Dr Eric Williams Memorial Library opened

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Erica Williams-Connell, daughter of TT’s first PM Dr Eric Williams, cut the ribbon to open the Dr Eric Williams Memorial Library at Knox Street, Port of Spain on Tuesday.
Also present were Jamaica PM Andrew Holness, UWI principal Prof Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, and Chief Justice Ivor Archie.
From left, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, the Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley , Erica Williams-Connell (daughter of Dr Eric Williams) , Udecott head Noel Garcia at rear), UWI principal Prof Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Chief Justice Ivor Archie and others at the ribbon-cutting to open the Dr Eric Williams Memorial Library on Knox Street, Port of Spain. – SUREASH CHOLAI

The Prime Minister says The Dr Eric Williams Memorial Library is more than just a library, it is “a region being cemented.”

At the official opening of the library, home of the Eric Williams memorial collection research library, archives and museum on Knox St, Port of Spain, on Tuesday, Dr Rowley said education was important to Williams.

The guests at the opening included President Paula-Mae Weekes, Jamaica’s PM Andrew Holness, Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Senate President Christine Kangaloo.

He recalled going with his grandfather in Tobago to a talk by Williams, the country’s first PM.

Williams spoke about the potential for the next generation to do better and have opportunities the people of TT never dreamed of.

Rowley explained, as a child in Tobago, there were no streetlights, there was no school at Buccoo Point, and there were no government primary schools as they were all run by various religious organisations.

Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness tours the Dr Eric Williams Memorial Library on Knox Street in Port of Spain with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at the opening on Tuesday. – SUREASH CHOLAI

“On this day of gratitude, on our jubilee, I can tell you our progress as a people can be most easily identified by comparing those days with the finest primary school in Tobago now in Buccoo. We’ve come a long way.”

He said he attended Mason Hall Government Primary School and was one of four students to pass the common entrance exam to attend Bishops High School, Scarborough, for free.

Now, every child was guaranteed a place in a secondary school.

Rowley said he did not plan to present himself as a candidate in the 2020 general election, but, out of concern for the people of TT, he wanted to steer them through the pandemic. He also wanted to ensure the library project was completed.

“I kept thinking that this is not about me. It is about the people of TT, and Dr Williams had sacrificed for us to understand that and we ought to be a grateful people.”

He thanked the Cabinet members who supported the financing of the project, the Udecott team, and the team of the Alma Jordan Library at UWI for making the library possible.

“This building is a historical legacy of the people of TT for all time. These walls would have heard the voices of Dr Williams and Dom Basil Matthews…

“Here is where the concept of our nation was discussed, crystallised and ideas grasped. So wherever we are, whoever we are, whatever we will become, this was the beginning of that journey.”

Erica Williams-Connell, William’s daughter, thanked Rowley for supporting the efforts of herself and UWI over the past 11 years.

She recalled placing her father’s materials into UWI’s care in 1989.

The Dr Eric Williams Memorial Library on Knox Street in Port of Spain. – SUREASH CHOLAI

The collection included over 7,000 books and journals from his personal library, his published and unpublished works, drafts of his writings, research notes, policy reports, historical documents, newspaper clippings, personal and official correspondence – from love letters to his wife, to a letter from Queen Elizabeth, – and photographs. It also included a 3D replica of his private study.

In 1999, the Eric Williams Memorial Collection was named to UNESCO’s Memory of the World register.

“The artefacts speak to a more complete picture of the man rather than the myth. They have enlivened history and challenged the intellectual capacities of the thousands of students, from the region and abroad, who have visited the museum over the years and who have offered heartfelt testimonials.

“I am convinced that it is only under the full glare of dispassionate research and investigation that Eric Williams’s true legacy would be understood and appreciated – his intellectual and political accomplishments as well as his failures.”

Williams-Connell said, Williams, from June 21, 1955 to June 14, 1956, delivered 137 public lecturers in TT, most at the “university of Woodford Square,” and 17 in other Caribbean countries, the UK and France.

She said the lectures were initially held in the building but, although there were some dissenters because of the number of people in attendance, Williams had to move to Woodford Square, which he renamed the university of Woodford Square.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Erica Williams-Connell, daughter of TT’s first PM Dr Eric Williams, cut the ribbon to open the Dr Eric Williams Memorial Library at Knox Street, Port of Spain on Tuesday.Also present were Jamaica PM Andrew Holness, UWI principal Prof Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, and Chief Justice Ivor Archie.From left, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, the Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley , Erica Williams-Connell (daughter of Dr Eric Williams) , Udecott head Noel Garcia at rear), UWI principal Prof Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Chief Justice Ivor Archie and others at the ribbon-cutting to open the Dr Eric Williams Memorial Library on Knox Street, Port of Spain. – SUREASH CHOLAI

She thanked the Office of the PM, Udecott, De Four Farmer and Associates, Ken Gordon, the contractors and their staff, UWI St Augustine campus principal Prof Rose-Marie Belle Antoine and all the previous principals, past and present UWI librarians, especially the late Dr Alma Jordan, and the staff at the West Indiana and Special Collections Division.

The building housing the library was constructed in 1901 as a public library on the site of the house of TT’s first British Governor, and was opened to the public in 1902.

The relocation of the contents of the research library/ archives/ museum from UWI has not yet been completed.