Guyana History: Clonbrook Beach –  By Geoff Burrowes

Clonbrook Beach –   By Geoff Burrowes

        There was an air of suppressed excitement all week- everybody felt it! Our mothers talked in hushed voices on their black bakelite home phones (that’s all there was in those days – no one had ever heard of a mobile or cell phone)!

        It was in the background of every game of chaser or cricket and our fathers topped the oil in their cars and made sure the tires were properly inflated.

        Our mothers made sure that there was an adequate supply of mauby, ginger beer, sorrel and pine drink in the earthernware jugs in the kitchen and the kitchen was filled with the sweet odours of fudge, cake and sugar cake, both pink and white and brown chipped coconut!       

        At last it was Sunday and after church we loaded the car trunks with goodies and took off in a state of excitement, not ever forgetting our bathing suits and towels. The favourite ride for the children was in Uncle Charlie’s Morris Cowley because he had a firmly held belief that the way to deal with the potholes in the East Coast Road was to fly over them as fast as possible and the kids loved that!

        The trip took over an hour and we left the East Coast road at the Leper Asylum and headed North on a red brick road lined on either side with medium sized cocunut trees until between the trees we could see the tall koker that signalled the beach’s presence.

        If you’ve never swum there, Clonbrook beach is a long glorious brown sand beach. Like every beach in BG the sea water is brown from the sediment from the great rivers the Essequibo, the Demerara, the Berbice and the Corentyne.

        The Atlantic coast was empoldered by the Dutch settlers in the 1700s and 1800s and the  coastland which tends to be many feet below sea level at high tide is protected by a concrete sea wall which runs from the Essequibo to the Corentyne. It must have been a great engineering feat at the time. The fertile coastland is drained by a network of well maintained trenches which end at the sea wall through concrete Kokers or sluice gates, which are opened at low tide to flow into the ocean and the large rivers.

        It was one of these gaunt Kokers that we could see at the end of the canal that ran alongside the road into Clonbrook beach. Since there was always water at the outflow of the koker trench fishing boats were moored there ready to be used by the village fishermen.

        We would choose a stretch of beach some way away from the koker and strip and don our swimsuits and charge into the water with tennis balls and start a game of catch or dodge the ball. There would be lots of shouting and squealing and splashing. The Atlantic Coast was fairly safe as there were few rip tides or dangerous currents.  Once we saw the party down the beach from us scrambling out of the water and shouting at us. We saw the reason a few minutes later as a large black fin passed majestically by. I seem to remember that we just got back in the water after it had passed.

        By this time our mothers were ready to serve lunch. If we were lucky one of the mums had cooked curry or cook-up and we washed that down with one of the drinks that had brewed in the earthenware jars in the kitchen all that week.

        After lunch it was time to relax before before the cricket match. Stumps were dug into the wet sand and a win’ puss or tennis ball was produced.

        My dad, who loved cricket, bowled with his chin stuck out pugnaciously and was quick to umpire for himself,  calling “LBW” on some unfortunate child: although my cousin Stephen, who later played for Guyana and the West Indies often hit his deliveries over the imaginary boundaries for fours and sixes. Of course the boudaries were disputed by the fathers who often got their way! The match normally ended in good-natured wrangling and we got ready for leaving Clonbrook by packing the cars. The trip back home for some reason always seemed shorter than the drive out.

        We didn’t argue about going to bed that night. as all man Jack were tired out by the day at the beach!

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