The Sheppard Residence

No. 30 Richmond Street,

Port of Spain

Written on June 1988
by my father, Andrew Desmond Sheppard

(transcribed from personal family memorabilia)

Sheppard Archive

Charles and Elsie Sheppard (née) Gomez and their family, at their residence

No. 30 Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain - 1928. 

Baby Arthur in his mother's lap passed away when he was four months old,

and Charles Sheppard died three years after this photo was taken.

My father Andrew is the boy seated on the carpet between two of his sisters. 

Our father bought this very large house in Port of Spain, Trinidad, as a home for his very large family of wife and twelve children.  It was purchased from a Spanish family named Santelli. The architecture was Spanish in design and it contained twelve rooms, ten of which were bedrooms, six upstairs and four at ground level.  It was a beautiful home with ample space for all of us and our cousins and friends. 

What we did not know was that our home occupied an area of Trinidad which was truly historic. The story unfolds.

 After our father died, many efforts were made for us to remain at 30 Richmond Street, but ultimately our mother yielded to the demands of commerce. She sold the house and land to an automobile distributor whose nearest competitor was immediately opposite.  Business was encroaching and we removed to a smaller house in a residential area.  Sad to say, our beautiful old home was demolished to make way for a large, ugly automobile garage and showroom.


While digging down to prepare the foundations for the new building the workmen stopped and stared in disbelief.  There were several human skeletons lying in disarray and many were in grotesque and strange positions.  I picked up a human skull and like most others, there was evidence of a blow or a gash.  Some limbs and bones were separated from their skeletons.  Mystery surrounded this ghastly discovery.  Secrecy followed.  Police were at a loss to identify who these people were.  A total of thirteen skeletons were unearthed.  The Government pathologist and other scientists, through chemical and other analyses, determined the ages of the skeletons, who all died at approximately the same time, when pirates roamed the Caribbean seas.  The resultant corpses were thrown outside the clubhouse and floated away with the falling tide.  Until one night, a very large fish entered the narrow channel to partake of drunken corpses when it must have become stuck and could not get back to the open sea. 

The grampus of a fish died and blocked the exit of the deceased pirates from entering Davy Jones’ locker. The stench became unbearable and the surviving pirates deserted the place, which was abandoned.  In the course of time, all skeletons were covered until they were discovered that morning in January 1938.  The skeletons were all male and
were of men ranging from 18 to 30 years of age.  They all died violently.



A Mr. Potter, a Trinidad historian, carefully pieced the components of this mystery together and arrived at the following conclusion.

  Where No. 30 Richmond Street was located was on land reclaimed from the sea in the Gulf of Paria and only 15 miles from Venezuela.  Trinidad was the ideal place for Spanish and English pirates to confront each other also providing safe harbour and hideouts when required.  At the water’s edge (at 30 Richmond Street) certain pirates formed a club and erected a building for their clubhouse.  A place for celebration, debauchery and drunken sprees which generally ended in fights and sudden death.

Question:  Why did the Spanish gentleman, Mr. Santelli, decide to build that beautiful Spanish-style house on that particular piece of land?  (Incidentally, the skeleton of a large fish was uncovered at a spot which could have been the channel entrance).  Could it be that there was buried treasure and that this area was pinpointed on a map which originated in Spain, whence Mr. Santelli came?

 Romantic Trinidad!  Always the lure of pirates.  As children playing under our house, we dug and found the odd bone and other oddments but we heard rumours even then of pirates’ treasure, but never paid serious attention thereto.  Strangely, the human skeletons referred to were found in 12 to 18 inches of earth.

  Several other theories were given, including military skirmishes between English, French and Spanish soldiers, victims of the cholera plague, all of which were strong possibilities excepting for one fact.  The times of death as shown by pathological tests through chemistry pointed to the time in Trinidad’s historic past when Spanish pirates frequented and fought in our waters and buried their stolen treasures on land.  We have never heard if the new owners of 30 Richmond Street found anything else besides bones.

This story was covered in a full page of the Trinidad Guardian newspaper of the day, and was the subject of a local calypso entitled “The Richmond Street Skeletons”.*

*My father referred to 13 skeletons.  As children, he had often told us this story.  After he passed away, we discovered that he had also penned it from his personal memories, without the aid of any historical research. 

This calypso called "Seven Skeletons Found in the Yard" by Lord Executor is most likely the one to which he refers, given the era in which it was written.  See the lyrics below.


 

Hideous discoveries and monstrous crime

Always happen at the Christmas time

Hideous discoveries and monstrous crime

Always happen at the Christmas time

For the old year murders and the tragedy

For the New Year serious calamity

What shocked Trinidad

Those seven skeletons that the workmen found in that yard

 

What marred the Christmas festivity

Was a New Year double catastrophe

When a man and a woman on the ground was found

With bloodstains upon the ground

The husband was arrested but they were too late

For the poison he drunk sent him to the gate

That shocked Trinidad

Those seven skeletons that the workmen found in that yard

 

In Saint James the population went wild

When in the savannah they found a child

The hair was auburn and complexion pink

Which placed the watchman in a mood to think

"How can a mother despise and scorn A little angel that she has born?"

That was more sad

Than the seven skeletons that the workmen found in that yard

 

A lorry was speeding to Port of Spain

When it knocked down the cyclist into the drain

It was going as fast as the lightning flash

When the cyclist received the lash

The mother cried out in sorrows and pain

I am not going to see my boy-child again

That is more sad

Than the seven skeletons that the workmen found in that yard

While the workmen they were digging the ground

The rotten skulls of human beings they found

Feet together and head east and west

Number five was a watchman among the rest

Number six had the hands and the feet on the chest

And number seven a mysterious guest

That shocked Trinidad

Those seven skeletons that the workmen found in that yard.