GUYANA: Logging History: MANAKA vs STAMPA back in the day – by Francis Quamina Farrier

 – by Francis Quamina Farrier

You could be one of about a hundred persons reading that headline, who would know exactly what this article will relate. In fact, you would be jumping for joy to realize that the sporting interactions of “MANAKA” and “STAMPA” of decades ago are remembered and written about, after all these years. You would also immediately know that this article will recall the glorious days of those two British owned and operated British Guiana timber concessions, which are located on the Essequibo River.

Both had a glorious era of Guianese and British Guiana history of logging. There were also the memorable occasions when sports teams from both locations engaged each other in exciting cricket and football encounters. It was a history which I personally experienced as a youngster, over seven decades ago.         

For those who do not know what “MANAKA” or “STAMPA” are, here are the facts. MANAKA is a timber concession, or “timber grant” as such were called, is located on the left bank of the Essequibo River, directly west of Fort Island. It had a glorious past during the 1950s and 1960s, a portion of which I experienced personally. In act, one of my many plays which is entitled “MANAKA” is based on my personal experiences, while spending some of my school holidays there.

The island of STAMPA is located in the Essequibo River, about 15 miles north of Bartica. Travelling by speedboat or Ferry boat between Parika and Bartica, passengers will go pass STAMPA Island. That was once a very populated and industrial island which had Management from Britain and dozens of local workers, and even had a functioning sawmill, is now totally unpopulated and void of structures.

The concession of MANAKA had two settlements. The first was the headquarters at the Essequibo riverside and the second was the backdam location which was a few miles west. At that time, there was a railway connecting the two locations. A trail ran parallel to the railway which was primarily used by heavy-duty trucks and Land Rovers. To some extent, MANAKA and STAMPA had their own Guyanese sub-culture; especially with language.

Certain statements were unique to the two locations. “Yoh still want” was one of them. So, for example, should you ask someone who was going to the grocery shop to bring you an item, and none was available at the shop, the person on returning would let you know, “Yoh still want.” Then there was the exhortation, “Leggo, de leggo.” So, should the passengers on the train decide that they wanted it to travel faster – and that was usually fairly often – they would shout to the operator, “Man, leggo de leggo.”

You won’t be surprised to learn that there was an occasion when the operator had consumed more that his safe level of alcohol, complied with the demand of the passengers. He did “Leggo, de leggo” and increased the speed of the train way beyond what was safe, resulting in it jumping the tracks and crashing. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. There is so much more I can write about those two unique Essequibo communities of MANAKA and STAMPA of Colonial British Guiana; but unfortunately, I have to let you know, “Yoh still want.”

MANAKA:  In the foreground is a portion of the Essequibo river, about 50 miles south of Parika, then a white sandy beach, and beyond, a forest and a clear blue sky. (Photo by Francis Q. Farrier)

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