Guyana Memories: “I’ll always Remember” and “I’ll never Forget” – by Francis Quamina Farrier

Dave Martins with Farrier

Like so many Guyanese and many other nationals around the world, I am a Dave Martins fan. I love his music with that rich bouncy Caribbean beat. I love his lyrics, always with something to learn and think about. And during the past decade or so, I have come to enjoy reading his weekly column in the Sunday Stabroek News.

In a more recent article entitled “Lessons I never forgot”, in which he was reflecting on his learning experiences while an up-and-coming musical entertainer, I couldn’t help observing his use of the term, “I never forgot”,  which was in the Headline.  It got me to thinking of something I was doing unwittingly for many decades, with the use of that term,  “I’ll never forget”, and it’s twin, “I’ll always remember”, and realised that somehow I was using both terms, which I suppose means the same thing, very selectively.   

Most often, whenever it is something pleasant, I’d say, “I’ll always remember”, while when it is something unpleasant, I’d say, “I’ll never forget”. That personal communication culture of mine probably goes way back seventy years to my first favourite teacher, Ms Edwards, at the Agricola Anglican School in the late 1940s. Good lessons taught by a favourite teacher are the things we always remember. And to have had the pleasure as a pre teen to dance with my teacher at a school party, is something “I’ll always remember”. The fact that Ms Edwards was plump like my Mammy, made me feel very comfortable dancing with her.

Taking the lead from Dave Martins, let me first share with you, a few of those things which “I’ll never forget”. The first is the loss of a friend of mine when on a tour to the Orinduik Water Falls on the Guyana/Brazil Border. We were in our late teens and had flown from the then Atkinson Field, Timehri, airport to Orinduik in one of the British Guiana Airways Dakota planes. Maybe Dave Martins was already working at the British Guiana Airways at that time. It was a great trip initially, but turned tragically sad when one of our party, Courtney Johnson, drowned in the waterfall. (See Photo below). He was just age nineteen, and had, a few months previously, commenced what turned out to be, his very short working career, at the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court as a clerk. His drowning in that Iring river waterfall actually happened while the rest of us were enjoying ourselves in the beautiful river. None of us had realized that he was gone until a head count was taken before the plane was about to leave Orindouk for the return flight to Atkinson Field, that we realized that he was missing. That is something “I’ll never forget”.
High on that list, of course, is my unlawful detention at a Police Station lock-up overnight in St. John’s, the capital of sister Caricom country, Antigua and Barbuda. That story is well-known around the Caribbean and beyond, of Rogue Immigration officers who were operating at the Vere Bird International Airport during the 1990s. They used to shake down Guyanese and other Caribbean Nationals at the airport. Those who, like myself refused to be victimized, were taught a lesson; inside a police station cell. The rogue officers involved wanted Guyana gold from me and when I bluntly refused, I was kidnapped and taken to the police station and thrown into a cell where I was held for about nine hours. That is something “I’ll never forget.” About a year after that illegal act by the Antigua Immigration, I received a face-to-face apology from the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, the Hon. Lester Bird. He was in Guyana at the time attending a Caricom Heads-of-Government meeting.
Another incident which “I’ll never forget”, is being robbed of a trip to India. Having returned to Guyana after my studies in The Performants Arts and Journalism at the University of Middlesex in England, an invitation came for me to attend a Theatre Seminar in Bhopal, India, which was some years after the 1984 epic toxic gas disaster in that Indian city. I never knew of that invitation until I was sent another one to a similar gathering of Commonwealth theatre practitioners the following year. On that occasion, the event was held in Jamaica. It was while I  was in conversation with the principal organizer that I learnt of the previous invitation. On my return to Guyana, I investigated, and discovered that someone had wilfully ducked that previous invitation. The reason how the invitation to Jamaica was received, was because it was sent by hand and delivered to my home and not to my office. Not receiving the invitation to India in the way it happened, is something “I’ll never forget”.
There are many things in my life which “I’ll always remember”. The love and sacrifices of my parents. My father always planting a few trees whenever he is about to leave one location for another when he worked in the hinterland, knowing that he may never enjoy the fruits of those trees. My mother for instilling in me the virtues of treating others as I would like to be treated. However, let me give you two other examples of things which “I’ll always remember”.

Farrier and Rafiq Khan

The invitation by then Programme Director of Radio Demerara, Rafiq Khan, to write a radio soap opera. Back then, such radio programmes were all imported from England and Australia, so for me it was supposed to be something out of my league and way above my ability as a writer. As I expressed some consternation to the invitation, Rafiq Khan said to me seven magical and inspirational words; “Francis, I know you can do it.”  And as the saying goes, the rest is history. That, certainly, is something “I’ll Always Remember”.
On his return to his native Guyana after the success of his Bestselling novel, “To Sir, With Love”, I invited E.R. Braithwaite to an Evening of Drama which I produced and was staged at the YWCA on Brickdam in Georgetown. That led to him offering me a special Grant to attend a Summer Course in Theatre and Journalism at the Banff School of Fine Arts, University of Alberta, in Canada. Of course, that is certainly something, “I’ll Always Remember”.
There are so many other things to recall; winning my first writing prize for a National Essay-Writing competition for Schools. My first overland trip to the Kaieteur Falls. My arrival at the Sydney International Airport in Australia and the fuss the Immigration Officer made about my Guyana Passport; lifting it aloft and showing it to nearby colleagues and saying, “When last have you seen one of these? Clive Lloyd’s country”. One of the exciting things which I experienced Down Under and which, “I’ll always remember.”
Now, just in case you might be wondering whether I contacted my friend and colleague Dave Martins before I wrote this article in which he is a principal personality, I have to let you know that I have not; just a little hint to him. Interviewing Dave Martins on a beach in the Cayman Islands, and also in the Rupununi here in Guyana, are things “I’ll always Remember” about him. One day travelling in a large bus from Georgetown to Parika with some visiting journalists from the Caribbean, as we entered Hague on the West Coast Demerara, in Region three, I announced that we are coming up to a house where Dave Martins once lived; one of the journalists asked the driver to stop and almost every one of those visiting journalists took out their cameras, and it was click, click click at that house. That is also something “I’ll always Remember.”
Finally, it is my belief that the National Award of The Golden Arrow of Achievement (AA) pales into insignificance for Dave Martins, when compared to the real “AA” in his life – Annette Arjune. Something we will “Always Remember” about our Hero, Dave Martins who composed that popular song, “Caribbean, where are your Heroes?”, and of course, that patriotic masterpiece, “Not a Blade of Grass”; compositions by Dave Martins which we will “Always Remember”.

Backing camera at extreme left, is Courtney Johnson who drowned at the Orinduik Falls. I am at center in plaid shirt and hand in pocket.

 

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Comments

  • walter  On October 16, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    So sad all the talk about honoring “past ” greats never happens, maybe it is time to do the honoring, having a center, filled with memorabilia, while they are still alive. Did a lot of stuff with Dave in the ole days, remember I was always in awe of his wit. My “Will always remember” in the sixties going to Denmark by car, from Kiel, there was one Indian, two Germans, one Finn [?] and one Guyanese [me]. at the immigration check point, they told us they will not allow the Indian, the rest can pass. I thought I might have been prevented too, had to ask, and did. The officer told me Guyana [British Guiana] had one of the oldest Danish Consulate Offices in south America, and had a very good relationship with the country.
    Sometimes this site brings up good memories for me, sometimes.

  • Richard  On October 17, 2018 at 11:42 am

    Thanks for sharing. Enjoyed your way of bringing your childhood friend back to life.

  • michael hawkins  On October 18, 2018 at 5:01 am

    Lots to remember of my childhood around Bartica and up the Potaro RD. The building blocks for life to come

  • The Last Brahmin  On October 21, 2018 at 10:39 am

    REMEMBERING NABACLIS

    I was born to the East Indian race
    When things were so very scarce
    I know there was a war going on
    But at six who cares if they fight
    I did know about imported ration
    And ‘twas very expensive to face

    And as I grew up on E.C.Demerara at Nabaclis
    My black neighbours were doing their business
    With very few East Indians minions
    And we got along fine at that time
    Though things were scarce like onions
    We were poor but without any racial madness

    I didn’t know anything much about politics
    I looked upon all as Guyanese without tricks
    My mind on evenings was on Marvin’s toy car
    And would use any ruse to visit to watch
    I’d get away to his house which wasn’t too far
    With Albert to play with it even if I get licks

    Then on the other side of the street
    Harry my friend every day we’d meet
    He took me sometimes to the far Middle Walk
    To pump for the houri fish by the koker
    With fishing rod eating green mango we’d talk
    And Ma would fry them for us to eat

    We had to walk nearly 2 miles to school
    With by my sisters Seer, Chan and Phool
    That’s nearly 4 miles all the way
    My eldest sister Shri was a tomboy

    And would get into fights every day
    She was our protector and was no fool

    We lived in a very peaceful village
    There was no black or brown image
    Everyone called the elders Mister
    We never call elders by their first names
    Everyone was like a brother or sister
    There was no hatred or racial rage

    My father was the grounds’ caretaker and caters
    For the Delinquent Girls Home of the misbehavers
    And we got the very best darn fruits all grafted
    Since then I’ve never seen such big mangoes
    The taste of butter grafted pears not yet abated
    Life was slow and quiet but then vice had no takers

    As I progressed in body mind and spirit
    Grades were given to us according to merit
    I excelled in class and when you run errands
    For Miss Joseph who chose you to share books
    Clean the blackboard and or other demands
    The cane was used only to discipline a lil bit

    At the Nabaclis Cinema I saw my first movie so keen
    I cannot recall the name but I did remember a scene
    A huge black scary train was coming straight at us
    And of course, all of us dived for cover under the benches
    Such was our simple childish ways without any fuss
    I don’t think anyone of us really recalls what was seen

    At about ten years the good life almost freeze
    When we moved to the west coast of Berbice
    I think it was betterment for our welfare
    For my dad was misbehaving at Nabaclis

    And ma thought her brothers would care
    Being there all bad behaviour would cease

    At Bush Lot, it was the opposite politically
    There were a few blacks and lots of coolie
    We lived at the factory house atop the barn
    Which belonged to my three Uncles
    Pa worked at the rice mill and wasn’t lazy
    And we had acres of concrete to play daily

    Something strange happened no one would win
    It had to do with money and it was bad as a sin
    One of my uncles owed my father some cash
    When it was payback time all hell broke loose
    That day the workers were ready to bash
    Wrecking our fowl pen under the kitchen

    I guess this was time to go for we had our fill
    Thus ended our happy stay at top of the rice mill
    We moved a few blocks away to a home much smaller
    And it was a dump located in a flooded area
    So when it rained we’re in over a foot of mud and water
    The kitchen was not raised for my pa had no goodwill

    And things went from bad to worse it behooved
    Us and so to my grand mother’s house we moved
    To the centre of the village by the Middle Dam
    They call it a separation living in a 10×10 shack
    With lots of smoke, we were caught in a real jam
    Much to the chagrin of the other in-laws, unmoved

    My grandmother was a saviour in those days
    Who for us had a smile on her face always
    Making her oil as I help to grate her coconuts
    She was a loving, kind wise old soul who
    Taught me proverbs as I fetched water in buckets
    She said “Boy bear you chafe this is only a phase”

    We were a burden now to my mother
    So we were shared out among the brothers
    I went with my good Uncle King
    And started a new chapter in my life
    At first, my Aunt Ruby loved me
    And then this love turner to hate later

    I was getting an education so I strove
    To burst wood to fit in her stupid stove
    Feed, clean the pens of the fowls and ducks
    And many days when all kids were inside
    I had to coax the ducks home with clucks
    Whilst in the rains fighting mosquitoes in drove

    I was scared of nights for my aunt scary stares
    Put fowls to nest in my little room downstairs
    The fowls got nimble and it was all over the room
    And I spent my nights scratching and itching
    My cousins peeping me through the cracks in gloom
    Laughing and giggling at me showing no cares

    I took the abuses orally and a few physical
    For I was all alone without a relative or pal
    To do my homework I got a small lamp
    At times I hid under rice bags from the rains
    To stay dry and not catch a cold from the damp
    As an orphan, I bore my chafe awaiting my call

    1Although neither lice nor mites have wings, mites are arachnids—spiders. This means the lice would have six legs and the mites, eight. Lice are a bit larger than mites and are light-coloured, often with darker heads. Mites are rounder, and can be (as their names suggest) red or grey; northern fowl mites are black. Both mites and lice are parasites:

  • walter  On October 22, 2018 at 8:44 am

    Pretty good, of course I could not get the continuation of the final paragraph, maybe too deep for me. I liked it.

    • The Last Brahmin  On October 28, 2018 at 11:48 am

      Wiater said, “Pretty good, of course, I could not get the continuation of the final paragraph, maybe too deep for me. I liked it.”

      Thanks , here is how it ended:
      I had passed my PTA examination waiting for a call to teach as a Pupil Teacher. In those days this was one way to get into teaching. But the Presbyterian bosses wouldn’t hire a Hindu, so I was waiting on my call. I got it when my aunt from Anna Regina/Suddie sent me a telegram. I went and started a 30-year-old career as a teacher at Anna Regina under the superb guidance of the late Great CV Nunes.

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