After graduating from the University of Toronto with a B.A. degree and completing the course at the Presbyterian Deaconess Training Home, Miss M. Grace Beattie was appointed as a missionary to Trinidad by the Women’s Missionary Society of the Presbyterian Church. From her arrival there in 1916 until her retirement she gave 41 years of devoted and continuous service with only one brief leave of absence for personal reasons.
It may truly be said that Miss Beattie’s finest contribution was made in the field of education for girls. She served on the staff of the Naparima Girls’ High School in San Fernando for five terms as teacher and Principal. Miss Beattie’s vision for the school was one of holistic education, aiming to build sound character through all-round development. Naparima Girls’ High School (NGHS) was founded in 1912 by the Presbyterian missionary, Reverend Dr. Fulton Coffin, in collaboration with the East Indian National Congress responding to the need for a secondary school for girls in south Trinidad.
In 1916, Grace served a year as Principal, then after 2 years as Head Mistress she assumed again the role of Principal until 1927 when the enrolment at the school had grown to 100. After 10 years of teaching and a few years of Evangelistic work in 1939, Grace returned as Principal, a position she held until 1950. During this period the school expanded significantly, with thirty teachers and student enrolment at two hundred and twenty two.
During these years there was evidence of a growing interest in education for girls which resulted in the establishment of the new St Augustine Girls’ High School near Port of Spain. It was opened in temporary quarters on September 19, 1950, and Miss Beattie became its first Principal. In 1953 the new School building was formally opened and dedicated and high tribute was paid to Miss Beattie for her untiring efforts in the establishment of this fine, modem institution.
Returning for her final term she served in the Princes Town field, in evangelistic work among those whom she had known for many years. Here her gifts of sympathy, understanding and wise counsel were fully used as she sought to keep in touch with many of her former students; organized, directed and worked with women’s groups; gave leadership in young people’s and girls’ work, in Christian education in the primary Presbyterian schools, and visited in the homes of the people whom she loved. Her genuine interest in people, their deep respect for her opinion and advice, her readiness to listen to them to hear of their concerns and problems, as well as to talk to them, won for her a host of friends. They gave her their confidence because they knew she would respect it. They will miss her greatly.
At the close of this long term of service Miss Beattie must surely be happy that her teaching, Christian leadership and friendship has helped countless girls and women toward a finer appreciation of Christian service for others. This Board is deeply grateful to her for this, and on behalf of our whole Society expresses our gratitude to her, wishing her many happy and active years of retirement.
This poem written by Grace, is an ode to her Trinidadian car, The Song of a Car and a Missionary.
From August 1959, The Missionary Monthly with some additional information by Caryn Douglas, 2012