Trinidad was a land of associations. Before the first Chinese immigrants came the slaves formed ‘regiments’ reflecting their different insular or tribal origins. Other immigrants such as the Indians and the Portuguese formed theirs in turn. Like everyone else the Chinese too formed associations and clubs. They formed social groups and commercial organizations; they created ethnic, linguistic and regional associations. The local-born Chinese formed their organizations and the foreign –born Chinese formed theirs. The first was in 1914: the Chinese National Association, whose executive included E.B Acham (Eugene Chen), George Marfoe, George Alderie Lee Lum and Aching Allum. This changed into the Chinese National Party in 1917. Two year later a Chinese Commercial Association was formed, with more business interests mind, because until 1947 there was no Chinese in the Chamber of Commerce in Trinidad. Both groups were also probably inspired by the nationalist and democratic aspirations released by the Chinese revolution of 10th October 1911, which gave overseas Chinese a great sense of communal pride and direction.
A Chinese Association with broader appeal appeared in 1930 at 19 Charlotte Street, the same address as the earlier Chinese National Association and Chinese National Party. Its president was J.R Hinking; Edwin Lee Lum and Dr. Tito Achong were vice presidents. Fifteen years later the Chinese Association was legally incorporated. In 1956 the China Society was created as an umbrellas organization to unite the many Chinese associations. Although the indefatigable Edwin Lee Lum was involved in that too, the organization’s clout came from the founding member Albert Moyou who became president in 1961 until 1969. His son-in-law was Dr. Eric Williams, its constitutional mandate was similar to those if social and economic well-being of China-born immigrants; to encourage goodwill among Chinese merchants to collect and disseminate business information; to support charities, schools, hospitals, scholarships and homes for the aged. The China Society took up residence at 19 Charlotte Streets, the address of the Kuomintang Association and the original Chinese Commercial Association. Linked to the district associations and their China-born immigrants the China Society looked outward. They subscribed to Chinese magazines and newspapers from Taiwan. Chinese dances, songs plays were organized. Classes were held in Chinese cuisine, art and languages. The Double Ten anniversary was celebrated with lion dances in Charlotte Street. Such activities were very different from those sponsored by the Chinese Association, which focused more on sports and recreation. Whereas the Fui Toong On sought to promote Chinese dance, the Chinese Association was the venue for Thora Dumbell’s ballet classes.
The 1970’s saw big changes, younger creolized Chinese were joining local elite clubs like the Country Club and the Yacht Club. Moves to merge and strengthen all the organizations, including the Chinese Association, under the umbrella of the China Society began in the late 1970’s but holding meeting was a problem, with Chinese-speakers having difficulty understanding each other. In 1986 the China Society was reconstituted as a limited company with five district associations as founding members. The Chinese Association began to plan join activities with the China society, the former handling local negotiations and the later foreign arrangements.
Source: [Johnson, Kim “Descendants of the Dragon” Ian Randle Publishing, 2006.]