Kathleen Dorothy, the only daughter of Thomas Manchester and his wife Ada Killikelly was born in Sandy Point on the 4th December 1923. Ada died five years later and the little girl passed into the hands of four aunts. Unmarried and with no children of their own, they lavished their attention on their orphaned niece and treated her like a little princess. This left her father free to throw his energies into the political arena where he founded and, for a number of years, lead the Workers’ League.
At age five little Kathleen was sent to an infants school in Sandy Point and four years later she entered the Girls’ High School or Miss Pickard’s school as it was then known where the girls learnt not only academic subjects but also practical ones such as first aid, home nursing and book repair. They were also taught to value dignity, discipline, cleanliness, service to and participation in the community. Travelling to and from Sandy Point on a daily basis was no easy task in those days so arrangements were made for young Kathleen to remain in Basseterre during the week. She stayed at home of Mrs. Lou Challenger, her father’s cousin.
In December 1941, Kathleen Manchester joined the Civil Service as a junior clerk in Administration. Her father’s failing business interests which had repercussions on her aunts’ fortunes and his declining health would have meant that she had to place herself in a position that would guarantee some independence. Thomas Manchester died on the 31st January 1943 and Kathleen continued in the service for another four years.
In 1949, following in his footsteps, she left St. Kitts and went to Canada to pursue her studies. Alan Manchester, her paternal uncle gave her accommodation. Kathleen had hoped to pursue studies at the University of Toronto but a late arrival prevented her enrolment as a full-time student. She later went to Scotland and on the 4th July 1958, Kathleen Manchester graduated with a Masters in English from the University of Edinburgh. She was probably the first Kittitian woman to achieve that academic distinction. She was also given an award by the Senate of the University to research Constitutional Developments in the West Indies since 1832 with special reference to the Leeward Islands for her Doctorate, a topic that must have been inspired by the involvement of her father and grandfather in the politics of the colony. Manchester visited St. Kitts soon after graduation on what she intended would be a research visit and in December she wrote a progress report on her work which showed that she had covered a great deal of ground in St. Kitts. However she now faced domestic obligations which conflicted with her academic commitments, as her three elderly aunts were ailing and in need of her support. Her plans for an early return to Scotland were put on hold but still she did continue the research towards preparation of her doctoral dissertation.
To supplement her award from the University she also took a part-time secretarial post and worked as a lecturer for the Extra-Mural Department of the University College of the West Indies. She also taught English and History at her old school - the Girl’s High School.
Her interest in history seems to have coincided with a similar interest shared by Robert Bradshaw whose attention had been drawn to the unfavourable conditions in which the archives of the colony where being kept at the Court House. His recommendation facilitated the research that Manchester wanted to do and he hoped that it would bring order to the records. Manchester threw herself into the job with a passion. She recognized the value of the records and hand copied records herself and at times paid some youngster to help her. Her work however came to an abrupt end when someone raised a suspicion that her interest in the records went beyond research. A circular from the Chief Minister to the Executive Council did not mince words.
Having regard to Miss Manchester’s indiscretion of removing the records to her home and her idiosyncrasies which invariably lead to friction in her relationships with other people it would not be wise to give her the same untrammelled freedom of access to the records.
Stays in Barbados and Trinidad followed. There she worked as a freelance journalist for newspapers and radio and continued her efforts to write both fiction and non-fiction works. It was during her time in Trinidad that she completed and in 1971 finally published her book Historic Heritage of St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla a small but comprehensive and well illustrated encyclopaedia that covered a wide array of topics, from the Siege of Brimstone Hill to carnival queen shows. A comment in her Acknowledgements attests to the difficulties she experienced.
I appreciate the help of the many persons who assisted in checking the material. (I also include all “obstructionists,” who provided the grit in the ayster, producing this “pearl!”)
Manchester bore the cost of publication which she tried to recoup through the sale of advertising space in the book.
Confident in her own talent and undeterred by the lack of public interest, Manchester prepared other material for publication under the pseudonym of Kathleen Killikelly. This included The Power of the Dog - Fig Tree a novel of intrigue and passion set in St. Kitts of the 17th Century and researched papers with such titles The West Indian Unit Territory of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla; Appointment of Executive Council and Administrative Committee for St. Kitts and Anguilla; and Slave Amelioration in Saint Christopher, West Indies. As Miss Katie, dressed in traditional costume, with her head tied, Manchester entertained locals and foreign visitors and dignitaries with skits in Kittitian dialect and was often invited to perform at state functions.
Once again, Manchester took up residence abroad, first in Antigua, then again in Barbados and Trinidad. Life as a freelance journalist, novelist and sometime teacher was far from lucrative. Eric Skerrit, a successful businessman in St. Kitts, quickly realized that the demand for it warranted a second printing. He even offered to pay for the printing of the first five hundred copies. Totally enthused at the prospect of her work being circulated again, Manchester returned to St. Kitts write an update. However to many she had become a “bothersome” person who talked ceaselessly and she found it difficult to raise the much needed interest and support for her endeavour.
Manchester’s last years were marked by increased bitterness. Often in difficult financial circumstances, she could do nothing as portions of her work, were used wholesale in other publications and her authorship was never acknowledged. Still she plodded on hoping to re-published her beloved Historic Heritage.
Kathleen Manchester died alone at her home in Sandy Point on the 21st January 1992.
(Kittitian Gallery by Victoria Borg O'Flaherty)