HC Deb 07 April 1887 vol 313 cc686-7
MR. TUITE (Westmeath, N.)

asked, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether his attention has been called to a Despatch (No. 225), from the Governor of the Leeward Islands, forwarded 15th August, 1885, to Her Majesty's Government, transmitting, at the request of the Catholic Bishop of Roseau, a copy of a Correspondence relating to the appropriation of what is known as the old Catholic cemetery of Plymouth, Montserrat, and the desecration of human remains, by the Trustees of the Anglican Church and Schools, while carrying on certain excavations connected with the enlargement of these premises; whether the same work of desecration is still being carried on with the connivance of the Local Authorities, notwithstanding the protests of the inhabitants; whether large quantities of human remains are daily carted away to the cane fields, and tombstones removed and destroyed; whether the cemetery has been used by Catholics and Europeans only, including planters, merchants, military officers, and clergy, for over 100 years, and only ceased to be used as a place of interment in the year 1838, as proved by the Register in the possession of the Bishop of Roseau; whether Mr. Attorney General Gatty examined the Register, and gave his opinion that the cemetery belongs to the Catholic congregation; whether he is aware that in 1841 the Anglican Body applied, through the Legislature of Montserrat, to Her Majesty's Government for a title to the site referred to, and that the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord John Russell, replied that the Crown could not make such a grant, as the land in question having been for a very long period in the possession of the Catholics as a place of interment, and might be claimed at any time by the person in whom the title was invested in trust for the Catholic congregation (see Despatch, No. 95, dated Downing Street 28th February, 1841); and, whether, under the circumstances, Her Majesty's Government will take steps to prevent any further appropriation of the cemetery, compel the Trustees of the Anglican Church and Schools to pay rent for the portion already appropriated, and desist from desecrating the remains, and destroying monuments contained therein?


In 1884 and 1885 the Anglican Church, which was built in or about the year 1840 on a part of the old Roman Catholic burying ground at Plymouth, Montserrat, was enlarged. In the course of the work some human remains were disinterred, and. having been carefully kept in the church during the work, were re-interred under the new portion of the building. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Roseau complained to the Governor of the Leeward Islands of the alleged trespass on the burying ground and the interference with human remains, and the Correspondence has been transmitted to the Secretary of State. Lord Stanley of Preston considered that there was no case for the interference of the Government. No further interference with the cemetery, or with the remains interred therein, has been reported to the Secretary of State; but inquiry shall be made. I have no reason to apprehend any further appropriation of the cemetery, or desecration of the remains or destruction of monuments, is probable. In view of the doubt as to the legal title to the property, I do not see my way to instruct the Governor to demand rent from the Anglican Trustees for the site of the church.