Guyana: Georgetown Memories: “The Tree” – By Geoff Burrowes

The Tree – By Geoff Burrowes

These are the sentimental wanderings of an old man’s mind at 5 in the morning in a country far away from the country of my birth!  British Guiana – now Guyana.

There was a tree on the South Western intersection of Brickdam and Brummel Place. For those of us who can’t remember Brummel Place was a short street that ran from the footbridge over the Croal Street trench street at the end of Cummings Street  to Louisa Row on the South side of Brickdam. My grandfather’s three storied, white wooden house, which later became Wray High School and even later Dr Ali Shaw’s Hospital was at the corner of Croal Street and Brummel Place.         

My uncle Charlie lived next door and Mr Joe Gomes, Post Master xxxx and the Glasfords and the Reids lived on the other side. Our house was on the corner of Brickdam and Brummel Place. There was a large queen o’ flower bush, in which the yellow and black kiskadees would chirp “kiskisadee”, next to our front gate and across the road was the tree.

Please understand it wasn’t a slim red-petalled flambouyant tree, or even a larger genip tree or mango or sour sop or even a tamarind tree. This was A TREE! It seems in memory the girth of the Sea Wall Round House but I’m sure it wasn’t that large. Halfway up it had a fork which at some time had been cut off to trim the tree, leaving  in the fork a flat surface , like a table! The tree was gnarled and knotted providing lots of handholds and footholds for the neighborhood boys and we would scramble up the trunk and hide in the fork behind the little table and stack up mounds of the little green berries that the tree at certain times of year showered down and wutlassly pelt the people passing on bicycles below. We thought it was fun but I would like to apologise these many years later to the people we assaulted in this fashion! This magnificent tree was planted on the grass verge between the Da Silva’s driveway and the Collier’s.

Sonny the milkman would squat in the driveway next to his tall metal cans and measure out milk for all the household’s around. The town council men in their shapeless felt hats would whip out their long whetstones to sharpen their scythes in the shade of its mighty branches and the ladies in their cream straw hats would exchange juicy gossip on their way to Bourda market “yu hear Janice ketch she Fred freindzin’wid Alice an’ she pelt some wicked cuffs an’spile up she pretty face so it ain’ pretty no mo’!”

There’s a footnote  to this story! My brother Peter was 10 years younger than I was and as often happens with a large age difference he was under the impression that me and my friends were cool”Monkey see – monkey do!”

He and his friend were caught descending the tree and the recipient of his berries complained to a passing policeman who passed it on to a the driver of a Black Maria which happened to be nearby. They were shepherded into the Black Maria and driven around town and dropped back to our house – enlightened policing which as far as I knew worked, as I don’t think he ever climbed the tree again.

Well I’ve indulged myself for long enough-thanks for listening and I hope some of you can remember The Tree!


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  • George Jardim  On 08/19/2020 at 3:28 am

    Great story Geoffrey, of a different and wonderful time.

  • Peter Willeflashman  On 08/19/2020 at 1:01 pm

    Hi Jeff,I remember the tree like yesterday. It was our impregnamble fort.
    Those that commanded its height, could pour small bricks ,and especialy the buck beads, in our rubber guns, and a few longer range, but inaccurate rubber gun rifles.Jeff,remember our parents fear of us, “picking out we eye”, and them confiscated endless guns, which we replaced, as they were plentiful,and cheap,and we would buy old car, or better still bycycle tubes, which were much easier to cut to the strips we needed,to power the rubber guns,and draw back to so call, cock our rubber guns was much easier. The ammunition,was buck beads, which we spent hours, under the trees ,that shed them,in the Botanical garden. We would have to scramble, to be first to collect the hundreds we needed for our gang, and if other persons, tried to follow us,we pulled the planks that layed accross the trenches, that separated, the main road from the islands,the buck bead trees grew on, or had to exchange fire to keep our supply safe. We used “the tree” as our impregnable fort,and clubhouse, where illicit smoking,of our first cigarettes were undertaken, to much coughing,and gagging. We all detested the cigarettes, but it was like a right of passage,and once done,was abandoned.
    Jeff I loved those care free days of fun ,and absalute,camaraderie,that I will always remember, and cherish. Thank you for jogging my memory.
    You know, I often wonder that none of us, hadour eyes picked out. They were close shaves, cheeks, mouths, foreheads, and some just on or just belowe eye lids.
    We were an adventurous bunch, eh Jeff??

    • geoffburrowes  On 08/20/2020 at 9:57 am

      Hi Pete
      As I told Archie I am delighted that you can remember the tree. It literally woke me up yesterday morning at 5 o’clock and I had to get the memory down on paper and Cyril Bryan was very good to put it on his blog right away!
      Regards to you and Phillipa

      • Leon PWillems  On 08/20/2020 at 11:52 am

        Hi Geoff, being called Pete, brings back nostalgic memories of a truly great time in my life. Love to you and Norma,from us.
        PS I do enjoy your articles,so keep it up.

  • guyaneseonline  On 08/19/2020 at 8:18 pm

    From: Geoff Burrowes:
    Hi Cyril,

    I heard from my brother Peter who is 10 years younger than I am and whose memory is 10 years fresher than mine and he tells me that my memories of the Black Maria are faulty!
    He says that what actually happened was that he and his friends were having a rubber gun fight outside of Willems Flats and someone accidentally pinged an off duty policeman who was passing on his bicycle in civilian clothes. He chased the gang and caught Peter. He let him go when it was proved that Peter’s rubber gun was unfired, the shot still in the hole at the back of the gun!
    I prefer the story of the Black Maria but know your reputation for factual journalism, hence the correction.
    My apologies and thanks for including this correction.

  • Kman  On 08/22/2020 at 11:39 am

    Simply nice memories.

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