STORIES OF OUR FAMILIES
To forget one's ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.
Ivy May Gomez
Although I never knew my grandmother’s sister, Ivy May Gomez, I had often heard loving recollections about her from my father. Aunt Ivy seemed to have been a very special person who was not only extraordinarily kind and thoughtful, but also very talented. She was born to Joseph and Christina Pereira in 1897, the sixth child in the family of nine. Ivy was born in Queen's Street, in the town of Arima, Trinidad. At the time, her father Joseph worked at Millers Stores Ltd. as a clerk, according to her birth certificate. Later, the family moved to Sangre Grande.
Sadly, Ivy lost her father when she had just turned 13 years old. According to the records, Joseph Gomez died of Cerebral Apoplexy (Stroke) at his home in Sangre Grande on the 31st December, 1910. He was only 47 years old, leaving Christina a widow at the young age of 44. I can only imagine the terrible shock and loss his children and wife suffered. The funeral left from the residence of Alfred Mendes, where just a year earlier the whole family had been celebrating the marriage of Ivy's sister Elsie Mabel to Charles Sheppard.
Twelve years later, tragedy and sadness once again struck the Gomez family.
On 6th October 1922, Ivy's older sister, Audrey died in Grenada at the young age of 33, during childbirth with her son George. Left alone with a four-and-a-half year old boy and an infant son to raise, her husband Louis Franco sent George's older brother Wilfred to his aunt Ivy in Trinidad. By then, Ivy lived in Port of Spain with her widowed mother Christina Gomez, and together they provided a loving home and motherly care for Wilfred. George was sent to his father's maiden sister, Louise Franco, in Grenada who also lovingly raised the young boy at the home where she lived with her parents, John and Clementine Franco. His grandfather John Franco was a successful wine merchant and lived above his shop on Halifax Street in St. Georges, where he owned several other properties.
From the records we know that Ivy accompanied her sister-in-law, Jessie Gomez, (George's wife) on a trip to Scotland after the birth of their second child, also named Joseph. Her travel dates were 29th July 1927 - 11th November 1927 and on her return voyage, her occupation was listed as Cashier. "Perhaps she was once again helping to look after the children," suggests Jessie Tamas Hendry, Ivy's great-niece. Ivy and Jessie's grandmother stayed in touch through letters. Jessie said that she knows from one of Ivy's letters to her Grandma that she was interested in our family history. In one letter of February 1973 Ivy wrote:
"I hope one day to try to find out Grandma Pereira's maiden name if the books have not been damaged in the riot of 1908. Not all of them were. But the Red House is another dangerous spot and the administration is awful. The greatest carelessness exists and documents are being sold on or left lying about in a neglected way."
(Photo courtesy Brian Franco)
Wilfred (about 11), Ivy, their pet Jinks and Grandma Christina Gomez née Pereira
taken in their garden around 1928/1929.
The chimney in the background was located on the Port of Spain wharf.
Ivy would have been about 32 and her mother about 63.
(Photo courtesy Brian Franco)
The home Ivy shared with her mother and nephew Wilfred
at 64 A Wrightson Road, Woodbrook, Port of Spain, Trinidad.
(Photo courtesy Jenny McNamara Franco)
During her lifetime, Ivy wrote well over a hundred poems, several of which she had published in a book in 1972.
In a letter to her sister-in-law Jessie Gomez dated 5th July, 1973, she wrote about what must have truly been one of the highlights of her life:
"Two days ago a soirée was arranged for me to have my poems read by tape-recording at St. Ann’s Church Hall. Mr. Cameron, so good, had set them to soft background music of an orchestra of 101 strings. That is a wonderful record. People of both St. Ann’s and Greyfriars churches were invited and poor little Ivy feeling like if it was her wedding day set off with an elegant hairdo. I wanted to sit sideways but Mr. Cameron said he would like me to take a bow before they start, as some may not know me, and another bow at the end. But Miss Rawle, the lady in charge, would not let me move from the front but sit facing the audience near a little table. The function was well attended and got off to a start with Mr. Cameron playing all suitable poems to suit the audience. Many of the Geddes Grant family attended. Sir Lindsay Grant, K.I., O.B.E. T.C. and Lady Grant. His sister, Mrs. Forbes and sister-in-law Mrs. Willard Grant. I said a few words while taking a bow.
'Thanks so much for coming. I may say like the erstwhile abdicated King Edward of England that at long last I am giving you some poems. My heart the violin - and my lips the bow.”
Well, they were all thrilled with the poems and Sir Lindsay was very, very impressed and gave a long note of thanks. When it was over, all the ladies and Maurice Brash and Boysie deluged me with kisses. I could not wash my face that night."
Ivy gave an autographed copy of her book of poems "Roses in the Rain" to her nephew George Franco who lived in Grenada. The book was passed down to George's daughter Jenny, who has kindly shared its precious pages.
Particularly touching is her poem "Farewell to the Sangre Grande Train". The Trinidad Government Railway existed between 1876 and 28 December 1968 and was originally built to connect Port of Spain with Arima. After the railways shut down permanently in 1968, Ivy wrote this poignant poem which was was published in the Trinidad Guardian on 1st January, 1969. The poem recalls her sadness when, as an eight year old, she had to wave goodbye to her mother from the platform when she returned to their home in Sangre Grande, leaving her behind in Port of Spain for schooling.
“Mother goodby”, my heart did cry,
For I could only stand and sigh
While whistle’s hoot did bear her home
And I wished soon again, she’d come
You see, for then I was aged eight
Not grown to womanhood’s estate
To go to school in town I must
Though for this cause my heart was crushed.”
This, and several other poems describe her surroundings, experiences and feelings, growing up in Trinidad in a gentler era, now bygone. She recalls tender memories of her father and childhood home. Her writings and observations are, in fact, a wonderful time capsule as seen through her eyes.
Click on the cover below to open the book and step back in time into Ivy's world through her poetic expressions.
"Roses in the Rain"
A collection of Poems by Ivy Gomez
Ivy stayed abreast of current affairs and was inspired to write poems on memorable occasions. On 9 -11 February 1966, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh visited Trinidad & Tobago. Ivy wrote a poem of welcome for them, and the following article appeared in the Trinidad Mirror newspaper on 13 March, 1966.
This article about her "Poem to an Emperor" was published the following month in "Evening Hours" dated 15th April, 1966.
Ivy May Gomez
"Taken in the early 1970's. Aunt Ivy came to Grenada to attend the wedding of Jennifer Hosten, who was Miss World 1970. The picture was taken in the backyard of the Great House in L'anse Aux Epines. She was all dolled up for the wedding.
Jennifer had previously paid a visit to Trinidad and Aunt Ivy managed to get through the crowd and presented her with a poem I think it was, so she was then invited to the wedding." - Jenny McNamara Franco
Many Thanks to Jessie Tamas Hendry, Brian Franco, Jenny McNamara Franco and other family members for their valued contributions to this story.
~ Valerie Sheppard
30 September, 2020
Ivy's brother Vincent Gomez, taken at the Pereira Studio in Tuscon, Arizona
In her later years, Ivy shared a home with her brother Vincent Gomez at 132 Wrightson Road, Port of Spain. There the siblings ran a photo studio named The Rite Studio. Vin had previously spent some time with his two uncles John and Joseph Pereira who had immigrated to America and had a photography business - Pereira Studios, in Tuscon Arizona. We assume that Vin developed his love for photography and received training in the business while he was there.
Several family members recall childhood memories of having their photos taken by Uncle Vin at the Rite Studio. Said Jenny McNamara: "Uncle Vin had a tripod with a cloth. He would go under the cloth then come out and jump up and down to make us smile."
Unfortunately, both Ivy and Vin became deaf in their latter years. Ivy remained single all her life. She passed away in 1976, leaving behind no children. She lived a life of caring for others, and we are grateful for the memories left behind in her very own words of poetry. Her story needed to be told.
I wish I'd known Aunt Ivy.