The brutal attack on Colin Peter and his wife, which resulted in the eventual death of Colin Peter, was a shock to the people of Saint Lucia but more so to the staff of the National Archives. Walking along the Vigie Beach about 1:30 in the afternoon of Monday, 19th November 2012, the couple from Prince Edward Island, Canada was headed to the National Archives, Vigie to review information, collect a document and to continue a family search at the Genealogical Centre. Colin Peter has been called a “Canadian tourist” by every media house, which he is, but many people now know that Colin Peter was no ordinary tourist. He has deep roots in Saint Lucia that go back over a hundred and fifty years. Colin Peter was the great grand nephew of William Peter. The Peter in Peter and Co. The William Peter after whom the Boulevard in the heart of Castries is named. William Peter was born on 6th July 1851 in Castries and died on 13th December 1933 at his home at Dunnottar, Castries; the very building which now is the home of the Dunnottar School. During his lifetime, he was a leading merchant and entrepreneur who established Peter and Company and was a principal Coaling merchant during the heyday of the Coaling industry. William Peter was the brother of Alistair and Frank who were both born in Saint Lucia. Frank was Colin’s great grandfather. Colin Peter was in Saint Lucia to continue research into his family and was in the process of preparing a comprehensive family tree.
It is ironic that a “white man” was all that the perpetrator saw. Someone whose skin colour is erroneously associated with two concepts. Firstly, he is from overseas – a tourist – and secondly, he is wealthy. Blinded by ignorance and greed this miscreant bludgeoned Colin Peter for his possessions: his wallet, his digital camera, a bag with his documents, despite his pleas and those of his wife. Husband, father, grandfather, uncle, friend, he left his home in Canada in search of his forbears, some of whom are buried in Saint Lucia’s soil. This gentle septuagenarian, a loving, caring, family oriented soul was simply walking along the shores that his forebears before him trod where, according to him, he felt at home. He shared with the staff at the National Archives at his very first visit that he was immediately taken by the island’s charm and fell in love with Saint Lucia, enthusing over Saint Lucians – “some of the nicest people he had ever met”. Despite her loss, his wife Gwenthe echoes his sentiment. She continues to see beyond the dastardly deed that cruelly wrenched her husband from her and his family by a “bad apple”.
On Monday 26th November, 2012 the funeral service of Colin Peter was held at the Holy Anglican Trinity Church, Trinity Church Road, Castries at 7:00 o’clock in the forenoon. It was a private service attended by the immediate family, the Saint Lucia host family where Colin lived and National Archives staff. Canon Evelyn’s homily offered hope as he quoted text after text from the Holy Bible even as he decried the social misdeeds of our day such as the one committed against Colin, which he deemed, “senseless”.
On Thursday 29th November, 2012, the family flew back to Canada with the cremated ashes of their loved one. Also in their possession was a booklet, In Memoriam, prepared for them by the National Archives staff. It contains photographs of the funeral service, scenes of old Castries and relevant scenes pertaining to William Peter and his contribution to Saint Lucian life. This is the least that we could do.
The National Archives with its National Portrait Gallery and Genealogical Centre has been attracting people to the island in search of their family roots. Let us show hospitality to the visitors to our shores. A stranger’s just a friend you do not know. Colin Peter was not only a friend. He was family.