Random Thoughts
September 30, 2022
Things I don’t know

Google is a wonderful tool for information-gathering, especially on health matters, current affairs, historical data and so on. Quite often, Dr Google gives me everything that I want to know. I have been spoilt.

Just yesterday, I realized that Google still doesn’t know everything and that I will need to consult with Vincentian subject matter experts to get information on things relating to St Vincent and the Grenadines, and by extension, to me.

The Demise of the Garinagu language in St Vincent and the Grenadines

The language of the Garinagu is alive and still used, 225 years after these surviving Vincentians were exiled to Central America. It is estimated that more than 200,000 persons still speak the language in Honduras, Belize and Guatemala. What I don’t know is whether here in St Vincent, the language abruptly died in 1797 or whether there was a concerted effort by the colonial masters to ensure that it did not linger too long into the 19th century. Do you know? Further, do you think that your family name and lineage, your historic language and culture, are as important to you as your passport?

Anglicization of the names of the East Indian arrivals in 1861

I am aware that many of the Indian indentured servants had changed their surnames when they arrived in Trinidad and Guyana, so as to declare a higher level of “pedigree” within the caste system that they had left behind. However, their surnames remained very much Indian. It was also applicable to those who went to Grenada, St Lucia and Jamaica. But not so in the case of St Vincent. How come there are no Patels, Reddys, Ramsinghs nor Sankars? Of course, we also know that the only Owusu, Nkrumah, Addo and Mensah are ex-medical students who may still be resident here.

The role of the Churches vis-à-vis the Colonial Government in educating our children – What was the deal?

I am old enough to remember when, in Kingstown, the only primary school established by the government was the Richmond Hill Government School. The free-tuition primary schools at the time, were founded by the Methodist, Anglican or Roman Catholic churches. The fee-paying schools were Kingstown Preparatory and Petersville Primary. Later, the government added Lodge Village and Stoney Ground in the 1960s.

Dotted across the country were primary schools started by the churches – Methodist more so than any other. Dr JP Eustace did heroic work in instituting three secondary schools. The Anglicans also established three secondary schools – Bishops College Kingstown, Bishops College Georgetown and Bequia Anglican High. The Catholics gave us two convent schools along with St Martin’s Secondary. The Seventh Day Adventists educated us through the Mountain View Academy.

The colonial government built the Boys Grammar School in 1908 and the Girls High School followed in 1911. Back then, if you didn’t make it into one of these two schools, you had to continue your education for a year or two in a primary school and then thereafter, out you go to face a ‘brave new world’. The Junior Secondary Schools came (with the help of the Canadian government) in the post – statehood period – i.e. circa 1969. Secondary education then began to take a different and far more beneficial turn.

I want to know what was the thinking of the colonial government in the 19th and most of the 20th century, regarding the education of our youth. Didn’t they think that young black, East Indian, Callinago, Portuguese or poor-white children deserved a formal education? What was the arrangement between the government and the traditional churches?

As a footnote, the appointment of the first native-Vincentians to head the Girls’ High School and the Boys’ Grammar School didn’t take place until more than seven decades after they were established – in the persons of Sister Philomena Anderson and Mr Stanley Campbell. Or am I wrong?

My grandmother’s birthdate

I want to know when my grandmother was born. I also want to get information about her parents. I am told if I go to the Registry of Births and Deaths, I may be viewed contemptuously as if I am trying to finagle some fraudulent passport scheme.

To get information on my long-deceased grandmother, I need to provide specific information about her mother, who didn’t even make it to see the 20th century! While we have the option of using Ancestry.com and 23 and me to know more about our family lineage, how do we go about making the most of the local Registry?

There are so many things that I don’t know and I need your help. I hope you don’t mind if I return soon and ask for your further assistance. In the meantime, please comment on any of the topics above, on The Searchlight’s Facebook page.