STORIES OF OUR FAMILIES
To forget one's ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.
GEORGE ROBERT GOMEZ, MB ChB
2 June, 1896 - 7 September, 1931
Early Life and Education
George was the sixth of nine children born to Joseph Gomez and his wife Christina Pereira, at their family home at Guanapo Street in Arima, Trinidad. My grandmother, Elsie Mabel Gomez, was his oldest sister, and he was a thirteen year-old school-boy when she married my grandfather, Charles S. T. Sheppard.
George received his secondary education at St. Mary's College, Port-of-Spain - a school administered by the Spiritians (Holy Ghost Fathers), a Religious Order of the Catholic Church. It is modeled on the English Grammar School System. There his academic brilliance has been recorded in several of the school's various year-books. In the Year Book 1913, Cambridge Local Examinations, George is placed 11th in the whole of the British Empire!
In 1915 he not only won an Island Scholarship (a monetary value of £600) to continue his education at University, but was also awarded the Jerningham Gold Medal for his exceptional Upper Level Examination results, which placed him first in Trinidad. This was recorded on a plaque which still proudly stands in the grounds of the college today, along with other scholarship winners throughout the years.
World War 1 was still taking place, and George chose to postpone going to university. Instead, he enlisted to serve with the Second Merchants' Contingent of Trinidad. At age 20 he left with the Trinidad contingent for England and after six months' training there, he was sent with the Devonshire Regiment to India. Two undated letters sent to St Mary's College by Private George Gomez from India make fascinating reading as they refer to several places where he has been and make comparisons with places that he knows from his school years. They also give the reader some idea about the tedium of army life and George's plans addressing this. These letters are part of a large compilation of letters from former students enlisted in the services. They are in the college's special edition year book, 'War Memorial Number', Dec., 1919 and can be seen here.
After the war came to an end in 1918, George went to Scotland, where he commenced his studies in medicine at the University of Edingburgh, qualifying as a medical doctor and surgeon. About 1920 while on holiday in Oban on the west coast of Scotland with other medical students, he met Jessie Aitken Torrance, also on holiday there with her parents and her sister Margaret ("Peggy"). A romance followed and they became engaged. George graduated MB ChB in 1924 and the couple were married in October that year in Glasgow, Scotland.
Dr. George Gomez and his wife Jessie Torrance
4 October 1924 - Glasgow, Scotland
Dr. Gomez had been offered a post in the Colonial Medical Service in Nevis, (then British West Indies), and consequently they left Scotland for the Caribbean, visiting Trinidad to introduce Jessie to his family before going on to Nevis to take up his new position of Medical Officer at the Alexandra Hospital, Nevis on 21st December, 1924. Dr. Gomez became highly respected and loved in the community. George and his wife Jessie had three children born in Nevis - Euphemia, Joseph and Jessie.
In 1927, George was transferred to the Cunningham Hospital in St. Kitts, and the family moved there and took up residence at "Stonehaven". In St. Kitts another baby was born, Audrey Christine, but sadly she died in 1930 - just months before the death of her father. Father and daughter share the same burial place and headstone in St. Kitts. It was a tragic time for Jessie, who also lost her father in Scotland around that time.
This family portrait may have been taken
following the death of baby Audrey about 1930.
It was probably the last picture of Dr. George Gomez with his family.
The dramatic story of Dr. Gomez dying at a young age while he conducted an appendectomy operation on himself in Nevis has been told and re-told in the family. However, we now know with certainty that this was not entirely factual. The Chief Medical Officer, Dr. E. R. Branch, who was stationed in the Cunningham Hospital, the major medical facility in St Kitts, though not qualified as a surgeon, performed the emergency operation, assisted by Dr. W. B. R. Jones of nearby Nevis. Other doctors and nurses, including his wife Jessie, were in attendance. His operation was successful in so much that he removed the appendix, but this was not enough.
Tom Bannerman, son of Jessie Gomez (seated center with her father in this family photo) who lives in Australia, went on a fact-finding pilgrimage to his roots of Trinidad, St. Kitts and Nevis, in a quest to find out more about his grandfather. What he has found is astounding, and we must thank him for providing all this new information about our esteemed family member.
In October 2014, Tom visited us here in Holland and brought with him a wealth of photos of newspaper clippings that he found in his research, which indicate that Dr. Gomez was a prominent figure who met with an untimely death when he was only 35 years old. In Tom's words:
"The material I found leaves no doubt that the doctor’s death was a huge blow to the island. With his demise, the islands lost their only surgeon. Additionally, it is clear that he was held in considerable esteem by a great many in St Kitts and nearby Nevis. He was considered a generous and excellent physician to all, especially the many poor. His funeral was a very big event indeed for that place. Because of his services as a soldier in the recent Great War, his funeral included some military references. Additionally, masonic elements formed part of the occasion. I didn’t know he was a freemason."
In the video below, Tom is in Holland at our home, and is reading the report of his grandfather's death and burial from a newspaper dated 8th September, 1931.