ERIN

Line

Erin, lies on the south coast, not too far away from the village of Palo Seco, about three miles to the east, and Buenos Ayres about two miles to the north-west. It runs about 25 miles from Moruga, which lies to the east, and about 19 miles to Icacos on the west.

The name "Erin" is certainly a Spanish version of what the Amerindians must have called the place, even though the word does not sound particularly Spanish. The original word and the meaning of it has vanished as completely as those first inhabitants.

At least we know that Amerindians, presumably Arawaks, had been settled in Erin long before Columbus came. For around 500 A.D. there was a burial ground in what today is the village centre, just south of the quaint police station on the hill. Evidence of this burial ground was brought to light some time around 1941, when archaeologists John Carter and his wife dig up an Amerindian grave. The mummified remains lie in the National Museum today.

To officials in the Spanish days, Erin was both the little settlement by the seaside, as well as the wide region extending to the north, west, and east of the village. This area was not very different in fact from what was later designated "Erin Ward".

Although the Spanish authorities here knew the village as "Erin", Franciscan missionaries coming into the district around 1758 dedicated a church there to St. Francis of Assisi (or, in Spanish, San Francisco de Assisi). The village therefore came to be called "San Francisco" became "San Francique." Despite the fact that today everyone knows the village as Erin, San Francique is a name that often appears instead, even on modern maps. The villagers have never ceased to call the village by its original name and on the Catholic Church of San Francique there is an inscription to the Patron Saint in the form of a plea: "Protect Erin."

To consider the Spanish days: the Spaniards and later the French settlers cultivated sugar, coffee, cocoa, and cotton here. In a survey carried out in 1797, the area seemed to have been under the cultivation of the Frenchman, Lesade. At that time there were just 79 people in Erin. Five of these were white, no doubt the family of Monsier Lesade. Sixty-one were free blacks and 13 were slaves. Erin was one of the few places in the Trinidad of that time where the free people outnumbered the slaves.

The population of Erin has always remained insignificant despite the attractive terrain and environment. Maybe because, apart from the normal agricultural activity, nothing much seemed to happen here. We hear of Erin in 1846, for that was the year it was created a Roman Catholic parish, but it was not until the latter half of that century that development began taking place in and around the village.

Because of the absence of roads leading north, and especially because of the Oropouche lagoon, which was almost uncrossable until the early years of this century, people had to resort to a most costly mode of travel, using the coastal steamers, and the planters of Erin must have been happy when, in 1913, the Trinidad Government Railway reached as far south as Siparia, about 12 miles to the north-west of Erin. This was a great engineering fate for the authorities, who had to contend with the Oropouche Lagoon.

Erinís agricultural life has always been thriving, although as late as 1871 it was still a tiny settlement. Figures for that year showed that it had no more than 175 people. Yet it received one of the early ward schools, and although it was seriously found wanting in Patrick Keenanís report of 1869, in 1870 the authorities erected a school there, to which they sent as school master, J. H. Herbert.

The next important event took place in the period 1880 to 1881, when the Government lay down a road between Erin and nearby Cap-de-Ville, the present Cap-de-Ville / Erin Road. Although along its 11-3/4 miles course it was just a plain dirt road, it certainly spurred on further development, for crossing the Cedros road as it did, it gave easy access to people of La Brea, and other places in the north. The village of El Pillar (now Buenos Ayres) lay along this dirt road.

The coastal steamers never failed to call at Erin, and this, of course, was primarily to collect Erin's produce. In 1881, the colonial secretary, John Scott Bushe, in inviting tenders for the steamer, listed Erin as one of the key ports of call, informing that annually 2,622 bags of cocoa were to be collected there.

As can be seen, cocoa and coffee had been Erinís main crops since the Spanish days. Erinís coffee was described as one of the finest in the world. Yet the chief activity of Erin today, is fishing and it is an important fishing villages in Trinidad. It commands rich and extensive fishing grounds, and apart from the catches brought ashore by the Erin fishermen, great numbers of fishing folk from neighbouring fishing villages comes from Venezuela, Barbados, and other surrounding territories. These trawlers, while fishing off Erin, trawl away the filet nets and the fish-pots of the Erin fishermen.

Still, for all this, Erin remains on of the most vibrant of fishing communities. Its beach and fish-sheds are always bustling with activity and amidst the hundreds of fisher - folk who mill around its beaches, the boats going out and coming in, the nets strewn all over the sand, housewives buying fish at the sheds, etc. Ė amidst all this bustle, thousands of pounds of carite, red fish, cavali and other varieties of fish are dispatched every day from Erin. The fishing industry touches the lives of almost everyone of the Erin villagers. But it is true to say that the population of the village has not grown in amy remarkable way, even in the span of one hundred years. The population of 175 in 1871 grew to just over 1000 in 1970. The census of 1980 gives a total of 2765 persons for san Francique, which is a rmarkable rise in 10 years.

The village looks thriving and healthy and this setting of hilly and flat terrain and neat roadside dwellings interspread with shops in the village center, and to the west the opening to the beach and blue sea, the setting makes this village one of the most pituresque in Trinidad.

The present Catholic church was built in 1961, replacing the one that dated back to 1876. Facing the church, below at the bottom of the hill and on the other side of the road, is the catholic school, the only school in Erin. The 200 or so children who go to this school are the ones who will inherit this old and cherished village.

Referance Books:
Towns and Villages of Trinidad & Tobago  by Michael Anthony
Atilla's Kaiso: A short history of Trinidad calypso  by Raymond Quevedo
West Indian & their Language  by Peter A Roberts
Calypso & Society in Pre-Independance Trinidad  by Gordon Rohlehr
British Historians and the West Indies  by Eric Williams

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