William Gordon Gordon

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William Gordon Gordon (Gorden)

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Portpatrick, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, United Kingdom
Death: Died in Trinidad and Tobago
Immediate Family:

Son of Arthur Hill Gordon and Mary Mcgeogh Gordon
Husband of Mary Jeannie Gordon and Gertrude Maude Gordon
Father of William.G.Gordon of Lude and Alice Maude Mary Gordon
Brother of Rosanna Mctier Gordon; jennet Gordon; alexander mcgeoch Gordon; <private> Gordon and Robert Gordon

Managed by: Martin Severin Eriksen
Last Updated:

About William Gordon Gordon (Gorden)

William Gordon Gordon of Gordon Grant and Co. Trinidad and Tobago My favourite automotive columnist, Peter Egan, once wrote “there is nothing more formidable than a Scotsman on the make”. This is certainly so for William Gordon Gordon who rose from relative poverty to found and manage the largest and most prosperous firm in local history. Born in Galloway Scotland in 1848, he was the second son of Arthur Hill Gordon who was a hotelier, stagecoach factor and farmer in the Portpatrick area. After being educated at the Durham Grammar School and Campie High School, WGG went to Trinidad to seek his fortune. By the influence of his cousin, he secured a clerkship at the Colonial Bank on Marine (Independence) Square in 1864. After a year however, he moved to the small import export firm of Campbell Hannays and Co. which dealt in the sale of salted provisions and export of cocoa. Young Gordon was an astute businessman, with a keen eye for a good deal. In 1870, Governor Sir Arthur Gordon (no relation) began a policy of opening up the fertile lands of the Montserrat Hills (Gran Couva, Mayo, Tortuga, Presyal) and in addition to smallholder peasants , a large number of French Creole families established prosperous cocoa estates . This was also the case in the established cultivation centres of Santa Cruz, Maracas Valley, Maraval and Caura. With the boom in the price of cocoa, families like the DeVerteuils, Agostinis, De Lapeyrouse, De Montrichards and Stollmeyers became very wealthy indeed. Gordon took advantage of the boom in cocoa (global market prices were very high) to expand the business, and by 1876 he was the owner of Campbell Hannays and Co. He took on as his partner, George Grant and the firm of Gordon Grant and Co. was formed. The company formed an alliance with the Colonial Bank (later Barclays Bank Dominion, Colonial and Overseas) as an agent and opened a branch in San Fernando. He immediately offered loans to the French Creole planters, taking their estates as security. French Creole clans lived lavish lifestyles, paid for with borrowed money and did not believe in reinvesting in their estates. They insisted on dining on roasts of lappe and salmi of morocoy liver, washed down with fine French bordeaux wine. They kept open houses every evening and frequent dinner parties. Most maintained fine townhouses in POS for the children who were educated in the city. The children were often sent to boarding school in France and England at great cost. Most did not return until their late 20s, having left at age 7 or 8. They were often educated in the arts , having no proclivity for hard work, and accustomed to the life of a professional student. Upon return to Trinidad, many came back to find the family on the rocks. The children upon return were aliens to Trinidad, and finding no other recourse, ventured into managing cocoa estates for which training in rhetoric, syntax and fencing had not prepared them. One writer of the period described how they were often swindled by peon drivers and overseers whom they found indispensible, having no knowledge themselves about the work. Since the lifestyles of the French Creoles were largely funded with credit from Gordon Grant and Co. , estates were foreclosed upon with terrible efficiency. Gordon became known to the French Creole community as The Bloodsucker. His firmness knew no bounds. One story which circulated at the time was that an elderly French Creole grande dame went to him to ask for a little time to settle her debts since she was recently widowed. Gordon received her with all courtesy and declined her petition, but accepted her gold bracelets and earrings in settlement of the debt. In 1879 he founded the Chamber of Commerce and in 1888 was elected President , a post he kept until his retirement in 1919. Gordon Grant and Co. acquired so much property through mortgages that the northern range holdings extended for sixteen miles. It also owned extensive coconut estates on the east coast and sugar estates in the Naparimas. They also owned a fleet of ships which formed an arm of the business. WGG sat as a Member of the Legislative Council (forerunner of Parliament) from 1888-1903. He resigned is appointment as MLC after a disagreement with Governor Sir Alfred Maloney over a plan to impose water rates on the citizens of POS. It turns out WGG was right since the rates led to the Water Riots of 1903 which saw the Red House burnt down by an angry mob. In 1911, Gordon Grant and Co. was publicly traded with an authorized capital of half a million pounds sterling and an issued capital of 120,000 pounds. The firm eventually diversified into insurance and was an automobile and provision dealer too. Gordon Grant and Co. was the local agent for Morris cars. The firm exists today as a shipping broker and its glory day has passed. For all his great wealth, WGG seemed to harbor a serious inferiority complex. A commercial man by nature, he apparently felt lesser than the aristocratic French Creoles which may have accounted for the fearsomely stern manner in which he had business dealings with them. Everything in his life was dominated by a need to impose his greatness on others. Even his marriage was thusly calculated. Gordon Gordon married Gertrude Maude Scott Bushe in 1877, she being considered Trinidad royalty. . Her father was John Scott Bushe (1826-87). John Scott Bushe was for many years the Colonial Secretary of Trinidad (1858-89) and was thrice its acting Governor (1874, 1876-77 and 1884). He was English born and educated as an attorney. His career began in the tenure of Sir Robert Keate and ended with death during the term of Sir William Robinson. Bushe was noted for his tendency to slight French Creoles , an undertaking in which he was supported for many years by Attorney General Chas. William Warner who is buried in the same cemetery. Bushe was Colonial Secretary at the time of the Hosay Riots and presided over an inquest into the massacre. He was also partially responsible for the ascendancy of the cocoa revenues of the era, being partially responsible for the sale of Crown lands in allotments at reasonable rates to small farmers. Getrude’s maternal grandfather was the venerable Archdeacon (Anglican)of Trinidad, George Cummins who died in 1856 and was considered to be the finest gentleman in the island. Her aunt was Sarah, Lady Harris who married the Governor , Lord Harris in 1850, and who died in 1853. WGG made his greatest statement of wealth in the palatial home he built around the Queen’s Park Savannah in 1904. Called Knowsley (after the residence of the Lord Derby) the building was erected by the well known firm of Taylor and Gillies at the staggering cost of $100,000 ($12 million today). The walls were of local limestone and imported brick, greenheart wood from Guiana, Italian marble floors and gesso ceiling and Scottish wrought iron. It was one of the finest residences in the island and rivaled only by Leon Agostini’s Whitehall and C.F Stollmeyer’s Killarney. Gordon was not entirely a mercenary. When he retired from business in 1919 he founded the Gordon Trust, which did many charitable works, but most importantly paid for the construction and upkeep of the Gordon Home on the ground of All Saints Anglican Church where he was a parishioner. Its role was to provide for middle class widowed destitute women. WGG had many relationships with coloured women and fathered several illegitimate children whom he surreptitiously provided for. This photo shows the Gordon Vault in Lapeyrouse Cemetery which he intended would be another statement of his substance. When Gertrude Maude died in 1912, WGG was determined again to make a point of not being outdone by the French Creole aristocracy, who throughout the 19th century were in the habit of constructing elaborate mausoleums for their dead. On land at the corner of Lapeyrouse cemetery bounded by Tragarete Rd. and Colville St. WGG built a magnificent tomb which used local limestone and Italian marble to great effect. Its outer walls were actually integrated into the street corner and is instantly noticeable. Even the ‘neighbours’ of the grave were of class and status, being William Hardin Burnley (1780-1850), Trinidad’s richest man in his lifetime, and other persons of Anglo-Trinidadian quality. Scottish wrought iron and Corinthian columns completed the effect. It was built by Taylor and Gillies, who has built the mansion, Knowsley. The top of the tomb was elaborately carved and above the gate was inscribed “Erected by Wm. Gordon Gordon in memory of his beloved wife, Gertrude Maude, daughter of John Scott Bushe”. Even in death, he could not help boasting of his wife’s pedigree. The land on which the tomb was constructed was originally the family plot of the Cummins family who was among the first families of the island, second only to the powerful Warners. The Venerable Archdeacon Cummins (d. 1869), Gertrude’s grandfather ( his wife who died in 1856), was exhumed and re-interred in one of the marble fronted niches in the tomb. Gertrude’s mother Martha Bushe (d.1880) was disinterred from her grave in the Botanical Gardens where she was buried with her husband, John Scott Bushe and moved to the Gordon vault. Sarah, Lady Harris, (d. 1853) wife of Lord Harris and daughter of Archdeacon Cummins, was also exhumed from her grave in Barbados brought to Lapeyrouse some years after her death, and then finally provided with a niche in the vault. Thus in death, WGG became surrounded by gentry. He himself died in 1923 and was buried in the niche next to his wife. His marble epitaph reads: “Herein repose the remains of William Gordon Gordon, born 7th November 1848 died 7th January 1923 at Knowsley House. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord for they shall find rest from their labours”. Gertrude’s inscription runs thus “Herein repose the remains of Gertrude Maude, the dearly beloved wife of William Gordon Gordon who died at Knowsley House on 15th July 1919. Give thanks that she is with Him who that the power over pain and sin and death” Knowsley House was sold to the Government in 1956 for $250,000 and is now the Ministry of Foregin Affairs. The tomb is sadly neglected though still in good shape. A vagrant now resides in it where lie the remains of the finest Trinidad gentry of yesteryear and one of its most powerful men.

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William Gordon Gordon's Timeline

1848
November 7, 1848
Portpatrick, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, United Kingdom
1877
1877
Age 28
Trinidad and Tobago
1913
October 9, 1913
Age 64
Trinidad and Tobago
1914
1914
Age 65
England, United Kingdom
1923
January 17, 1923
Age 74
Trinidad and Tobago
????
Trinidad and Tobago