Chinese: Margery Kirkpatrick reflects on her ancestors

Chinese: 160th anniversary of the first immigrants to British Guiana.

Margery Kirkpatrick reflects on her ancestors

By Oluatoyin Alleyne – Stabroek News-  February 5, 2013 

This year marks the 160th anniversary of the arrival of the first Chinese in Guyana. Stabroek News commemorates the occasion with the publication here of some historical features (reprinted from earlier editions of our newspaper) and an interview with a descendant of the original Chinese immigrants, as well as with a representative of more recent arrivals to these shores.

Margery Kirkpatrick

Margery Kirpatrick

When Loo Shee left her homeland China in 1861 it was in desperation and to ensure that she saved the lives of her three children and herself as her husband and many others had been killed. 

She arrived in Guyana on May 12, 1861 and quickly remarried, interestingly, to a man who was once part of the group that slaughtered Chinese back in China but who later fled because he himself was being sought. With him she bore more children.

Loo Shee, who could possibly have been a member of the upper class in China because of her very tiny feet, but who may have been captured and put to work as a servant, died many years ago but her generation and their successors have contributed to the rich diverse culture of this country.
One of Loo Shee’s descendants is her great granddaughter, well-known caterer and historian of the Chinese in Guyana, Margery Kirkpatrick, who is also the Vice-President of the Chinese Association and owner of Kirkpatrick’s Catering.

“When she came here, her feet were so small the servants in the home wrapped it with cotton to make it appear to be a bigger foot and fit in ordinary sized shoes so that nobody would have noticed her feet were small and that she must be of a higher class,” she said. She explained that in those days when your feet were tiny it meant that you were rich, and their feet remained small from the custom of applying painfully tight binding to the feet of young girls to prevent further growth.

While in Guyana, Loo Shee married a man who was supposed to be Prince Chung but in fact his father and his uncle were in the group that started the Taiping Rebellion and the authorities were looking for him to kill him, but he escaped using the false name Lee-a-Tak.

According to Kirkpatrick, her great grandmother knew the true identity of her husband but she wanted to save her sons, so she married him because she was not sure whether he had come to Guyana to kill her children: “The two of them were married here and then she had two [more] children.”  [more]

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Comments

  • Helen  On 02/07/2013 at 11:48 pm

    I’m of the opinion that it’s the immigrant’s responsibility to learn the language of their adopted home if they do not speak the language. How can anyone expect to be successful in a new environment if they cannot communicate effectively. I’m sure there are English classes available in Guyana to accommodate new immigrants who are interested in learning the English language.

  • Riverwoman  On 02/08/2013 at 7:32 pm

    Kudos to Margery for keeping this history alive! Recently, I noted that in 1893 the Royal Agricultural and Commercial Society (RACS) of British Guiana was interested in seeking the relocation of an estimated 100,000 United States-based Chinese to BG. The Chinese were facing deportation consequent to the 1892 Chinese Exclusion Act which excluded “skilled and unskilled laborers employed in mining” from the US. N. Darnell Davis, an RACS member, said that he would ask “what steps could be taken to draw to the attention of the Chinese, …to the fact that there was room for them in British Guiana” as they were “an industrious class of people and generally knew something of the English Language.” [Timehri, vol. 7 (new series), 1893, 203-04].

  • Chuck  On 02/08/2013 at 7:57 pm

    She has the grandiose illusion that she has royalty in her ancestry. The Chinese were all indentured servants brought in by the British after slavery was abolished. They were all peasants and were as poor assed as church mice. Why would someone of “royal blood” go to Guyana as an indentured servant?

  • de castro  On 02/09/2013 at 8:17 am

    both comments above are “fair” and just.
    9 years ago I moved to SPAIN (andalucia south spain) in retirement.
    My vocabulary was “please yes no thank you”…yes it was back to school at 60
    to learn a new language/culture…it is all to do with “attitudes” !

    I hope to learn portuguese and some french also.

    we never stop learning
    kamptan

    • guyaneseonline  On 02/09/2013 at 4:01 pm

      From: Guyanese Online

      Why the Chinese came to Guyana

      Posted By Stabroek News – February 5, 2013

      The desire of the Guianese planters and the imperatives of British foreign policy notwithstanding, it was ultimately conditions in China which determined the quantum and regularity of immigrants from China. The conflict with Britain and the other Western countries that were eager to force China to open her doors to trade, simply exacerbated the soci-economic conditions which were causing Chinese people to flee their country in search of a better life. Overpopulation in China and periodic famines had always acted as an incentive for emigration. However, by the middle of the 19th century, the financial and political problems facing the ailing and corrupt Ching dynasty were exacerbated by its defeat by Britain in two wars during the 1840s and 1850s.

      The continuing hardships led to constant peasant revolts. The worst of these was the Taiping Massacre of 1859-61. The bulk of the immigrants who came to British Guiana under the Chinese experiment came during this period of deep social, economic and political crisis in China. In 1861, 3,365 Chinese immigrants arrived. It was the highest annual figure for the entire period of Chinese immigration. In fact, between 1859 and 1866 there was a continuous annual arrival of Chinese in the colony. It constituted 11,984 persons, 88.5 per cent of all the Chinese immigrants who came to British Guiana. According to records passed on to their descendants, as early as 1859 several Chinese came to the colony as non-indentured immigrants. They were sometimes professionals with their families. In addition to the normal indentured immigrants, there were refugees − members of the aristocracy fleeing the Taiping rebellion and rebels overthrown by the imperial army.

      (Extracted from ‘British Guiana’s immigration dilemma…’ Part II by Cecilia McAlmont, first published in Stabroek News on February 20, 2003)

  • de castro  On 02/09/2013 at 11:32 am

    2013 IS THE YEAR OF THE “SNAKE”….in GUYANA it should be the year of the “anoconda”….DARWIN thesis of “relativity” …but be careful they stalk their prey in the AMAZONIA…even human prey…ha ha !

    kamptan

  • victor  On 02/10/2013 at 6:03 pm

    You idiot!! Which indentured servant would have bound feet? and have those artifacts displayed by Margery as family heirlooms? Indentured servants went to British Guyana in exchange for money given to their families. None of that is featured in the history of her ancestry. You are just too willing ti ignore the facts before you.

  • de castro  On 02/13/2013 at 11:17 pm

    victor

    Interesting point ! sometimes “stories” passed down from generations do become distorted…because of prejudices and embarrassment.

    My grandmother/grandfather on my mother side were from MADERIA
    Peasantry farmers who lived off the land.

    My grandmother/grandfather on my fathers side were from LISBON
    Traders and merchants who exhanged goods for money.

    My mother and father decendants of these two “classes”
    became shop keepers influenced by my grandfather on my fathers side.

    My mother a very charitable woman in the community
    My father a very astute businessman in the community.

    Both now in there afterlife at 92/93 ..if there is an after life.
    Genetically I am my mother child as accumalating wealth was never my “forte”

    I am now retired after giving a third of my life to the trade union movement
    in ROYAL MAIL in UK. I am 69 and have been retired 9 years enjoying my travels mostly in the southern hemisphere.
    30 years in education/work
    30 years in “occupational hazard” work !
    and hopefully 30 years in retirement,,,,

    a lifetime of 100 is a blip on the radar of our lives…I should believe in an after-life.!

    I keep an open mind on that one…aliens …maybe !

    kamptan

    • victor  On 02/14/2013 at 2:37 pm

      Your response much appreciated. It’s great to be able to trace one’s ancestry – especially for Guyanese as we are all “aliens” (except of course for the Amerindian population).

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