A look at the September 29, 1934 edition of the Catholic News showed the front page comprised mainly of advertisements; the back page was filled with photos of ‘Bonny Baby Film Stars’, a continuation from the previous Saturday’s issue – yes, the paper was dated Saturdays back then. There was no lead story. It was a broadsheet (not the current tabloid size) and it was only eight pages. The annual subscription was $1.
|Past student Christopher Ramdhanie
uses a hammer to break the time
After initially using a glasscutter,
he eventually had to wrap the bottle
in a towel and gently hit it with a
bigger hammer to crack it without
damaging the contents. Looking
on are CIC Past Students’ Union
President John Allum (left),
acting College principal Nigel Joseph,
and Communications Officer
of the Union, Nestor Lambert.
|NALIS library conservator Danielle
Fraser displays the copy of the
Catholic News found in the time
capsule. At right is Afesha
assistant library conservator.
|NALIS library conservator Danielle
Fraser examines one of the
copper coins found in the time
capsule. Looking on are
CIC Past Students Union
members Nestor Lambert
and John Allum.
Photos: Raymond Syms
A copy of that September 29 edition was folded and squeezed into a glass bottle with a copy of the September 30, 1934 edition of the Sunday Guardian and The Port of Spain Gazette, along with three copper coins and a scroll – to form a time capsule. The capsule was sealed in behind the foundation stone for a new wing of St Mary’s College, which was laid on September 30, 1934. That wing is today the Form Four block of the Port of Spain college.
After 79 years, the contents of the capsule, its presence forgotten over time, were carefully extracted last Tuesday by Danielle Fraser, NALIS library conservator. Among those on hand to witness the ‘breaking of the bottle’ by former student Christopher Ramdhanie, were Nigel Joseph, Acting Principal; John Allum, President, CIC Past Students’ Union; and the Union’s Communications Officer, Nestor Lambert.
The handwritten scroll was removed on August 1; the rest of the contents were being removed that day in the presence of the media – it made for a good news story as it presented a glimpse into life nearly eight decades ago.
The scroll was in the language of the time. “On the thirtieth day of the ninth month of the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and thirty-four, the twelfth year of the Pontificate of His Holiness, Pope Pius XI, in the twenty-fifth year of the Episcopate of the Most Reverend John Pius Dowling, OP, DD, Archbishop of Port of Spain, in the twenty-fourth year of the reign of George V, in the two hundredth year of the birth of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost and the seventy-first year of the coming of the said Congregation to Trinidad, in the eighth year of the Generalship of Mgr Le Hunsec of the said Congregation and the eleventh year of the Superiorship of the Very Rev Fr J. J. English, this foundation stone was blessed by His Grace the Most Reverend John Pius Dowling, Archbishop of Port of Spain, and laid by His Excellency, Sir Alfred Claud Hollis, GCMG, CBE, in presence of a vast concourse of the Elite of Trinidad including the undersigned witnesses.”
The signatories were then Governor Sir Claud Hollis; Archbishop John Pius Dowling OP; Mayor Capt Arthur A Cipriani; the President of the College Union, C. de Verteuil; Principal Fr J.J English, CSSp; the Architect Bro Gabriel Mockveldt, OSB; the Builder, Maurice Acanne; representative of Senior Pupils, Wilfred A Dos Santos; and representative of Junior Pupils, Victor Quesnel Jnr.
Interestingly however, the college archives stated that a G.C. Pantin was the President of the CIC Past Students’ Union and not C. de Verteuil.
Louis Ramdhanie explained to the Catholic News that a new time capsule would be laid on December 6 to signal the end of the year-long sesquicentennial anniversary celebration of the arrival of the Holy Ghost Fathers to Trinidad and Tobago and the establishment of the college. While looking for a suitable location for the time capsule, they were advised by a retired priest that a time capsule had already been laid. Searching their school archives, they found its exact location.
Looking at the scroll, Lambert said the Spiritan seal had evidently disintegrated. NALIS’ Fraser said the historical document would first be “stabilised” and tested before it could go on display in the college’s historical exhibition, carded for October 15-25. Of the other items in the capsule, Fraser said they would undergo several sessions of treatment and tests at NALIS’ laboratory.
Apart from the exhibition, Lambert said a documentary film chronicling the history of the Congregation and college should be ready in early October, while a 200-page coffee table book was being printed for December’s closing activities.
The new time capsule, which will likely include today’s dailies and other items, will be laid in a more conspicuous location – the front lawn of the college’s Frederick Street entrance.
– Raymond Syms