Guyana History: BOY SCOUTS – Troop 39 – By Geoff Burrowes

BOY SCOUTS – Troop 39 – By Geoff Burrowes

Boy Scouts

Our big ugly brown tent would never win us a campsite award and our marching and turnout during the Garnett Cup would never win us an award, but our scoutmaster Richard ‘Dicky’ Driver was a proper bushman and he taught us well.

My first rally was at Redwater Creek a clear Coca Cola coloured creek that ran through white sand banks and we had a campsite halfway down the hill at a bend in the trail that gave a lovely view of the swimming hole. Mr. Driver went to Sammy Isaacs who I think, was the scouter in charge of the camp layout and insisted that we be moved to a site at the very top of the hill that perched over the camping area.      

We grumbled as we moved our heavy gear up the hill, and the scouts from Main Street and QC laughed at us but when next morning, after a night of torrential rain had washed the rest of the rally down the hill we had the last laugh!

I don’t know how Mr. Driver knew it was going to rain like that but I never heard anyone dispute his campsite location after that! It didn’t hurt that he insisted that we dig drains down the sides of our tents to take the runoff from our tent flaps. That morning dry bread, sugar and rice were in high demand and we had plenty. This time it was the other scout troops moving heavy gear!

Mr Driver, or the Old Man as we affectionately referred to him was not a big man but he took up lots of space and was never one to step away from a fight, especially if he thought he was right! He was a bantam rooster of a man with a shiny bald head and a chin that stuck quickly out if he was affronted. He was well respected in the scouting community though not particularly diplomatic and a lot of the more pompous scout leaders steered clear of him. The only person he took any guff from was his wife Louisita a Trinidadian lady who ran a three storied guest house in Murray Street with an iron fist and who he loved dearly.

Richard Driver was a senior patrol leader and apart from being tall was very much like the Old Man. Richard had a wicked sense of humour and always seemed to have a ‘hot’ girlfriend.

Channa was Malcolm Chan A Sue, from the Northwest district, an exotic land of hills and large rivers, looking across mountain ranges and rivers into Venezuela. North West was also home to the sweetest oranges. grapefruits and tangerines you’ve ever tasted. Malcolm’s Dad, Sonny would have liked have liked him to take over the family farm but Malcolm was sold on flying from early on and became one of the first Guyanese pilots with Alec Phillips, Guy Spence, Phillip Jardim and Desmond Ross, to fly for our Guyana Airways airline. Guyana Airways incidentally, although flying in and out of less than ideal airstrips including a savannah pond with a lasso tether had an exemplary safety record. Art Williams and Harry Wendt were the early flying pioneers that got flying in Guyana started using an Army Surplus Grumman Ireland with a puller pusher engine.

When I joined 39 Gilbert Menezes was the troop leader and ‘Birdy Belgrave was the Assistant Scoutmaster. My memory of Birdy is of a kind man who loved to teach the boys!

At the end of most meetings we would play British Bulldog a rough and boisterous game that gave us a keen appreciation of tackling which served us well when we started playing rugby.

We were playing British Bulldog one evening when I managed to get in a fight with a gang of boys outside East Indians cricket club who followed me down Palprey Dam to our HQ building. One of the boys produced a sliced off tin can lid and rushed me. Richard tripped him up and Channa relieved him of the can, at which time they left with unfulfilled curses and threats.

We were a tight group and even when we didn’t have official camps or rallies we would take our ugly brown tent, and ride up to Volunteers Creek and camp. Incidentally if you ever hear anything about us running one of the boys underpants up the flagpole don’t believe a word of it – it never happened! We had a very diverse troop, Channa from North West District, Roy and Ronnie and Dagbal, Tony and the Gorinskys from Rupununi, Chow Sac and Archie and Douglas Menezes and me from Georgetown and of course Edward (Sam) and Peck. Although we didn’t show much spit and polish there was not a man among us who was not proud of 39 and who did not walk with a swagger because of it.

There was a fly in the ointment for me though and I didn’t like it for I don’t like being  afraid. We were in the middle of the Troop boxing tournament and I had won my last match. That meant my next fight was with  Douglas Menezes, one of the other patrol leaders. Douglas was a couple of inches taller than me and a couple of pounds heavier, so I figured to come out a couple of points short! I also don’t enjoy being pounded on. The day of the fight arrived and with a hollow in my stomach I rode slowly up to Scout Ground. To my delight Douglas didn’t show and I was awarded the fight! Wha fo do! I attended Douglas’ funeral recently and would gladly have fought him if he could have survived his heart attack!

I thank God for guiding me to Troop 39, which helped enrich my teenaged days in British Guiana, the country that I loved!

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