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St. James

Bounded by Woodbrook and the Maraval River on the East and the community of Cocorite on the West, St. James has been a commmunity with a large percentage of its population with roots in India. It is believed that, beginning in 1845, indentured laborers from India who were contracted to work on the plantations in St. James set up residence in areas close to their work, upon completion of their terms of indenture. The East Indians of St. James brought many of their customs with them, including the Hindu celebration of Divali and the Muslim observance of Hosay. In 2000, more than 150 years after the migration of muslims from India, St. James continued to be the centre of Hosay observances in Trinidad. The East Indian influence in St. James is also reflected in the streets, several of which bear the names of places in India: Agra; Baroda; Benares; Bengal; Bombay (Mumbai); Calcutta (Kolkata); Cawnpore; Delhi; Hyderabad; Lucknow; Madras; Nepaul; Nizam; and Patna. St. James was incorporated into the city of Port-of-Spain in 1938.

In the early part of the 20th century, many of St. James' Hindus converted to catholicism and some took on English surnames (such as Joseph) in the process. They were married in the Catholic church and their offspring attended catholic elementary schools. One of the most well-known sextons of the Catholic church who facilitated this conversion was an Afro-Trinidadian man who was known in the community as "Tall" Joseph.

St. James had two zoos at one time for the viewing pleasure of its residents. The Police Force maintained its barracks at the corner of Long Circular and Western Main Roads where its canine and equestrian corps were trained. In the 1950s, 7-Up soft drinks were bottled on Long Circular Road close to the Western Main Road. The dead were buried at Mucurapo Cemetery but, in the 1970s when burial space became scarce, a cinerary was installed on Long Circular Road. The infamous "hangman's cemetery" was located on George Cabral Street and was the place where criminals sentenced to death were buried, after their hanging at the Royal Jail on Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain.

St. James was the place where literary giant Vidia Naipaul grew up and his home at 26 Nepaul Street was the subject of his most successful book: "The House for Mr. Biswas." He was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 2001. His brother, Shiva Naipaul, who also grew up in St. James, achieved some literary notoriety before his death at a very young age. Renown singer and rapper Nicki Minaj was born in St. James.


Cinema: Located at the intersection of Western Main Road and Agra Street, the Rialto cinema was a favorite of moviegoers with its daily double features at 4:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Its Saturday midday double features were a favorite of children. Its name was changed to Alper in the 1980s before it closed its doors for good in the 1990s.

Steelbands: St. James had its share of active participants in the early development of the steelband in the 1940s. Not only were many local steelbands formed with some of leading pan tuners in the country, but the community displayed a high level of tolerance as the noisy experiment of producing sound from drums was being conducted. By 1950, some of the St. James' pan pioneers became so renown that three were selected to tour Europe in 1951 with TASPO. The following is a listing of the steelbands that functioned in St. James, broken down by type: traditional (pans supported around the neck); and conventional (pans supported mechanically).

Blue Stars Conventional Defunct This band was formed in 1951 under the leadership of McDonald Redhead. Its panyard was located on the Western Main Road near Fort George Road, almost at the border with Cocorite. Its name was changed to Power Stars in 1967.
Cross Roads Conventional Defunct This band functioned in the 1950s and 1960s. Its most famous panman was Eamon Thorpe who won the "ping-pong" solo competition at the 1956 Steelband Music Festival.
Crossfire Conventional Defunct Formed in the 1940s with some members of the Tripoli steelband. One of the steelband pioneers who was selected to tour England in 1951 with TASPO was Sterling Betancourt.
Fives Graves to Cairo Traditional Defunct Formed in the 1940s, this band functioned in the Belle Vue section of St. James and took its name from the 1943 American movie Five Graves to Cairo which starred Anne Baxter.
Grow More Food Traditional Defunct Formed before World War II, this band later changed its name to Tripoli.
Harlem Nightingales Traditional Defunct Formed in the 1940s, this band later changed its name to Sun Valley.
Humming Birds Pan Groove Conventional 13 Fort George Road This band was formed in the 1990s with many players from Power Stars.
Kool Conventional 25 Benares Street  
Nob Hill Traditional Defunct Formed in the Kandahar section of St. James in the 1940s, Anthony Williams began his illustrious steelband career with this band which had a short life when its members left to join Harlem Nightingales.
North Stars Conventional 63 Bombay Street Click here for complete details
Power Stars Conventional 114 Western Main Road This band was formed in 1967 when Blue Stars changed its name after gaining the sponsorship of the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC). It continued to function at the original Blue Stars location. Power Stars' achievements include the 1968 Steelband Music Festival final, and five Panoramas finals (1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, and 1978).
Scrunters Pan Groove Traditional 10 Jeffers Lane  
Tripolians Traditional 38C Western Main Road Click here for complete details
St. James United Conventional 22 Ranjit Kumar Street  
Sun Valley Conventional Defunct Formed in the 1940s when Harlem Nightingales changed its name, this band took its name from the 1941 American movie Sun Valley Serenade which starred Sonja Henie. Sun Valley's most celebrated panman was Carlton "Sonny" Roach who was selected to tour England with TASPO in 1951.
Symphonettes Conventional Defunct This band functioned in the late 1950s and 1960s under the leadership of Nathaniel "Shadow" Daniel, a former member of Crossfire who would later migrate to Canada in the late-1960s.
Third World Conventional George Cabral Street Formed in the 1970s under the leadership of David Waddell who departed Starlift in Woodbrook.
Trinidad Pan Connoisseurs Conventional 65 Western Main Road  
Tripoli Conventional Defunct Click here for complete details
West Side Symphony (Sunjets) Conventional Patience Hill Click here for complete details
Windside Sound Groove Conventional Synand Valley Road  
Wonder Harps Conventional Defunct Formed with some members of the Tripoli steelband.

Mas(querade) Bands: Mas' bands that functioned in St. James included:

Chris Humphrey and Associates 10 Panka Street  


Cricket: The Invincible cricket club was based in St. James and competed at the First Class level. Its most famous player was Nyron Asgarali who was selected to represent the West Indies in Test cricket in 1957. The Police Force fielded a cricket team that competed in Second Division. In the early 1950s, Ralph Legall of the Police team was selected to be the West Indies wicket-keeper.

Soccer: The Police Force fielded a soccer team that competed in the First Division of the NAFL and they trained on the soccer fields at their barracks. Under the direction of Norman Darway, the St. James Football (Minor) League functioned from the 1950s to the 1980s and conducted its games on Western Main Road on the premises of the St. James Infirmary which was sadly referred to as the "Poor House."

Hockey: The men's and women's hockey leagues conducted play at the Western Main Road end of the grounds of the Police barracks. The most famous Police hockey player was Ralph Legall who also represented the West Indies in cricket in the early 1950s.


As far back as the 1950s, St. James had a thriving economy with dry goods (such as Bata) and food stores located on the busy thoroughfare of Western Main Road. In the 1970s, when the Rialto Cinema ceased operations, it was converted into a shopping arcade. In the 1980s, the Long Circular Mall was constructed on Long Circular Road to provide an option for shoppers who did not want to venture into downtown Port-of-Spain.

Favorite Eating Places

Back in the 1950s, St. James was famous for its nightime sidewalk vendors who supplied fresh food (such as oysters on the half-shell, bake and shark, and roti) and fruits (such as oranges and coconuts) to buyers who had cravings for these delights. With the passage of time, the restaurant chains such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and Royal Castle moved in. Given the large East Indian influence, St. James was always renown for its roti shops which were opened for business every day of the week. One of the most popular roti places was the Rialto Roti Shop.


The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) opened a branch in the late-1950s at the corner of Mooneram Street. This was later followed by branches of the Royal Bank of Canada, at Bournes Road, and The Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank), the latter occupying the spot where JP's (John Pereira) supermarket opened in the 1960s.

Academic Institutions

Fatima College Secondary Mucurapo Road Roman Catholic
This school rose to academic prominence in the 1960s. In the 1950s, it was integrated into the annual soccer playoff for the Alexander Cup which, up to that time, had only been open to the other two colleges, St. Mary's and QRC. Fatima graduates who went on to represent T&T were Alvin Corneal (soccer and cricket), Michael Carew (cricket), Everald Cummings (soccer), and Brian Lara (cricket). Olympic medalist Ato Boldon also attended Fatima College for a short time before he moved to New York, USA. Fatima's most famous faculty member was Anthony Pantin who was the Dean of Studies in the 1960s before he became the first Trinidadian to become Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church of Trinidad. Famous panman Ray Holman also taught at the institution.
Mucurapo Boys' RC School Primary George Cabral Street Roman Catholic 359 Pupils in 2002.
Mucurapo Girls' RC School Primary Western Main Road Roman Catholic 430 Pupils in 2002.
Mucurapo Senior Comprehensive School Secondary Mucurapo Road Non-Denominational  
Polytechnic Institute Secondary Ethel Street Non-Denominational This institution conducted classes for the benefit of working people who were desirous of improving their education up to the Cambridge Higher School Certificate level.
St. Agnes EC School Primary   Anglican  
St. James Government Secondary School Secondary Panka Street Non-Denominational  

Public Facilities

The public library at the corner of Bournes and Western Main Roads was a favorite of elementary school children who had a love for reading. The police station is located on the southern side the Western Main Road between Ethel and Lazare Streets.

Places of Worship

In 2003, Roman catholics attended the St. Mary's Church on George Cabral Street, while Anglicans worshipped at St. Agnes Church. Hindus worshipped at the Paschimtaashi Hindu Mandir which was constructed on Ethel Street in 1962 and became Trinidad's largest Hindu temple. Muslims worshipped at the St. James Mosque at 129 Western Main Road.

Favorite Hangouts

The Western Main Road has always been a busy thoroughfare and its width lent itself to heavy traffic which generated a brisk commerce. There were several bars dating back to the 1940s: Correia's; Smokey & Bunty's; Moriah; Kaydoo; and Green Lantern.

E-mail to: Ronald C. Emrit

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