The Library, the Novelist, the Community and the Movement – by Francis Quamina Farrier

The Library, the Novelist, the Community and the Movement – by Francis Quamina Farrier  

The four elements listed in the Headline above, will all be in their 110 anniversary this year 2019; they are The National Library in Georgetown, The Guyanese novelist, Edgar Mittelholzer, of New Amsterdam, The Village of St. Ignatius in Region Nine and the Guyana Scouting Movement; they all commenced in the year 1919. Novelist Edgar Mittelholzer, of course, passed on in May 1965.


The Guyana National Library which is located at the corner of Main and Church Streets in Georgetown, was founded in 1909. The 7,000 pound sterling cost for the construction, was donated by the Scottish-American philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, who had a passion for literature, and for making  it possible for those who did not have the means to buy books for their reading pleasure and information, to still be able to read the books they desired, by becoming members of “Free Libraries”, and borrow the books they needed.         

Over the decades, Branches of the National Library have been established at New Amsterdam, Linden, Anna Regina and many other towns and villages in all the Regions of the country.

During to past decade, the Library in Georgetown has up-graded its services to the Public with Computer and other modern facilities. Some of the other recent special projects by the Library, included a Presentation of the poems of A.J. Seymour entitled “See More Poetry”, at the Theatre Guild Playhouse in Kingston, to commemorate the 100th. birth anniversary of the poet on January 12, 2012. Another stage production was that of the Best Selling novel, “To Sir, With Love”, which was staged at the National Cultural Centre, also in 2012, and was attended by the author.

One of the saddest days in the history of the National Library in Georgetown, was on December 23, 2011, when the Chief Librarian, Gillian Thompson, was killed in a Traffic Crash on North Road in Georgetown, while on her way to work.


The Guyanese novelist Edgar Mittelholzer, was born in New Amsterdam on December 16, 1919. He began his writing career in the late 1930s with “Creole Chips” in 1937 and “Corentyne Thunder” in 1938, which signalled the commencement of the novel in British Guiana (Guyana). Mittelholzer, whose heritage is from Switzerland, France, Britain and Africa, served in the the Second World War. He was in Trinidad when he met and married a Trinidadian young lady and together they were the parents of four children.

Edgar Mittelholzer continued writing while he lived in Trinidad, but felt compelled to sail to Britain and settle there in order for his writing to flourish with a much larger reading public. With the writing and publishing of popular novels such as “A Morning at the Office”, the Kaywana Series and “My Bones and my Flute”, Mittelholzer became regarded as the first successful novelist from the Caribbean region. But as time went by, he became disillusioned by harsh criticisms of his works, and after one failed marriage and being labelled “a problem novelist”, Mittelholzer took his life on May 5, 1965.  His many fans included the famous Guyanese Poet A.J. Seymour, who organized the “Edgar Mittelholzer Lecture Series” to his honour and memory.


The Indigenous Village of St. Ignatius which is located immediately south of Lethem in the Rupununi, Region 9, was established by the Indigenous Macushi Nation with support by Roman Catholic priest Fr. Kerry Eluise, SJ. Over the past 110 years, the community has grown from just a few thatched roof dwellings, to many more modern type structures. There is a church of the Roman Catholic Faith as well as a school and other institutions. Quite a number of Giant Ant Hills are also at St. Ignatius. The Rupununi Rodeo was previously held at St. Ignatius, before it was transferred to a more spacious location at neighbouring Lethem.


The scouting Movement was established in British Guiana (Guyana) in 1919 – one year earlier than in the United States. It attracted many young boys into its fold. “As a Scout, I was in the Pelican Patrol, and we had a ten-man row boat and a small sail yacht named “Roseann” – the name of Skip Gomes daughter”, according to Clairmonte Griffith, who went on to become one of the founding members of the Guyana Defence Force. Griffith was also one of the scouts who participated in a parade that greeted Princess Margaret of Great Britain, when she paid an official visit to British Guiana in May 1958. Griffith also referred to the regular week-end camps at Camp Jubilee at the Base, Atkinson Field (Timehri), back in the 1950s and 1960s.

Records reveal that Mabaruma-born Aileen Hintzen, is at present, the longest serving member of the Guyana Scouting Movement, and has attended  many Scout Jamborees in the region and beyond, including her interactions with the Scout Movement in Ghana. She recalls Scout Leaders of the past such as Fr. Bernard Darke, SJ, Fr. Robert Chadwick, SJ, Michael Perreira, Elsie Taylor, Flavio Comacho and Frank Emery, who also gave many years of service to the Scouting Movement in Guyana.


​A unique photo of the National Library as it is reflected in waters during the years of floodings in Georgetown. (Photo by F.Q. Farrier)

This new Catholic church of St Ignatius was constructed in 2018, and Blessed by Bishop Francis Alleyne, OSB.

New Amsterdam-born, Guyanese novelist Edgar Mittelholzer

President David Granger presents the “Prestigious Scout Award” to veteran Scout Leader, Aileen Hintzen, in 2015.

Chief Librarian Gillian Thompson at left and Author E.R. Braithwaite at right after the staging of “To Sir, With Love” at the National Cultural Centre in Georgetown, Guyana.

The late Gillian Thompson, former Chief Librarian
who was killed in a Traffic Crash on December 23, 2011.

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  • Mr. Hilary Serrao  On January 3, 2019 at 1:29 pm

    I am Happy to say that I have borrowed many books from that library around the period of 1954-1958. During that period I worked in Fogartys which is very close to the library. Love you Guyana

  • C A.Griffith  On January 6, 2019 at 9:37 am

    New Year Greetings. Women have paid an important role in scouting in the land,and most Church/School in Georgetown had a Cub/Scout Troop. My 1st cousin Henry Fenty was with the Smith’s Church of Stabroek while yours truly of St.Mary’s (Brickdam) primary school during the 1950’s made Fr. Chadwick,SJ upset during his recruitment drive, when I politely informed him that I had already signed up with Mr.Clement ‘Skip’ Gomes in the Sea Cubs. Mr.Michael Perreira who also also the organist at the Immaculate Conception resided on the same Hadfield Street block between Camp & Austin Place with Skip Gomes.
    Regarding women in scouting, I recall a Ms.Ezikel at St.Phillips in Werk-en-Rust and also Mrs.Barrow, Bradshaw and Rockliffe . In my humble and honest opinion, the female scout leaders deserves greater recognition.

    In parting, I was a card carrying member of the Public Library and one of those who stood in line before the gate was open on Saturday morning’s to procure one in a series of Hardy Boys books.

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