Dr. Fraser- Point of View
November 15, 2013

The transfer of Glebe lands – the background (An insider’s story)

Following a request for information about the Glebe lands in Barrouallie, I had been desperately trying to find files and notes that I knew I had. I have only recently stumbled across that information. I am not sure that many people know or remember that I had worked at the “Glebe” in Barrouallie for three years on a project designed to turn over the lands to the people and to assist in the establishment of an integrated development project. What follows is the background story.{{more}}

In 1891, there were 97 persons at the Glebe: 42 males and 55 females. In 1897, when members of the Royal Commission of that year visited St Vincent, Closs Harry and 20 others from the “Glebe” made a presentation to them. This is part of what they had to say: “…Then allow us the undersigned, to say that we are tenants on the glebe lands of this parish to the Rev. S.F Branch, who is oppressing us very much, making us pay him interest on back rents. You will know, sirs, that one man, Closs Harry by name, has lived on the above -named (glebe land) for thirty-four years, and has paid six hundred and fifty-five dollars. Another Rodney Ogarrah by name has also lived on the same (glebe land) for twenty six years, and has paid three hundred dollars; and another Isaac Cato, by name, has lived seven years on the same (glebe lands) and has paid thirty five dollars…” He mentioned the names of others and indicated to the Commissioners that it was their view that the rent was exorbitant.

I have mentioned the above to make the point that the fore-parents of the present tenants had been living on the ‘glebe land’ for over 100 years. The Anglican Church, in 1972, made a decision to turn the lands over to the people, granting them freehold tenure. The original idea, according to a 1976 report, was that the Government should use the land for housing development for the villagers, but because the response from the Government of that day had not been very positive, the Christian Council decided to turn to CADEC, the Development Arm of the Caribbean Conference of Churches.

They felt then that CADEC could use its “influence on Foreign Agencies to assist us financially in our first ‘big venture’.”

A 1972 report on the “Glebe” lands, prepared by an officer of CADEC following a visit on the 29th and 30th of September of that year, stated: “the area called the ‘Glebe’, owned by the Anglicans, comprises 117 lots, 113 of which are residential, some of the residential lots have more than one house, but the number of squatters is not known. Father House collects an annual rent about $8 per year, varying somewhat with the size of the lot. There are almost no delinquencies on the rent payments.” The Father House mentioned was an Anglican priest, from Australia, I believe, who was stationed in Barrouallie. The information provided by Father House indicated that there were virtually no delinquents. This is certainly important information. In September 1976, a local committee to develop the “Glebe” area was established. As a native of Barrouallie I was invited to join the committee.

After negotiations with CADEC on the precise nature of the project, an understanding was arrived at, where the project was to involve the transfer of the land freehold to tenants of the “Glebe” at a minimum price not exceeding $60 per lot and assistance to be given with housing and the transformation of the economic structure and social infrastructure. Assistance was to be provided, too, for income generating projects, provision of social amenities and a phased approach to housing, with the tenants given 20 years to repay the cost of material supplied for the building of their homes. The people of the “Glebe” were to be involved in the planning and implementation stages and a ‘significant element’ of local input through self-help was to be built into the project.

Regarding the transfer of the lands, it was stated in 1976 that there were certain procedural matters delaying the implementation of the land transfer. At a meeting of representatives of CADEC and the local committee a representative of the Council, speaking on behalf of the Church and Government “assured the meeting that these procedural matters would present no great local problem…” The meeting was assured that the Bishop of the Windward Islands had already given his word and it was duly recorded in the minutes of the Christian Council.

By 1978, it was agreed that the project was to cater to 120 householders. Financing was to be secured from the British Development Division; the Government of St Vincent, whose contribution would be through the use of equipment and service of technical people; CADEC; the Christian Council was to contribute the value of the land; and householders to provide sweat equity valued at $287,500. With broad agreement arrived at, the project was ready for implementation. I was offered the job as coordinator and resigned my post of graduate master of the Grammar School from August 31, 1978 and took up the position on September 1.

It beats me that after so many years of waiting by residents of the “Glebe” the Christian Council had decided to sell the lands to Government rather than donate it freely to those who had for long been residing on it. The Government, should then have been asked to waive any legal fees involved. The fact that the deed validating the transfer of lands to the Christian Council was done only in 1983 means that there were more than procedural matters involved. I will touch on this in my next column. (To be continued)

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.