STORIES OF OUR FAMILIES
To forget one's ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.
Charles Sebastian Theodore Sheppard (1885 - 1931)
Charles, who was more often called Charlie by his friends and family, was born on 21st October, 1885 in St. Joseph, Trinidad. He was the second child in a family of five children. His parents were Alfred Sheppard, an Englishman from Sussex, and Virginia de Freitas - daughter of immigrants from Madeira.
Little is known of Grandpa Charlie's early childhood, other than he was the son of a police sergeant with the Colonial Police Force in Trinidad, who was in active duty at a time when there were at least three violent social uprisings in Trinidad. The year before Charles was born, The Hosay Massacre (also known as the Hosay riots or the Jahaji massacre) took place on 30 October 1884 in San Fernando, Trinidad when the British colonial authorities fired on participants in the annual Hosay procession.
Charles' first years were spent in St. Joseph, where his father was working as a policeman and where his sister Amalia was also born. The family moved to Princes Town where Sergeant Alfred Sheppard had been posted after the riots, and where his two younger siblings were born. Charlie experienced the sad loss of both of his baby brothers when he was a 9 year old boy. Both little brothers were buried side by side in the Presbyterian section of the Paradise Cemetery, San Fernando.
Next, we know for sure that Grandpa Charlie was living in Port of Spain as a 20 year old. By then he had already caught sight of the strikingly beautiful, blue-eyed brunette Elsie Gomez, a young lady whose grandparents were Portuguese. A courtship had started and Elsie's description of their rendezvous and first kiss at Carnival time recalls all the excitement and romance of the moment. Grandma Elsie wrote in her memoirs:
"The wall was high, so a contrivance was made by placing a barrel and a box raised to the height of the barrel that my family and friends could stand on so that the masqueraders could be seen from over the wall. I was just sixteen years old and no one could stop me from being first to be standing there because I knew that my dear boyfriend would also be coming.
I lived with my grandmother so naturally had my chores to do even though it was the Carnival Day, so early I got up and finished everything in time. Much too early for the crowds but not too soon for him to come. He and I sat on the board and talked so shyly to each other, then we would jump up to see some foolish disguised person or band of revelers go by.
After a while I was tired and the heat of the sun was fiercely burning on the wall, so I decided to jump off the wall, stand and found myself right in the arms of my darling who immediately kissed me for the first time.
I was so astonished and too excited for words so what do you think? I just flew into the house and rushed like mad to the piano and played as I never did before. He sat on a chair next to me and accompanied me with chords. My grandmother and sister came out of their rooms and made signs to each other. From then I knew that no obstacle could ever separate my darling from me.
Two young lovers with a long journey to go.
My story goes on to say that the happy boy and girl always loved each other until a marriage took place among a very happy home and family and continued happiness reigned with the young people enjoying the many good wishes of so many friends and relatives."
At the time of their marriage in 1909, Charlie was employed as a clerk at the department store Wilsons Limited in Port of Spain, Trinidad. In 1930 Wilsons was taken over by Salvatori, Scott & Co. Ltd. Charles became a partner and Accountant in that firm where he worked for the rest of his life.
Elsie wrote in her memoirs that her husband's business was going well, and as their family increased, he was able to purchase a beautiful, large home at #30 Richmond Street, Port of Spain. Charlie played the mandolin and piano, and there was always a piano in their home. Elsie's memoirs describe a happy home and holidays spent by the seaside where "the children enjoyed to their fullest all the bathing, fishing, etc. Their father always saw that other children joined his in their happiness."
"The home in which my children grew up was very beautiful and surrounded by a setting of golden Buttercups, Bougainvillea bursting out its glorious branches of purple and red and even rusty shades, Poinsettias, and the gracious plumes of the Queen of Flowers.
Music pervaded the air, father and children being the musicians."
According to oral history, Charles and Elsie traveled to England on holiday regularly. Sadly, on the last trip they made, they were to get the heartbreaking news that their baby son Arthur had died on 1st September, 1928. He was just four months old. According to my cousin, George Gonsalves:
"Grandpa used to take Grandma to England every other year as soon as the latest baby was weaned. That year, Jessie, who was in her 19th year, was included in the travel plans. My mother (Madge) was left in charge and was assisted by Bertha.
Diphtheria was rampant in Port of Spain at the time. One had to be careful and to avoid families where it was present. Mum said the disease would take out whole lots of siblings. It was not unusual to see the names of four or five children on the gravestones in the cemetery, the result of an infestation of diphtheria.
Not long after the travellers left, Arthur began exhibiting signs of an illness. The doctor was called and after awhile it was determined that he had diphtheria. It is not certain where he got it from, but they used to go out for walks with the baby in the pram."
Sadly, our dear Grandpa Charlie's health deteriorated in the years that followed. He passed away three years after the death of baby Arthur, when he was just 45 years old. Their union lasted 23 years, during which they had produced a family of thirteen children. Elsie never remarried, but continued bravely to successfully raise their large family. She lived to be 80 years old, and enjoyed a full life, surrounded by her children and grandchildren.
Charles Sheppard at 44 years old
This is the last known image of our grandfather.
Above: Wilsons Limited in Port of Spain, Trinidad where
Grandpa Charlie Sheppard was working at the time of his marriage in 1909.
Wilsons changed hands and became Salvatori, Scott & Co. Ltd.. By 1917 the business became The Trinidad Stores.
He was a Director and Accountant with that firm
up to the time of his death in 1931.
My Grandparents - Charles Sheppard and Elsie Gomez
pictured at the Manse of St. Ann's Church of Scotland, Port of Spain
The marriage of Charles Sebastian Theodore Sheppard and Elsie Mabel Gomez took place on 20th January, 1909 at the Presbyterian Church, St. Ann's Church of Scotland, St. Ann's Road, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. We examined the marriage record and took the above photo of the register in the Trinidad archives, but were scolded that it was forbidden! Too late! From the register we find that at the time of his marriage at age 23, Charles was still living at his parents' home at 117 Edward Street, Port of Spain. Elsie was 20 years old, and her address was 4, Zampty Lane, Erthic Road, Belmont. The Minister who conducted their marriage ceremony was Mr. P. Simpson, and their witnesses who signed the Marriage Register were Joseph Cabral and Elsie's sister, Audrey Gomez.
Elsie Mabel was born on 26 May, 1888, in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Her parents, Joseph Gomez and Christina Pereira, were both of Portuguese descent. Elsie was the eldest of their nine children. Both of her parents were present at her wedding; however, her father Joseph passed away just two years later, on 31 Dec 1910 - at age 47. Charles' oldest brother Alfred who had also attended their wedding, died in the January of 1910, succumbing to bronchitis, when he was just 25. Two very sad losses for the family in the same year.
Elsie's mother, Christina, lived to be 83, and was able to enjoy many of her grandchildren born to Charles and Elsie. Charlie's father Alfred died just 8 years after the wedding, but his mother Virginia lived till 1936 and knew all of her grandchildren.
The wedding reception was held at the home of Mr. Albert Mendes, at the corner of Shine Street & Park Street on Victoria Square, Port-of- Spain. Albert's wife was Mary Pereira, Elsie's aunt, and Albert was also Elsie's godfather. It appears that Charlie and Elsie were close to Albert and Mary, as in later years, Albert appointed Charlie to be one of the Administrators of his Estate, in which he bequeathed $500.00 to Elsie. Albert was the brother of Alfred Mendes Snr., great-grandfather of the British Academy award winner, Sam Mendes.
News of the marriage appeared in the newspaper's social column, giving a lovely description of the occasion. The couple spent their honeymoon at the Santa Carlotta Estate - a cocoa plantation near the coast which was owned by Alfred Mendes Snr. Alfred was an Elder of St. Ann's Free Church and a good friend of the family.
Elsie Mabel recorded details of her Wedding Day in her Bible, now passed down to her daughter Sybil. She wrote:-
Bestman: Joseph Cabral
Chief Bridesmaid: Audrey Gomez; Edith Gomez; Alice Mendes
Flower girls: Laurie, Phyllis and Birdie Peake, Thelma Fereira, Ivy Gomez and Ida Mendes
Memories: A very happy wedding held at the home of my Godfather, Mr. Albert Mendes, Victoria Square. Many young people and children attended.
In this wonderful wedding photo, we see the bride and groom Charles and Elsie with their family and friends, standing in front of Albert and Mary Mendes' residence, where the reception was held.
The boy standing front left is Willie Gomez, the bride's brother. I understand that the little flower-girls next to him are all of the Peake family, not relatives, but children of Mr. Peake, the gentleman in the white tunic, a policeman who came from England along with Alfred, and remained good friends
Charles' mother Virginia is standing next to her son, and behind her to the left is his father Alfred. The flower girl standing next to the bride on the right side is Ivy Gomez, the bride's sister. Immediately behind her, his face partly hidden, is Sebastien de Freitas, the groom's grandfather. The gentleman standing between the bride and groom in the next row is Elsie's father, Joseph Gomez, and her mother Christina can be seen just to the right of Elsie.
By 1924, Charles and Elsie had 10 children, pictured below.
Charles and Elsie Sheppard with their family in 1928
All of the children got married and had families of their own.
Click here for their wedding photos.