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Historical Notes

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Stories of Trinidad and St.Vincent in the Antilles (from the journal ofBertrand Cothonay O.P)

19th January 1888

“Two days ago I had an exciting and perilous trip at sea for about twenty-five nautical miles along the leeward side of the island of Saint Vincent up to a little above Richmond Estate to a place called Freasure. My intention was to see the landscape from the sea and to visit some Catholic families living on this coast. The skipper, a venerable descendant of the Caribs, and his three sons, were all excellent sailors, fortunately for me, because the sea became very choppy and the boat had to pass between rocks with very little space to do so. Had they made a wrong manoeuvre we would all have perished. Our boat was nothing more than a dugout made by the Caribs…{{more}}

This part of the island is very rugged; sometimes the mountains descend abruptly into the sea; sometimes there is a deep valley between them in which one can see a few wretched houses; but sometimes also, there are small plains and wider valleys where people have built pretty villages such as Layou, Baroualie, Chateau-Bel-Air. Here and there are some sugar houses with their tall chimneys painted red…

The house of old Maquey is built at the foot of the Soufriere, not too far from the volcano which erupted in 1812. I felt tempted to climb the mountain to see its crater. For this I found a mule which carried me half-way…I reached the summit after three hours of tiring walk but I did not regret the effort I made…

Before nightfall I was back at the house of my old Carib, Charles Maquey. He is a rather melancholic elderly man, aged 70. He has great respect for religion. For the past thirty years he has resided twenty -five miles from the nearest church and while so many Catholics became Protestants around him on account of the lack of priests, he has remained faithful to his religion, as firm in his faith as a rock…He is not a pure Carib but his wife is one. His sons are handsome men between 30 and 40 years of age, beautiful types of Caribs of mixed blood.

When raising the sacred host, I realised it almost touched the roof of the house! I seldom felt such joy in celebrating the Mass…

22 nd January 1888

…Today I sang the Mass and preached in English to the good people of Saint Vincent and I told them that it was the 395th anniversary of the discovery

of their island by Christopher Columbus…I have been here for a fortnight and I am very touched by the many kindness of all the people, even the poor find something to offer me like eggs, fruits or something special to the country…

24th January – Bellevue

I am on the windward side of Saint Vincent and I can assure you that there is wind in plenty stirring the sea…I left for Kingstown and reached a place called Gomié. There I discovered a wooden chapel and found some Catholics who had been very much neglected… Only an elderly Carib woman who was ill asked me to hear her confession…On leaving Gomié , I passed through a delightful valley watered by two parallel rivers…The Catholic Church, has in the valley, a small school, rather dilapidated, and operated by a Portuguese woman; there are about forty children in attendance. By the way the wonderful valley is called Mesopotamia!

…I reached Escape at nightfall. The new church, built to replace the one that had been destroyed by a hurricane two years ago, did not yet have a roof. I had to celebrate Mass in the hut where I had spent the night. In no time it was filled with local people as well as a few Portuguese who had not attended Mass for a very long time. Tonight I am at Bellevue where I have found a small church, a presbytery and a school…”

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