The Wonderful Demerara River By Maj. Gen. (retd) Joseph G Singh

The Wonderful Demerara River

By Major General (retd) Joseph G Singh MSS, MSc, FRGS

Borsselen Island in the Demerara River

Borsselen Island in the Demerara River

The Demerara River – origin of its name, its profile and its significance

The early Spanish explorers referred to this river as ‘Rio de Mirar’, the wonderful river, but it was the Dutch who christened the river, the Demerara, from the word ‘Demirar’, the wonderful.[1]

The wonderful Demerara River originates from the rugged, rain-fed, forested northern slopes of the Makari Mountains, located slightly right of centre of the narrow waist of Guyana. 

In 1956, while prospecting for diamonds at Lindo Creek, Matthew Young, man of many parts – sugar estate overseer, gold panner, diamond prospector and hinterland construction engineer during the 1920s to 1980, received an invitation to visit Mr Bleakey, a Government Geologist who was working in the area towards the source of the Demerara River. Young wrote:

“I dropped downriver to his riverside camp from where Edwards, his boat man carried me to the walking line on which Bleakey and his other geologists were working. The next day, I followed the geologists over laterite rock which was oozing water, in some places a foot deep. We continued walking through this water to climb a sandstone mountain about 1,000 feet high from which two black water tributaries emerged. At the top I found myself on a flat tableland of rock with dwarfed trees and shrubs. There was a grand view all around. From the southern tip I could clearly see the Makari Mountain peak rising above us. This then was the source of the Demerara River’[2].

—-

[1] Rev. L. Crookhall, British Guiana or Work and Wanderings among the Creoles, the Africans and Indians of the wild country. (London: T. Lester Union Ltd.)

[2] M F Young (1998), Guyana: The Lost El Dorado.  Peepal Tree Press, UK

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Comments

  • Dmitri Allicock  On December 18, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    A place called home in the valley of the Rio de Mirar…

    Thick original lush forest once covered this area with luxuriant botanical wonders and magnificent hardwood trees of greenheart and mora with buttresses that extended 25 feet up the trunk. A river valley created by millions of years of erosion of the Guiana plateau whose water accumulated and deposited rich humus on its journey to the sea…

    “I knew this river long before I could hold a pen
    A river of life and history way back then
    Sweet River of a lot more than tea water
    Homes of Greenheart, concrete blocks and mortar
    A river that spawn and even took life
    Kind River that provided my precious wife
    Flow on Demerara and carry on you may
    Forevermore where souls gather at dawn of new day”

    For centuries the rhythm of life of my family lived and died along the river banks of this wonderful river and article which stirred emotions of the heart…

    “Walk along the rivershore of dreams
    Reflection of memories drifting upstream
    Voyager of time travel to your heart be true
    Pleasant smiles paddling gently in canoe

    Woodpecker echoes where clumsy Toucan flies
    Fluffy clouds sailing across blue Demerara sky
    Green world of dancing sun and wild fruitfulness
    Laughing children swimming in fresh waters bless

    Distant hums of bauxite mines and passing train
    Sudden thunder and wet kisses of cleansing rain
    Barking dogs of defiance runs along the shores
    Box oven fresh bread and fried Lukanani adore

    Floating rafts and tug with esteemed hardwood
    Guided in the sun by strong arms that could
    Resting hammock of future, strong and free
    Sweet River of tide runs softly to the sea”

    Thank you Sir for a great article!

    • Joseph Singh  On December 18, 2013 at 6:58 pm

      Dmitri -you have captured in your poem the essence of this wonderful river. I was at the Canister Falls three weeks ago and the artist and poet in us cannot help but be enthralled by the haunting beauty of the falls.
      Best for the Season. Joe

  • de castro  On December 18, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Hey …you guys are rewriting the history that Guyana is….
    Land of many waters.
    I will be on my journey of a lifetime…..
    I fly to Lima Peru ….air conditioned recliner coach ride to where the
    Mighty Amazon begins.
    2 years ago I was in Tingo Maria a township of 4/5000 residents
    on the edge of the amazon jungle….
    I take a river boat and follow the Amazon river to Manaus living on board sleeping in a hammock …then onto Belem where the Amazon empties into the Atlantic.
    At 70 its certainly a journey of a lifetime…….
    Have already done the GT LINDEN LETHEM route via Amazon in a mini
    van…through jungles of Guyana onto Boa Vista in Brazil by air conditioned
    luxury coach £7 2 hours ride….did not have time to carry on to Manaus
    hence my next planned journey….Lima Manaus Belem.
    Also wish to see ENGLAND ITALY opening world cup football
    match in Manaus in June.
    Thanks for that bit of nostalgic history of Demerara
    When I tell people on my travels in euro land I am from Guyana
    I usually have to give a geography lesson on where it is.
    But when I say Demerara most associate it with brown sugar…
    Amazing how a name changes our perceptions.
    OK enough blabbler…
    Demitri and Joseph thanks for the enlightenment….

    Merry Xmas
    Happy 2014
    Kamptan

  • Dmitri Allicock  On December 18, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    Thank you Kamptan and Merry Christmas and enjoy what would be a magnificent trip All the best for 2014

  • de castro  On December 18, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    Salud brother….

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On December 18, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    For those of us growing up in Georgetown and along the river, the Demerara River was an enduring witness of our day to day lives.

    Thanks you Mr. Singh. I never knew that the name “Demerara” meant “wonderful.”

  • de castro  On December 19, 2013 at 1:05 am

    Rosaliene
    Yes we never stop learning….the power of love comes from above…song comes to mind…..
    our love for knowledge gives us an “insatiable” appetite for it….our brain like sponges….information is power !
    Read/write on..
    Merry Xmas
    Happy 2014

    Kamptan

  • de castro  On December 19, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Thanks sister
    Salud !

    Kamptan

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