Tag Archives: Demerara

Guyana: DIS TIME NA LONG TIME – by Dave Martins + Music Video

My wife Annette is very big on Guyana. Soon after I met her, some 10 years ago, showing pictures of the Guyana interior at a THAG function in Georgetown where I was appearing, that came across loud and clear to me. Indeed, when a relationship between us started and marriage was in the air, she let me know, quietly but firmly, that she wasn’t living anywhere else but here which was a factor in my returning to Guyana permanently. That’s the background.

On October 28, 2018, some 11 years later, on a Sunday visit to Canal Number One (West Bank, Demerara). I was standing by the Boeraserie waterway, and before I knew what was happening Annette whips out her cell phone and starts interviewing me about my memories from that area. In case you haven’t seen the video on Facebook, she asked me if I had any memories of that Water Conservancy, and I related a particular incident which happened when I was living in Vreed-en-Hoop.

Continue reading

History of the Postal Service in Guyana – By Dmitri Allicock

 Postal Service-1

History of the Postal Service in Guyana

By Dmitri Allicock

The French during their occupation in 1782 established the first postal service in historical Guyana. ‘They announced that a ship will sail for France eight or ten times every year by which anyone can send a letter to other countries.

With the dawn of this age of instant internet communication and gadgetry it is easy to forget centuries of the Postal Service of Guyana which was once regarded as an essential instrument of nation building that adapted very well to serve alongside radio, telegraph, telephone and changing technology.    Continue reading

The Chinese In Guyana – by Peter Halder

The Chinese In Guyana

By Peter Halder

 Introduction

    African slavery provided free labor for the sugar industry in what was then British Guiana. Slavery was abolished in 1834. The freed slaves jubilantly left the plantations and the inhuman treatment meted out to them to seek a new future of their own choosing. That created a vacuum in the sugar industry and an immediate need and demand for cheap labor. The plantocracy in collaboration with the colonial administration first brought Portuguese from Madeira, Portugal. They were found to be unsuitable. They were replaced by Chinese from Canton in China.

 Chinese Arrival

    January 12, 2013 marked the 160th Anniversary of the arrival of Chinese in Guyana.

[Read more: The Chinese In Guyana]

The Demerara Slave Uprising and the Trial of Rev. John Smith- by Odeen Ishmael

Guyana Documentary History Series

British Parliamentary Debate on the

Trial of Rev. John Smith

Edited by Odeen Ishmael

Introduction: By Odeen Ishmael

The Demerara Slave Uprising and the trial of Rev. John Smith

From around the closing years of the eighteenth century some organisations were established in England to campaign for the abolition of slavery in the British colonies. These included the Baptist Missionary Society, the London Missionary Society, the Church Missionary Society, the Britisha nd Foreign Bible Society, the Methodist Society, and the Anti-Slavery Society formed in 1823.

The Anti-Slavery Society was very influential since among its members were the Quakers and important Members of Parliament including William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson and Fowell Buxton. In April 1823 Buxton presented a motion in the House of Commons calling for a gradual abolition of slavery in all British colonies, but it was defeated because the majority felt that the abolition of slavery would leave the planters without a labour force. Instead, measures to ameliorate the condition of slaves were adopted. These ordered that female slaves should not be whipped as punishment and drivers should not carry whips in the field.    Continue reading

Prince Randian of Guyana – by Peter Halder

Prince Randian of Guyana

by Peter Halder

Guyanese men and women have distinguished themselves in many fields of human endeavour, at home and overseas. The performing arts is no exception. Guyanese have been in films, on TV shows and on the stage. One has even been a feature attraction in the Barnum and Bailey Circus in the United States. And the amazing Guyanese had no arms or legs. He was known as Prince Randian.

The young man, born to Hindu parents in 1871 with neither arms nor legs, was 18 years old at the time. He was discovered by P.T. Barnum who transported him from the “Demerara district” and exhibited him as a human “oddity” or “freak” – a practice common in those days. Exactly how Barnum learned about the usual young man is unknown but he did. He arranged, in 1889 to bring the young man to New York. And hundreds of thousands of spectators paid to see him.     Read More »

This is just one of many  historical articles on Guyana written by Peter Halder that will be published on Guyanese Online.  You can read them all at Peter Halder’s website:  http://peterhalder.wordpress.com/

History of Christmas In Guyana – by Peter Halder

History of Christmas In Guyana

by Peter Halder

The observation and celebration of Christmas in Guyana dates back to the 17th century. It began, circa 1627, among the Dutch immigrants who had established permanent settlements in Essequibo. The celebration later spread to Berbice in 1627 and then Demerara in 1746.

The counties of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice, which subsequently became British as a result of European wars, were merged in 1831 and became British Guiana.

In the new British colony, the largest ethnic population were African slaves captured by British and Dutch slave ships and brought to Guyana to work on colonial sugar plantations.   Read More »

This is just one of many  historical articles on Guyana written by Peter Halder that will be published on Guyanese Online.  You can read them all at Peter Halder’s website:  http://peterhalder.wordpress.com/

Peg Leg George of Sebacabra – by Dmitri Allicock

PEG LEG GEORGE OF  SEBACABRA

 By Dmitri Allicock

 A boat ride of time-travel which offers just a glimpse into the lives of our ancestors is not unlike a text or message from the past and, for a brief moment, their immortal spirit lives once more. A special opportunity revealed in the realization that our fragile existence might be made just a little more secure by our appreciation of them.

 The history of early life in Guyana is enacted by the natural highways and significance of its waterways, the other regions in which the populated coastal plain settled and explored were those lands of the forest interior which lie along the rivers whose banks strung sparse villages of settlement. Along these rivers, including that of the Demerara, have carried the native people, adventurers, traders, and planters who carved their estates out of jungle and created history.

Read more:  Peg Leg George of Sebacabra  – by Dmitri Allicock

Remnants Of The Early Dutch in Guyana – 1616-1815 – By Dmitri Allicock

Remnants Of The Early Dutch in Guyana  – 1616-1815 – By Dmitri Allicock

Flag - Dutch West Indian Company

Flag – Dutch West Indian Company

Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America, but English has been the official language for less than half the time Europeans occupied the country. The Dutch language was the main medium of communication for 232 years, from the time a group of Dutchmen sailed up the Pomeroon River and settled there, to 1812 when English replaced Dutch as the language used in the Court of Policy (Parliament). To this day, hundreds of villages have retained their original Dutch names like Uitvlugt, Vergenoegen and Zeeburg. Some present-day Guyanese have names like Westmaas, Van Lange and Meertens. No Guyanese citizen or visitor can escape visible and other reminders of our Dutch predecessors.

The ruins of a brick fort can still be seen on a little island where the Essequibo, Mazaruni and Cuyuni rivers meet. The original fort was a wooden structure built around 1600 by some Dutch traders who called it Kyk-over-al or “See-over-all” because it provided a commanding view of the three rivers.      Continue reading

Massive clean-up begins after East Coast flood – Jan 2013

Massive clean-up begins after East Coast flood

-tides caused by Atlantic front, says Hydromet office
JANUARY 16, 2013 · Stabroek News –  BY MANDY THOMPSON · COMMENTS

A massive clean-up was underway yesterday to remove huge amounts of garbage that accumulated along the East Coast of Demerara road between Kitty and Turkeyen, less than 24 hours after spring tides flooded the area.

The tides were fuelled by an Atlantic front, the Hydrometeorological Service of the Ministry of Agriculture said yesterday. Minister of Transport Robeson Benn had told reporters that the flooding was as a result of higher than usual spring tides, measuring 3.15 metres, and high waves striking the seawall between Turkeyen and Sheriff Street, which is “undergoing cyclical erosion.”    [read more]

Also read: 

No relief from flooding in Sea-view after 20 years

JANUARY 16, 2013 ·   Stabroek News – Letters  

Dear Editor,

I would like to highlight the plight we the residents of Sea-view, Cornelia Ida, West Coast, Demerara have been suffering for about 20 years.  Every time there is high tide, water would roll over the sea wall and flood our yards and homes. The water would rise as much as 20 inches and even cover the road.    [Read more]

Education system in 19th century British Guiana

Education system in 19th century British Guiana

The evolution of an education system in 19th century colonial British Guiana: From the Dutch to British Compulsory Education Ordinance of 1876

By Tota C. Mangar – Stabroek News, Guyana – January 15, 2009

Based on the available evidence it is quite reasonable to conclude that very little was done during the long years of Dutch settlement and colonization towards educating the slave population in their former colonies of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice. Such a situation was not entirely surprising as these earliest colonizers focused almost exclusively on trading and agricultural development. Dutch planters were obviously more interested in the acquisition of a large scale, unskilled labour force for their estates and hence they saw nothing advantageous to themselves and their associates in attaching importance to education. Whatever little opportunity availed itself to the slaves came from the Church, and in particular the Dutch Reform Church, in the form of evangelization and with emphasis on qualities of spiritual and moral goodness.

The immediate post-cession years of British rule witnessed a general reluctance and even discouragement on the part of planters to educate their slaves. Indeed, education was far from being a governmental policy and planters were highly suspicious of missionary activities. The latter, were to a great extent, fearful that missionary work would go beyond the stage of proselytizing and that their teaching might eventually incite slaves to rebel. With such an attitude around, the work of early missionaries was considerably hindered or even stymied from time to time.

For example, John Hawkshaw, a Methodist clergyman was promptly expelled when he attempted to provide religious instruction to slaves. In 1823 Reverend John Smith, a prominent member of the London Missionary Society (L.M.S.) was blamed and made to suffer for the East Coast Slave Insurrection. In the first place, planters were pre-occupied with their personal safety and also the economic stability and viability of their plantations. Coupled with this was their obvious fear and concern that “the notions of freedom and equality inherent in Christianity would lead to a disruption of slavery”.

Despite tremendous odds the London Missionary Society in particular did reach out to some slaves during the early stages of British rule. It was obvious that from the 1820s onwards some missionaries were making an impact in their efforts to educate the slave population. It was the Anglican Church which established the St George’s Free School in 1824 and five years later this body followed up with the opening of the All Saints School in New Amsterdam. All the same one ought to concede that the overall situation was such that there was the existence of a “mere embryonic structure of elementary or primary education” in the immediate pre-emancipation era. It was only after 1833 that a formal system of elementary education emerged in the colony of British Guiana.

The Emancipation Act which came into force on the first of August 1834 ensured all children of ex-slaves under the age of six years were regarded as free persons and this in itself had serious implications. It led to the establishment of infant schools with the overall objective of providing day-care for children of the labouring class. Furthermore, the British government endorsed a plan for state subsidized religious and moral education.
Towards this end it allocated the annual sum of £25,000 Parliamentary Grant for Negro Education in the British West Indies. Of this figure the then British Guiana received a mere £1,430. In any event the underlying motive for providing education to children at this particular juncture was seemingly to groom them to become good servants and not so much as making them fit to live in society.

The immediate impact of the Education Grant in the colony was a marked increase in the number of schools by various religious bodies. Most of these schools that emerged had their classes in church buildings and of significance was the fact that teachers were either clergymen or they were closely associated with the Church.

At this early stage the quality of education provided was grossly unsatisfactory due largely to inadequate numbers of qualified teachers. As a result the monitorial system dominated as monitors were used to teach the less academically gifted under the supervision of the schoolmaster. Moreover, there was a high degree of absenteeism by children. In any case education instead of affording the masses the opportunity of improving their lot, was subtly geared “towards the production of a servile, neocitizenry who could remain a permanent labour force for the plantation system”.

It was not altogether surprising that from around 1845 several of the denominational schools ended in closures. Adequate finance was a major problem. In this regard a serious blow was dealt by the Colonial Office itself. It implemented a phased withdrawal of the annual Education Grant. Consequently, the onus was left on local legislatures to shoulder the responsibility of financing education. This task was made even more difficult since various state-aided immigration schemes were given preference during this crucial stage of ‘crisis, change and experimentation’ and colonial British Guiana was no exception.

The Court of Policy, the colony’s highest decision making body at the time, was prepared to offer only a pittance in terms of budgetary allocation towards education. Besides, the quality of education provided must have had a rebound effect. It contributed to an attitude of nonchalance on the part of both parents and children towards the whole business of education. Of added significance, was the fact that ex-slaves were moving off the plantations. With a mobile population resulting from both exodus and immigration it was rather unsettling for parents and children to view education seriously.
The depressing situation was further exacerbated by the Civil List crisis of 1848-1849.

A consequential stoppage of supplies led to a withdrawal of service of several headmasters because of the uncertainty of receiving salaries and education grants. School attendance was badly affected. Attendance fell from an average of 3,026 in 1848 to that of 1,686 the following year.

In 1844 Queen’s College was established and initially this development was primarily intended to provide for those whites who could ill-afford to send their children to Europe for a classical education. As a matter of fact non-whites had to be “extra-ordinarily gifted” to find themselves at this institution and by 1848 only two Negro boys were attending the school in addition to white students.

Mr John Mc Swiney was appointed the first Inspector of Schools in 1849 and the following year a Board of Education was formed. Following his assumption of duty Mc Swiney visited schools country-wide and he forwarded a detailed report for the general improvement of the education system. Among his recommendations were local governmental control of education, compulsory attendance at schools, better record keeping and more qualified teachers. Despite these calls there was very little encouragement from the highly influential and powerful plantocracy and the Inspector of Schools proposals never got off the ground.

In 1850 a Commission was appointed by the then Governor Henry Barkly to outline plans for the introduction of popular education in the colony. It proposed among other things, the creation of local district boards, religious instruction to be made optional, the continued usage of Church facilities and expertise and the cost of education to be partially financed by an assessment tax on parents of recipients and partly by a colonial grant. These recommendations met with strong protest from religious bodies. Added to this were government’s financial considerations and the intensification of various immigration schemes by the mid-nineteenth century.
In the end the plan was shelved and nothing tangible was done in terms of restructuring and education reforms.

Some progress in the development of an education system in colonial British Guiana was made during the administration of Governor Philip Wodehouse in the 1850s. His Education Bill of 1855 placed executive control over education. Among its main aspects were a formal system of dual control of schools by Church and State, a specified period for religion instruction, the remuneration of teachers on merit and the payment of school fees as sine qua non for the entitlement to government grants.

In spite of these changes problems continued to be experienced in the education sector.
Attendance of children was extremely poor. The payment of school fees was undoubtedly having the effect of preventing many children from attending school. It was also the tendency of parents to encourage their children to work on the plantations in order to supplement family income. Inadequate teacher training, a lack of standardization of content and problems of language and religion experienced by children of East Indian immigrants were also contributory factors.

In an attempt to improve the quality of teachers without entailing much expenditure, the pupil teacher system was introduced in 1857. Further, by the early 1860s there were repeated calls for compulsory education in order to stem the tide of absenteeism. Around this time some estate schools had been established in Demerara and Berbice to cater for children of East Indian immigrants and one Reverend Bhose in particular, worked actively among them. Bhose was of the view that the system of education was doomed to fail unless attendance was enforced and parents were compelled to send their children to school.

In the ensuing years Governor Francis Hincks instituted a system of payment by examination results in an attempt to make teachers more proficient but instead of achieving this desired quality, it led to “cramming and gross dishonesty”. Under this scheme teachers’ remuneration was based on the examination of children who had made a certain number of attendances during the school year. Hence, preparation for examinations involved much cramming on the part of students and even the forging of registers to ensure as many children as possible were eligible to be examined.

By the early 1870s there was very little improvement in the education system. More school age children were still out of school when compared with the number making attendances. It was not strange therefore that several newspapers joined the calls on whether the education system should be a completely secular or a compulsory denominational system. Continue reading