“My Story” Chapter 26

“My Story” – by Randall Butisingh.

(Reminiscences during my life beginning 1914)

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

One afternoon  in 1962 as I was returning home to Buxton by train, I saw a large gathering of Africans near the railway station awaiting the train.  As soon as the train stopped and some of the other teachers and I disembarked, they boarded the train and began beating up the Indians.  Fortunately a few commissioned officers were there; this prevented any fatality.  I suffered a slight injury when I was struck on the face with a light electric cable by a teenager.

The mob gathered when they heard that an Indian shopkeeper threatened an African with a gun after he was accosted.  The local mob was reinforced by sympathizers from The People’s National Congress in Georgetown and nearby country areas.  As soon as it was dark, the mob began setting fire to the shop and the few Indian houses in the area.  Altogether nine buildings were gutted.  My wife, who was pregnant, was taken in by an African neighbour and so were my eldest son and a daughter.  I and two sons went to keep guard with a relative who had a drug store nearby.  We watched during the night but no one attempted to set fire to the building.  I found out later that the ring leaders gave orders not to interfere with some of the Indian houses.

I did not return to school as the situation was very tense.  One of my teachers came and told me not to return to school at Ann’s Grove as they were plotting to kill me   He told me that a group of young men had drawn a coffin on the school bridge and a body representing me in it.  I did not return and was transferred to Mon Repos School as acting head.

What I met at Mon Repos was appalling.  Formerly the children of Mon Repos attended the Beterverwagting Government School, a larger building  with accommodation for about six hundred pupils; but during the disturbances, the bulk which were Indians left, so the government which was at that time the  PPP got their  supporters to loan their bottom houses for holding classes..  There were in all fourteen such makeshift class rooms holding about four hundred children..  There were no trained or certificated teachers, all young people, with the exception of one elderly woman who escaped from Mc Kenzie after the killings and beatings began.  She was a very conscientious teacher and she used to tell me the story of her frightful experiences.

It must be known that these were not adjacent buildings and this made it difficult for supervision. Some of the bottom houses were at Triumph and some were at Mon Repos.  At the extremes, they were about nearly a quarter mile apart. My office was in the living room of a kind family; some of the teachers would gather there for the lunch break.

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