A Man for all Seasons

No more illustrious name than that of Joseph Fairfax Agard, exists in the annals of The Trinidad Building and Loan Association, which celebrated its centenary on January 13th, 1991. For fifty-seven long, eventful and fruitful years, J. F. Agard devoted his life and energies - his family apart - to the one abiding love of his life, the Trinidad Building and Loan Association.

By now, the inspired origins of the TBLA are well-known: how certain leading Port-of-Spain businessmen and professionals got together to found the organisation on the model of the British Building Societies, and their example of the successful application of the principles of thrift and self-help.

Mr. Agard's own story furnishes the complementary romance and dynamic aspect of the consolidation of those early endeavours.

Joseph Fairfax Agard was born in Tobago on November 11th, 1889, less than two years before the founding of the TBLA. He returned to Tobago from England when he was nine and continued his education there under private tuition. In January, 1905, when he was sixteen years old, he entered the TBLA office as a junior.

One day, after three years of hard work, he one day listened to the sirens' call and went to work at the nearby Smith Bros. & Co., The Bonanza, which many old timers will remember. That was in 1909.

In 1911, just two years later, he returned to the TBLA, never again to leave its beckoning portals. He was now twenty two, but was nevertheless made Cashier, so impressed were the later Mr. A. F. Mathieson, Secretary, and Mr. Schierhitz, the Accountant, with J. F's drive, energy and capacity for hard work. Five years later J. F. Agard, himself, became the TBLA's Accountant.

"They built a foundation of public confidence upon which the Association is now firmly established." Joseph Fairfax was indeed richly deserving of being made Secretary in 1926. After ten years, J. F. Agard's achievement as a great Secretary was assured in TBLA's annals.

It was said of him and his work at this time: "To actually tell people that they must save their money and invest it properly, is easier said than done. Many essentials there must be for such an understanding. Tact and discretion are but mild epithets to describe his dealings with them, and Mr. Agard is more than an embodiment of these."

At this time, he was also described as the simple-going official, a matter-of-fact sort of man, who never for a moment betrayed signs of worry or excitement, even under the strain of the most exacting problem. His careful and astute management enabled the TBLA to declare dividends year after year.

J. F. Agard was fanatically devoted to the principle "Let your rent pay for your home." He advertised continually and effectively, "Stop paying rent: buy your own home."

An angler of note, he enticed, to their advantage, many a grateful investor into his net of thrift and homeownership. He was asked to advise on matters of homeownership by organisation up and down the Caribbean.

He was Treasurer of Queen’s Park Cricket Club for twenty-three years, Chairman of the Government's Housing Committee in the early 1950's, and he was appointed a Trustee of the Church of England. His phenomenal success as a financier made his services in great demand.

As a result of his exceptional services and prestige in financial circles, and for the outstanding success of his secretaryship of the TBLA, J. F. Agard was awarded a Coronation medal, an MBE, on the accession of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. This was on June 2nd, 1953.

In 1956, J. F. Agard celebrated fifty happy years of service with the TBLA. On the occasion of the special presentation made to him on January 9th, 1956, he revealed: "I joined the Association while still quite young. I called down from my home in Cascade, which was several miles outside of Port-of-Spain at that time, and worked for six months without pay."

J. F. Agard was also a Director of the then British Guiana and Trinidad Mutual Fire and Life Insurance Association; Director of the Port-of-Spain Gazette; of Pollard and Mendes Ltd., of Highland Park Estates Ltd., and a member of the Agricultural Credit Bank, the Agricultural Society, and of the Automobile Association, of which he was the President.

In the First World War, he served with the mounted Infantry. In the Second, he served with the Win The War Association. He was also the Manager of the Trinidad and Tobago cricket team in Barbados in 1943 and was a member of the Trinidad Cricket Team which toured British Guiana in 1923.

J. F. Agard will also be remembered as an organiser of Cycle and Athletic Sports for QPCC for many years. He also owned racehorses and was a member of Shamrock Club, Union Club, Country Club, and Marine Club, and founded the now defunct Thistle Club.

Joseph Fairfax Agard - altogether, a man for all seasons!

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