Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 21st 2015 Contents B5
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Fyzabad in southern Trinidad is
considered to be the birthplace of the
modern trade union movement,
specifically the Oilfield Workers Trade
Union (OWTU) which arguably is the
best organised body of its kind to date.
In a time not so long ago, when
schoolchildren were actually taught the
history of the island, the name Tubal
Uriah Buzz Butler was well-known
as the firebrand Grenadian immigrant
who was selected by the early labour
agitators to approach the formidable
Col Horace Hickling of the mighty Apex
Oilfields for changes in wages and
working conditions. The strikes that
resulted from the inability of Hickling
to compromise led to Butler becoming
a wanted man, and he was forced into
hiding for much of the year leading to
a fateful day in June 1937 supported
almost unanimously by workers in the
Fyzabad oilfields and with strikes
spreading as far afield as the sugar belt.
Down in Fyzabad, things were
seething and a warship, the HMS Ajax
was anchored off San Fernando with
a garrison of troops. All police officers
were called out for duty by the Inspector
General of the Trinidad Constabulary,
Col Arthur Stephen Mavrogordato. In
charge of operations in the Southern
Division was Inspector Power and
Inspector Liddlelow. The detachment
of officers was garrisoned at the old
Fyzabad Police Station then located
near the entrance to Apex Oilfields.
Some time before, Detective Corporal
Carl King (also known as Charlie King)
had been dispatched to make incognito
investigations into Butler s activities.
King had an islandwide reputation as
a tough crimefighter, having brought
several notable criminals to heel. He
was also perceived as something of a
bully by the working classes. Orders
arrived at the station directly from Col
Mavrogordato for Butler s arrest
although Inspector Power objected that
this would merely incite more unrest.
Two constables were sent to the La
Brea Magistrate s Court via Delhi Road
to obtain a warrant.
On the night of June 19, a large crowd
of over 300 people gathered at a meet-
ing place known as the Emporium Hall.
Butler was slated to address them.
Inspectors Power and Liddlelow,
accompanied by eight officers including
Corporal King went to the hall where
Power instructed Constable Price to
read the warrant. Butler claimed not
to be able to understand the warrant
and Power passed it to Constable Belfon
to finish. Butler then shouted, "ARE
YOU GOING TO LET THEM TAKE
ME?" to which the crowd replied in
the negative. This was the moment
when showers of bottles and stones
rained on the police who were forced
to retreat to their two cars. Power tried
to plead with the crowd for order but
was knocked unconscious by a large
stone aimed at his head. The officers
managed to make it to their vehicles.
Although he received prompt medical
aid from Dr E McMahon at the Apex
hospital, Power never regained his
health and died some months later.
Upon arrival at the station, it was
realised that Corporal King was nowhere
to be seen having been last spotted
running towards a Chinese shop. What
happened there is now lore. King head-
ed to the back of the premises and
vaulted out of a window with the mob
at his heels. In the darkness, however,
he failed to see that the building was
erected on a slope so that he made a
20 odd foot fall to the ground, breaking
both his legs. Someone grabbed a can
of kerosene from the shop which was
poured on a screaming King who was
then set ablaze and burnt alive. The
spot where this horrible act occurred
is still known as Charlie King Junction
although the original shop building is
no more. It was three days before his
charred remains were recovered due to
barricades and hostility from the cit-
izens preventing the police from enter-
ing Fyzabad proper. Carl King was
interred at Lapeyrouse Cemetery. In
the meantime, reinforcements arrived
under Inspector Ogier and William
Bradburn, an Englishman. Whilst he
was on patrol in the embattled town,
a bullet from an unknown sniper laid
Bradburn out, stone cold dead. During
this time, an innocent bystander called
La Brea Charles was mistakenly pointed
out as the person who burnt King, and
was shot in the back by police. A white
monument now marks the spot. The
Emporium Hall is long gone, replaced
by a building belonging to the OWTU
in the yard of which stands a statue of
Butler. Bradburn lies under a marble
cross at the military cemetery in St
James. There are now few memorials
of this bloody epoch in our history.
THE BURNING OF CHARLIE KING
Charlie King Corner, Fyzabad, in the 1960s. The Chinese shop where King met his end can be seen on the right
and is now the site of a hardware store.
Corporal Carl "Charlie" King lies under
this granite cross which was erected by
his peers at Lapeyrouse Cemetery.
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