April 15, 2008

British Guiana in the days of Colonialism

Posted in Guyana, Thoughts tagged , , , , , , , , , at 3:48 am by randallbutisingh



British Guiana in the days of Colonialism

Excerpts from ”REMINISCENCES”, by Randall Butisingh –(unpublished)

British Guiana, which was named Guyana after Independence, was one of the most beautiful tropical countries among its neighbours and the Caribbean. It enjoyed for most of the year the refreshing Trade Winds of the Atlantic, lush green vegetation on the coastlands, extensive forests with a wide variety of woods and many rivers with cataracts and waterfalls. The Kaieteur Fall, on the Potaro River in the heart of the interior, with a total drop of over eight hundred feet is a magnificent spectacle and a great tourist attraction.

Apart from floods in some areas on the coastlands which were below sea level, British Guiana enjoyed freedom from natural disasters. Foreigners who visited thoroughly enjoyed the equable and salubrious climate. It was in those days the Bread Basket of the Caribbean. Sugar and Rice were its chief exports and there was abundance of vegetables and fruits that it produced all the year round. British Guiana was known then as the Magnificent Province. It was also called the Land of Many Waters because of the many rivers and streams which provide transportation, boating and abundant fish of every variety.

Georgetown, its Capital was known as the Garden City. In it were tall Saaman trees on both sides of the avenues to give shelter to the pedestrian and to protect them from the traffic. The streets were not macadamized as they are today, but were paved with burnt earth rolled flat and wetted by water carts several times in the day to keep down the dust. There was a network of tram cars which went around the city and through it as well, and the horse and buggy which took passengers from the railway station to the commercial areas of the City. Those were the early days. Later, in the twenties the motor car and motor bus came.

The Stabroek Market, or Big Market, as it was called by the Creoles was situated at the mouth of the Demerara River on its right bank. It was one of the chief attractions. It had a tower on which was a huge clock with three faces which could be seen from a good distance. It would ring out the hours and half-hours very loudly.   This market was a conglomerate of shops and stores with nearly every conceivable item needed in those days by the consumer.

It also had parlours and eating shops where the consumer, for a small sum could get refreshment on the spot. But for children, what was most exciting was the variety of candy in all shapes colours and flavours, homemade by African women.   Along Water Street going north from the market were the wholesale and retail stores selling all kinds of goods;  there was a 5, 10, 15 and 25 cent store where you could pick up many useful household articles.

Other places of interest were the Museum where there were local and exotic birds and animals, some in their natural habitat;  the Botanic Gardens, a huge garden of all types of trees and a Zoo with a variety of mammals like the manatee, a huge vegetarian animal which was placed in canals to keep them clear of weeds; birds and reptiles.

There was the Promenade Gardens, a much smaller garden cultivated with flowers of many kinds.   In this garden was a band-stand where the Militia Band would perform every week for an appreciative audience.   This band would also play on the sea-wall on certain occasions. After Independence, it became known as the Police Band.    Another place of interest was the Saint George’s Cathedral said to be the tallest wooden building in the world.  It was a landmark as its tower could be seen from great distances around.

British Guiana was the attraction for workers and miners from the Caribbean islands and aLSO for foreigners who would thoroughly enjoy their stay.

Randall Butisingh


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