STORIES OF OUR FAMILIES
To forget one's ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.
Ida Amelia Sheppard
and her husband
Leslie Robert de Sousa
Four years into their marriage, my grandparents Charles and Elsie (Gomez) Sheppard welcomed their fourth child into their home in Edward Street, Port of Spain. They named their daughter Ida Amelia, born on 11 April 1913. She was a baby sister for Jessie who was then 4, Madge 3, and Boysie who was just 14 months old at the time. Over the next fourteen years, these four oldest children would welcome nine more younger siblings into their large Sheppard fold.
As one of the older children, Ida grew up helping to care for her younger sisters and brothers. With his growing family, Charlie Sheppard bought a large house situated at the corner of Richmond and Park Streets, Port of Spain. The Sheppard family was living in this lovely family home at #30 Richmond Street when Charlie died at 45 years old in 1931. Ida had just turned eighteen. Left fatherless, Ida and her other older siblings undertook their responsibilities in helping their mother raise the younger children.
In 1919 at the height of popularity for the Model T, a young Irish immigrant who settled in Trinidad acquired the country's sole Ford dealership. He was Charles McEnearney. He went into partnership with Trinidadian Robert de Sousa, an estate proprietor and entrepreneur. Together they owned and ran Trinidad's first Ford dealership, Charles McEnearney & Co. Ltd. By the time the Sheppard family were living at 38 Richmond Street, their company had established their automobile dealership and showroom right across the street from the Sheppard's residence. This is where Robert de Sousa's son Leslie would meet and fall in love with the beautiful Ida Sheppard. A romance and courtship ensued, and Leslie was warmly welcomed into the Sheppard family. Ida and Leslie were married on 22nd July 1933 at St. Ann's Church of Scotland, Port of Spain. It was the start of a long and happy marriage.
Leslie and Ida presented Elsie Sheppard with her first grandchild, when their daughter Joan Elsie was born in 1934. Their family was complete by 1938 with the addition of two more beautiful daughters - Elizabeth Joyce (Betty) and Helen Jean.
On the front staircase of her Richmond Street home circa 1936
Grandma Elsie Sheppard with her first grandchild, Joan de Sousa
In her short memoirs "My Precious Jewels" written in later life, my grandmother Elsie called Ida her "Emerald". This is what she wrote about her:
“Grandchildren started to appear because my third daughter married a wealthy estate owner. He had a wonderful country home, where he carried on a farm and raised cows, sheep, goats, chickens and ducks. Quickly babies came and their three lovely little girls were brought up among nature - the mountains, the river and the animals.
It was a home that was always a nice place to go to, so my small children often spent their vacations with Emerald. Her husband was always proud to say, “My wife churned the butter, she made the jam, the cake …..”
They were always very happy."
My father Andrew was just ten years old when his sister Ida introduced her boyfriend Leslie to the Sheppard family. He always loved him and looked up to him with the greatest admiration. I recently discovered that he had written about him in his memoirs, in an article entitled "The Portuguese of Trinidad", dated July 1989, transcribed below:
Leslie de Sousa, a perfect gentleman and a totally self-effacing, humble person, commanded great respect for his knowledge of cocoa and coffee as well as tonka beans (which are used for perfuming soaps and talcum powder). Leslie managed La Concordia Estate which occupied a large area of that part of the Northern Range known as Caura. It was all undulating land with a river and streams flowing throughout. It was rather difficult land to manage but through his quiet leadership La Concordia Estate prospered. The labourers were mostly of Carib/Indian origin with a dash of Spanish ancestry interwoven. Hard-working people who were always pleasant and docile. They worked from 5.30 a.m. to 5.30 pm. Leslie was married to Ida Sheppard and they raised three daughters between Caura and Port of Spain, where they attended school.
When Caura was acquired by Government to create a dam the family moved to Diego Martin, another agricultural area near to Port of Spain. The dam idea was aborted and was the object of major scandal and corruption by Government officials.
Leslie's father, Robert de Sousa, who was part owner of the cocoa estate, was also involved in the automobile business. He joined in a partnership with an Irish man, Charles McEnearney, to become distributors of Ford vehicles. They did very well until Robert (Bobby) decided to live in Grenada where he ran Geo. F. Huggins & Co.Ltd. and became a very wealthy land owner. The children were educated and lived in Trinidad with their mother in a large, stately house around the Queen's Park Savannah.
Painting of the de Sousa Family home where Alice de Sousa lived with the children
(Courtesy Joan (de Sousa) Bodu)
Having settled into their new home in Deigo Martin, Leslie and Ida became pioneers in livestock farming, when they started Trinidad's first chicken farm. In 2012, an article about this was featured in "The Westerly".
THE WESTERLY ISSUE 62, 2012 - PAGE 22
FIRST EVER CHICKEN FARM STARTED IN BLUE BASIN
Information submitted by Joan Bodu
(Transcribed from the article)
In the 1940’s Leslie de Sousa moved from a cocoa, coffee and tonca bean estate in Caura to Blue Basin. His father had owned “La Concordia” in Caura where Leslie lived as a child and as a young man, until the land was bulldozed to make way for the Caura Dam (which incidentally never materialized). Leslie then moved to Blue Basin where he set up the first Poultry Breeder Farm in Trinidad.
He built a house on 75 acres of land and set up buildings for laying, hatching and breeding. He and his wife Ida (nee Sheppard) raised a family of three daughters there. A photo of the old house is shown on left.
As young girls, his daughters helped him on the farm every day by turning the eggs in the incubators before they left for school, and also later at night. In the morning, their mother used to drive them to Bishop’s High School in town, and after school in the afternoon they would walk down to the corner of Richmond Street and Arapita Avenue to get a wooden type bus, which would take them as far as the bus stop near the water wheel at River Estate. Their mother would meet them there and take them the rest of the way by car.
Joan, Leslie’s daughter, remembers family and friends coming to visit them on weekends. The children would go to the back of the property which led to a spring and climb up the rocks, as high as they could go. On the other side of the Blue Basin road there was a piece of land which her father had cultivated with pink grapefruit. Behind this was the continuation of the Blue Basin stream. It was here that Joan and her sisters, along with the Salandy children, would catch crayfish. Another family who lived not far away was the Benson family.
Joan remembers these years with fondness and the freedom she enjoyed as a child living in the ‘country’. After many years, her father Leslie sold the property and gave up his chicken breeding. The area nearby is now known as Blue Basin Gardens.
Ida and Leslie de Sousa's daughters
l/r Joan Bodu, Betty Scott, Helen Humphrey
The de Sousa and Sheppard families became more entwined in 1938 when Leslie's younger sister Joyce married Ida's brother Bertie, the brother who came right after her in the family. This close family relationship continued to grow over the years.
The marriages of Leslie's and Ida's daughters in 1955, 1956 and 1957 were occasions for great family celebrations - and more so when grandchildren started arriving. Leslie knew and enjoyed all five of his grandchildren, but passed away on 16th May 1974 at 65 years old.
After Leslie died, Ida and her older sister Jessie who was also a widow, lived together in O'Connor Street. There they ran a preparatory school for several years, and many people who were their little students have the fondest memories of their early school days with "Auntie Ida" and "Auntie Jessie", as they called them..
Sheppard sisters in Trinidad, February 1993
l/r Flo Johnson, Sybil Gibbon, Ida de Sousa, Audrey Clark
I remember Auntie Ida as a fun-loving, beautiful lady, always stylish and erect in her bearing, lady-like and gentle in her manner. She lived to be ninety years old and to this day is very much missed and lovingly remembered by all her family.
Ida and Leslie are laid to rest with Leslie's mother, Alice (Ferreira) de Sousa, at the Mucurapo Cemetery, Port of Spain, Trinidad.