Paton’s autobiography relied on celebrity status attached to South Pacific missions following “martyrdom” of the first Christian missionaries there. His “demonstration” of how impossible it was to convert cannibals became a bestseller that reached readers, not only in Britain and the United States, but also in island communities as small and so, to all appearances, as irrelevant to greatness as islands in the South Pacific. In Britain’s West Indian colonies, the significance of model schools was always distinct.
Like nine of every ten West Indians, including Mary Seacole and Bob Marley, I am the product of circumstances veiled in the Plymouth, Tobago tombstone memorialising “a mother without knowing it, and a wife without letting her husband know it.” The name, Scobie reveals my part-European ancestry from the time when most colonists in Tobago were Scottish. But I am from the mother continent, having descended from the Mossi of Burkina Faso in West Africa. I belong to a people blended in the Caribbean by Christianity, more than any other influence. I also belong to Seventh-day Adventism, easily the most fascinating influence in the last 130 years of Caribbean history. As a result, my autobiography intertwines intimately with centuries of blending, or hybridising in the Caribbean.