History

The Trinidad Building and Loan Association (TBLA) was established since1891 to provide mortgage financing for home ownership and credit facilities for its members. TBLA also promotes wealth creation for it members through a variety of saving and investment products at attractive rates.

As the longest standing Building Society in Trinidad and Tobago TBLA takes pride in meeting its customer needs. This commitment is enshrined in our Vision and Mission Statement.

Take a Look at our History:

A MESSAGE FROM – J. B. C. Martin, F.C.A.
President – Trinidad Building and Loan Association

On the occasion of our Centenary, January 31, 1991, when a Thanksgiving Inter-Faith Service was held at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Port of Spain, followed by a reception held on the grounds of the Cathedral, there appeared to be a number of treasured moments deserving of being put into a permanent record.

Consequently, we have prepared this present publication, by which future generations, as well as our present shareholders, friends and well wishers, may acquaint themselves, or refresh their memories, regarding what has been described as an historic event.
We thank all our advertisers for their unstinted and invaluable support and assure them of our pride and pleasure in sharing these historic pages with them. We sincerely thank all those who have assisted us, both in the formal celebrations of the TBLA’s 100th Anniversary, and informally, in bringing about this present endeavour.

No more illustrious name than that of Joseph Fairfax Agard, exists in the annals of The Trinidad Building and Loan Association, which celebrated its centenary on January 13th, 1991. For fifty-seven long, eventful and fruitful years, J. F. Agard devoted his life and energies – his family apart – to the one abiding love of his life, the Trinidad Building and Loan Association.

By now, the inspired origins of the TBLA are well-known: how certain leading Port-of-Spain businessmen and professionals got together to found the organisation on the model of the British Building Societies, and their example of the successful application of the principles of thrift and self-help.

Mr. Agard’s own story furnishes the complementary romance and dynamic aspect of the consolidation of those early endeavours.
Joseph Fairfax Agard was born in Tobago on November 11th, 1889, less than two years before the founding of the TBLA. He returned to Tobago from England when he was nine and continued his education there under private tuition. In January, 1905, when he was sixteen years old, he entered the TBLA office as a junior.

One day, after three years of hard work, he one day listened to the sirens’ call and went to work at the nearby Smith Bros. & Co., The Bonanza, which many old timers will remember. That was in 1909.
In 1911, just two years later, he returned to the TBLA, never again to leave its beckoning portals. He was now twenty two, but was nevertheless made Cashier, so impressed were the later Mr. A. F. Mathieson, Secretary, and Mr. Schierhitz, the Accountant, with J. F’s drive, energy and capacity for hard work. Five years later J. F. Agard, himself, became the TBLA’s Accountant.

“They built a foundation of public confidence upon which the Association is now firmly established.” Joseph Fairfax was indeed richly deserving of being made Secretary in 1926. After ten years, J. F. Agard’s achievement as a great Secretary was assured in TBLA’s annals.

It was said of him and his work at this time: “To actually tell people that they must save their money and invest it properly, is easier said than done. Many essentials there must be for such an understanding. Tact and discretion are but mild epithets to describe his dealings with them, and Mr. Agard is more than an embodiment of these.”

At this time, he was also described as the simple-going official, a matter-of-fact sort of man, who never for a moment betrayed signs of worry or excitement, even under the strain of the most exacting problem. His careful and astute management enabled the TBLA to declare dividends year after year.

J. F. Agard was fanatically devoted to the principle “Let your rent pay for your home.” He advertised continually and effectively, “Stop paying rent: buy your own home.”

An angler of note, he enticed, to their advantage, many a grateful investor into his net of thrift and homeownership. He was asked to advise on matters of homeownership by organisation up and down the Caribbean.

He was Treasurer of Queen’s Park Cricket Club for twenty-three years, Chairman of the Government’s Housing Committee in the early 1950’s, and he was appointed a Trustee of the Church of England. His phenomenal success as a financier made his services in great demand.

As a result of his exceptional services and prestige in financial circles, and for the outstanding success of his secretaryship of the TBLA, J. F. Agard was awarded a Coronation medal, an MBE, on the accession of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. This was on June 2nd, 1953.

In 1956, J. F. Agard celebrated fifty happy years of service with the TBLA. On the occasion of the special presentation made to him on January 9th, 1956, he revealed: “I joined the Association while still quite young. I called down from my home in Cascade, which was several miles outside of Port-of-Spain at that time, and worked for six months without pay.”

J. F. Agard was also a Director of the then British Guiana and Trinidad Mutual Fire and Life Insurance Association; Director of the Port-of-Spain Gazette; of Pollard and Mendes Ltd., of Highland Park Estates Ltd., and a member of the Agricultural Credit Bank, the Agricultural Society, and of the Automobile Association, of which he was the President.

In the First World War, he served with the mounted Infantry. In the Second, he served with the Win The War Association. He was also the Manager of the Trinidad and Tobago cricket team in Barbados in 1943 and was a member of the Trinidad Cricket Team which toured British Guiana in 1923.

J. F. Agard will also be remembered as an organiser of Cycle and Athletic Sports for QPCC for many years. He also owned racehorses and was a member of Shamrock Club, Union Club, Country Club, and Marine Club, and founded the now defunct Thistle Club.

Joseph Fairfax Agard – altogether, a man for all seasons!

Picture: Mr. Angus Mackay and 11-year-old Ja Neal Moore, daughter of staff member Russell Moore, cut the TBLA’s 100 candle Birthday cake, while an appreciative audience looks on. Nearest to the cake, in background, is Mrs. Rose Parkinson, while at left, Mr. Michael Anderson, another Director, looks on approvingly.

One of the highlights of the Reception at the Cathedral on Sunday January 13th, 1991, which followed the Inter-Faith Divine Service, was the ceremonial cake cutting to mark the one hundredth birthday of the Trinidad Building and Loan Association. The cake itself was a joy to behold, standing fully three feet high.

The design was a model of the building. This was constructed from suitable light material and placed on a very solid base of the best fruit cake, beautifully iced, with the four corners providing some fifteen pounds of actual cake. Twenty-five candles were lit in each corner. In addition to this quantum of cake, five hundred presentation boxes of cake had been prepared for the guests.

The top of the model was surmounted by a water fountain – driven by a small battery – and the National flag overtopped the whole. Many were the enquiries as to the bakers, who were in fact at great pains to provide this magnificent replica. The creator, indeed, was Mrs. Fazeela Rahim, whose great cake exhibition at Colsort Mall, Frederick Street, drew rave reviews from the press the year before.

At the appropriate moment, Mr. Angus Mackay and Ja Neal Moore, 11-year-old daughter of staff member Mr. Russell Moore, stuck the cake to general and enthusiastic applause.

The cake remained on display in the office building for some time after.

Some highlights of the Inter-Faith Service,
church procession.

Grey skies and an intermittent drizzle notwithstanding, the several hundred invitees titled the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-of-Spain by 4:30 p.m. on the somewhat bleak afternoon on January 13th, 1991. At that time, the President of the Republic, Mr. Noor Hassanali, with Mrs. Hassanali, arrived at the western entrance, having just been preceded by the Honourable Prime Minister, A. N. R. Robinson and Mrs. Robinson; the Attorney General, Mr. Anthony Smart, and Mrs. Smart, and the Honourable Finance Minister, Selby Wilson and Mrs. Wilson, and all the many other dignitaries of Church and State. Notables and Personalities of the Business and other sections of the community were also well represented.

The proceedings began with the Marionettes chorale (the choir) rendering the National Anthem, which they did with their accustomed charm and skill, after which the Very Reverend Father Rawle Douglin bade the congregation ‘welcome’ and made the call to worship. There followed the hymn, “O Worship the King”.

The First Reading was done by Mr. William C. Agard D. L. C. (Eng.) who read from the Book of Zecariah Chapter 8, verses 3 to 12 and 16 to 17. After the appropriate response by the Congregation “Thank be to God”, the Marionettes Chorale then rendered Psalm 150. The Programme, at this point, then called for prayers by the Hindu, the Muslim and Baha’i representatives.

The lovely voice of Jocelyn Sealey was then heard rendering the “Panis Angelicus”. It then became the turn of the President of the TBLA, Mr. John Martin, to read.

This he did from the First Letter of Peter, Chapter 4, verses 7 to 11. After the Response, “Thanks Be To God”, choir and congregation joined in singing the compelling “God Bless Our Nation”, composed by Marjorie Padmore.

The Very Reverend Father Rawle Douglin, Dean and Rector of the Holy Trinity Cathedral, read the Gospel on the conclusion of which, the congregation and choir joined in the Hymn “Now Thank We All Our God.”
The Thanksgiving Intercessions, the Greeting of Peace and the Offertory followed, with the Marionettes Chorale singing the “Non Nobis Domine”.

With The Hymn, “Praise to the Lord The Almighty”, the stage was set for the conclusion of the Divine Service with the Blessing by Monsignor Anthony Pantin, Archbishop of Port-of-Spain.

The Marionettes Chorale then sang the “Hallelujah” chorus, to which compelling strains the uplifted audience, led by the President of the Republic, Mrs. Hassanali, and the Dean, proceeded – while the Carillon of bells peeled – to the further ceremony of the Illuminations, which would be followed by the gala Reception.

The winning concept – a reproduction of Johnny Fernando’s Logo. ‘

The winning artist in the competition, sponsored by the Association, was Johnny Fernando, of Signal Hill Comprehensive School, Tobago. Young Fernando hails from Black Rock Village in the sister isle. Nine others won prizes including Garfield Woods, who got ‘honourable’ mention. The other eight prize winners were Kim Selmont, Giselle White and Nadia Ragoonath of Holy Name Convent, Surren L. Dookhan and Mark Adams of St. Mary’s College, Moneek L. Matthew of Barataria Senior Comprehensive School, Andrea De Souza of St. Jospeh’s Convent, Port of Spain and Andrea Kanneh of St, Joseph’s Convent, St. Joseph. The group of ten received their awards at the Offices of the Association, 89 Queen Street, Port of Spain, on Friday January 11th, 2006, at a special function hosted by the Directors of the TBLA to mark the event.

The two Tobago prize winners, Johnny Fernando and Garfield Woods, were brought by B.W.I.A. from Tobago – courtesy the Association – and together with the Art Teacher, the other prize winners, the judges and representatives from the Education Department, were entertained to a special luncheon which capped the prize-giving proceedings.

The group picture shows a happy Johnny Fernando flanked by fellow prize winners.’

The Logo Competition was held under the umbrella of the Ministry of Education, and Dr. Clavdia Harvey, Director of Curricula at that time, gave invaluable assistance and advice. The judges of the competition were Mr. William Agard and Mr. Winston Padmore, Directors of the TBLA, and Mr. Van Stewart, former Principal of Queen’s Royal College.

The competition, which was open to A-Level students between sixteen and nineteen years of age, drew fifty-two entries from all Secondary Schools, Youth Camps and YTEPP Centres. It was given a marked degree of publicity from the press, radio and television, and provided an opportunity for the participants to express the concept of ‘Thrift and Homeownership’. This was so critical in the nation’s current situation, as it was a challenge to their imagination and skill.

‘The Cup, held up by Mr. Winston P. Padmore, Chairman of the Centenary Committee, Ms. Sheila Teelucksingh, Director, Johnny Fernando, winner,and the school’s Art teacher.’

There was a Sir Errol dos Santos Trophy, which went to the Signal Hill Comprehensive School, Tobago, as having produced the winner, and $500.00 worth of art material. Johnny Fernando received a cash prize of $1,500.00, as well as $100.00 worth of art material, as did the other nine winners.

Picture: The Hon. Finance Minister Mr. Selby Wilson, ‘throws the switch’ illuminating the Trinidad Building and Loan Association’s building at the corner of Queen and Chacon Streets, Port-of-Spain, while Mr. John Martin, President of the TBLA, and President Hassanali, Prime Minister Robinson, The Dean, Mrs. Hassanali and Mrs. Robinson and other dignitaries look on.

When at 5.15 p.m., Sunday January 13th, 1991, the Honourable Finance Minister Mr. Selby Wilson, with Mr. J. B. C. Martin, President of the TBLA, standing next to him, and flanked by the President of the Republic, Mr. Noor N. Hassanali and Mrs. Hassanali, the Honourable Prime Minister Mr. A. N. R. Robinson and Mrs. Robinson, the Very Reverend Father Rawle Douglin and other dignitaries, ‘threw the switch’ to turn on the illumination of the Association’s building, opposite the Cathedral, he was also lighting up a whole panorama of achievements and events in the long, 100-year story of the Trinidad Building and Loan Association.

It was in the year 1890, that three far-sighted and prominent local businessmen got together to found an Association based on the precepts and idea of the British prototype, the first building society which was called a “Terminating Society”. These three ‘locals’ were Mr. J. S. Toppin, Mr. G. Creagh-Creagh and Mr. E. A. Robinson. They saw and realised the great need for a similar institution in Trinidad and Tobago.

The great and noble idea was to pool resources to advance the sum necessary for one member to build his home, and when this loan was repaid, other members were loaned monies in a similar way for the same purpose, until all the members each had their own home. Out of this rough and ready method a more refined but equally effective organization was devised – The Trinidad Building and Loan Association..

In the same year of resolve, 1890, the Trinidad Building and Loan Association was registered under the prevailing Building Societies Ordinance Chap. 111 of 1890, afterwards under Chapter 278 and now Chapter 33: No. 4 Actual operations were commenced on January 14th, 1891, at the office of Mr. J. S. Toppin, situated at No. 4A Almond Walk (now Broadway), Port-of-Spain.

The first Board of Directors comprised the following: Mr. H. E. Rapsey, President; Mr. J. S. Toppin, vice-President; Messrs. Hugo Hoffman; George Muir; W. S. Robertson; J. C. Dade; J. H. Archer; E. A. Robinson (Counsel); A. V. M. Thavenot (Solicitor); and G. Creagh-Creagh, Secretary and Treasurer.

Shares were issued and at first, dues were paid directly to the Colonial Bank for credit to the Association’s account. Although the Association commenced business in January 1891, no loans were made until June of that year, as the first four months of its existence were directed towards the accumulation of funds for the purpose of investment.

In 1926, another event of great consequence took place, when Mr. John Fairfax Agard was appointed Secretary of the Association. An account of this extraordinary and dynamic man appears elsewhere in these pages. Suffice it to say, there is no more illustrious a name in all the long story of the TBLA than that of J. F. Agard.

In 1893 The Association moved from Almond Walk to No.1 Marine Square -now Independence Square. In 1899, the TBLA moved once more, this time to No. 52 King Street. It became more and more necessary for the Association to have a permanent home, and with this in view, No. 18 Chacon Street was acquired. In 1932, when the present site at Queen and Chacon Street with its brand new building was ready, the Association moved over, and has been so situated ever since.

Among the many notable Directors over the years were Sir Errol Dos Santos, Francis C. Mathieu, Herman P. Urich, Rupert Alexis, George F. Huggins, Louis H. Blache Fraser, C. B. H. Norman, Lionel Gittens, and Victor Bruce.

Lord Byron’s famous poetic imagery found a worthy echo when the centenary of the TBLA – the Trinidad Building and Loan Association – was celebrated on January 13th, 1991, at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-of-Spain. Several hundred distinguished guests mingled on the canopied Cathedral grounds while the police band, in full dress uniform, played appropriate airs.

The proceedings, which were lavishly capped by the reception, began at 4:30 p.m. with an Inter-Faith Divine Service conducted by the Very Reverend Father Rawle Douglin – Dean and Rector of the Holy Trinity Cathedral. The Service began with the rendering of the National Anthem by the Marionettes Chorale, conducted by Mrs. Gretta Taylor, which set the scene for a memorable evening.

On the conclusion of the Divine Service, there was a Carillon of bells. A fanfare of trumpets followed, and to a roll of drums, and in full view of the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, and other dignitaries, the Honourable Minister Selby Wilson, ‘threw the switch’ to turn on the illuminations which filled, in a glow of light, the majestic TBLA building, which was a stone’s throw away.

Hosts and guests then proceeded to the lawns where the 100-candle cake awaited. There, Mr. Angus Mackay, past President of the TBLA, and Ja Neal Moore, the 11-year -old daughter of TBLA’s Russell Moore, proceeded to ceremonially cut the splendidly made cake in replication of the Association’s building which was topped by a water fountain. While the large and enthusiastic crowd applauded lustily, the cake was distributed in pre-prepared presentation boxes suitably inscribed. At this point, Mr. John Martin, President of the TBLA, invited the guests to take their seats. Refreshments were then served and many were the pleasantries exchanged.

The Girl Guides splendidly conspicuous all afternoon, performing their several tasks, were seen busily attending to the needs of the guests. These guides had already made an indelible impression when spontaneously forming an Honour Guard for the President of the Republic and other dignitaries, on their arrival earlier in the afternoon.

A highlight of the proceedings was the presentation of bouquets to the several ladies including Mrs. Hassanali, Mrs. Robinson, Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. Jocelyn Sealey, Mrs. Gretta Taylor, Mrs. Kathleen Rochford and Miss Joanne Mendes.

“These wonderful choristers who lend lustre to our Centenary…
here are a few facts about this marvellous group…”

The Marionettes Chorale is a sixty-five-voice mixed choir, which celebrated its 27th anniversary in 1991. It was formed to compete in the Music Festival of 1964, and that year, it won the two classes it entered and the Championship Trophy for those Classes. The Chorale went on to compete in 1966, 1968 and 1980, winning all classes entered in addition to being adjudged the Most Outstanding Performer of the Festival (May Johnstone Commemorative Trophy) in 1968, and the Most Outstanding Choir of the Festival in 1980 (Lion’s Trophy), a year in which a record number of choirs participated in the adult classes.

For the past seventeen years it has been directed and conducted by Gretta Taylor, recipient of the Humming Bird Medal (Gold) in the 1990 National Awards, assisted by Susan Dore and managed by a nine-member committee.

Since its debut twenty-seven years ago, the Chorale has performed regularly for its home audience and overseas. In Trinidad and Tobago, it has maintained a tradition of full-length annual concerts which attract capacity audiences.

Its repertoire encompasses a wide musical range, from Gabrielli to Messiaen, and includes Spirituals, International Folk Songs, music from the shows and popular hits with chaIlenging choral arrangements. Folk Music and Calypsoes of Trinidad and Tobago constitute an important part of the choir’s repertoire.

The Chorale has performed all over Trinidad & Tobago, has toured extensively in the West Indies and has visited North America, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

In 1981, motivated by a desire to measure its accomplishments against international standards, it participated in the International Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales, gaining 5th and 7th place in the Ladies and Mixed Voice Classes from a field of over twenty competitors in both classes. In 1984 it went to Cork, Ireland, to compete in the International Choral and Folk Dance Festival and came away with three International prizes: 2nd place in the International Mixed Voice Class, 2nd prize in the Madrigal Class and the Ruth Railton prize for the visiting group, making the most outstanding contribution to the Festival. The chorale’s membership consists of part-time, non-professional and unpaid singers and leaders. The group rehearses twice weekly and continues to set ambitious goals for itself.

Commitment is seen as vital to the advancement of the group, and members are able to see living examples of devotion and dutifulness in the senior members who have been part of the group from its inception.

A high percentage of the membership is under twenty-five years of age, and it is in these that the future of the group lies. Among complete works performed are Haydn’s “Mass in D Minor” (Nelson Mass, Handel’s “Messiah”, Brahms’s “Liebeslieder Waltzes”, Gabrielli’s “Magnificat” (for three choirs), Gabrielli’s “Magnificat” (for two choirs), Mendelssohn’s “Hear My Prayer”, Vaughan William’s “Five Mystical Songs”, Carl Orff’s “Camino Burans” and Leonard Bernstein’s “Chic ester Psalms”.

In 1987, the 25th Anniversary of Trinidad & Tobago’s Independence, the Chorale was awarded the Humming Bird Medal (Gold) in recognition of its outstanding contribution to music.

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