Michael Anthony: A Giant Among Us
by Shamshu Deen

Michael Anthony Although his father Nathaniel Anthony, died when he was only ten years old, Michael knew his origins were with the Company Villages of Moruga. On his mother's side something fascinating was revealed by his grandmother. She remembered that on her very first to Trinidad, Captain Baker was shooting at the Indians, i.e. the Hosay Riots of 1884. Historian/Author Michael Anthony, a frequent researcher at the National Archives, was telling me of his intriguing life and ancestry.
That particular grandmother made several visits to Trinidad from her native islands of Carriacou, where she was  married to William Jones Lazarus Their daughter, Eva Jones Lazarus, was born in 1897 and migrated in 1922 to Trinidad, where she married Nathaniel Anthony. The couple had first met at Morne Diablo and they lived at Duncan Village, where he dug drains for the estates of Gordon Grant.

They then moved to Mayaro where in 1930 Michael Anthony was born. He attended Mayaro RC School and in 1941-42 spent a year at school and in San Fernando which would inspire his second novel. By 1944, young Michael won a bursary to attended the San Fernando Technical School, which had been started two years earlier by Rev Streetly, the Archdeacon of St Paul's Church in San Fernando. The Reverand, which located the school near to Queen's Wharf at the start of High Street, had seen the need for technicians in the thrust to industrial to industrial development. Rev Streetly had an arrangement with Trinidad Leaseholds Limited to take the boys as apprentices on graduation. And so he presented them a curriculum of mechanical engineering, woodwork, metal work, algebra, geometry and also English Language.

Young Michael entered Pointe-a-Pierre in 1944 working the first year at the trade shop. There with the other apprentices, he was exposed to different trade, electrical welding ect and the instructors taught them, observed them and then reported on their progress. By the end of the year, each boy was selected to proceed in areas according to aptitude. Michael suggested, with a hearty laugh, that he was selected for the foundry, as "The only boy did not have the aptitude for the other callings."

he admits that he did not like working at the foundry with its extreme heat, its iron mouldings casting and its dirty sand. But he stuck it out for five years. After he sought escape he wanted to be a journalist but knew not where to begin. However his early forays into writing were encouraging.

His poems were published in the Trinidad guardian from 1953. He tried to get a job with them, but they told him to go abroad and gat the relevant qualifications.

By the end of 1953, Michael's very good friend and fellow apprentice, Canuth Thomas a gifted athlete at Southern games, left on a scholarship for England. From there he wrote inviting him to come up to England. Michael was at first hesitant, but a rift with his poetess-girlfriend hastened his departure.

When he told TLL of his plans to go away, he was pleasantly surprised how quickly they fixed up his salary and gratuity. On his way to the Port-of-Spain docks, he decided to visit his estranged girlfriend who told him all was forgiven and although she would not leave with him, she would await his return.

On December 13, 1954, aboard the Dutch liner, Hilderbrandt, Michael left with about 200 other passengers from the docks at Port of Spain. They stopped at Barbados, Madeira, Lisbon and finally reached Liverpool by Boxing day. Though Canuth was not there to meet him, he sent a telegram directing Michael to come up by train to Euston station, London. And there he was waiting with coat in hand to help Michael 'brace' himself for the English winter.

Canuth not only got Michael settled, but bought him his first typewriter, a Remington, which the author still has in his possession today, due to its tremendous sentimental value. Michael immediately set about doing two important things. The first was to get a job (which he got eight pounds sterling per week). The second was to start studies on a Diploma in Journalism.

Meanwhile his affection for the poetess continued. In 1956 he wrote telling her to come up to England, too, but she sent up a special present with a Trinidad girl on her way to study nursing in London. Michael held this lady's hand and knew that she Yvette Phillip was going to be someone special in his life. Love blossomed. Meanwhile the poetess wrote a year or so later starting she herself was coming to London to help him as he was ill. He then had to write back to tell her "Hold your hand" and explained to her the new situation.

In 1959 Michael and Yvette were married. they have had four children, Keith, today a lawyer in the UK, currently on assignment in Japan: Jennifer, a musician and music teacher in New York: Carlos who has studied International Relations and Law, and Sandra a third-year medical student at Long island University, New York.

By 1963, Michael's career was well and truly started with his first publication The games Were Coming, set in the scenario of the very popular ( and recently renewed) Southern Games- with the chief character, a cyclist who so eagerly anticipated these games. His second was The Year In San Fernando and so followed a career which has produced 22 books and two more scheduled this year. His favorite is All That Glitters.

Michael Anthony's success lay in not only in his obvious intelligence and hard work- he is at the National Archives on  a regular basis scrutinizing period newspapers, colonial dispatches, Royal Gazettes ect, trying to find solutions before putting pen to paper- but also is his tremendous experience over the years. He has worked in UK, Brazil ad then for several years, 1970 to 1988, in T & T. 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 e.g., the Arts Council of Great Britain 1967 fellowship, and T&T's Humming Bird Gold Medal 1979, 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.

By the way any new poems, Mr. Anthony?

The End

The Games Were Coming, London, Deutsch, 1963.
The Year in San Fernando, London, Deutsch, 1965.
Green Days by the River, London, Deutsch, 1967.
Streets of Conflict, London, 1976.
All that glitters, Deutsch, 1982
Bright road to El Dorado, Thomas Nelson, 1983

Short Stories:
Sandra Street and other stories, London, Heinemann Secondary Readers, 1973.
Cricket in the Road, London, Deutsch, 1973.
He has contributed to many anthologies and journals including: Caribbean Prose; Island Voices-Stories from the Caribbean; Response; The Sun's Eyes; West Indian Narrative; BIM; The Bajan.

Glimpses of Trinidad and Tobago: with a glance at the West Indies, Port of Spain, Columbus Publishers, 1974.
Profile Trinidad: A Historical survey from the Discovery to 1900, Macmillan(London), 1974
(Editor with Andrew Carr) David Frost Introduces trinidad and Tobago, Deutsch, 1975
The Making of Port of Spain, 1757-1939, Key Caribbean, 1978.
Port of Spain: In a World at War National Cultural Council, 1984.
First in Trinidad, Circle press (Port of Spain), 1985
Heroes of the People Of Trinidad and Tobago, Circle press (Port of Spain), 1986
The History of Aviation in Trinidad and Tobago,1913-1962 Paria, 1987.
Towns and Villages of Trinidad and Tobago, Circle press (Port of Spain), 1987
A Better and Brighter Day, Circle press (Port of Spain), 1988.
Parade of the Carnivals of Trinidad, 1839-1989, Circle press (Port of Spain), 1989.
The Golden Quest: The Four Voyages of Christopher Columbus, Macmillan Caribbean (London), 1992.

Folk Tales and Fantasies, Port of Spain, Columbus Publishers, 1976.

bluemotif.gif - 1684 Bytes

Historical Dictionary | Towns and Villages | Trinicenter.com | trinbagopan.com