The Grenadian activist and publisher Theophilus Albert Marryshow (1887–1958) was an important figure in the campaign for self-determination, not only in his homeland of Grenada but throughout the Caribbean Islands. He was instrumental in helping to form the Federation of the West Indies, a political union that was based, for its five-year existence, in Trinidad and Tobago.
Theophilus Albert Marryshow is known in the West Indies as the Father of Federation, contributing in a short-lived attempt to unite many of the region's English colonies into a single political unit. Although the effort failed and many of the Caribbean islands became independent countries on their own, the Federation was an important step on the road to independence in the region: it was the governing body to which Great Britain granted full self-governing status when relinquishing control of Grenada and other islands in the area. Through years of newspaper work and speechmaking, Marryshow publicized the need for independence and laid the groundwork for the Federation.
Sometimes referred to as T.A. Marryshow or T. Albert Marryshow, Marryshow was born Theophilus Maricheau on November 7, 1887, on rural Grenada island. His mother was Eugenia de Souze and his father, Prosper Isaac Maricheau, was a small cocoa farmer. Shortly after his son was christened at a Methodist church in the Grenadian capital of St. George's, Prosper abandoned his family, leaving the young Theophilus in the care of his mother. After her death in 1890, he was raised by his godmother, a woman named Christine. Christine worked as a housekeeper for a Portuguese-born businessman named Antonio Franco and she eventually married him.
Marryshow attended Catholic and Methodist elementary schools in St. George's but otherwise had no formal education. Nevertheless, he learned to read and write well (while living in a house with no electricity), and apprenticed with a local carpenter. Franco realized that the young man's talents lay in a different direction, however, and recommended Marryshow for a job with Grenadian newspaper publisher William Galway Donovan. Half Irish and half Grenadian, Donovan was one of the early supporters of West Indian independence and what would become the West Indies Federation. Adopting an Anglicized spelling of his surname once he was hired on by Donovan, Marryshow “was readily accepted as an intellectual by all who later came into contact with him,” according to a Grenadian government biography.
After working briefly as a delivery boy for Donovan's publications The Federalist and Grenada People, Marryshow trained as a printer's assistant and typesetter. Once the publisher realized that his new employee had unusual literary abilities, he served as his mentor, lending the young man books and sharing magazine articles. Marryshow soon began to write for Donovan's publications, became involved in local politics, and honed his rhetorical skills as a member of the Grenada Literary & Debating Society. By 1909, then age 22, he had held editorial positions at both the St. George's Chronicle and the Grenada Gazette. Marryshow also became a friend of Trinidadian independence activist Arthur Andrew Cipriani (1875–1945), and both men aided support operations for the West Indian Regiment when it fought for Great Britain during World War I.
Shortly before Franco's death in 1916, Marryshow amassed the resources needed to establish his own newspaper. The first issue of his The West Indian, issued on January 1, 1915, promised readers that the paper would be “an immediate and accurate chronicler of current events, an untrammeled advocate of popular rights, unhampered by chains of party prejudice, [and] an unswerving educator of the people in their duties as subjects of the state and citizens of the world,” as quoted on the Caribbean Elections website. Marryshow also expressed support for a West Indian political union as well as a representative government in Grenada, although he did not yet advocate for independence from Great Britain. He devised the slogan “Educate. Agitate. Federate.” for this new movement, and his newspaper's motto (as quoted in Sandra Ferguson in Life and Work of T.A. Marryshow was “the West Indies for the West Indian.”
In 1917, Marryshow stepped onto the world stage as a writer after South African general Jan Christian Smuts (1870–1950), one of the early architects of South Africa's apartheid system of racial segregation, gave a speech in London in which he argued for the supremacy of the white race. Marry-show responded with a book-length collection of essays titled Cycles of Civilization: Insights on the Rise and Fall of Nations of Europe, Asia, and Africa to take issue with Smuts's points. The volume also presciently warned of the rise of chemical weapons during World War I. Although Cycles of Civilization is rare, a copy is held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library.
By the early 1930s, Marryshow's activities began to yield positive results. A proposal to bring about a limited confederation between Grenada and the Leeward and Windward Islands foundered on disagreements between the parties, giving a hint of what was to come. Meanwhile, in 1931, he visited London to discuss new initiatives for Grenadian self-government. When Grenada won approval for a new constitution in 1935, it once again enlarged its Legislative Council. Labor unrest, organized in part by Marryshow, flared across the West Indies in the middle and late 1930s, leading to the establishment of the West India Royal Commission—also known as the Moyne Commission—which detailed the dire conditions facing workers in the region.
Marryshow experienced several health problems beginning in the 1930s, and he sold The West Indian in 1935. His financial situation, never stable, would deteriorate in his later years. Nevertheless, he continued to play a leading role in Grenadian politics. In 1946, he was elected president of the Caribbean Labour Congress; he moved that body in the direction of supporting West Indian federation. He continued to push for that goal at the Montego Bay Conference in Jamaica in 1947. Beginning in 1944 he served on the Executive Council of Grenada. A younger, more militant generation of labor and political leaders in Grenada came to the fore in the early 1950s, but Marry-show retained his seat on Grenada's legislative council.
In 1943, as Grenada's independence movement continued to grow due to Marryshow's influence, he was made a commander of the Order of the British Empire. According to a Caribbean Elections writer, the former publisher and activist “lived life to the full” and was “a lover of roses, women and song.” As this epitaph alludes, Marryshow never married, but he fathered children by several women, including six by Edna Gittens. He lived on H.A. Blaize Street in St. George's, where his former home now houses the Grenada Centre of the University of the West Indies. Located across the street are several low-income houses whose construction Marryshow initiated.
Marryshow lived long enough to see his dreams of West Indian Federation come true: in January of 1958, the Federation of the West Indies was formed, uniting Grenada, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, the Leeward Islands, and the other Windward Islands. He participated in the negotiations that led to the federation's establishment, and he was elected to serve in its parliament. He participated in this political body for only a few months before his death on October 6, 1958. The Federation dissolved in May of 1962, and Grenada, where his birthday of November 7 is celebrated as Marryshow Day, achieved full independence in 1974.
New York Times, October 21, 1958, “T. Albert Marryshow,” p. 33.
Washington Post, October 21, 1958, “West Indies Statesman,” p. B2.
Caribbean Elections, http://www.caribbeanelections.com/knowledge/biography/bios/marryshow_theophilus.asp (November 3, 2017), “T.A. Marryshow.”
Grenadian Revolution online, http://www.thegrenadarevolutiononline.com/bishmarryshow1982.html (November 3, 2017), “Bishop Speech—Address on Marryshow Day.”
Official Website of the Government of Grenada, http://www.gov.gd/biographies/theophilus_marryshow_bio.html (November 3, 2017), “Theophilus Albert Marryshow: The Father of Federation.
Theophilus Albert Marryshow website, http://marryshow.name/2016/11/22/life-and-work-of-t-a-marryshow/ (November 22, 2016), Sandra Ferguson, “Life and Work of T.A. Marryshow” (scan of 1979 manuscript).
University of the West Indies, http://www.open.uwi.edu/sites/default/files/bnccde/grenada/centre/tam.htm (November 3, 2017), “T.A. Marryshow.”□