The Autobiography of Alfred H. Mendes 1897-1991

By Michèle Levy; Alfred H. Mendes | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

MADEIRA PROLOGUE, 1846-1897

"When and why did your family migrate from Madeira to Trinidad?" is a question frequently put to me when living abroad or visiting North America and European countries. For the purposes of this book it is an apt question, for the answer can give the background to much that the reader should know in order to understand in particular the earlier course of my life.

The question involves a long tale, far too long for a book that promises to be large enough within the limited compass of my own life. I am therefore constrained to give a very brief account of the forces which gathered strength and exploded into violence against my ancestors more than a century ago in the small island of Madeira.

The truth is that my ancestors fled because of religious persecution an old, familiar story.

Scottish missionary zeal flamed at its fiercest in the 1840s. Dr Robert Reid Kalley, a medical missionary of the Church of Scotland, was advised by his doctor to leave his native country for a more salubrious climate if he wished to be rid of his pulmonary troubles and so survive. Madeira was recommended and the doctor arrived in that island around the early half of the 1840s, his spirit seething with the reformed faith of the Scottish Covenanters. It was said that he had the face of a martyr, lined with suffering from the convictions raging in his mind, and that his voice was strangely enough thin and squeaky like a eunuch's. His impetuosity, made all the more so by the call of his destiny, as he saw it,

-3-

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