Toco, a rural village with an Amerindian name, has shot to national and international prominence as the hometown of T&T’s Olympic gold medallist Keshorn Walcott. Already popular as a seaside escape, the district gained greater prominence when Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said its best known landmark, the Toco Lighthouse, would be renamed the “Kershon Walcott Toco Lighthouse.” Local author and historian Michael Anthony focused on the “pretty village” of Toco in his book Towns and Villages (published in 2001.) In the foreword, Anthony said he wanted to share knowledge of T&T with young students and interested people. An excerpt said: “This work was undertaken out of a curiousity to look into the background of our settlements to see how they first appeared on the Trinidad map, and to find out what led to their establishment. “So many people have asked themselves ‘How is it so many of our villages have Spanish names, as in the case of Sangre Grande, San Fernando and Rio Claro; while others have French names like Carenage and Pointe-a-Pierre. And others have Amerindian names like Mayaro and Arima.’
“In Tobago, it is noticed English-oriented names like Scarborough, Roxborough and Plymouth abound, and not so many of the Spanish or French. “It is ironic since Tobago has been a French possession and Trinidad never was. Neither are there many Carib names in Tobago although the very name of the island is of Carib origin.” An excerpt on Toco said: “Turning from the mist and spray of Point Galera we see the village centre which lies about two miles to the west. It was here that an English force under Sir Henry Colt came ashore in 1631 without the knowledge of the Spanish settlement and tried to found a settlement. They were expelled by the Dutch who landed South of here in 1637, and who formed a close alliance with the Amerindians in the area.” It added: “Not much happened but a little more than a century later Capuchin monks came on the scene. “They founded a mission a little to the west of where the village centre is today. “The mission was for the conversion of the Amerindians, a great number of whom seemed to have lived in this area. The meaning of Toco is not clear. The area of the mission referred to is known as Mission Village. “The position of that mission was a little way inland, on the west of Toco Bay. There was another such mission at Cumana.”
Toco produced an abundance of cotton
Anthony said: “These early French settlers (numbering about 28) could not have found soil suitable for sugar-cane. An inventory of 1797 showed there was just one sugar-mill in the district. There were as many as 59 cotton mills. The labour force numbered 158 slaves and 62 free blacks. Amerindians were listed as totalling 155 at the time. “They turned the village into a depot of produce. But it was extremely difficult to get it out of this inaccessible place. Governor Ralph Wooford started the round-island steamer service in 1818. Toco received great priority. “As a result, Toco prospered not only because of frequent communication with Tobago, through the steamer service.” Toco achieved parish status in 1930. Anthony added: “It was no surprise from the Catholic Church. A new church dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption was rebuilt at Mission Village, just where the Capuchins had set up the first church.” Summing up sentiments, Anthony noted “One remains with the impression Toco is still vibrant and exciting.”
About Michael Anthony
He was born in Mayaro on February 10, 1930 and attended the Mayaro RC School. He often tells, of how the Mayaro landscape, later provided much inspiration for his books. Being born in such a beautiful place he says has always given him thoughts of being a writer in order to describe it. This is a task he feels he is yet to accomplish. Nalis (the National Library of Trinidad and Tobago) was kind to him in 2003 to install, under their auspices, a full collection of his work in the Nalis library at Pierreville, Mayaro, and they even indulged him in 2005 when they purchased some of his later papers, being housed at their headquarters library in Port-of-Spain. (Some of his earlier papers had been acquired by the University of the West Indies at St Augustine in 2003). Anthony has written books of Fiction including The Games Were Coming and The Year in San Fernando Other historical pieces were Glimpses of Trinidad and Tobago, Heroes of the People of Trinidad and Tobago, Port-of-Spain in A World at War and A Better and Brighter Day.
He dedicated Towns and Villages to his grandson Julien Michael Anthony. An excerpt from an article (July 28, 2000) from genealogist Shamshu Deen said: “He was closely associated with the National Cultural Council started by the late Prime Minister, Eric Williams in 1971, and supervised by the noted Dr JD elder. And despite his tremendous success eg, the Arts Council of Great Britain 1967 fellowship, and the contribution given by this simple but giant of a man to T&T, he remains committed to his country with a passion to serve. “He always has time to glance up from his deep research, as he did last week, to assist and advise a young researcher trying to disentangle some intricate dilemma in her UWI thesis.”