History of Wm Fogarty Store, Georgetown, British Guiana

History of Wm Fogarty Store, Georgetown, British Guiana

As a child growing up in Guyana (then British Guiana), you became familiar with the name of Wm Fogarty from your first step.  That applied to your parents and grandparents.  Fogarty’s Store was there at that time and will still be here for generations to come.

From time to time, have you wondered where the Fogarty’s Store came from?  Who established it?  What really is the relevance of Fogarty’s Store that was always present in your life, one that you will look forward to visiting and being assured of the best quality of goods and services?

Here is a peek into the history of Fogarty’s Store.   

In 1885, an Irishman, Mr. William Fogarty, visited Barbados for health reasons.  After a while, he set up a business there, which did not do well.  Sometime later, he came to British Guiana as it was then called.  Seeing that this country had possibilities of doing business, he then ventured to Ireland and bought merchandise which he started selling using a donkey cart.  At that time, he employed an old man to assist him in selling his goods.

Being a visionary and businessman with a flourishing business, he realized that it was time to get his own place to sell his merchandise.  He purchased a brick building at 21 Water Street, Georgetown, and later at 20 Water Street, where he set up his Wholesale Department Store.

In 1892, William Fogarty business started in the then British Guiana. By 1906, the business was a demanding and flourishing one, so he expanded and purchased the Philharmonic Hall, where the first retail store was housed.

In 1911, Mr. Fogarty purchased the property at 34-37 Water Street, Georgetown.  William Fogarty Limited was then registered as a private Company in British Guiana.

On that black Friday of 23rd February, 1945, fire destroyed many businesses in Water Street, including the Fogarty’s Building; that did not deter Mr. Fogarty from rebuilding his business.  On October 19, 1950, the new building that is the present store reopened its doors to the public with 24 Departments.

In 1987, the Laparkan Group of Companies, a large Guyanese-owned and operated consortium, acquired William Fogarty Limited.

The William Fogarty’s Store now houses a number of Departments and provides a wide range of services including – Supermarket, Supermart, Pharmacy, Gift Shoppe, Cafeteria, Ready-Wear, Home Furnishing, Electronics/Home Appliances, Travel Agency, Office Supplies, Money Transfer Agency, Cambio and Consumer Lending.

At present, the William Fogarty’s Store operates three branches in the Berbice region at New Amsterdam, Rose Hall, and Corriverton.

When at Fogarty’s Store in Water Street, did it occur to you that your grandparents were at one time standing where you are?

Source: Laparkan web-site : http://www.laparkan.com/fogartys/fogartys/history.html

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  • Hubert Hintzen - hhintzen@hotmail.com  On 07/12/2011 at 9:16 pm

    My friend and classmate from Queens College is the (I am not sure of the title) Managing Director of Fogarty’s.

  • Jan Augustin  On 07/13/2011 at 3:49 pm

    Good article about by-gone days.
    There used to be a framed photograph of Mr. Fogarty just near the elevator on the ground floor.

    It brings back memories of some of the staff there in the old days – Miss Yellery, Miss Cottam, Miss Polson. There was a Mrs. Austin in the book department, and I think a Mrs. Benn in the coffee shop on the first floor. Customer service was excellent.

    At Christmas, the decorations were tastefully done. Santa was on the third floor.

    What about future articles on Weiting & Richter, Bettancourts, Pedlars, Ferriera & Gomes, J.P. Santos, Jaikarans, Brodie & Rainer, Geddes Grant, Hutchinsons? Would make interesting reading, I think.

  • M.O. Okker  On 07/13/2011 at 9:51 pm

    I worked for Bookers Sugar Estates in Guyana from 1950 – 1961 first 2 years as asst, chemist at Port Mourant and then I was transferred to Enmore Estate on the East Coast as Senior Chemist and Acting Factory Manager of the Enmore Sugar Factory and Rum Distillery. On leave in Holland I married in 1954 and both of our children were born in Guyana (1955 & 1961).
    When I went on leave in 1953 with the Cottca of the K.N.S.M., I bought 3 suitcases at Fogarty’s and it is only recently that we had to dispense with them because they fell apart. I am 81 years old now and we still often talk about the good days we spent in Guyana.
    M.O. Okker.

  • George Imhoff  On 07/14/2011 at 12:57 am

    That is a great piece of history Mr. Okker and please continue to enjoy your memories of British Guiana and Guyana!
    George Imhoff.

  • Ian Wishart  On 07/15/2011 at 9:34 am

    In 1945 Mr Fogarty would have been long dead! The owners at that time were the O’Dowd family and the wife of John Dare (a member of that same family). They were probably related to the original owner.

    • Godfrey Chin  On 07/18/2011 at 7:08 pm

      This Fogarty’s Story will be nostalgised to include the ‘full saga with pictures by yours truly shortly. Do you know that the marble pulpit at Brickdam Cathedral was a ‘memorial to the Fogarty’s Family.. GODc.

    • Eliza  On 09/25/2014 at 3:00 pm

      Could anyone provide me with more details of Mr. John St. Felix Dare (Managing Director) mentioned by Ian Wishart? Have you any information about him and his family? Please contact me at elizacgflorendo@gmail.com I am currently researching a Dare family in British Guiana and more (any) information (anecdotes or otherwise) of this individual may help me. Thank you. Eliza.

  • I, de Oliveira  On 07/18/2011 at 6:28 pm

    my name is Joan de Oliveira. I worked at Wlm. Fogarty`s 1953 to 1956..the mamaging director was St. F. Deer or Dare….the Manager was John O`Dowd (sr.), his son was John O`Dowd (jr), his red haired cousin and my supervisor, Patrick O`Dowd….I remember John Mc`Cowan, also my supervisor.John Joquin, my supervisor, Mr. da Costa, Frraj, ashort Chineese lady named Mrs. Tang, Rogrigues in books….snort Indian man in Photo Dept., Angela LeAndrew, Joan McCowan the window dresser, and daughter of John McCowan., Joyce Dandrade, jean Brummel, Olive Rodius, Lloyd Rodrigues in shoes, Mannie Fernandes in shoes, Esme Rego, Norma Polson, Joyce Headeker, Norma Gibbs. and her sister Gibbs , and many others, oh, Doreen Lee, whom I worked with, all very nice people, Oh, and Hilda Fernandes…….my days at Forgarty<s were memorable ones…….

    • Tony O'Dowd  On 12/01/2013 at 4:10 pm

      My father was Patrick [Pat] O’Dowd [1911-1962], and his father [Alty O’Dowd] was managing director until his death in 1946. I visited the store in 2000 and was saddened to see its condition. I have many good memories of that place. Joyce Headeker lived in Toronto but I have lost contact with her and am not sure if she is still with us.

    • D  On 10/05/2017 at 2:39 pm

      Hello Joan, my Grandad Cuthbert ‘Bertie’ Singh worked @ Fogartys for 45 years.1915/1960. Men’s department. I have a certificate of service singned by 12 coleagues,including simmonds,Mendez de Franca,DeCosta. If I have an e.mail address,I can upload a picture of it. If anyone has any information/stories on my family I would very grateful!

  • Frank  On 07/27/2011 at 10:13 pm

    I too have my fond memories of W.M. Forgarty’s store. There was a time in Guyana when aside from hardware items, one went to Forgarty’s or across to Guyana Stores (formerly Bookers). Now sadly, Forgarty’s is merely a dim shadow of its former self and looks and is rumored to be closing down. The only vibrant part is the Rosebud Cafe.

  • razzielle  On 06/19/2012 at 9:45 pm

    Does anyone know a family with surname of either O’Dowd, Dow, or Dowd from william (Bill) O’Dowd) or Justine O’Dowd?

  • one people  On 07/09/2012 at 10:04 pm

    OMG!!!.. what Memories, I just recently got back from a trip to Guyana. Must admit W.M. Fogarty’s is very different from the old days (Time changes all things ) even ourselves.. My grandfather. Alfred De Freitas, My father Querino De Freitas , and myself. Decio De Freitas all worked there until the mid 60’s. Many of the names mentioned in previous postings are very well known to me.especially Manny Fernandes, he was my supervisor in the men’s shoe dept.All I need to say is already posted by the comments made .. Those of you who are debating on visiting Guyana my advise is..GO FOR IT!!!. The Cook-up rice in the Cafe is much better that we got from the lady who sold Potato Balls and puri at the back of the store.. LOL!!!!. Thanks to All for the Memories…

  • P. Morgan  On 09/09/2012 at 9:51 pm

    I am hoping that someone can help me out here as I am really desperate to know. My father was Eric Basil Chapman and I undertstand he was a District Commissioner at one time – not sure which district – possibly in the 1930’s. He then worked for Bookers. His wife was Grace Doreen. I am doing the family tree and trying to get more information on them. Did anyone know them? They lived at Blairmont at one time and then Berbice and then Georgetown in the 1950’s/1960s. Eric was born in Barbados in 1910 and Grace (nee Davis) was born in Guyana in 1912.

    Would really love to hear from anyone who knew them.


  • Tessa Gonsalves  On 09/10/2013 at 10:28 pm

    My father-in-law was Eoin O’Dowd and I was married to John O’Dowd who died in 1962. My memories of the olden days and what Fogarty’s used tp be like has made me feel sad to hear what it has become today. It would certainly have saddened my father-in-law and husband who loved Fogarty’s dearly and for many years it was their life. My maiden name was Wight – CV Wight’s daughter

    • Nora kawalec  On 05/02/2014 at 12:59 am

      Tessa I’m reading this here on the computer. My name was Nora Johnson! I live in California. Where do you live? Where and how is Your sister Jacquline? It has been many years! Reply if you like Tessa! My e-mail address is norkawalec@aol.com. It would be nice to hear from you! I remember Your husband John too! My sister Jean lives in the U.K. Bye for now!

    • William Campbell  On 06/21/2019 at 10:43 am

      Your father in law was a disciplined gentleman,I joined Wm, Fogarty`s early 60`s after leaving Saint`s Stanislaus,Started in the customs dept with Mr. Ruben De Nobrega,after a year Mr. O`Dowd asked if I would be interested in position in the Books and Stationery ( Mr Mc Cowan was about to retire ,I did not know that) after a year I was promoted to Mr Mc Cowan position,Then Your father in law and Mr Stebbins asked me to train in different depts,I ended up buying for Stationery,photo and and a few small depts.Mr. O`Dowd would always have a tea break at 9am and I think 2pm.I was able to travel abroad to meet manufacturers and suppliers in North America but mostly in the UK,I am forever grateful for the opportunity that he give me,I also remember Mr. D`Andrade (wholesale mgr) and their was an Irish Gentleman who was the hands on mgr. Planning and laying out departments.I forgot his name.He let me drive his Austin Midi a few times.I resigned in 1970/2 (I think) to go with the Government buying arm GNTC .Left for the States after 3 years after being frustrated with political interference which clashed with my business decisions.Forever grateful for the opportunity Mr. O`Dowd give me.

      • Liam O’Dowd  On 06/22/2019 at 4:19 pm

        Lovely to hear about my uncle Eoin O’Dowd. I met him a number of times when he came to Ireland to visit his family including his brother – my father Seamus. Generally he was on business trips to the UK on behalf of Fogartys

  • Liam O'Dowd  On 08/11/2014 at 3:13 pm

    Hi Tessa. Greetings from Ireland. I am Liam, Seamus’s eldest son, and nephew of Eoin. I heard a lot about you over the years. Unfortunately, I never met John but met Eoin and Jimmy on occasional visits to Ireland. Interestingly I know a Guyanese here in Belfast, Michael Mahadeo, who knew all about Fogartys. My email address is L.ODowd@qub.ac.uk if you would like to get in touch.

  • margotvansluytman  On 05/24/2017 at 7:21 pm

    My Dad, Theodore (Theo) Van Sluytman worked there in the 1960s.

    • William Campbell  On 06/21/2019 at 10:46 am

      I remember your dad,I think in the Men`s wear dept.Him and David De Freitas and ,Mr Kadir,

  • D  On 10/05/2017 at 2:46 pm

    My grandad Cuthbert ‘ Bertie ‘ Singh worked @ Fogatys men’s dept for 45 years.1915/1960 I have a large signed gratitude of service poster they gave him,about ten signatures appear including,DCosta,Simmonds,Mendez de Franca. I would love any information/stories about my family please.

  • Denis Prowell  On 10/31/2017 at 7:37 pm

    I am Denis Prowell. I worked at Wm Fogarty from 1965 to 1969 when I left for Canada. My wife was also employed there (Pauline Rodrigues-George Rodrigues niece) my uncle, Joseph D’Aguiar (now deceased 1913) worked there in the early 50’s also my cousins – the Martins. All I knew, and was very proud of was, Fogarty’s was very welcoming and a family like worker atmosphere. Mr Eoin O’Dowd was a very kind, fair and wise individual also, surely recognized his employees’ strengths and innovative skills, and gave credit accordingly. I enjoyed working there and have very fond and lasting memories of Wm Fogarty. That was also my first employer.

    • Denis Prowell  On 12/27/2017 at 9:55 pm

      Joseph D’Aguiar was deceased in 2013 not 1913.

  • Denis Leandro  On 03/21/2020 at 9:17 am

    I worked at Fogartys 1968/70 in the Electronics dept on the bottom floor under Mr Vivian DeRyck and Mr Mendonca from Plaisance, two outstanding gentlemen. Mr O’Dowd was the General Manager.
    My Dad Abel Leandro and his brother Archie both worked there as department heads, my sisters Angelica now Pires and Claudette later DaCosta(deceased) also worked there, my brother in law Gregory DaCosta worked there as well with his father Joseph DaCosta being head of the furniture dept.
    I remember Mr Nurse who manned the elevator at times and Frankie DeLima who I think worked in the book shop.
    Fond memories of working at Wm Fogartys……Denis Leandro

  • dhanpaul narine  On 03/24/2020 at 1:40 pm

    Fogarty was an amazing store. My ‘Fogarty’ story is somewhat different from the good people here. I grew up in Vergenoegen, in a logie in Stelling Road. A logie is really a run down place, with horrible living conditions. On weekends, I would take our donkey cart and go to the rice mill and look for boosie, which is broken rice. This I would sell for 25 cents and when I had enough money I would go to GT; my first stop would be Fogarty’s. The book section was out of this world for a country kid. I bought novels and magazines with my pennies which I would read and pass to the others. I became a mini-library in the logie.
    The problem was despite all that reading I was failing my exams; I just could not focus. They gave me a last chance to pass or else I would have to go and do manual work, that I detested.
    I sold more boosie and on a Saturday I went to Fogarty. A book caught my eye and I was in two minds as to whether I should buy it. I decided against it and walked out of the store to go to the stelling. When I reached the stelling the ferry ‘Makouria’ had just left. I had time on my hands. I returned to Fogarty and looked for the book. It was called ‘The Shoes of the Fisherman’ by Morris West. I went home and put the book away. On Sunday, I was bored and decided to read it.
    It was a lovely story.
    The following morning was my GCE O’ Level English exam. I turned nervously to the comprehension section and there it was: the entire section was taken from ‘The Shoes of the Fisherman.’
    I looked up to the heavens, took a deep breath, and wrote as I had never done before. I passed English and went on to become a teacher in a nearby school. I had just turned seventeen, and as you can imagine, I made many more trips to Fogarty’s. But I will never forget the book department in this beautiful store.

    • D. U.K.  On 03/25/2020 at 8:55 am

      I love your story DhanPaul,all your hard work had paid off & someone was looking over you. My Grandfather Bertie Singh worked @ Fogartys all of his life in the Gentlemen’s attire department. Sadly he is not around anymore,but I have a beautiful Fogartys scroll signed by many other workers there. God bless.

      • Liam O'Dowd  On 03/26/2020 at 5:47 am

        DhanPaul… thank you for a heart warming story. The Shoes of the Fisherman was one of the first books I read over 50 years ago

  • Tony Russell  On 05/30/2020 at 7:34 am

    I wonder but nothing tried not won so, here goes: My grandfather, Urban Stanislaus Leandro, of Portuguese descent but born in Guyana, was accountant at William Fogarty Ltd., when he was transferred to Trinidad & Tobago in 1916, to open the new branch there. He passed away in 1921, at age 28, during the Spanish flu epidemic, leaving his wife Clarissa nee Smith and 4 young children ages from 6 to 10 months, the eldest of whom was my late mother. I am seeking information about him and wonder if some mention may be made in the Company’s history, even though it has changed hands. Any comments or suggestions with respect to possible leads or sources would be much appreciated.

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