Spring Vale House did not have much company for apparently most of the merchants and estate proprietors preferred to live on or around the San Fernando Hill or in the vicinity of the hill. But the area of Spring Vale, secluded, became somewhat special, especially when Borough High School moved to the area in March 1875. Although the site of the school was Mount Leotaud, just off Victoria Street, it was near enough to Spring Vale to lend prestige to it.

Joseph Lambie must have kept the Spring Vale area of his Vista Bella estate as a beautiful place, for even as late as the 1940s people spoke of it in hushed tones. Also, Joseph was a well-loved man, and when he died at Spring Vale House on June 3, 1879, a report said that he was borne away to Paradise Cemetery in one of the most spectacular funerals of the period. It added that his horse-drawn hearse was followed to the cemetery by 38 carriages, several horsemen, and a throng of labourers from Vista Bella Estate.

Joseph Lambie is gone but the name Spring Vale remains. Gone, too, is the house and without a trace - or has it survived in anybody’s private collection? If so, please send a copy of it to our website.

Copyright NALIS, 2008


St. James is situated on the western periphery of the city of Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago. It is bounded on the east by the Maraval River and by Cocorite on the Western Main Road. To the northeast is Federation Park and to the south is the Audrey Jeffers Highway (Foreshore Road).

St. James evolved from the Peru estate lands and was originally known as “Coolie town” because of its significant population of post-indentured Indian immigrants who settled there at the end of their contracts.

As a result, most of the streets radiating from the Western Main Road carry Indian names. These include Ganges, Lucknow, Benaras, Cawnpore, Nepaul, Nizam, Bengal, Agra, Madras, Calcutta, Mooneram, Patna, Bombay and Kandahar.

The St. James Hindu Mandir was built on Ethel Street, St. James in 1963 by the Capildeo family to serve the people of Port-of-Spain and the surrounding areas. The Mandir is known by the Hindi name “Pachim Kassi”, which when translated means “the spiritual learning centre of the west”. It remains the largest, most modern mandir in Trinidad and Tobago.

The St. James Mosque was built in 1929 as a donation from the Imam Haji Gookool Meah.

ST. JAMES: 1582 - 1990

1582 - The first battle between the Amerindians and the Spanish took place in an area known as Cumucurapo.

1797 - British troops landed in the harbour off the area we know today as St. James and began their assault and capture of Spanish Trinidad.

1820 - St. James was then known as Peru village. It comprised a plantation, refineries and distilleries on a sugar estate owned by the Devenish family.

1824 - On May 13th a foundation stone was laid to commence the establishment of a barrack comprising 143 acres.

1827 - On June 11th construction of what is known as the St. James barracks was completed.

1845 - East Indian indentured labourers were employed by the new owners of the estate, the Henderson family.

1871 - East Indians became the largest ethnic group in the area, resulting in the naming of streets such as Bengal, Calcutta and Madras.

1884 - In June an ordinance was passed which banned the Hosay celebrations from public roads.

1890 - Establishment of the police training Barracks.

1906 - 42 members of the mounted branch began training in horse riding.

1917 - The abolition of the indentureship system halted the influx of East Indians to the area.

1929 - St. James Mosque was opened.

1932 - 114 acres at Mucurapo were incorporated in the city of Port of Spain.

1934 - Roxy cinema was built.

1936 - In February, following 11 years of deliberation, the City Council agreed to allow St. James to become a part of Port of Spain.

1941- The arrival of American troops during World War II contributed to the modernisation of St. James.

1945 - Fatima College was established.

1952 - On May 20th the St. James Library was established.

1964 - The Polytechnic Institute and Sixth Form College was established. The first principal was Dr. Rudranath Capildeo.

1976 - Mucurapo Senior Comprehensive School was officially opened.

1990 - On July 27th an armed group of insurrectionists known as the Jamaatt Al Muslimeen unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the government. Their compound is located in Mucurapo.

Source: “A Short History of St. James”. Newsday. 15 May 2004. Print.


  • Excerpts from the Heritage Library Indian Arrival Day 2012 Exhibition "Celebrating Indian Presence in St. James".
  • Balkaransingh, Satnarine. “Speaking through Indo-Trinidadian Rituals and Festivals”/ PhD Thesis, University of Trinidad and Tobago, 1990-2009. Print


Tabaquite is very much in the centre of Trinidad, looking from either east to west or north to south, and in fact it was a deliberate attempt to move into the interior that gave rise to this village. The move was made by cocoa planters who regarded themselves as pushed out of the important gulf coast by the sugar concerns. They acquired crown lands in this area and established cocoa estates, especially in the region drained by the River Tabaquite. Between 1880 and 1890 about twelve thousand acres of crown lands were sold in Montserrat Ward and 700 crown grants were made. It was at this time that the settlement which came to be called Tabaquite began taking shape.

However, the workers and planters of Tabaquite and elsewhere in the area were severely hit by the lack of transport, not only to get them into and out of the district, but, most importantly, to get out their produce. Their situation was in sharp contrast with that of the sugar planters along the west coast. These sugar planters not only had the Gulf of Paria for shipping but they also had the Trinidad Government Railway plying between Port-of-Spain and San Fernando — a service the cocoa planters referred to as “the sugar line.” So it was not surprising that as the cocoa crop in the region — the Caparo Valley — began to increase and make its impact on the economy, the government became more aware of the pressure of the cocoa planters; especially those of the heavily producing Tabaquite region. By 1898 a line from the railway station of Cunupia and running through the Caparo Valley and catering for such cocoa districts as Longdenville and the Brassos, arrived at Tabaquite.

At that point Tabaquite was just a labourers’ settlement of just a few houses. Work on bringing the line to the village itself was greatly delayed by a ridge of high ground which barred the way. It called for a tunnel to be constructed through this ridge. The hold-up took many months, and the tunnel, called the Knollys Tunnel after Acting Governor Courtney Knollys, was finally completed in August, in that year 1898. The railway station was then built in the village itself, just about a quarter of a mile away. That end of that railway line to Tabaquite was the terminus of the Caparo Valley Line. It was a big occasion for Tabaquite when the new line was inaugurated on Saturday, August 20, 1898. There was much pomp, and several dignitaries were amongst the 220 persons brought down by rail from Port-of-Spain to witness the ceremony

The Caparo Valley line to Tabaquite was, of course, much more than a cocoa line. People were thrilled with the development because now they could get out easily and go to Port-of-Spain, Chaguanas, San Fernando, Sangre Grande, almost anywhere they wished, while before they were confined to Tabaquite because at that point there were no main roads in the district, and just a track to Gran Couva. The railway made such a difference that by the turn of the century Tabaquite had sprung to life, and only a few years later (in l906) the Roman Catholics opened the first school in the district. The Canadian Mission to the Indians was not slow in establishing their own school in 1907, and only a few years afterwards, in 1911, a new industry appeared and transformed the area. Alex Duckham, an oil pioneer, found oil in Tabaquite.

Thanks to oil, Tabaquite became a bright and bustling place by 1921. The fact that cocoa prices had fallen did not seem to make a great difference to the village folk that it would have done some years earlier. It became a sort of centre in the region and on Carnival days all roads led to that district. In the 1940s and 1950s oil dwindled and although the important Navet Dam was built in the district, the great times for Tabaquite had past.

Maybe the final blow to the prosperity of Tabaquite came in 1965. On Monday August 30 of that year the Caparo line was scrapped, and although Tabaquite had already come out of its obscurity, it was certainly not going to see the best of times.

Copyright NALIS, 2008


There is no doubt at all that so far as Trinidad’s “discovery” is concerned, the biggest historical hoax perpetrated on Trinidadians is the belief that there are Trinity Hills - hills in the Southern Range which were spotted by the “look-out” on Columbus’ ship on the admiral’s third voyage in 1498. It must be said at once that the word Trinity is fundamental to the Roman Catholic religion, to which Columbus and the Spaniards belong. It represents the three Persons in one God - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost). But even if the hills had existed, the widely-held belief that Trinidad, which is simply Spanish for “Trinity,” took its name from the three hills can be dispelled at once. For Columbus, who placed each of his voyages under the protection of a divine patron, chose the Blessed Trinity for the Third Voyage. On the occasion he vowed that the first land he saw he would name “La Trinidad.”

Furthermore, when, amidst the rejoicing, the look-out, Alonzo Perez, came down from the mast-head to tell him he had seen three mountains he was deeply moved and he said, “I had already called the land Trinidad.” One factor that would have made it impossible for Perez to see peaks in the Southern Range was the distance Columbus was from the land. Read the admiral’s words in a translation from the Spanish: “And as the Lord on High has always shown mercy to me, one of the sailors, a seaman from Huelva, my servant, called Alonzo Perez, saw a range of three mountains to westward, about 15 leagues distant…”

Fifteen leagues would be 45 miles. Because of the circle of the earth, sailors see only the highest mountains of a country before they come to it. The highest mountains in Trinidad are El Cerro del Aripo, and El Tucuche, both in the northern range and both just over 3,000 feet. There is no land in the Southern Range higher than 700 feet. From 45 miles away it would have been difficult for Pérez to see even the much higher mountains of the northern range - where there are no three peaks - so he would have had to be “kidding” Columbus, for he could never have seen anything in the southern range - much lower, and where there are also no three peaks.

One can only hope this popular myth can be put to rest.

Copyright NALIS, 2008


When, in 1580, some English sailors came ashore on the island we know today as Tobago, it was a good thing they did not remain long. We do not know how long they remained but they remained long enough to tie the British flag to a tree. This was said to mean they were claiming the island for England. All the better, then, that they soon disappeared. Because had they been caught by the owners of the island — the Caribs — they would have been claimed as well, and we’d have known nothing of it.

Tobago came into recorded history 45 years later when British settlers from Barbados led by an Anglican priest called Nicholas Leverton went to the island to found a settlement. This party was not as lucky as the English sailors. Caribs spotted them on the shore and they had to flee for their lives. Most fell to Carib arrows, and the few who escaped, arrived in Barbados wounded and bleeding.

From that date, 1625, Tobago was never left in peace. News had got around of the fierce Caribs and three nations in particular seem to have decided that the Caribs must never be masters of Tobago. These were the British, the French and the Dutch. Indeed the British felt it was they who owned Tobago because of the seamen who had tied the Union Jack to a tree.

In 1626, the year after Leverton was routed, Charles I gave a charter to the Dutch West India Company to found a settlement in Tobago. The Dutch sent a party in 1628 but the hostile Caribs drove them away, leaving many dead on the beach. One is not sure what happened in the time between but five years later the Dutch tried again and it was astonishing because the Caribs never challenged them. The Dutch called their settlement New Walcheren, and this was located in the northeastern corner of the island, on the site that Charlotteville occupies today. The truth about the Caribs seems to be that they had become scared, seeing the power of fire-arms. However, New Walcheren was not to flourish long, because the Spaniards in Trinidad, not trusting the Dutch, sent an expedition and drove he settlers away.

In 1641 Charles the First of England gave Tobago as a present to his godson, James, Duke of Courland. James at once thought of settling Tobago and he had a most favourable description of the island written up and circulated, encouraging settlers to find a new life in the island. The island was described as green and fertile, and beautiful beyond all telling. It is said that it was one of these pamphlets that got into the hand of the English writer Daniel Defoe leading him to write the classic, Robinson Crusoe. But, Crusoe or not, in the year 1641 Tobago was just beginning to live its violent story, as we shall see.


No sooner had James, Duke of Courland, sent settlers to Tobago in 1642, than the Caribs, who the European plunderers had felt were now docile and accepting, rose up and brutally wiped them out. And that turned out to be the last of Carib resistance in Tobago. Despite the differences amongst the marauders of the sea they got together to annihilate the Caribs, and although no record exists of the inhumanity which must have reigned and the brutality which must have been the order of the day, the effect was total. So much was this so, that when in 1654 a group of 600 men, women and children from Courland arrived in Tobago, there was nothing to oppose them. They came ashore in what is now Great Courland Bay, and they formed a settlement which must go down as the first permanent settlement in Tobago. For no permanent Carib settlement was known, or so one is led to believe.

Certainly the Caribs were a nomadic people, moving from place to place, but groups of them did have their headquarters, as in the case of the Caribs of Martinique, of Dominica, St Lucia, and of course of Tobago. Tobago itself — originally pronounced Tobargo — was the Carib name for the island, which arose from the name they gave the crop of aromatic leaves in which they traded and smoked, and from which came the name: Tobaco. The name may have been tobaco in the first place and corrupted by one of the European nations to Tobago, one is just not sure. (But what is sure is that the Caribs gave names to all the islands that were their headquarters, thus we have Dominica, Columbus’ name for the island the Caribs called Wy-tou-koubouli (“Home of the Blessed”); St Vincent, which the Caribs called Hiroona; St Lucia, another Columbus name, which replaced the Carib Hewanorra; Martinique, which the Spaniards rendered as Martinico, but which the Caribs called Ay Ay; and Guadeloupe, another Columbus name for the island the Caribs called: Keru Kera.

And what of Tobago, or shall we say Tobaco? It remained a Carib island at least up to around the year 1654. The settlers from the little European duchy of Courland — which today is Latvia — called the bay in which they landed, Courland Bay, and their settlement was Niew Vlissingen. Later that same year the Dutch arrived to settle, and unlike the pattern of ejecting other strangers and taking their place, they went to the opposite shore and peaceably settled. That Dutch group was led by the brothers Adrian and Cornelius Lampsins. Although there was no hostility between the two groups, it will be remembered that in 1642 Charles the First had given Tobago as a present to his godson, James, Duke of Courland, and on the other hand, in 1626 the very Charles the First had given the Dutch West India Company a charter to settle the island. So the duke, an Englishman, and the Dutch government, claimed Tobago. The seeds of conflict? Yes, the seeds of conflict, but stifled by a treaty of friendship between Holland and the little duchy. The two communities existed side by side, the Courlanders at Great Courland Bay, and the Dutch at Roquely Bay. They were free of enemies because the Caribs were already bludgeoned into subjection. The only possible unrest had to come from they themselves. But they were living lovingly and matters were proceeding extremely well. But for how long?


In 1658 trouble flared up in Europe between the Duchy of Courland and the Swedes. The Swedes by force of arms over-ran Courland, captured the duke of Courland and imprisoned him. When this news reached Tobago the Dutch, far from showing sympathy to the Courlanders, marched across the island, seized the Courlanders’ territory and brought it under Dutch rule. No sooner had the Dutch felt secure in their dominion over Tobago than the British took up the cause of James, duke of Courland, and called on the Dutch to withdraw. Before the Dutch could react the British swooped on Tobago and captured it.

Then the French came into the picture. The French declared that in 1656 a Frenchman who was shipwrecked on Tobago had claimed the island for France, and they asked the British to leave peacefully. The British had left a garrison of only 50 men at Great Courland Bay and now 25 Frenchmen landed after dark and they made such a racket with their drums that the garrison got scared, thinking it was a whole French army. Then the French commander appeared at the British headquarters saying the French force was down the hill but as he did not want to spill unnecessary blood he insisted they remain there, and he was now asking the British to give up their arms. Then they must leave quietly under cover of night. The British commander did just that, and the 25 Frenchmen took over the fort. But the Frenchmen were really soldiers of fortune and had no genuine interest in Tobago. Their commander, Monsieur Vincent, kept a garrison there until March 1667. Then he set fire to everything and he and his men withdrew.

The Dutch then seized the opportunity to re-occupy Tobago. They returned to where they were before, on the shores of Roquely Bay, which in honour of the Lampsins brothers they were now calling Lampsins Bay. They made a street, built houses, a church and wharves. They built an impressive star-shaped fort with the governor’s house in the middle of it, and there was also an arsenal of ammunition and gunpowder. They called the town “Lampsinsburg.” One was going to say that the folk of Lampsinsburg lived happily ever after, but this was not quite so.

Within the decade war broke out between Holland and France, and in the heat of a Tobago battle between Vice-Admiral D’Estrees and the Dutch Admiral Jacob Binkes, about 1,000 Frenchmen made an assault on Lampsinsburg. A French cannon-ball dropped in the powder magazine of the fort and there was need to say no more. The explosion must have rocked the whole island. The Dutch commander and about 250 of his men were blown to bits.


After the cannon-ball of 1677 which destroyed Lampsinsburg, there was still no peace amongst the marauders of the sea. All three nations — the French, the British and the Dutch — craved Tobago and wanted to dominate it. In 1679, following the war between the French and Dutch, a treaty signed at Nijmegen in Holland restored Tobago to the Dutch. But as usual, peace treaties made little difference.

So after this period of 78 uneasy years in the Carib Sea, the British, who had grown stronger, pounced and took Tobago from the French in 1762, and felt she would be able to keep the island this time. British settlers were brought in from Barbados, and a great number came from England. Some settled near to the old Lampsinsburg and others remained beside the bay into which they had come in from Barbados — and which bay they named Barbados Bay. They called their settlement Georgetown, after the British king, George III, and it was Georgetown that was considered the capital.

On February 10, 1763 the Treaty of Paris confirmed Tobago as British, and later on in the year, October 7, the British authorities declared Tobago an independent, self-governing state. They appointed a General Council of eleven planters to administer it. Tobago was placed in the Windward Island group, with headquarters in Grenada, and the then governor of the Windward Islands, who was Robert Melville, sent out Alexander Brown to Tobago to govern it. The General Council was very enthusiastic about Tobago and when Lieutenant Governor Alexander Brown arrived in the island it was already being divided into parishes, and orders were given for the construction of a House of Assembly. This was at Georgetown, and the General Council held its first session there on April 10, 1768.

But although Georgetown was the capital, having the House of Assembly, the more desirable place to settle seemed to be the old Lampsinsburg, or so the people of Georgetown seemed to think. At least the settlers of Georgetown felt so, for they drifted to Lampsinsburg in great numbers. Many of them must have originally come from the town of Scarborough in England, for that is how they re-christened the old Lampsinsburg: “Scarborough.” In fact, a map as early as 1765 bears the name “Scarborough.” Therefore Georgetown did not survive long as the capital of Tobago, for although it had the House of Assembly, and saw its first sitting in 1768, which confirmed it as the capital, the House of Assembly was transferred to Scarborough in 1769.


After the House of Assembly was moved to Scarborough in 1769 the members of the assembly took steps that never again should Tobago be invaded and taken. Between the years 1777 and 1779 it ordered the building of Fort King George on the hill above the town and strengthened it with abundant ammunition to protect Scarborough. They also set out to create an economy by the widespread growing of sugar-cane, indigo and cotton, and the production of sugar and rum.

For the first time Tobago looked less like an Island Fortress just awaiting capture and more like a home to a settled population. By 1780 the town of Scarborough, according to estimates, had about 4,000 people. Since Governor Alexander Brown in 1764, it had had various governors over the following 15 years: Governor Roderick Gwynne, who came in 1767; Governor William Stewart in 1768; Governor William Young in 1770: Peter Campbell, 1777; John Graham in 1778, and Governor George Ferguson in 1779.

And why is the narrative interrupted in 1779? Because the French interrupted the peaceable life of Scarborough. They engaged the British and captured heavily-defended Scarborough, and of course took Tobago. They re-named Scarborough Port Louis, and having inherited a fine town, they installed a governor, Monsieur de Peynier. This changing of hands was in 1781. In 1783, when Anglo-French hostilities ended, a peace treaty signed in Paris ceded Tobago to the French. In 1784 Arthur Dillon took over as governor. He was an Irishman domiciled in France, where he was made a Count. In 1789 Count Dillon had to go to France, and the acting Governor Chevalier de Jobal, faced a mutiny. The garrison at Port Louis was disgruntled over pay and other arrangements and in 1790 they burned down Port Louis. Naturally, the British would come back at this stage. They re-captured Tobago in 1793.


When the British re-captured Tobago from the French in 1793 there must have been great relief, for, as can be imagined, the French just had a military presence there, and had not settled down to develop and colonise Tobago. So the crops of sugar, indigo, and cotton which the British had established must have been completely neglected over the 12 years of French rule. There had not been harmony either. Joining Dillon in Tobago in 1786 was Roume de St Laurent, the man responsible for the Spanish Cédula of Population for Trinidad (1783), but who went back to France penniless, blaming Spain for not giving him the recognition he deserved. The Maréchal de Castries, Minister of the Marine to Louis XVI, named him Intendant of Tobago. In 1791, however, the French authorities sent him to Santo Domingo to help quell a slave revolt there.

Maybe that 12-year period of French rule in Tobago was the last and only significant French period there, for at least they had an administration. Yet all that remained behind are a few French place-names like Bacolet, Les Couteaux, Anse Fourmi, and almost nothing of French Culture.

The British revived the crops and to some extent re-organised trade again. The African slaves, who, led by Sandy, had carried out a half-hearted and failed rebellion in 1770, now settled down to being a resilient and industrious people, cultivating land accessible to them, and those who became free, bought land. Tobago seemed full of hope for the British as it faced the start of the 18th Century.

On resumption in 1793 the authorities appointed William Myers as Lieutenant Governor, and that same year there was the first of three governors-in-chief of the Windward Islands who administered Tobago. They were: George Ricketts, who succeeded Myers; William Lindsay in 1795; Stephen de Lancey in 1796; and Richard Martin in 1800. Later that same year President of the House of Assembly, John Robley, acted as Governor.

But after all this could there be conquest again? No, not conquest, as such, but the return of the French. The Peace Treaty of Amiens of March 25, 1802, ceded Tobago to France. This was the same treaty, incidentally, that let the British retain Trinidad. The island of Trinidad had fallen only once, while its neighbour, Tobago, had fallen about a dozen times. And would Tobago fall yet another time?


After the union of Trinidad and Tobago, which became effective as from the first day of January 1889, Tobago was administered by a Commissioner. The first commissioner was Loraine Hay in 1889, then T.C. Rayner in 1892, followed by W. Low in the same year. Then H. Sealey acted in 1893 and then came Low again, this time staying until 1897, when S.W. Snaggs acted. J.C. O’Halloran came that year, 1897, but the system was not working satisfactorily, and in 1898 it was thought better to make Tobago a ward of Trinidad, effective from the first day of January 1899. From that date until today, the Union has been tense, with Tobago politicians calling, from time to time for a breakaway from the union. Yet there are objective observers who insist that in recent years Tobago has had a fair deal.

Tobago, one of the few Caribbean islands Columbus could not “discover” is today “discovered” by tourists from all around the globe. Tourism is the life-blood of its economy and it is regarded as one of the favourite holiday resorts in the South Caribbean. But it has been slow to develop. For instance, although the first motorbus to ply a route in Trinidad took place around 1909-1910, it was not until 1921 that the first motorbus plied a route in Tobago —between Scarborough and Roxborough. In 1923, the coastal steamer service between Trinidad and Tobago was taken over from the Royal Mail Steamships by the government.

The first pipe-borne water supply in Tobago did not take place until 1925, while in Trinidad pipe-borne water was supplied in Port-of-Spain from around 1899. The first high school in Tobago, Bishop’s High School, was inaugurated in that same year, 1925. In 1925, also, Tobagonians could see for the first time what was lighting by electricity. The place was Fort King George in Scarborough. The electricity was battery-powered, though. A “delco service.”

But to go back a little: in September 1919, the wooded and mountainous islet of Little Tobago, which lies off Tobago’s northeastern coast, became the Isle of the Bird of Paradise. This became so thanks to Sir William Ingram. Sir William obtained the birds from New Guinea and sent them to Little Tobago by Mr. Woolford Frist.

In 1930 Shirvan Park race course was inaugurated, which was fine for sport, but in 1932, 1933 and 1934 the one-time outstanding sportsman, Mikey Cipriani, flew his little plane, “Humming-bird,” over Tobago and thrilled onlookers. But he could not land because there was no airstrip. Indeed, when on June 3, 1934, Mikey Cipriani was on his way to land in Tobago for the first time and to construct a proper airfield there, his little two-seater plane crashed in the Northern Range and he was killed. According to C.R. Ottley, the first Tobago newspaper, “The Tobago Times,” was issued. During World War II (1939 to 1945) and throughout the rest of the 1940s Tobago was almost cut off because of the fear of German submarines lurking in nearby waters.

Nothing eventful happened for a little while until in 1950, the first bank in Tobago, Barclays, opened its doors. Then on September 10, 1952, a most important event took place: Tobago was connected with electricity for the first time. This was through the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Corporation which had built a power station in Scarborough. On the date mentioned, Chairman of the Commission, George de Nobriga, pulled the switch that shed electric light in Tobago. Another Tobago event of 1952 was worthy of note - the Hillsborough waterworks were opened, supplying most of Tobago with pipe-borne water.

A sad but memorable day came about 10 years later on the 5th of January, 1962. This day saw the death of one of Tobago’s most respected sons, A. P. T. James. Also in 1962, the Royal Bank of Canada opened a branch in Tobago.

Maybe the biggest event of the 20th Century in Tobago must have been the event that took place on the 30th of September 1963. The event? The visit of Hurricane Flora. The effect of this disastrous hurricane is still felt in many parts of Tobago, for the island’s vibrant agriculture never recovered, and the bread basket which Tobago had been up to then, has been obliterated.

Another big event of the 20th century was the introduction of a House of Assembly in Tobago in 1980. Since Tobago had its first House of Assembly in 1768 and gave this up after the Belmanna Riots of 1876, fearing it would not be able to keep law and order, the island had first reverted to a Crown Colony, as was seen, and a little later on became a ward of Trinidad. Now, in 1980, it had been given back its former glory, with the result that it had a great deal more autonomy in the Union.

In 1991, in keeping with Tobago’s status as a haven for visitors, Scarborough was given a modern deep-water harbour, and since the year 2000 its airport at Crown Point has been up-graded. Many would conclude that the 118 years of the Union (to 2007) has been as good to Trinidad as it has been good to Tobago, and of course they are asking for another 118 years and more.

Copyright NALIS, 2007