Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Greyfriars church sold


Landmark: Greyfriars Church of Scotland, on Frederick Street, Port of Spain, yesterday. The historical landmark site may soon be torn down. —Photo: AYANNA KINSALE

Mark Fraser

THE Greyfriars Church of Scotland on Frede­rick Street, Port of Spain, has reportedly been sold to a private developer, and there is growing concern the building, which dates back to the 1800s, will be torn down.

There is also anger the National Trust did not move to list the church, which would have given it legal protection against such a fate.

And the family of one of the first reverends to minister at the church wants to know what will become of the graves of their ancestors, and of the church contents, which holds a part of Trinidad’s colonial history.

In the church are the memorial tablets commemorating the work of Rev Kennedy and Rev Brodie, as well as congregatio­ners who fell during the two World Wars. The graves of three children are on the compound, which is located near Woodford Square, the Red House, Public Library building and Trinity Cathedr­al. The church was the subject of a painting by Trinidad and Tobago’s famed artist, Michel-Jean Cazabon, in 1870.

According to the record, the church site at Frederick Street was bought for £300 and the foundation stone in April, 1837, completed at a cost of £4,858 and opened for public worship in January, 1838.

The church was named “Greyfriars” after the mother church in Glasgow, Scotland.

Three years later, a manse was built next to the church for its reverend, Alexander Kennedy, who was succeeded by Rev George Brodie, who died in 1875.

Historian/researcher Angelo Bissessarsingh also expressed alarm over the sale.

Descendant of Rev Brodie Jennifer De Verteuil described the sale the church as tantamount to a death in the family, and that her sister, Susan Parkinson, was also saddened by the development.

The Church has reportedly been sold to a Port of Spain businessman with multiple properties in the city. The businessman could not be contacted for comment last evening.

SIDE BAR - Jennifer De Verteuil, in an email to the Express said:

Our ancestor Rev. George Brodie served as second Minister at Greyfriars’ Church of Scotland from his arrival from Scotland 1840 to his death in 1875. He did move to Arouca to found a second Church of Scotland there but that period was relatively short-lived. His obituary in the Port of Spain Gazette speaks for itself. We have always been closely associated with Greyfriars. My sisters and I were baptised Anglicans but our family was run along democratic lines so we alternated: Greyfriars’ one Sunday /St. Crispin’s Anglican in Woodbrook (my mother’s church) the next Sunday but the Greyfriars Sunday school was considered appropriate so I think we may well have gone there more often.

The cynics will remind us that this is valuable real estate, that the congregation had fallen off over the years and that the building is in poor shape but surely there is some feeling for our country’s heritage here. Woodford Square is the heart and soul of Port of Spain. On the south side there is Trinity Cathedral, on the western side the Red House, on the north, that beautiful but so little considered Public Library building and finally on the eastern side, the Greyfriars’ Church of Scotland. What a shocker it was to learn that this has not been listed as part of the National Trust buildings deserving protection. With some imagination this could be preserved as a monument to the part the Scots community played in our history. Even if doesn’t function as a church it is a wonderful space which could so easily lend itself for concerts and other public gatherings.

This is another terrible day in this land of philistines. It is like a bad dream. What will replace the church hall and the church itself? I pray not another glass-fronted monstrosity, centrally air-conditioned to match so much of what has been allowed to spoil the flavour of Port of Spain. If that were to be the case, it would be the proof that we are continuing our descent into a soulless, heartless, materialistic madhouse. My father and his brother, great grandsons of Reverend Brodie and elders in the church for much of their adult life, must be turning in their graves.