“Immortality is to live your life doing good things,
and leaving your mark behind.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, our Anthem!”
On the evening of August 9th, 1962, these were the words announced with great pride by Prime Minister-designate, Dr. Eric Williams in a radio broadcast to Trinidad and Tobago.
The Anthem, played twice, by the Police Band, and sung by the La Petite Musicale Choir made its debut over the airways to the hundreds of thousands of citizens with eager ears glued to the radio programme. It was a time of celebration: Trinidad and Tobago was counting down the days to declare its Independence from Great Britain on August 31st, 1962. The day when the new nation will be in charge of its own destiny.
This National Anthem, described by Dr. Williams as, “very stately, very dignified, very racy, and very important for the territory” was the winning composition chosen from a competition held in search of the best National Anthem for the newly independent Trinidad and Tobago. The competition included three categories: words, music, and words and music. Chosen from the 834 words, 33 music, and 306 word and music entries received by the National Anthem committee from all over the world, was Mr. Patrick Castagne’s composition.
Mrs. Lenore Mahase-Samaroo, one of the judges on the National Anthem committee said that after hearing his composition,
“I knew immediately that Castagne’s entry was the one.”
But forty-five-year-old Mr. Castagne didn’t expect to win all three categories. He received the news that he won while vacationing in Cornwall, England. A telegram was sent to him at the post office near him in England, but it was the post mistress who notified him to collect his mail. He jumped immediately into his car and headed straight to the post office. A family member described that he was so excited, he forgot to apply his parking brakes!
Messages of congratulations poured in from many.
Mr. Patrick Stanislaus Castagne was born October 3rd, 1916 in Guyana to Trinidadian parents. At age two, he came to Trinidad, where later on he attended St. Mary’s College from 1928 to 1935. Throughout his school days, Mr. Castagne was involved in all sports offered at the college, particularly excelling at Table Tennis, where he was a runner-up in one National Championship.
And as if that wasn’t bad enough, he arrived late after the dance for Father Leonard Graf’s play at St. Mary’s, where he played the lead role!
The beginning of his love story may have unfolded unconventionally, but somewhere along the way, Lucille’s perception of him changed. He would often say,
“The smartest thing I ever did was to marry Lou.”
Mr. Castagne was a natural-born entertainer. Whenever he performed in school plays, he showed off his acting prowess through his ad-libbing and improvisation. And the audience loved it!
But Mr. Castagne’s true calling was his passion for music. Without any formal musical training, he taught himself to play the piano, first by ear, then, later on, to read and write music. The latter allowed him to document his compositions. In 1936, he made his first composition titled “Waiting For You” which was recorded by American, Phil Sheridan.
Wherever Mr. Castagne went the gift of music followed him, even to the Army when he joined the Civil Service in 1939, during World War II. Captain Castagne was highly respected by his comrades, and was a popular sight at army camps, as either master of ceremonies, pianist or otherwise.
After leaving his mark on the Civil Service, he worked in radio in Montreal, Canada broadcasting the live radio program: Canada West Indies Quiz (C.W.I.Z.). In Trinidad, his voice became popular over the airwaves when he worked for Radio Trinidad, fulfilling the roles of announcer and producer. During the 1950s to 1960s, there were many Carnival and Christmas shows produced, directed, or “emceed” (master of ceremonies) by him, which earned him the title of “Trinidad’s Mr. Showman”.
He played an instrumental role in starting the Dimanche Gras show, as it is known today. His idea was for each “King” from their respective calypso tents to come together and compete for a “King of Kings” title. And so it has continued since 1950.
He composed many calypsos, like “Ice Man” which he wrote for the calypsonian Melody to sing at the Dimanche Gras show in 1960. It became a popular Road March hit that same year too.
Other popular songs he wrote too were: “The Fugitive” for the Merrymen of Barbados, “Hyarima: A Caribbean Rhapsody”, “Dance to Calypso”, “Play Ball”, ‘Calypso Christmas” “Just Mrs. Jones”, “Rhythms in Steel”, “Little Shepard Boy” “Caribbean Sunset” and “Rejoice It’s Christmas”.
In 1956, while he was an employee at Angostura Bitters Limited, he began writing the National Anthem which took him two and a half years to complete. Originally, the National Anthem started out as a national song for the Federation of the West Indies, titled, “A Song for Federation”. But the Federation fell apart before it could be submitted.
The song originally began:
“Forged from the depth of slavery,
In the fires of hope and prayer,
With boundless faith in our liberty,
We solemnly declare”
The first line was later changed to “Forged by the Love of Unity”. Mr. Castagne rejected the word “slavery” because it wasn’t something he wanted to perpetuate.
Foreseeing that one day Trinidad and Tobago will be in need of an Anthem, he held on to the song.
A father of six children; five sons and one daughter, his top priority was to ensure that all his children benefitted from a university education. So in 1961, while he was Director and Marketing Manager of Angostura Bitters Limited, he made the decision to move with his family to England. Many people felt he was crazy to leave, but he wanted to keep his family together.
“I felt it was essential for my family to stay together, so we left.”
With only 500 pounds in pocket, he left to start a new life.
All of the employees at Angostura Bitters Limited lined up at the airport to bid him and his family farewell and best wishes.
In England, he then worked at the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission, in charge of public relations and tourist promotion for four years.
When the competition was organized in 1962 to select a National Anthem for Trinidad and Tobago for the declaration of Independence, Lucille urged her husband to enter the song. He entered the same song but with a few changes in all three categories: words, music, and words and music. He was confident to win at least one.
“I was sure that I had a winner.”
To his surprise, out of 1, 173 entries submitted to the National Anthem Committee, he won all three categories. Often, past winners of other National Anthem competitions held worldwide were non-nationals of the country. So it was a proud moment when a national of Trinidad and Tobago won the judges’ verdict.
On learning the good news, Mr. Castagne beamed,
“Now I feel like the cat that swallowed the canary.”
Dr. Williams invited Mr. Castagne and his wife to be honoured guests at the Independence Day celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago on August 31st. Mr. Castagne was presented with £1, 000/ five thousand dollars in Government bonds and a gold medal bearing the Arms of Trinidad and Tobago.
But Mr. Castagne strongly felt that the honour of having his composition accepted as the National Anthem of Trinidad and Tobago was worth far more than any prize money.
“I don’t believe I should make money from the anthem.”
“I’m turning the prize money over for the fostering of music appreciation. It took me two and a half years to write the anthem, but hearing it tonight makes me feel the work was well worth-while.”
What inspired Mr. Castagne to compose such a moving piece?
It was a childhood experience that subconsciously influenced him.
“I happened to stumble upon the last remnants of an ancient tribe called the Caribs. They were encamped at the tip of my island. I listened to their chanting. It was in a minor key and expressed hope.”
Similarly, the National Anthem starts in the minor key to create a sense of nostalgia, and the idea of humble beginnings. Then it switches to the major key at the chorus, to convey the impression of hope; the listener imagines and believes in a brighter outlook for the future.
Forged from the love of liberty,
In the fires of hope and prayer,
With boundless faith in our Destiny,
We solemnly declare,
Side by side we stand,
Islands of the blue Caribbean Sea,
This our Native Land,
We pledge our lives to Thee,
Here ev’ry creed and race find an equal place,
And may God bless our Nation,
Here ev’ry creed and race find an equal place,
And may God bless our Nation.
“I believe in every word I wrote.
“I believe one of the things that Trinidad can contribute to the world is that all races can and do live together in complete harmony.”
Mr. Castagne composed the National Anthem to be played in one-minute, in March time. This was influenced by his military training.
Before Trinidad and Tobago’s Independence, cinema audiences used to disregard the British National Anthem by walking out while it was being played after film shows. On the evening Dr. Williams announced the Anthem to the population, he urged all citizens to show “respect at all times, and especially in public places, for the National Anthem of Trinidad and Tobago.”
“When the National Anthem is played in public everyone should stand, everyone should be quiet.”
How did Mr. Castagne feel after being honoured?
“If I never achieve anything else in life, I have been more than rewarded by this.”
Mr. Castagne received royal recognition when he made the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List the next year in 1963. He was appointed by Queen Elizabeth II to be a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).
Although the National Anthem was his masterpiece, Mr. Castagne’s success didn’t end there.
When Mr. Castagne left England in 1965, he settled in Barbados where he resided till 1982. There he produced and presented many television shows. He was voted the most “Outstanding Personality” in Barbados (Television). He opened his own advertising agency called P.S. Castagne Marketing Ltd., offering services in advertising, marketing, and public relations. The company still exists today under the name: Castagne Williams Advertising Ltd.
When Trinidad and Tobago celebrated its 17th Independence in 1979, Mr. Castagne was awarded the Chaconia Medal (gold) for long and meritorious service in the sphere of Public Service and Music.
“Music to me is more than a hobby, it’s a way of life.”
Throughout his life, he wrote over 100 songs and 24 commercial jingles, with his repertoire ranging from calypso, to love songs and religious works. A devout Catholic, he composed original music for “The Lord’s Prayer”, “Hail Mary Prayer” and “Ave Maria” which he gave to the Catholic Church, and is still used today.
Many songs he wrote that brought him fame were dedicated to his wife, Lucille. One particular love song he wrote for her is the waltz, “Kiss Me For Christmas” sung by Kelwyn Hutcheon. This is a popular classic I remember growing up to, referred to as the “White Christmas” of the Caribbean by Mr. Castagne. For Lucille’s 60th birthday, he wrote, “I Love You” for her.
One wish he did long for was the gift of singing:
“I have so much to be thankful for, but along the way I wished I could sing…I would have sung many songs I wrote to my loving wife.”
Even after forty-six years of marriage, Mr. Castagne was still very much in love with Lou.
“I owe everything to my wife.”
“Our love worked because we never had much money. But we believed in each other, even up to now.”
Mr. Castagne may not have been the wealthiest man, but the values, traditions, and memories he shared and created with his family are priceless.
After being away from “home” for 27 years, Mr. Castagne and his wife returned to Trinidad and Tobago in 1987. When Lucille passed in 1988, he dedicated his time to charity work. He passed away in May 2000, and is survived by his five children, and many grand-children.
Before I entered UWI, St. Augustine as an undergrad in 2010, I met one of Mr. Castagne’s grandsons. He was a final year student employed as an Admissions Student Advocate (ASA). He was our group’s tour-guide for the campus tour. When he introduced himself, it was my mum who asked if he was related to Mr. Patrick Castagne. He replied,
“Yes. That’s my grand-dad!”
This was my first interaction with a member of the Castagne family. Being the chatterbox that my mum is, he entertained all her questions and was a most pleasant guide.
My husband also had the privilege of seeing a few of Mr. Castagne’s grand-children in church every Sunday growing up. According to Aaron,
“As a young boy growing up, I observed a particular family with many children occupying the entire front pew on the left side of the church every Sunday. At that time, I did not know they were the grand-children of Mr. Patrick Castagne. My family would similarly occupy an entire pew, about four to five seats behind him. Their mother reminded me of my mum as she gently ushered them all into the pew. I felt connected to them because their family, like mine, was big yet they only had one sister…just like me. And as time went by, both our families seemed to grow bigger! I often thought my parents and their parents were competing to determine who will make the most children… the Castagne family won that game seven to five! I was afraid to speak with them growing up. One day during my teenage years, their mum approached me and introduced me to her eldest son (the one with “the ras”). He was polite, easy to talk to, and kept conversations interesting with his ideas and music. As time went by, I got to speak with most of his grand-children who came to the same church, and they all share a sense of charisma that is described in so many memoirs of their grandfather. I am sure their grandfather would be proud of the righteous men (and woman) they are now in their respectful careers, and in the realm of music and spirituality. Even though Mr. Castagne is gone, he still lives on in the generations he has left behind.”
Thank you to The Castagne family for the inspiring legacy that you have left behind, and that you continue to leave.
In the words of Mr. Patrick Castagne:
“The privilege of knowing that I have made a contribution to my country and that, really, I shall be here in thousands of years’ time is too fantastic.”
Well done Mr. Castagne!
2 thoughts on “IMMORTALITY ACHIEVED”
Beautiful piece on our nation’s history and excellent collection of memorabilia. Well put, Keep up the good work..
Thanks Ian! That means a lot.