Eyewitness: Cyril Halbert
Date: 28th January 2005
Place: National Archives
Cyril Halbert was about twelve years old in January 1935. He was a student at the Grammar school which at the time was run by Mr. Williams, an English man. The teachers were Branch, Wooding and Matheson. There were about forty boys at the school. On the 29th January 1935, all the boys were sent home. They were urged to go home as soon as possible and to avoid getting mixed up in anything on their way.
Cyril and two others heard that Mr Manchester was going to talk to the people and went to hear him. Manchester was almost in tears when he addressed the crowd. He asked the people to go home and told them that the negotiations were still going on. Halbert insisted that if they had listened to him, nothing would have happened.
The Rev. Williams of the Moravian Church was also there. He was an eloquent preacher whose sermons at Christmas and Easter often kept the congregation in church for long hours. A short, thick build man, he had been given the nick-name “Jack-in-the-box”. The boys went home after Manchester’s address because they were told not to be on the streets.
Halbert said he knew two of the men who were shot. He remembered Joseph Samuel who was an Antiguan and really did look like J. Matthew Sebastian, the editor of The Union Messenger and a member of the Workers' League and the Universal Benevolent Association. Halbert noticed that Joseph Allen who played cricket with the Renown Cricket Club was shouting invective totally unaware that the Defence Force Reserve was armed with live ammunition.
As a child he found the events of the day intriguing but scary and in hind sight found them to be a very sad moment in history.