Brother Michael Samuel

  • Born in San F’do: 22.3.42 – last of nine children to Erskine and Ivy Samuel.
  • Attended Princes Town R.C. up until age 7, and then Mon Repos R.C.
  • Primary School where he gained a Gov’t Exhibition in 1953 and then went on to Presentation College, San F’do, finishing there in December, 1959.

Represented the College in Under 16 and Championship level football and was also appointed as a Senior College Prefect.  He was also the Champion tennis player of the College and a keen member of the Photographic Society and the editor of the weekly College Magazine called “The Boys Own”.He was a cub-scout from age 7 to 11 in the 8th San F’do Cup Pack (Ralph Kelshall); joined the 1st Pres. Sea Scouts in 1955; became P.L. in 1956,Junior Troop Leader in 1957; was the Ast.Patrol Leader of the Chancellor Flag Winning Patrol in 1957 and the P.L. of the same winning Patrol in 1958.  Became the Group Scout Leader in 1970 until his retirement as Principal in 2002. Gained the Queen’s Scout Award in 1959 and the Woodbadge Award (Internationally recognised leader’s certificate) in 1976 and was awarded the Medal of Merit in 1977.  Was presented with the George Sammy Long Service Award in 1998 for over 25 years of continuous service. He was awarded the 2nd highest award in scouting in 2008 – the Silver Ibis. He accompanied the Troop on almost all of their overseas summer camps, whether it was in Tobago, Barbados, Grenada, St. Lucia and Venezuela. We was the lead cuatro player, singer and opened almost all Troop campfires.
He conducted many weekend retreats for students from Forms 4 to 6 at the Scout House at Copperhole, ‘down d islands’ for over a period of fifteen years with as many as 45 to 50 and more on some occasions in attendance. His chicken Pelau, which he took pride in cooking within one hour, became a staple at all camps and retreats. He would purchase groceries, drive the bus, drive the boat, conduct the retreats, cook the main meals and ensure that the students would always look forward to his retreats.

His extended family at Pres referred to him as “Sambo”, “Lukie”, “Big Mike”, “Mighty Mike” or just plain Mikey. He was a mentor and friend to many.

Taught as an A-level graduate in ‘Pres’, San F’do for 1 year in 1960 and for another in Pres. Chaguanas in 1961. His transition from student to teacher was described as seamless and was endorsed by Bro. Jerome as a person who could control a classroom of boys. He left for Ireland to join the Brothers in 1962 where he would take his vows and join the Brotherhood, assuming the initials FPM “Fratres Presentationis Mariae”. It would be arguably the most pivotal moment of his life, as it was there and then that he dedicated himself formally to religious service. While there attended the National University of Ireland where he gained a Double Honours Degree in Geography and Spanish.

After his course of study, he answered the call of duty by returning to Trinidad in 1968. He would not do this however, without first taking some time to visit his sister Molly. Because of her moving to Canada at a young age, they had not seen each other in many years. He intimated to her that he loved Ireland so much that he would love to one day settle there. He could never have guessed how things would change in his later life.

Apart from one year in Pres. Chaguanas in 1969, he taught in ‘Pres’ San F’do until retirement in March 2002.  Became Dean of 6th Form in 1970 and Principal in 1975. Gained the Dip in Education in 1975 from the School of Education in UWI.  He also entered the next chapter of his life in that year, becoming the first local Brother, to become Principal at Presentation College San Fernando. This was a Herculean task, as to anyone who knew the College would know that it was run more like a university rather than a High School, however that did not affect his performance as a outstanding Brother. He went on to become the first local Superior of the Brothers in the San Fernando community, and served as Vicar-Provincial of the West Indian Province for 12 years.

Throughout his lifetime he displayed his dedication to his own family. He moved his parents and immediate family to the house next door. He was the glue that held his extended family together – a rather large one at that. After his parents passed and upon approaching retirement he continued to take care of his family at another residence.

How could one person manage such tasks with apparent ease, no one observing objectively can truly understand. What is clear though, is that the Presentation Brothers were an order of extraordinary men and he was certainly carrying that torch with added determination and vision.

He was the President of the Association of Principals of Assisted Gov’t Secondary Schools for 10 years and was a member of the Cadet Force Advisory Committee for over 15 years during which time he served as Chairman for two consecutive terms of 3 years each.

He was awarded the highest award by the Cadet Force for distinguished service in 2007 – the Caribbean Cadet Force Medal and also the T&T Cadet Force Medal.

In October of 2000 the Garvey Institute of Montreal Inc., presented him with the Millennial Award for, among other things, communicating to his students the true meaning of “Education”.

He was instrumental in the construction of the St. Michael’s Swimming Pool Complex and served as Chairman of the Pool Association until his passing. This was the first public pool in south. His desire was to make swimming, squash, and tennis accessible to all persons, as facilities were then limited to certain classes. He was very proud to be associated with the many Musical Productions that were put on by the College Choir and surrounding schools for over 25 years.

He served as a Board Member of the University of T & T and was a member of the Living Waters Community at Nazareth House from 2003. He had both knee joints replaced in the 1990’s. He had triple heart by-pass surgery in 2000 and was a cancer survivor of Multiple Myeloma of the Plasma since 2003. He struggled continuously with keeping his weight under control despite his love affair for a good “lime” and scotch and coconut water. His commitment to the “bunda boys” – a group that played tennis regularly and celebrated life at least twice a week, was another of his favourite pastimes. His Presentation family and all the invitations ensured that this was no easy challenge. These never-ending “engagements” proved to be a form of relaxation, relationship builder and one of the things he enjoyed most.

He lived most of his life in community at the “Brothers residence” at the college.  In October 2000 the community moved to a rented house in St. Joseph Village, San Fernando. This was due to the incessant noise levels from Lord Street. In 2001 the community moved to Waddell Street after acquiring that property as part compensation for loss of lands at Union Hall, due to road construction.

In 2013 he received a National Award – Gold – for meritorious and outstanding service.

It may be a bit sad to think that he did eventually part with the Brotherhood. Requested in 2002 to return to the very Ireland he once desired to retire to, it was no longer what he desired. The thought of losing the social, family and health support that he had in Trinidad, adapting to a new lifestyle in a new environment at age 60, was too much for him. He agonised over the decision, after all the Brotherhood had shaped and guided him since his days as a teenager on the Hill. After sharing his agony with a few friends, he decided to officially end his tenure as a Presentation Brother by dispensation of his vows in March 2003.

Some viewed this as disobedience, but he was one of those who always “did it my way”.  One can only imagine that in the later years with dwindling number of Brothers at the College and his deep investment in the San Fernando community, and with his family commitment, that his daily human interactions were different to what they were in the early days of a Brother’s House teeming with Brothers.

The giant of a man that was Brother Michael Samuel was at the core a very simple human, with all the attendant frailties.

He still loved the Brothers deeply, and his lifestyle did not really change and the pursuit of his faith remained unwavered. However, he was no longer officially a Brother of the Congregation of Presentation Brothers.

Interestingly, although he did iterate he was no longer a Brother, he was still referred to as Brother Michael by his past students, friends and family. It is as if the identity never changed, and remains so now, even after his passing.

His own words in an article written about the Principals of Presentation San Fernando in 2008

“Bro. Michael Samuel the first native born Principal assumed the leadership of the College.  From the inception of his Principalship,  Bro. Michael made his philosophy and vision abundantly clear in the delivery of his first Principal’s report – the realization of a family where every student mattered as an individual with his own particular talents and dignity and the consequential eventual contribution that he had to make not only to the life of the College, but, in particular, to the life of the wider community.  Further, that the facilities of the College be made available to the community, in so far as this was possible.  There was a need for a more holistic approach that would permeate the entire atmosphere and ethos of the ‘Pres’ family.  The morning Assembly  focused attention on our true purpose in life and instilled in the minds of the students a spirit of pride and camaraderie that would inform their self image.  To this end there was an expansion of the College’s Academic and Extra-curricular programme, with a de-emphasis on winning scholarships, but the paradox was that scholarships came in greater abundance.  He made it his business to involve himself in every area of student activity and continued teaching until his retirement.  He was unafraid to be critical of the ills of the educational system and even of the abuses of the Government of the day.  In his 27 years as Principal, a period that equalled the entire span of all the other Principals combined, we read in this excerpt taken from the Diamond Jubilee College Magazine: “A true Renaissance man – Scout, Scout-Master, Footballer, Singer, Photographer, an avid Tennis player, (Parang and Cuatro aficionado, Bus and tractor driver, and builder) and the latest in the long line of great men/leaders who have held that prestigious office.”  The final episode that should be mentioned as a legacy of Bro. Michael’s tenure was the construction of the St. Michael’s Swimming Pool and facilities without incurring any debt to the College or Brothers.  Much credit must go to Mr Michael Mahabir of DAMUS who literally made it happen.”