The Mico Charity

In a complicated will, Lady Mico, the wife of Sir Samuel Mico bequeathed £1000 ‘to Redeeme poor slaves’ which ‘at this date certainly meant Christians enslaved by the pirates of Tangier’.1She died in 1710, and by 1827 the sum amounted with interest (and possibly a second bequest) to more than £110,000.

The situation having changed by 1834, following the abolition of slavery and Sir T. F. Buxton 2conceived that the interest on the money might be legitimately applied to the Christian instruction of the emancipated slaves in the West Indies. This was acceded to, and to the interest the Government added a temporary grant of £20,000 per annum,

The Mico Charity became an important educational trust which established schools in the British Caribbean. The Rev. J. M. Trew (Archdeacon of the Bahamas) who had won Buxton’s regard through efforts he had made on behalf of slaves during his long residence in Jamaica, was appointed superintendent. Teachers were sought and appointed all, about 21 in number, trained in the Glasgow Normal Seminary.3

Given the size of the task in the Caribbean, the aim was for these teachers to train the freed slaves themselves. Eventually, two normal schools were established, and in the course of a few years, upwards of 100 indigenous teachers had been trained.

In The Training System, 10th Edition, Stow sums up the work of Mico Charity and the involvement of students trained at the Normal Seminary:

‘During the year 1837 the venerable Archdeacon Trew, of the Bahamas (then Rev. Mr Trew), took out eighteen or twenty students who had been trained in this Seminary, to occupy situations as trainers of schools in the different West India Islands, under the Mico Charity. At the same time he established a Normal Seminar in Antigua under one of the students, Mr John Miller, for the training of native teachers. This has been a most successful enterprise, and a large number of intelligent well-trained native students have left that institution, and are now following their Christian calling among the negro population.

 The effect of all these movements has been the adoption of the Training System by the Danish Government in their islands, and by the German missionaries of the Moravian Brethren one of whom has translated ‘The Training System’ into German, and it is now on sale in his mother country – Prussia. Mr Miller’s duty as rector of the Normal Institution at Antigua, and superintendent of the moral training schools in the different islands, was found to be greatly beyond the strength of one man. His Christian and unquenchable ardour, however, impelled him to persevere in the work till his constitution became so enfeebled that be was obliged to return to his native land, and he is now the devoted pastor of a congregation in England.

 He is succeeded as superintendent of the Normal Seminary at Antigua by Mr Sydney Stead, also a former student at Glasgow, a man of experience as a trainer, truly Christian and energetic. We doubt not he will be as highly successful in Antigua as he has been at home. He is now assisted by another trained student, lately chosen and sent out by the directors of the Mico Charity.4The Fourth GES Report of 1837 quotes the names of some of the students:

 ‘The Government Mico Charity, of which the Rev J. M. Trew is Secretary, and whose sphere of operation is amongst the West India Negro population, had 16 teachers, with their wives, trained in the Seminary: some of these were selected from the students of the Society, others were sent from London, and several from Ireland. Each had guaranteed to him £150 sterling per and, and half that sum during their course of training in the Seminary. The following are their destinations, Antigua St John’s, Mr and Mrs Miller — St Lucia, Castins, Mr and Mrs Whitton and Mr Johnstone — Tobago, Scarbro (sic), Mr and Mrs Ross-  Grenada, St Georges, Mr and Mrs Loune — St Vincent, Kingston, Mr and Mrs Ramsay, and Mr and Mrs Smyth — Trinidad, Port-of-Spain, Mr Woods, Mr and Mrs Thomson, and Mr Mrs Kerr — Jamaica, Mr Malcolm — Mauritius, Mr Barrit and Mr Gray.5

In a letter by Mr. Buxton, to one of his friends in 1839, he mentions Mr Miller, who, since 1838, had been appointed superintendent of the schools in the various West Indian islands belonging to this charity, and rector of the Normal Seminary, established on the Training System in Antigua :-

‘I send you Mr Miller’s letter from Antigua, telling me that he has already ten good Christian blacks ready to be located on the Niger.’ The writer continues, ‘I am more and more impressed with the importance of normal schools. It is not only that there will be a great demand for schoolmasters in the West Indies, but I have a strong confidence that Africa will ere long be opened to commerce, civilisation, and Christianity, and then will there be need indeed of educated and religious black schoolmasters. The idea of compensation to Africa through the medium of the West Indies is a great favourite with me, and I think we shall see the day when we shall be called to pour a flood of light and truth upon miserable Africa. Pray, therefore, bear in mind that we ought to do a great deal as to normal schools.’