The many titles of Our Mother
December 15, 2018
Library for socially displaced*
December 17, 2018

Irish Dominican history in T&T

Attendees take a close look at the archives on display. Photos: Raymond Syms

By Lara Pickford-Gordon,

In the digital age, written letters on paper contained in the Dominican archive “may be among the last set of physical artefacts of this type of human social relation”.

Addressing the launch of Extracts from the Archives of the Irish Dominicans in Trinidad and Tobago 1895–2018 Dr Kwynn Johnson said, “Archives of this nature offer a way of knowing, and these letters remind us of the universality of the human condition”.

There was a good turnout for the December 7 launch at the St Dominic’s Pastoral Centre, Morne Coco, Diego Martin, which spotlighted the history of the Irish Dominicans.

There was a display of some letters and documents included in the 244-page book which features extracts from the 123-year-old archive of the Irish Dominicans.

The archive, located at The House of Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Diego Martin is the repository for administrative documents and correspondence —local, regional, international, conference proceedings, newspaper clippings and some photographs. There are also documents from the Province of Ireland, internal communications and Archdiocesan correspondence.

Dr Johnson said whenever she worked with an archive, she was continually reminded that citizens “must also consider another very pressing concern—digital preservation”.

She highlighted the need to ensure personal history is preserved. “When we die, our email and social media accounts will be lost in cyberspace, or deactivated. All our personal correspondence will be lost or the data on our external hard-drives may not be readable via future software, we are not sure.”

One part of the book focuses on personal letters exchanged between the brothers. Dr Johnson said “these reveal some of the internal aspects and complexities of human relations as they carried out their work in Trinidad and Tobago”.

One of the beautiful things about Archives, Archbishop Robert Rivas OP of Castries, St Lucia said is that they are “a compilation of history, of historical moments in the lives of people and events that take place in our culture, history, in our stories as human beings”. He added, “The story being told in this lovely compilation is the story of the Dominicans of the province of Ireland.”

It was his first public appearance since he fell ill and was hosptialised in Cuba. He shared his memories of joining the Dominican order in 1964 and meeting lifelong friend Fr Matthew Ahye OP, then known as ‘Hugh’.  While in formation, he met Fr Thomas Lawson OP, recalling he told him that maybe one day he would be sent to Trinidad and be a good missionary. “He has been here 35 years,” Archbishop Rivas said.

Fr Lawson, Prior, House of Immaculate Conception, and Cluster Moderator: St Ann’s, St Martin de Porres/ Holy Rosary/St Francis shared anecdotes of his journey as a Dominican from school days and exposure to Dominicans who worked in Trinidad to meeting some “real Trinidadians” — “Brother Robert” who invited him to visit.

Fr Lawson arrived in Trinidad October 15, 1981. He spoke fondly of his time in parishes, telling the audience the real treasure in T&T was in the hearts of the people.

He mentioned a few of the milestones of the Irish Dominicans including the establishment of the seminary 1943 under Archbishop Finbar Ryan OP, the purchase of property at Morne Coco in 1955 to build their priory “to live the Dominican way of life”, and establishment of Holy Cross College in 1957.

Extracts from the Archives of the Irish Dominicans in Trinidad and Tobago 1895-2018 costs $300 and is currently available at the Dominican Book Centre, Morne Coco, Diego Martin.




Archbishop Robert Rivas recalls his memories of joining the Dominican order.

Dr Kwynn Johnson reads from the new book.

Can’t wait to get his hands on Irish Dominican history. The pile of books for sale went quickly.

Fr Thomas Lawson OP signs the new books.