Guyana: Reflections of Two Scouts During the Colonial Era – by Francis Quamina Farrier

REFLECTIONS OF TWO SCOUTS DURING THE COLONIAL ERA – by Francis Quamina Farrier

The Scouting Movement in Guyana wrapped up its 110 anniversary celebrations in Georgetown with a series of activities at Scout Headquarters on Woolford Avenue.

Participating in the National Camp were 270 scouts from fourteen Scout Groups in Georgetown as well as from Linden, Bartica and far-away Mahdia. Some of the activities included a Parade and of course, a Campfire. Attending the Camp and addressing the scouts, was His Excellency President David Granger.

Well-known entertainers who performed for the scouts included singer/songwriter Hilton Hemerding and folk singer Gavin Mendonca.           

“This 110 anniversary celebration was one of the largest in the history of the Guyana Scouting Movement” according to one of the Scout Leaders. What must be told, is that many of the Scout Group in Guyana at this time are sponsored by the Guyana Police Force. Others by Educational Institutions and Religious bodies. Also of note, is that girls are members of the Scout Movement here in Guyana and women are Scout Leaders.

Especially for this 110 anniversary, I approached two overseas-based former scouts who are now in their mature years and asked them to share some of their experiences of their own scouting adventures of over half a century ago. Raymond Robinson, a former well-known Broadcaster, is one of them. He entered Queen’s College in 1948, the very year Clairmont Griffith, the other scout featured in this article, was born.

While I have known Ray Robinson for over half a century – he produced my “The Tides of Susanburg” and “The Girl from Susanburg” on local Radio – I got to know Clairmont Griffith in 2014. “Truth be told, I have no picture of my youthful days including my  Sea Cub and Sea Scout days, and very few as a soldier”, the retired Guyanese Defence Force founding officer Clairmonte Griffith told me. “Almost all went missing upon the passing of my beloved father in July 1987, and at times would get an old picture from my 68 year old ‘baby’ sister.” He revealed. Griffith who can be classified as “An officer and Gentleman”, had his life’s impeccable groundings partly in the Scouting Movement.

Ten years the senior of Clairmonte Griffith, Raymond Robinson joined Troup 27 of the Queen’s College Boys Scout in 1948 – the very year Clairmont Griffith was born. At that time Queen’s College was located at the eastern-most end of Brickdam in Georgetown, just west of where the 1763 monument is now located. Raymond Robinson recalled the moving of Queen’s College from that Brickdam location to its present location at Thomas and Camp Roads, Thomas Lands, in 1951, and the relocation of the QC Scout den along with it. It is appropriate for me to remind you that the very first Scout Troupe in British Guiana (Guyana) was established at Queen’s College in 1909, 110 years ago.

British Guiana is in fact the fifth country in the world in which Scouting was established; something all Guyanese should be very proud of. Back in the earlier days of Scouting in British Guiana, there was a wider range of scouting activities in the colony than pertains now in The Cooperative Republic of Guyana. Air and Sea Scouting, for example. “As a Sea Cub in 1957 under Mr.Clarke we practiced at the TH&D Railroad dock on Water Street immediate north of the Abattoir”, Clairmonte Griffith recalled. “In May 1958  (Griffith was just ten years old at the time) the Cub pack participated in a parade that included soldiers on the said wharf that greeted Princess Margaret (Of the United Kingdom) upon her arrival in British Guiana aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. After the parade, Cub Pack members visited the Yacht for a walk around tour.” Griffith reminisced.

His activities in scouting, inculcated his desire and love for travelling all around the country of his birth. When he joined the Guyana Defence Force as one of it founder members, he was ready to go “From Pakaraimas Peaks of Power, to Corentyne lush sands” and beyond, based on his previous scouting activities. Clairmont Griffith was well equipped and ready for soldering such as the attack and routing out of the Dutch invaders from the New River Triangle by Ranks of the Guyana Defence Force.

Clairmonte  Griffith was also active in a branch of Scouting which no longer exists here in Guyana. “As a Sea Scout under Clement ‘Skip’ Gomes, we practiced on a decaying wharf along the Demerara River located aback a saw mill immediate north of the Molasses Storage Depot” he recalls.

“Like all Scout Troops we were organized in Patrols and ours were all named after Guyanese fauna”, according to Raymond Robinson. “I was assigned to the new Mongoose Patrol as Patrol second to Wordsworth McAndrew. Robinson is a six footer. McAndrew was just about five, five in height. However, Robinson related the fact that Wordsworth McAndrew who became regarded as Guyana’s foremost Folklourist, was well loved and respected since, as a leading scout, “He was fondly known as “Scouter” because he lived by the creed.” As we all know, “Scouter” Wordsworth McAndrew is regarded as Guyana’s foremost Folklourist and poet. His “poem “Ole Higue” is one of the most popular Guyanese poems of all time. I have performed “Ole Higue” on four continents; North and South America, Europe and Australia.Like Wordsworth McAndrew, there are some great Guyanese who have had their groundings in the Scouting Movement over the past 110 years.

“Once a scout, the memories of your experiences never go away”, according to Clairmont Griffith; “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. We rowed the Demerara River on selected week-ends towards THE BASE (Atkinson Field – now Timehri), and  would escort swimmers across the Demerara River. Camping included many week-end trips to CAMP JUBILEE in THE BASE pass Red Water Creek.” Creeks, Rivers, Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean were stomping ‘grounds’ if you will, of the Sea Scouts in Guyana in past times. No longer active, maybe the Sea Scouts may be revived in this “The Land of Many Waters” over the next 110 weeks; who knows. So, like the scouts, let the rest of us “Be Prepared”.

Members of the Brickdam Parish Scout Troupe in Georgetown. (Photo by Francis Q. Farrier)

Founder of the Scouting Movement, Englishman Lord Robert Baden Powell, meeting with scouts while on a visit to British Guiana.

Francis Quamina Farrier at Scout Headquarters Woolford Avenue, Georgetown, Guyana on November 10, 2019

A Scout laying a wreath at the Cenotaph in Georgetown, Guyana on Remembrance Day, November 10, 2019. (Photo by Francis Q. Farrier)

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Comments

  • Lance Clark  On December 11, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    You forgot to mention the Caribbean Jamboree
    In Trinidad in which Guyana was well represented
    and following that was the Caribbean Jamboree
    at the National Park in Guyana.
    Those were the good ole days.
    Lance Clark
    A former Scout and Sea Scout.

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