The beginning of Indian Indentureship in Trinidad
Leaving St. Helena on April 18th, 1845, the Fath Al Razack sailed for another 42 days. This final leg of the voyage turned out to be the most peaceful portion with no storms or harsh weather as the ship sailed across the warm Atlantic Ocean into the Caribbean Sea. Finally docking at the Old Lighthouse in South Quay, Port of Spain on 30th May, the Fath Al Razack was met with celebration. Out of the 227 passengers who arrived, there were 225 adult passengers (6 died en route) and 2 infants born during the voyage. There were 198 men and one male infant and 29 women and one female infant.
Colonial dignitaries were posted at the docks to welcome these Indentured labourers. Governor Macleod, himself, made a visit onboard the vessel in order to personally glimpse at the Indians and the Port of Spain Gazette announced the arrival of the ship. This response to the arrival of the Indians was due to the desperate need for labour to support the declining sugar industry during the post-slavery period as many estates were struggling. The British West Indian planters had tried several immigration schemes in order to find the most suitable labour force; namely one that was cheap and controllable. Indeed, the first trial of Indian immigrants saw them being sent to Guyana in 1838, but the trial was not regulated or properly supervised, and it failed. The system was restarted in 1845 with Indians going to Guyana and Trinidad.
The first indentured Indians brought to Trinidad on the Fath Al Razack were sent to the La Reconnaissance Estate (Lopinot), the Beau Sejour Estate in Bande De L’Est, Diamond Estate in Diego Martin, Perseverance Estate in Couva, Williamsville Estate in Savana Grande, Les Efforts Estate, Pointe-a-Pierre Estate, Cedar Hill Estate in Naparima and Carolina Estate in Caroni. These were the first of approximately 147,900 Indians who were brought to Trinidad from 1845-1917. The system was constantly evolving and especially in the first 20 years or so the rules were not established. The indentureship contract therefore changed over time. The Indians were assigned to work on sugar, cocoa and coconut plantations. The labour that they provided was vital to the economy of Trinidad and their culture enriched the already multicultural society.
This blog is the final piece in a series of blogs which have traced the journey of the first indentured Indians who travelled to Trinidad on the Fath al Razack. This is part of the National Trust’s commemoration of the 175th anniversary of Indian arrival in Trinidad.
Samaroo, Brinsley. (1995). The First Ship: Fath al Razak. In Samaroo, B (Ed.), In celebration of 150 yrs. of the Indian contribution to Trinidad & Tobago. Historical Publications Limited.