October 7, 2009

Canon William Granville Burgan

Posted in Buxton, Education, Guyana, History, Lusignan, Philosophy, Religion tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:03 am by randallbutisingh

Persons who were of great significance in my life – 01

Canon William Granville Burgan,  B.A., M.A.

I will name Canon William Granville Burgan as one of the most significant people in my life.  This was because I had the longest relationship with him than any one else in my teaching career, when he was incumbent at Saint Augustine’s Anglican Church, located at Buxton, East Coast Demerara, British Guiana (now Guyana), and manager of the schools in which he served for a little over twenty- one years.   He jestingly referred to his twenty one year incumbency as his coming of age.  When he celebrated it in 1946, I had the pleasure of reporting it in one of the media of the day.

Rev. Canon W.G. Burgan 1886-1958

Rev. Canon W.G. Burgan 1886-1958

When he came to Buxton in 1925, I was thirteen years of age studying for the School Leaving Examination.  To me a small boy, he was tall by my standard in those days, five feet, ten inches, the same as I am now, good looking and elegant.   I admired him from the day he came.  He was a family man with three sons and two daughters.   He was the only African, in British Guiana, at a time when University degrees were rare to procure both the Bachelor and Master of Arts degree in a British University.   He was a good writer and his articles submitted to the newspapers and the monthly Diocesan Magazine stood out as gems of the English language.

For a man of his ability, he was easily fitted for the highest post in the Anglican Church, but in those days of colonialism, he could only reach as far as Canon.  The highest offices, like the Arch-Bishops and Bishops went to the white British, regardless of their attitude or aptitude – an area of discrimination, even in the Church.

Rev. Father Burgan carried out his duties as a priest and manager of the Anglican schools he controlled with dedication and commitment, though at times in conversation with him, I sensed a sign of frustration, which happens to a mind that is at a disadvantage to function to its full potential.  However, his tasks at Church were not a one-day affair, as some may think.   Apart from the regular services every Sunday and  children service every month, he held a weekday service for the school children when he would teach them new songs.   He was a good singer – a tenor, and a musician, and he also played the organ.   One of the songs he taught, I can remember word for word, even to this day.  He also helped the choirmaster to train the choir and held Confirmation classes, which were regular for long periods every year.

He loved children.  I remember once he took us on an excursion to Fort Wellington, Berbice to meet with children of the parish from which he was transferred.  At that time we had the railway running then from Georgetown to Rosignol.  I remember him taking off his clerical collar and joining with the boys in a game of cricket.

Besides his duty as priest,  he was also Justice of the Peace.  Policemen would go every week with bundles of summonses for him to sign.  In those days defendants were issued summonses at their homes to appear in court.  I believe that was the reason why he never tried to settle a case between two parishioners, but would let them go to court.    However, that was one area I did not feel agreement with him.   But now, I can see his reason; “if you could be so stupid as to make trouble, I have no patience with you; go and let the court settle it; that’s what they are there for”.   Even when one of his sons got into trouble, he did not try to resolve the matter outside of court.   Poor “Mistress” (Burgan), as we were taught to call his spouse, went to plead on the boy’s behalf.   Once I had a case with one of my young fellow teachers who hurt me.   His father refused to pay for the doctor’s expenses;   the matter was settled when his father was summoned to appear in court.

As I grew up in the school and church, I sensed a bond between us, an affinity.  I was always at ease with him although he was strict.  He was interested in my knowledge of Hindi and told me that he wished he had learnt it.   He, however was knowledgeable in Latin, Greek and Hebrew.  I knew of a candidate for the Bachelor’s degree who would visit him often to get help in learning  Greek.   He gave me the books left by his predecesor, Rev. James Persaud, who was proficient in both Hindi and Urdu, and who kept Hindi services for the old Indian Christians, back around the late 1920’s.   His books included the Missal in Urdu, an Urdu grammar and the Six Schools of Hindu Philosophy.  He also allowed me to continue the Hindi services which his predecessor kept.

Canon Burgan, though erudite, knew that he could not know everything.   He would ask me to explain certain points in grammar as if I was his teacher.   I did not realize then that maybe, he was really testing me.   He was not prejudicial; he spoke well of those of his calling who were well educated e.g. the Metropolitan (Bishop) of India.   In 1940, he appointed me Lay Reader along with another colleague.  We did the reading of the two lessons at evensong and matins, and also held the burial services when he was absent.  He made it plain that he hated the Old Testament lessons.

When I got married, he gave me a choral wedding and returned the fee I gave him for the ceremony.  He also baptized my eldest two children before he was transferred to the Plaisance Village Church in the mid 1950’s.

When India gained her independence in 1947, he held a service for the Indians of Buxton and neighbouring Vigilance.  I attended dressed in my Indian garb and was asked to read the lesson in Hindi. When the wife of the Indian catechist died, throngs from the neighbouring villages and sugar estates attended.  He made me sing a Bhajan (hymn in Hindi) with them and also read the sermon for the dead in Hindi.

With all his effort and dedication, I sensed a frustration.  This is a dog’s job, he once told us.  He had to raise a certain sum of money every year to give to the Diocese, also to maintain the material fabric of the Church.  This could not have been done by contributions from the parishioners, as they were poor.   The takings from collections were small and some could hardly have paid the six shillings ($1.44) for their yearly membership, so he had to resort to entertainments to raise the required sum.   His yearly Tea and Dance had always been a success.  In the 1950’s the young Bishop Allan John Knight was transferred as Bishop, to British Guiana from Africa to help raise money for the Church, which was in a parlous situation, and which he said could not run without money, but he had not to do it himself, the parish priests had to do it.

After 1949,  Canon Burgan was transferred to Plaisance, a parish church closer to Georgetown, we still kept our good relationship.  I used to visit him in the vicarage where he and his wife lived alone.  By then, the children were all grown, married or abroad.  After retiring, he moved to his residence in Georgetown, where he passed his last days before his call to eternity.

When he was called to higher service, I went to the funeral home where his body lay for viewing. He looked peaceful in his casket.     His daughter Dolly kissed him on the forehead.   There was a funeral service held for him at the parlour;  a man in a  high pitched voice sang solo the hymn “Lord, I would own Thy tender care and all Thy Love to me” .   After the service I  followed his cortege when it was moved to St. George’s Cathedral.  There he laid in state for final viewing and funeral service which was attended by hundreds from various parishes, dignitaries and people from all walks of life.  He was later entombed at St.  Sidwell’s churchyard in Lodge Village.

To sum up his life, with the failings, errors and limitations which are inevitable to humans in this mortal life,  Canon  Burgan performed to his fullest in the state of life into which God had called him.   As he lived, so did he die and so will he gain eternal rest in the kingdom prepared for all those who “ran the race and endured to the end.”   I close this tribute with a  quote from one of my poems:

Now he is gone, no more for us his work;

Death’s icy fingers shut the heavy tome;

But in some fairer realm where waits his Lord.

A soul will rise effulgent and at peace.

Rest in peace, my pastor, my teacher and my friend!

Randall Butisingh



Canon William Granville Burgan, B.A., M.A.

Canon William Granville Burgan (1886-1958) was born in British Guiana.  His father’s parents were one of the founders of the village of Beterverwagting, on the East Coast of Demerara.  His father, Mr. William Garnett Barnett Burgan, who died in 1938, was a well-respected Head Master of various schools in British Guiana.

Canon Burgan was born at Beterverwagting on June 16, 1886 and entered Codrington College, Barbados in 1907, holding a Diocesan Scholarship.  After three years’ residence he took and passed the B. A., degree of Durham University and also won the Wilson prize in Reading and Education competed for annually at the College Commemoration.

On his return to the colony he was ordained Deacon in December 1910 and was attached to Cathedral Staff.  In the following year he was appointed Curate of the All Saints, New Amsterdam.  On December 28, 1912, he and the Late Rev. W. G. Kimber, then Curate of St. George’s Cathedral, were advanced to the Priesthood by Bishop E. A. Parry.

Late in 1913 he was transferred to St. Michael’s Parish as Curate in Charge and later became First Vicar on the separation of these districts from the main parish. In 1914 he proceeded to his M. A., degree from Durhan University.   In 1938 he was made Canon (St Alban’s) at St. George’s Cathedral.

During his many years at Belladrum, in addition to his ministerial duties he interested himself in the general welfare of the villagers.   He was Chairman of the Local Authority of Eldorado and as President of the Farmers’ Association and First Secretary of the Belladrum and Lichfield Co-operative Credit Banks.   He was instrumental in getting the farmers to increase the area under rice cultivation.

For his services in connection with the Credit Banks he was made a Justice of the Peace of the Colony and in order that the operation of the Banks could be effectively controlled a considerable area of undivided lands was brought under the provisions of the District Lands Partitions Ordinance.  For this purpose Government appointed him Settlement Officer for the partitioning, and the issuing of titles of the villages of Belladrum, Eldorado, Paradise and Golden Fleece.

On the death of the Rev. James Persaud, incumbent of St. Augustine’s Buxton, in 1927,  Mr. Burgan was preferred as his successor and here, too, he has interested himself in the farmers.  He has been President of their Association and Vice-Patron of the Farmers’ League.  At Buxton he was manager of a number of Anglican schools in the area.

He spent over 22 years at Buxton and in 1949 was transferred to a larger village parish at Plaisance Village from where he retired in 1956. He passed on December 15, 1958.

As a Diocesan official he has held the post as Secretary of the Board of Missions for many years.  On his visits to England he has given good service in advertising the claims of the Church and in making the colony better known. His services were much in demand by the Society for the propagation of the Gospel.  He was detailed on special duty to the Channel Islands and in the Diocese of Cork in Ireland and the work and claims of the missions in this Diocese was made known to those with no knowledge of conditions prevailing in British Guiana.

He was an intellectual, well read, and versed in Latin,  Hebrew and Greek literature.  He was keenly interested in folklore and historical research. He published many articles in the newspapers and magazines.  For instance, in 1942 he published in the Diocesan Magazine “A Short History of the Guiana Diocese”, which outlined the history of the Anglican Church in British Guiana.  Mr. Burgan also contributed  for many years, to a Daily Argosy column under the non-de-plume “Rusticus”. – L. E. M., which were vivid writings of country life in rural villages of British Guiana.

– Source: the Daily Argosy


September 27, 2009

Historic New Amsterdam, Guyana

Posted in Guyana, History tagged at 11:22 am by randallbutisingh

Mission Chapel Congregational Church in the 1950s

A panoramic view of Strand, New Amsterdam in the 1920s

New Amsterdam Public Hospital in  1950

A view of  a Dry Goods & Provision Store in New Amsterdam

The New Amsterdam Postal Service in the 1940s

New Amsterdam Cycle Course

The Governor’s House

A Dry Goods Store in New Amsterdam

A panoramic view of Queenstown, New Amsterdam

A view of Strand, New Amsterdam in the 1950s

A day in the Town of New Amsterdam

in the 1950s

New Amsterdam Waterworks in the 1950s

A view of Peter Chung Tiam Fook’s Dry
Goods & Provision Store in
New Amsterdam

The New Amsterdam Prison

Government Quarters, New Amsterdam (1950)

New Amsterdam Town Hall (1950)

Historic New Amsterdam

The town of New Amsterdam developed as a settlement  beside Fort Nassau some 55 miles up the Berbice River.  Around 1784,  as a result of the fluctuating fortunes of Fort Nassau, the Dutch relocated  the town to its present site at the confluence of the Berbice and Canje Rivers.
The name New Amsterdam was chosen because most of the colonists originated  from the province of Amsterdam in Holland. Between 1785 – 1790,  New Amsterdam was established as the seat of Government for Berbice. at that time the town was little more than a forest settlemnt, with a house there and a house there, no roads, no drains.
By the resolutions of an Ordinance dated 11 January 1791, plots of land were awarded to settlers along the river front. In 1776  George Pinkhard described the town as that of a wild country, only just opening into cultivation. It comprised an extent of wood and water, with small patches of land breaking into incipient tillage.
In May 1825 an Ordinance to establish a Board of Management for the town  was passed. Subsequent ordinances in October 1825 and September 1838 resulted  in the establishment of a ‘Board of Policy’ to be responsible  for the affairs of the Town. In 1844 a Board of Superintendence was established  for this purpose.
Under their guidance the town grew.  The Board of Superintendence lasted until 1 September 1891, when legislation was enacted to incorporate the Town into a Municipality. The membership of this council consisted of members who had served on the Board of Superintendents and Mr. Neil Ross McKinnon, K.C., who was president of that Board, was appointed as the Town’s first Mayor

The New Amsterdam Public Hospital: designed by Ceasar  Castellani, a Maltese architect, employed by the Public  Works Department of British Guiana during the 19th century, this edifice is one of the most beautiful structures in Guyana.  Arranged like a  Pavillion Hospital, with the wards placed end to end this edifice was constructed in 1878.

Mission Chapel Congregational Church:

this edifice was constructed after the first Mission Chapel which was founded by Reverend John Wray was destroyed  by the order of the planters who blamed the missionaries for the 1823 slave insurrection. Under the ministry of Ebenezer Davies, the foundation stone of this structure was laid in 1841.

All Saints Scots Church was founded circa 1820 through the assistance of the Public Teasury. In 1838 the present structure was built when the Scots aquired a plot of  land to erect a church and later a school to cater for the population of New Amsterdam.

Ituni Temple:

this elegant wooden building was constructed in the late 19th century. It is home to one of Guyana’s oldest  fraternity the Freemasons Lodge. Timber louvres and stained glass windows in the small tower with intricately designed fretwork are noteworthy features of this  edifice.

The New Amsterdam Town Hall :

This imposing structure was erected in 1868 after the establishment of the Board of Superintendants in 1844. The tower encircled by a ‘widow’s walk is one of the main architectural features of this edifice.

Submitted by Cyril Bryan – Guest Contributor

September 12, 2009

The first-timer’s guide to Guyana

Posted in Guyana, History, Politics tagged , at 11:52 pm by randallbutisingh

The first-timer’s guide to Guyana

By John Gimlette (from UK travel magazine (Wanderlust)

From cowboys to conservationists, cricket-mad Indians to shy Amerindians, Guyana is a country of survivors

When I arrived in Georgetown I found it in the grip of a good murder trial, and so I went along to watch. In one sense it was like a courtroom drama circa 1790. The accused, Blacksam and Buggins, were old felons who drank in taverns and ate saltfish and souse. Then, one day, they picked a Georgian quarrel with their neighbour and despatched him with a cutlass. In every other sense, the trial was like a snapshot of modern life in Guyana. Defence counsel was, like every third Guyanese, Indian (and spoke a rich Creole, well-larded with Dickens and Donne). Another third of the populace, the Africans, were represented by the judge and the constables; the remainder, the mixed races, by the jury. In their 12 furrowed faces was the story of Guyana: slaves, Amerindians, ‘Chineymen’, Irish adventurers, Scottish cattlemen, pirates, pioneers and Pathans.

Equally intriguing was the backdrop, which was all so lumpishly British. With its arches, wrought iron and corrugated gables, the Victoria Law Courts were a lingering fantasy of tropical gothic. There was even a statue of Victoria herself. She’d recovered her head, I noticed, after losing it in the squabbles over independence in 1961. “Ask not for whom the bell tolls…” thundered the Indian, but the jury didn’t hear. The rains had come early and sounded like horses thundering on the tin. But somehow mercy survived and the verdict was manslaughter. Off went the prisoners, grinning through their chains. “Yeah, man,” said the constable, “they been spared the noose…” From the court, a beautiful city, as light as feathers, flutters off down the coast.
Perhaps – like its people – Georgetown doesn’t truly believe that it belongs here, and so it hovers over the water. It’s all built on canals and breezes, a city of stilts and clapboard, brilliant whites, fretwork, spindles and louvres. The streets are as wide as fields, and the cathedral seems to drift endlessly upwards, reputedly the tallest wooden building in the world.

One area of the city is even called Lacytown as if, at any moment, it might simply take off and drift away – home, perhaps. Water is a constant feature of the Townies’ lives. At high tide, the sea looms 2m above the city, held back by a wall. Concrete rots here, and even cars seem to moulder. By day, the canals are velvety and green, and by night they’re operatic with frogs. “Why? Why?” they sing, which makes the dogs all howl. Nature, it seems, is gradually reclaiming its inheritance. Among this riot of parrots and flamboyants, the Townies can still be fleetingly British. Even now, you can buy a bottle of Nerve Tonic or a sausage roll at Fogarty’s department store.

Other survivors include Hackney carriages, EIIR letterboxes and a pair of Sebastopol cannons.  Once I even saw a large building site called Buckingham Palace, although – sadly – financing had failed before any resemblance took shape.
Despite these trappings, however, the Guyanese are neither British nor truly South American but live in a world of their own. Sometimes it seems that being foreign comes so naturally to them that they don’t even understand themselves. Originally, each race had its own political party. With a population of only 770,000, this often makes Guyana feel like several dozen countries all stuffed into one. I even felt this as

I walked across Georgetown; one moment I’d be passing Chinatown, then a mosque, and then a Mexican circus (‘With real tigers!’) before finally ending up in a festival of extreme chutney.

All this might not be so odd in a big city, yet Georgetown is tiny. There’s only one escalator in the whole town (it still draws a crowd), and the beautiful National Art Gallery receives just 20 visitors a month. Everyone knows everyone, even the men who sell horse dung from their carts. Almost all the old buildings are famous, sometimes for several things at once. My hotel, Cara Lodge – apart from being a masterpiece of Victorian carpentry – was once the home of the colony’s orchestra, the basketball squad and the communist party. During the rule of Forbes Burnham (1964-85), it was even used by the resistance movement as a base for making bombs. “Go west across the Demerara,” people said, “and you’ll soon see who built this country.”

It was not, I realised, the British. The clue was in the names, thickly clustered along the shore: Vreed-en-Hoop, Harlem, Uitvlugt and Tuschen. For well over half Guyana’s colonial history (from the late 16th to early 19th centuries), the Dutch were in command. Here, on the coast, they stripped out the mangroves, drained the mudflats and walled off the sea. It was a Pharaonic achievement, costing thousands of African lives. Even now, looking inland, the horizon is just a bold green curve of sugar cane; the coastal strip remains the home of almost 90% of Guyanese.

After an hour’s bus ride from Georgetown I came to the main artery of the Dutch colonisers’ operation. The Essequibo is the largest of Guyana’s four great rivers (the Demerara, Berbice and Corentyne run parallel, progressively further east), with a mouth big enough to swallow Barbados. It looks like a vast, rum-coloured sea, lavishly spotted with islands and spills of squeaky clean white sand. As each rocky outcrop blurred past, my boatman would sing out its story. “This was a leper colony…” he’d say, “and this one’s Eddy Grant’s…”

At the Dutch islands a few kilometres upstream we stopped and clambered into the jungle. At Fort Kyk-over-al there was nothing but an arch but, on Fort Island, a huge star fort, dated 1739, still loomed up out of the forest. Next to it was a large brick hall. This had been the seat of government for a wild land, only 4% of which the Dutch had ever seen. Although the Zeelanders called this the Court of Policy, it was really no more than a parliament of ants.
It was easy to see why the Dutch had loved the Essequibo. Everything seemed abundant, and even the birds – tanagers and tyrants – seemed to jangle like fresh-minted money.

I stayed on a luxurious silvery river beach, once a Dutch camp and now a resort called Baganara. At first it seemed I was the only person who’d ever stayed there – except Mick Jagger (who’d left his picture over the bar).

Later, I moved further upstream and stayed in a Benedictine monastery. Every few hours the brothers’ euphonious chanting would lift out of the rubber trees and carry across the water. On the opposite bank was another Dutch institution: probably the most beautiful prison in the world.

On the way back downriver I stopped at an old sugar estate called Wales. It employed 2,000 souls, including rat catchers and lady weeders. Meanwhile, the cane is harvested exactly as it had been three centuries before: charred first, cut by hand and then heaved into barges. It often felt as though the Dutch had never left, especially near their graves. “They’re haunted,” said my guide. “We never urinate here.”

But the Dutch have left more than ghosts. Here, a sluice is still a koker and a wharf a stelling. Even better is their litter that still bubbles up out of the mud. In Meten-Meer-Zorg, back on the coast, I stayed with Gary Serao, who rents out beds in his extraordinary museum. Among his ephemera I spotted manacles, 17th-century wine jars, cannonballs and heaps of flasks for Zeeland gin. By 1800 the Dutch had become spectacularly debauched. Their planters carried ivory whistles, and every day began with gin and ended with a slave-girl, all painted up like an Amsterdam whore.

Naturally, the early Guyanese had often risen in revolt. Even now their descendants have a healthy suspicion of authority. The slaves’ big moment came further south-east and 160km inland. Today it’s called Dubulay, a pretty ranch overlooking the Berbice River. Back in March 1763 this was Peerboom (Pear Tree), a plantation house besieged by 2,000 machete-wielding slaves. As the Dutch fled for the river, the rebels butchered them. The remains of this struggle are still scattered along the foreshore: broken bricks, tiles, and shards of pottery and glass.

I followed the revolt all the way back to the sea. It was a sad and beautiful voyage. My boatman Bob Kertzious, descended from both the slaves and the slavers, knew all the landmarks of this bloody revolt: Juliana, Vigilantie and Dageraad (Daybreak). The region had never recovered. Even after the uprising was crushed, this, one of the richest settlements in the world, had simply reverted to jungle. We stopped only twice. Once was to visit Bob’s parents, who lived in a hut decorated with rag mats, ships’ paint and an old Dutch bottle. The other stop was Fort Nassau. It looked almost exactly the same as it did the day the rebels sacked it, except now it’s being slowly prised apart by macaws and strangler figs.

Things looked very different on the Berbice coast. The walls of vegetation parted, and India appeared: I could see prayer flags and minarets. In New Amsterdam (which was like a mini Georgetown), I even found a curry shop, although the choice was bush hog, chicken or iguana. Unsurprisingly, it was the British who were responsible for this eerie infusion of Asia. With slavery abolished, from 1838 they began to import Indian labour. Over the next 80 years some 250,000 Indians arrived, becoming the predominant race.

The introduction of Indians to this, the old wild coast, has created a curious new culture. Eastern Guyana is now a hotbed of cricket (not to mention communists, giant pink elephants and grand sari pageants). But it’s also a place that’s not quite like anywhere else in the world. Here there are Hindus in cowboy hats, halal snackettes (snack shops) and beggars with green parrots. Once I even spotted a petrol station called Vishaul & his Three Adorable Sisters. This was India, alright – but with a South American swagger.
For the rest of my Guyanese encounters I needed a plane. Beyond the coastal strip a vast forest begins, covering 80% of the country. For hundreds of kilometres it sprawls inland before spreading out among some of the oldest mountains in the world. Somewhere in it, or beyond it, live the remaining 10% of the Guyanese people.

I loved flying over this forest. The canopy itself was so dark and dense that it felt like a journey through a long green night. The foliage seems to swallow everything – even waterfalls like Kaieteur, at 228m, loftier than the BT Tower (and undiscovered until 1870). Until the aeroplane age, Guyana’s interior was accessible only by river. Small wonder that it became the literary refuge of lost worlds (Conan Doyle), lost minds (Evelyn Waugh) and cities made of gold (Raleigh).

I had my first encounter with the people hidden in here at Iwokrama. For the Amerindians, it’s always been a special place. Now it’s a 4,000 sq km forest with a research centre. There are little riverside huts for tourists and a village, Fair View, for the Makushi, an Amerindian tribe whose ancestors have lived in this forest for perhaps 10,000 years.

It seems an idyllic life. By day, we pottered round the forest, identifying cures for everything from ringworm (aromata) to diabetes (wild mango). The Makushi could be alternately shy and uninhibited, and every mealtime was a gathering of clans. It was like taking our own lives and stripping them of clutter: no chairs, no floors, no cash and no concept of time. “We like it here,” one man told me. “We got canes for our arrows, and plenty of monkeys.”

Later, as I moved further south to the edge of the forest, a more complex picture emerged. Although the Makushi village of Surama has its own breezy ecolodge with a view across the unknown, I opted to stay with a family. Paula has a tattooed face; Daniel is a hunter. They live on a beautiful hill in a house made of leaves. There was no water, no electricity, and nine of us slept in the hut. We washed out in the long grass and ate whatever Daniel caught. “Life’s become harder,” he said, “since the jaguars killed all our horses.”

But if the temporal world seemed tough, the spiritual world was tougher. Makushi life is deeply infested with magic. There are supernatural boulders and trees that turn you grey. Later, in Yupukari, I met a man who thought his brother had been drowned by a ghost – this in a village with a new American library and an exquisite boutique hotel for alligator lovers, Caiman House.

Daniel was unsure about the modern world and whether he wanted to join it. On my last day he gave me a 2m bow with five arrows. “Take them back to London,” he said, “and then you’ll remember us whenever you use them.”
Beyond Surama the trees gave way to a vast, golden plain about the size of Scotland. The Rupununi savannahs are home to the world’s biggest ants, biggest otters, biggest anteaters and most ferocious fish. Few Europeans have ever settled here. However, some remained, and now they often take in guests. One was Colin Edwards, who’d built the road through the forest. (“Until then, Guyana leaned towards the Caribbean,” he told me. “I linked it to South America.”) He’d never stopped building, and now runs Rockview, an oasis of orchards and cottages, with a bar that sells bras and machetes.

Another of the great Rupununi hosts is Diane McTurk. Her ranch, Karanambu, is on a riverbank, deep in the thorns. “I was born here in 1932,” she told me: “a wild child.” Although she’d been away (with a stint at London’s Savoy Hotel), Karanambu still feels like a wild childhood.

There are thatched huts, fruit trees, a collection of war clubs, a tiny beach and a pet racoon. Diane has also raised more than 40 orphaned giant otters, two still in residence. Every day a bowman padded off down to the river, to shoot them a bucket of fish.

For the final leg of my journey I drove south for another two days to find wildness of a different kind. Dadanawa is like the Wild West, yet even more remote. At 4,400 sq km it’s the biggest ranch in Guyana, tucked away behind a massive ridge of jungle (the Kanuku Mountains) and a river the width of the Thames (and three times as long). For the last bit of this journey my driver had to put our truck on a raft of oil drums and float it through the torrents.

The ranch was an unforgettable adventure. Pretty soon even the Wild West seemed fluffy in comparison. Of course, there were the same big rivers, mountains and stampedes, but Guyana can also be brutally exotic. Almost every night jaguars attacked the cattle. Meanwhile, watching a round-up was like witnessing an extraordinarily violent sport in which no one – miraculously – gets hurt.
Everyone here lives an extraordinary life. My hosts, the de Freitas family, slept (like me) in a sort of cricket pavilion on stilts overlooking the Kanukus.

They are descended from Portuguese immigrants who fled the great famine of Madeira in 1834. Guyana had suited them well; now they manage 5,000 cattle, 34 staff and two bright-red macaws known as the ‘Terrorists’. Not that there is money. The family lives in a delightful cemetery of Land Rovers, surviving on home-grown vegetables and the BBC World Service. Each of their children they’d delivered by themselves.

The cowboys, on the other hand, are Wapishana Indians and sleep in barracks. They all carried long knives like swords and rode brilliantly, barefoot and often bareback. The youngest, I discovered, was 12, and sang as he rode. One, a saddle-maker called Uncle Cyril, was descended from the long-extinct Atorad tribe.

With their hawkish faces and taut, athletic frames, it’s  hard to believe they were from the same country as the coastlanders. When my favourite, Orvin, was bitten by a snake, he simply tied a tourniquet round his arm and rode off to join his friends.

Perhaps none of this should surprise me. This, after all,is Guyana: a garden built by God, inhabited by survivors and lived to the full.

September 9, 2009

Buxton’s Tipperary Hall restoration kick-started

Posted in Buxton, Education, Guyana, History tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 12:35 am by randallbutisingh

Buxton’s Tipperary Hall restoration kick-started

September 6, 2009 | By KaieteurNews | Filed Under News

The name Tipperary Hall is synonymous with Buxton and the village’s much talked about social events, at least to the elderly and not so young.

It was a name that rang out on the airwaves during ‘party time’ segments on Radio Demerara and the Guyana Broadcasting Service, and adorned billboards advertising the much anticipated excursions and other such events when all roads led to the village.

It was the place where many recall meeting their life mates; a place where the jury decided who had the best waltz and of course, who was the best dressed.


An artist’s sketch of the old Tipperary Hall in Buxton.

Over the years the hall had fallen apart and other venues took up the mantle.
Once the headquarters of the Buxton/Friendship Burial Society, the deterioration began with the advent of accessible banking institutions, as instead of persons pooling their resources in the village through the society, they were more inclined to put their money into the banks.

Hence funds to maintain the building had to be sourced from its rental for dances and other social activities. But then when the big string bands went out of orbit, the nature of dancing changed, rendering lesser use of Tipperary Hall.

Built more than 80 years ago, today, all that remains of Tipperary Hall are a few stumps which are really no reminder of what used to take place at the Middle Walk, Buxton site.
But there is a desperate effort to resconstruct the hall and this is all being done to honour the legacy of those early Buxton residents, as well as to provide a centre that the new generation could cherish.

A group of Buxtonians, some of whom are domiciled overseas, has committed to the rebuilding of the edifice, which was named after a county in the Republic of Ireland in the United Kingdom, and already several processes have been initiated towards this end.

Buxtonian Malcolm Parris, a former Government Minister, is one of those involved in the restoration project.
“There’s a Chinese proverb which says, ‘the longest distance starts with the first step’ and we are making the first step this afternoon by rededicating ourselves…to the restoration of a modern Tipperary Hall,” Parris told a gathering at a special service last Sunday to kick-start the project.
The service was chaired by Dion Abrams, the nephew of one of the most famous dancers on the Tipperary Hall dancing floor.

Apart from the famous ‘dances’ Tipperary Hall was managed by the Buxton/Friendship Burial Society.
According to Malcolm Parris, the descendants of African slaves were very ‘fussy’ about the way their loved ones were buried. And for this many persons were associated with the society.
“This benevolent and burial society ensured that you had a proper burial. They wanted to be absolutely certain that you received a good burial that they used to make their own coffins,” Parris explained.

In the earlier days, in the absence of electricity many persons gathered at Tipperary Hall to listen to political speakers from the city.
“There was Burnham, John Carter and Jagan. They all spoke at Tipperary Hall.”
According to Parris, the restoration of Tipperary Hall is seen as part and parcel of the restoration of the entire village.
He said that this is all happening when the village is currently being blessed with some positive vibes as against what was transpiring a few years ago.

Within recent times, Buxton has returned significant successes in the academic field, with many of its young residents excelling at the various local and regional examinations.
“Now we’ve got to go for the spirit of the people, and Tipperary has to do with the spirit of the people,” Parris told this newspaper.

The new Tipperary Hall will not only be a dance hall. It will encompass a community centre complete with a library.
There will be a series of fund-raising activities to assist in the restoration project and this will be supplemented by the contributions from Buxtonians overseas.
According to Parris, the coordinators are hoping to complete the project by 2012.

August 15, 2009


Posted in Education, History, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion tagged , , , , , , , , , at 12:42 am by randallbutisingh

QUO VADIS DOMINE?  (Part 2) by Patanjali Ramlall.

I have contributed to this Blog in the past. Mr. Randall Butisingh, my teacher in the 1950’s at Lusignan School, East Coast Demerara, British Guiana (now Guyana), has asked me to continue my writings and submit them to his Blog for inclusion. I thank him for this wonderful opportunity. Here is my latest contribution.

I published Quo Vadis Domine? On July 27,2009. This is the follow up to that article.


In as much as we are fed information by official news agencies of the
governments of leading world powers there is still a hankering for the
truth in some schools of thought, especially in astronomy.
What is that truth? That we are never told what is behind the cover-up
of so many personal experiences and sightings of unexplained

On July 20th,1969, while travelling at 24,000 miles per hour over
Australia, on its way to the moon, a transmission by one of the Apollo
11 astronauts was picked up by amateur radio operators, “hams” as they
are called, and this is what was heard, ” holy cow, look at that thing
going by, and moving so fast that it makes me feel like we are
standing still.” That piece was not picked up by television sets
around the world because there is always a 30 second delay to off-set
any information that may raise eyebrows and cause people to think
outside of the box.

In the early 1970’s I attended a school on Campus, Fort Carson
Colorado, and did some research on UFO’s. During that period an
interesting conversation ensued between myself and one of my teachers.
This is what I learnt from her.

Shortly after that historic 1969 flight, Neil Armstrong and his two
co-astronauts made a visit to the US AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colorado
Springs, Colorado, which is right next to Fort Carson, so they decided
on a tour of the military base. After meeting with students in the
school – all military, the astronauts, in closed session with the
teachers gave a few hints about space travelling and confirmed the
above incident on “holy cow……….”

Neil Armstrong went on to say that on the 2 days spent on the moon
they observed movements of some sort of intelligent life, e.g., what
appeared to be rocks on the moon at first, were actually symmetrical
shapes moving from one location to another, as the hours went by. He
further stated that they were throughly de-briefed upon their return
to terra firma and cautioned about telling the media or public what I
just wrote. In 1960 a shiny object was observed flying quite
erratically over the beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, and had the
beach goers spell bound. After a spectacular few minutes it exploded,
and thousand of pieces of metal fell on the beach. The metal was
gathered up and the Brazilian scientific and intelligence officials
were unable to trace some of its components.

American agencies were called in, and upon analyses of these metals at
the Pentagon it was concluded that five of the components were not of
earthly origin. Strangely enough, the Brahmins of India described the
atom and spoke of extraterrestrial travelling, 5 millenia ago. Those
Brahmins spoke of a space craft called VIMANA, five of the metals
described in the Vimana have never been found on this planet.

In some Indian languages the V and the W are interchangeable. Check
out the name of the Bangladeshi national airline, it is  BIMANA, for
the uninitiated, Bangladesh was Eastern Bengal in India, prior to
August14,1947. During and after W W II, there appeared some mysterious
flying objects in the skies. Neither the Allied nor Axis forces cold
establish the origin of these manifestations and to date there has
been no plausible explanation.  Read up on it under the caption FOO
FIGHTERS WW II, on the internet. Facts about the ROSWELL CRASH, New
Mexico, July 8, 1947 are still being withheld from us.

This essay can be much longer, but the point is “whither goest thou”?
We constantly get subtle and not so subtle messages from other than
earthly sources and still want to go out and find other than earthly
life forms, planting flags on the moon with double talk, etc, Yet that
which we seek is all around us.

Do we ever stop and think that since governments spend tremendous
amounts of money and manpower pursuing evidence of life in outer
space, that they know and have facts that are being kept away from
public scrutiny.? No sane person should think of colonising the moon
or Mars for the next two or three centuries – why? Do some research on
logistics. Right now let these governments find cures for all
diseases, feed, clothe, educate, and keep all of us in a safe and
healthy environment, eliminate poverty and wars, and pray for an end
to greed and power.

After we have accomplished all of the above we may be able, without
shame and hypocrisy to move on to the farther reaches of the solar
system, and not say  – QUO VADIS DOMINE?

– Patanjali Ramlall

August 11, 2009

A 1924 History of British Guiana

Posted in Economics, Education, Guyana, History, Politics tagged , , , at 1:40 am by randallbutisingh

A 1924 History of British Guiana

. The St. Stanislaus College was a Jesuit-run High School in British Guiana, which became a Government high School after Independence in 1966, when British Guiana became Guyana.

St Stanislaus has a very vibrant Alumni Association in Toronto. The group has managed to get a copy of a book (126 pages) on the history of British Guiana, written in 1924 for the British Empire Exhibition, Wembley, and printed in London by Sanders Phillips & Co., Ltd., at the Baynard Press, Chryssell Road, London SW9.
It makes for very interesting reading and gives the history, geography, economic statistics and social information like population etc. One may note from the contents that the colony at the time was under-appreciated by the its colonial masters. Now with Independence the same under- appreciation continues as the current masters have done little to take full advantage of the abundant natural resources of the country.
Thanks to alumnus John Sparrock, we have digitized this book it and placed it on a web-site so as to be accessible for all those who are interested in the history of British Guiana, before Independence.
To read it online or save it for future reading, go to :
 The whole document (126 pages) can be downloaded  from the Guyanese Online Blog as it is no longer on the St. Stanislaus website.  Go to:-
There are also photographs in the book but, to conserve space, these were separated and placed in :

August 10, 2009

GUYANA- Land of Many Waters

Posted in Guyana, History tagged , , , , , , , , , at 8:54 pm by randallbutisingh

Land of Many Waters

Published in the Fall 2008 Issue of Canadian World Traveller
By Greg James (greg@canadianworldtraveller.com)

Guyana’s mighty Kaieteur Falls, with its vertical drop of 226 metres (741 ft), is about five times higher than Niagara. What’s more, it’s located deep in the country’s lush inland virgin rainforest.
This natural wonder of the world is a result of the Potaro River plunging over a lofty sandstone cliff into the verdant, permanently mist-covered valley below.
The awe-inspiring Kaieteur is just one of the highlights of a visit to the land once believed by early European explorers to be t he site of El Dorado, the fabled city of gold!
Look, Water!
This little-known country, located on the northeastern coast of South America, is justifiably called the land of many waters because of the numerous rivers, creeks and streams that flow throughout its length and across its breath.
In fact, the name Guyana means ‘Land of Many Waters’ in a native Amerindian language.
But water in Guyana not only refers to its bounty of fresh river water. The Atlantic washes its 250-mile coastline and during high tides, the ocean sprays its salty brine over the country’s legendary seawall that runs quite a distance along the meandering coast.
As a kid, I rode m y bike on the winding road that hugged the inside of the wall in the capital city of Georgetown and I vividly remember being occasionally soaked by the sprays as the waves lashed against the other side of the two- to three-metre-thick stone and concrete wall during a high tide.
Seawall Promenade
The Seawall (quite wide and high in certain parts) was not only a popular promenade for families taking a leisurely afternoon stroll, but a romantic, sometimes moonlit setting for late-night clandestine lovers.
More importantly, it was a needed defence against the Atlantic’s relentless waves that constantly threatened to inundate below-sea-level Georgetown.
The Dutch, who at one time were the ruling colonial power in Guyana, are credited with the creation of the original wall when they reclaimed land along the country’s coastline.
It seems that they discovered that the silt of reclaimed land was much more fertile and stable that any deforested area inland, which would be quickly washed away by the perennial tropical rainfalls. This insight on their part was a remarkable ecological first! For visitors, an afternoon promenade on the seawall is a definite must!
A Sweet Crop
The important sugarcane crops were ideally suited to the flat reclaimed land and the canals, which flowed to the sea through Georgetown and Guyana’s other coastal towns, provided reliable irrigation and convenient transport of the produce t o the sugar factories at harvest time.
Flat-bottomed, manpowered boats called punts were employed for this purpose.
An upriver ‘back-dam’ canal fed the irrigation canals with fresh water when needed. The canal system was also used to regulate the amount of water supplied to the numerous rice paddies that were found all along the flat coastal region of the country.
The Kokers
The canals, which we called trenches in Georgetown, channelled the water to the sea. I remember being challenged by my pre-teen friends to walk across a sewerage pipe that spanned one of them instead of crossing by the nearby bridge.
The canal system, based on gravity, only ha d one problem. The canals led to the Kokers (an old Dutch word for sluice gates), which allowed any excess water to flow out to the sea.
This worked fine during low tides, when the ‘kokermen’ would manually open the sluice gates by cranking the mechanism that raised the gates.
However when high tides occurred during the rainy seasons, they couldn’t do so and the city would be flooded up to at least a metre deep of rainwater! However, most people took this in stride as the water normally receded in a day or two.
In recent years, keeping the aging system in working order has been an ongoing challenge. In 2005, some of the ‘kokers’ failed to work during a four-day period of heavy rains, causing serious damage to some of the country’s valuable crops.
The Bottom House
Because of these seasonal phenomena of flooding, Guyanese houses are built on stilts. Well not really stilts, but columns (wooden or concrete-block) that support the upper storeys.
This creates what is called the ‘bottom house’ on the ground level, the equivalent to the ‘rec room’ in Canada or the US.
Since there are no walls to stop the cool tropical breezes from blowing through, the ‘bottom house’ is an ideal place for kids to play or adults to entertain their friends. Hopefully, as a visitor to Guyana, you will be invited to indulge in a ‘bottom house’ soiree.
Garden City
Georgetown has been called the ‘Garden City’ because of the many trees that grace its avenues. The city’s avenues were created when some of the its historic canals were filled in.
These unique urban streets are lined with flowering tropical trees, which shed their colourful blossoms at certain times of the year on the pedestrian pathways that run between them .
The avenues, including the most famous one that runs along Georgetown’s Main Street, were the forerunners of the current trend in North American and European cities to provide its citizens with car-free thoroughfares. It was not an unusual sight to see parents or nannies pushing prams (baby carriages) along the shady avenues.

< B>Beautiful Wooden Structures
Georgetown is a city of wooden structures, including most of its houses and public buildings.
Its most famous landmark is St. George’s Anglican Cathedral, the second tallest wooden church in the world, at a height of 43.5 metres (132 feet).
The building of St. George’s was completed on its ’round-about’ site in 1899. This house of worship is notable for its soaring steeple, Gothic arches, clustered columns and flying buttresses, all constructed out of wood!
Unfortunately, an accidental fire destroyed another of the city’s notable wooden structures, the 134-year-old Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church (also known as Main Street Church), during a Christmas Day Mass in December 2004.
This was a particularly sad event for me, as I attended Sacre d Heart Church as well as the adjacent Catholic elementary boys’ school when I was growing up in Guyana.
A Walk Along High Street
Georgetown’s other public buildings of note are its ‘fairytale castle’ Neo-Gothic City Hall, built in 1889 entirely out of wood and decorated with wrought-iron crenulations at the apex of its tower, and the equally intriguing Victoria Law Courts, now Guyana’s High Court, which was constructed in the same era.
The style of architecture of the Courts is thought to be closer to that of the timber-framed buildings built in the time of Queen Elizabeth I, though this extensive galleried structure was designed and erected during the long reign of Queen Victoria.

In 1894, a statue of Victoria was unveiled on the lawns of the Courts Building that bore her name, but shortly after Guyana gained its independence from Britain in 1966, it was unceremoniously removed, Happily, today Victoria is back in her original spot, but with a broken arm due to a mishap in her travels!
Both of these buildings, which are a legacy of Guyana’s British colonial past, are located on Avenue of the Republic, formerly named High Street.

Stabroek Market
At the end of your walk along High Street, you will come upon Georgetown’s popular Stabroek Market (also called Big Market).
This noisy shopping emporium sells everything from local fruits and vegetables (of which there is an abundance) to all kinds of meat (including goat), live chickens and freshly caught fish.

Besides the stalls offering food provisions, the market boasts many other large and small stalls selling furniture, household goods, hardware, clothes, jewellery (especially pieces made of pure 100K Guyanese yellow gold) and lots and lots of other locally produced and imported merchandise.
Animated and often boisterous vendors compete for the attention and patronage of the crowds o f shoppers who fill the market’s aisles each day.

Demerara: More than a  River
The rear of this colourful and bustling indoor market is actually a wharf built on piles driven into the Demerara River. The name of the river, and the county where Georgetown is located, is the very same one that’s recognized worldwide because of the export of Guyana’s famed Demerara rum and Demerara sugar, a required ingredient of many baking recipes.
Constructed of cast iron and galvanized steel in 1881, Stabroek Market covers an area of about 7,000 m2 (just under 80,000 sq. ft). An imposing four-sided clock tower stands atop this remarkable edifice, which is reminiscent of the architectural st yle popular in Great Britain in the late Victorian era.
A Little Word of Caution
A visit to Stabroek Market is a must for any visitor to Guyana. However, you should be cautious in any crowded public place in Georgetown, as petty thieves sometimes take advantage of unsuspecting tourists. Avoid wearing expensive jewellery, make sure you have a secure handbag and don’t walk around with large sums of cash or other valuables. This is particularly true after dusk.
I trust this cautionary word will not dissuade any of you from visiting this truly unique travel destination. Outside of its urban centres, Guyana is just as safe as any other Caribbean or South American destination.
F or the most part, Guyanese are very affable, trustworthy and extremely hospitable to ‘strangers’. Entertaining visitors royally comes naturally for most of the country’s over 750,000 people.

A Day at the Zoo
Among the most important points of interest in Georgetown is its extraordinary Botanical Gardens and Zoo, officially called the Guyana Zoological Park.
If your visit to Guyana does not include a tour of its ‘interior’ (or even if it does), this is the best way to acquaint yourself with the rich but sometimes elusive variety of wildlife found in the rain forests, savannahs, mountains and rivers of this world-renowned centre of biodiversity.
The Guyana Zoological Park houses approximately 30 species of mammals, 40 species of birds, 15 species of reptiles and 20 species of fish.
Endangered Species
The zoo’s mammals include jaguars, pumas, tapirs, giant otters, white-faced saki monkeys, capuchin monkeys, two-toed sloths, and manatees (sea cows).
Its avian guests include long-living harpy eagles (the largest, strongest and most powerful raptors in the world), parrots, tropical owls and toucans (the national bird of Guyana – see below).
For those fascinated with reptiles, there are rattlesnakes, spectacled caimans, anacondas, mata-mata turtles and emerald tree boas.
Some of these are endangered species. These include the harpy eagle, the jaguar, the giant otter and the West Indian manatee.
The zoo has an excellent ‘Nature School’ for local school children to teach them about these species and their natural habitats and the ways we can all ensure their preservation in the wild.
Garden of Delights
The Zoo’s Botanical Gardens cover a huge area on the eastern edge of Georgetown.
All kinds of exotic native flora thrive in its flowerbeds and the wide-spreading branches of its tropical trees give shade to its well kept lawns, which are dissected by manmade streams and dotted with picturesque shallow ponds.
Some of the garden’s streams and ponds are covered with ‘Victoria Regina’ water lilies.
Stretching about two metres across, the lily pads look like enormous pie plates and the huge blossoms, with their pearly white petals and bright red centres, stand tall between the oversized pads.
As you may have guessed, this remarkable water lily was named in honour of the British sovereign of the time.
Romantic & Heart-Warming
Another endearing feature of the gardens is its Kissing Bridge, a gracefully arched latticed pedestrian brid ge spanning one of its streams, on which lovers have acted out their affection for each other since the day it was built.
But an experience not to be missed is feeding the manatees, the world’s only truly herbivorous aquatic mammals.
They eat between 60 and 70 known species of plants, but will gladly accept handfuls of grass pulled up by visitors from the garden’s lawns and offered to them from the bank of the ponds.
These gentle, heart-warming giants, also called sea cows, are a national treasure for Guyana and a source of joy for the rest of the world. Currently there are 13 individuals housed in the ponds of the Botanical Gardens.
Where Is Guyana?
Peo ple are often confused about Guyana’s location, culture, language and history. Is it a Caribbean island? Is it a country in West Africa or is it located somewhere in the South Pacific? Is it Guiana or Ghana?
To add to the confusion, Guyana’s neighbouring countries were once called Dutch Guiana (now named Suriname, after its independence from the Netherlands in 1975), and French Guiana (now called Guyane and considered an overseas territory of France rather than its former role as a French penal colony). The three Guianas have little in common culturally because of divergent colonial histories and languages.
In fact, Guyana is today what used to be called British Guiana, the little English-speaking pink bit at the top of South America that was part of the far-reaching Briti sh Empire.
This means that Guyana has more in common with the Caribbean islands of Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica because of its shared British colonial heritage. Nevertheless, Guyana Is adamant in its factual claim to being the only English-speaking South American country.
Guyana’s other neighbours are Spanish-speaking Venezuela to the west and Portuguese-speaking Brazil to the south. The borders of the three countries converge at the summit of Mount Roraima, which was made famous in 1912 when Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle wrote his fictional novel entitled The Lost World, using Roraima as its location.
A Brief History Lesson
Guyana became an independent republic on May 26, 1966. But it was a long and winding road getting there. Guyana was ‘discovered’ in 1498 by European explorers, so its recorded history stretches back more than 500 years!
The country’s colonial past is punctuated by battles fought and won, possessions lost and regained, as the Spanish, French, Dutch and British wrangled for centuries to own this coveted land. In fact, place names in Guyana reflect this!
Eventually the territory was subdivided by the colonial powers, hence the three Guianas and the ongoing claim to a ‘Guayana Province’ by Venezuela, acting as heir of Spain’s past colonial expansionism.
A Land of Six Nations
The population of Guyana, estimated to date at approximately 750,000, is made up of its original Amerindian inhabitants who were later augmented by other ethnic groups, namely West Africans, East Indians originating from the Indian subcontinent, Cantonese Chinese, Portuguese from Madeira and a smattering of descendants of other European colonists and more recent émigrés.
How this happened was the result of the worldwide quest by the British colonials to find replacement workers for the colony’s profitable sugar estates.
Following the abolition of slavery in 1833, many of the former African slaves in Guyana had walked off the job, preferring to do their own subsistent farming on freehold land.
A Real Melting Pot
Over the years, Georgetown, which accoun ts some 25% of the total population of the country, became a veritable melting pot of cultures, with many residents proudly claiming multiple ethnic origins.
In the latest census, Guyanese of East Indian descent (Indo-Guyanese) constituted 51 percent of the population while Afro-Guyanese constituted 42 percent. The remaining population was composed of native Amerindians (4 percent) and people of European or Chinese descent (3 percent).
Guyana’s population has remained fairly constant since the 1960s because of mass emigration by predominately middle-class Guyanese to the UK, Canada, the Caribbean and the US following independence from Britain and political upheavals in the country. In fact the Guyanese Diaspora is probably greater than the present population of Guyana!
Ninety percent of the inhabitants of Guyana, which includes the population of Georgetown, live on the narr ow coastal plain of the country.
Guyanese Fusion Cuisine
Like its people, Guyanese cuisine is like taking a trip around the world, but always with a local twist.
Guyana’s native Amerindians contributed pepper pot, which is a kind of dark, spicy stew made with meat that is marinated in cassareep, a condiment made from the sap of the bitter cassava. Pepper pot is often served with biscuit-like, pure-white cassava bread.

Curry and roti is a decidedly Guyanese dish, even though it originated in India. The curry, which could contain p otatoes combined with beef, chicken, shrimp or goat, is often wrapped in the plate-sized roti.
The roti is a pita-like bread that is made from a white flour dough. After being rolled out with layers of ghee (clarified butter), roasted on a tawa (a flat pan made of cast iron) and ceremoniously clapped to separate the layers, .it becomes a delicious flaky flat bread.
More Culinary Delights
Guyanese chow mein evolved from the Chinese recipe because of the lack of the original ingredients. This produced a uniquely Guyanese dish.
The fine egg noodles are boiled and drained then quickly stir-fried with shredded vegetables and chicken, soy sa uce (which we called Chinese cassareep) and spices. The finished dish is usually decorated with chopped green onions and strips of omelette. Inevitably, local diners add dollops of “Guyanese hot sauce” to the chow mein before consuming it.
The Portuguese contribution to the Guyanese menu is garlic pork. Cubes of pork are marinated in white vinegar, salt, garlic and thyme for at least a week then drained and fried with more chopped garlic. Small glasses of straight gin are consumed with the pork to “cut the fat”. This dish is often served as breakfast on Christmas morning!
Coils of Black Pudding
Finally, on this exotic local menu, there is black pudding, the homemade Guyanese version of the relatively bland English, Scottish and French blood sausages.
In Guyana, the blood is combined with cooked rice or grated raw potatoe s and lots of aromatic herbs and spices then stuffed into casings or “runners”,  which are actually the meticulously cleaned small intestines of pigs. This may all sound quite disgusting to the uninitiated and watching the preparation process is not for the squeamish, but after being carefully boiled in large pots of  water, the tender “coils” of black pudding are just plain delectable!
Recipes for all of the above-mentioned Guyanese delicacies can be found at The beautifully illustrated website called Tastes Like Home conceived by a Guyanese expat living in Barbados .
Washing it Down!
Homemade beverages in Guyana include mauby (made from the bark of a tree), sorrel (juice extracted from the red sepals of the Roselle plant), ‘fly’, which is a mildly alcoholic drink made from red potatoes and the more familiar ginger beer, made from grated green ginger root .
Of course a glass of Guyana’s world-famous dark rum or the excellent locally brewed Banks Beer is always an option.
Guyanese love to party. Fêtes are dances that can go on all night especially at Christmas and New Year’s. Most large hotels and popular nightclubs have “Old Year’s Fêtes” where the participants are dressed in elegant formal wear.
If you are visiting Guyana, even for a short stay, it is advisable to pack at least one formal outfit in the very likely event of being invited to a fancy ball or other dressy occasion.
Beyond Georgetown
For most visitors, a trip to Guyana means a flight into the virgin rainforest or the expansive Rupununi savannahs of Guyana’s interior. The biodiversity of the flora and fauna in Guyana’s hinterland is unmatched anywhere in the world.
Trip of a Lifetime
The star of any inland trip is Kaieteur Falls and as a boy I was fortunate in doing the overland route with my scout troup. It took three days to get there and three days to return to Georgetown, but it was an experience of a lifetime.
The trip consisted of ferry rides, drives through jungle roads on the back of an open truck, portaging over rapids along the Potaro River and overni ght camping at the bottom of the falls before hiking up the winding jungle paths that led to the very edge of Kaieteur.
Everything was exactly as nature made it. No postcard or souvenir stands, no restaurants or hotels, and most remarkably, no rails to protect you from falling over into the gorge!
A Daring Flight
I did return by seaplane in later years and was happy to see that nothing had changed. The day trip, which can be arranged in Georgetown, is truly spectacular. You fly over acres and acres of thick, lush rainforest that form a green undulating carpet with wine coloured meandering ribbons of rivers running through it.
When you get the falls the pilot will fly along the upper reaches of the river then drop the small plane into the gorge just as you get to the crest of the falls.
After circling the gorge and flying quite close to the thundering cascade of water the plane actually lands on the river not too far away from the spot where it plunges into the gorge! Make sure you have a fully loaded camera.
The area around the falls can only be described as Eden. Exotic plants and birds vie for attention with the spectacle of the sheer drop and constant roar of Kaieteur’s unfettered powerful waters.
Any world traveller should definitely put this magnificent sight on their must-see list!
A Sure Return
There is an age-ol d saying in Guyana. If a visitor wants to ensure a return trip he or she should
“Eat Labba and Drink Creek Water”.

You may not get a chance to eat labba, a wild animal that looks like a large guinea pig, but you will certainly want to drink some of Guyana’s sweet, wine-coloured, pure creek water.

For More Info About Guyana:
Guyana Tourism Authority
Georgetown, Guyana
Email: ianandjit@guyana-tourism.com
Website: www.guyana-tourism.com

High Commissioner for Guyana
151 Slater Street, Suite 309
Ottawa, ON K1P 5H3
Tel.: 613-235-7240/7249
Email: guyanahcott@rogers.com
Website: www.guyanamissionottawa.org


July 27, 2009


Posted in History, Lusignan, Philosophy, Politics, USA politics tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 2:07 am by randallbutisingh

QUO VADIS DOMINE by Patanjali Ramlall.

I have contributed to this Blog in the past. Mr. Randall Butisingh, my teacher in the 1950’s at Lusignan School, East Coast Demerara, British Guiana (now Guyana), has asked me to continue my writings and submit them to his Blog for inclusion. I thank him for this wonderful opportunity. Here is my latest contribution.


Reflecting on the 40th anniversary of man’s landing on the moon I am still perplexed as t o why we cannot close the human divide and reach in to ourselves to stop human conflicts and share the earth without greed and wars.

I read the book QUO VADIS at age fourteen in Middle Road La Penitence, Georgetown, British Guiana, now Guyana, in 1963. And I was never able to resolve its climax; the conflict within myself about the path of mankind’s quest for ruling over and conquering that which cannot be explained in simple terms and yet not pursuing or getting in touch with that which is within himself, his spirituality. To the point – I find it interesting that on 20th July, we touched the moon forty years ago and still need to reach in and touch ourselves.

The flag planted by Americans on the moon’s surface on 20th July, 1969 in part says, “….. we come in peace.” I was amazed at those words when I saw them for the first time on Monday 20th, 2009. From the mid-1960’s to the early 1970’s the United States was waging a conflict in Vietnam for land and control of a large part of Indo-China, maiming, burning villages and crops, causing hunger, despair, creating widows and orphans, displacing and slaughtering millions, and we had the
audacity to say on the flag “we come in peace” while annihilating thousands.

On 16th March 1968, a company of US infantry entered and massacred about 500 Vietnamese peasants, mostly women and children without any threat – from the village of My Lai. On 9th March, 1969, the U.S military began secret bombing operations in Cambodia, code-named Operation Menu, without the consent of the United States Congress.These secret bombings in turn gave rise to the hideous Pol Pot regime that murdered between 1 to 3 million people.
And yet  “…..we come in peace.”

What beautiful double talk, it smells.

Forty years after the moon’s landing we still wage wars – in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. We sit with our arms folded and allow a murderous military machine and inhumane regime to keep in continued detention for 19 years, the legally and democratically elected president, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Aung San Suu Kyi, of Burma, now Myanmar. We close our eyes to the plight of Tibetans and the ethnic minorities of China, Russia, Darfur, and other parts of the African continent. And we boast of conquering the moon.

I saw the film QUO VADIS for the first time two weeks ago and realized that what I had read of Rome and the madman Nero who lived two thousand years ago is still pervasive in this so-called modern world.
Nothing has changed except our weapons and the technology for spying – we call it “intelligence-gathering”. The fantasy world that we live in is getting us no place fast, and against the birth right of our spiritual nature. The science involved in man’s missions to the moon has enriched our material world, e.g, clothes, space food, etc., but
not one iota of how to get in touch with, and conquer our own fears and insanity arising from it.

We can make a thousand  missions to the moon, Mars, Jupiter or wherever, but unless we make that inner one and first save ourselves we will be navigating a universe without direction. “We come in peace” should be our earthly resolve and spread among all nations before taking it to the stars. Man cannot give to the stars what he does not have for himself. It still smells.

Whither goest thou?

Or should I say to world leaders – QUO VADIS DOMINE?

Interestingly enough how about this on PEACE?  – Henry Kissinger Secretary of State under Nixon and Ford, and one of the intellectual players of OPERATION CONDOR, a covert operation that kidnapped and killed thousands in South America, won the Nobel Prize for Peace, and Mahatma Gandhi, that apostle of Peace and non violence was denied it by the British for his insistence on Indian independence.  As a matter of fact the Brits made an empty apology about holding back on the Mahatma a few years ago.  Check on Henry Kissenger on the Internet for more details on “Operation Condor”.

— Patanjali Ramlall

July 8, 2009

We are the World! – Michael Jackson Video

Posted in Friendship, History, Messages, Philosophy, Psychology tagged , , , , , , , , , at 3:29 am by randallbutisingh

“We are the World” Video – 1985 – In commemoration of the life of the late Michael Jackson 1958-2009  **** Click Here

This video was one of the first videos to bring major entertainers to focus on aiding the peoples of Africa…. and the World.  It is being posted today – as Michael Jackson is laid to rest – as a reminder to all of the power of Michael Jackson in bringing people together under the umbrella of Universal Love.

Today – July 7, 2009 Michael Jackson was laid to rest in Los Angeles, California, USA, and people around the World watched the ceremony. Many may ask “How did this man get all this attention on his passing?” The answer is that his music has  touched so many millions around the world with its messages of inclusiveness and love. His songs transcended national boundaries and helped make the world truly a place where we can communicate through music, no matter what language we speak.

I could have selected one of his popular videos, however I  have included this video as my contribution to this blog as it exemplifies an important aspect of the life work of Michael Jackson in using anthems like “We are the World” in getting people , and especially fellow entertainers, involved in influencing  in creating a better world  by bringing the world’s  people together as “ONE PEOPLE” – the Human Race!

Many his soul  Rest In Peace!


Notes about this Video:

USA for Africa (United Support of Artists for Africa), was the name under which forty-five predominantly U.S. artists, led by Harry Belafonte, Kenny Rogers, Michael Jackson, and Lionel Richie, recorded the hit single “We Are the World” in 1985. The song was a US and UK Number One for the collective in April of that year.

The considerable profits from the enterprise went to the USA for Africa Foundation, which used them for the relief of famine and disease in Africa. A recording of the live performance was released with the Live Aid DVD set released on November 8, 2004.

– This selection and  the comments above are by Cyril Bryan, Guest Contributor.

June 18, 2009

An Open Letter to Arne Duncan

Posted in Economics, Education, History, Politics, Psychology, Science & Technology, USA politics tagged , , , , , , , , at 8:07 pm by randallbutisingh

An Open Letter to Arne Duncan

Summer 2009

From Herbert Kohl

<<It is hard for me to understand how educators can claim that they are creating high standards when the substance and content of learning is reduced to the mechanical task of getting a correct answer on a manufactured test. In the panic over teaching students to perform well on reading tests, educators seem to have lost sight of the fact that reading is a tool, an instrument that is used for pleasure and for the acquisition of knowledge and information about the way the world works. The mastery of complex reading skills develops as students grapple with ideas, learn to understand plot and character, and develop and articulate opinions on literature. They also develop through learning history, science, and technology.>>

Dear Arne Duncan,

In a recent interview with NEA Today you said of my book 36 Children, “I read [it] in high school … [and] … wrote about his book in one of my college essays, and I talked about the tremendous hope that I feel [and] the challenges that teachers in tough communities face. The book had a big impact on me.”

When I wrote 36 Children in 1965 it was commonly believed that African American students, with a few exceptions, simply could not function on a high academic level. The book was motivated by my desire to provide a counter-example, one I had created in my classroom, to this cynical and racist view, and to let the students’ creativity and intelligence speak for itself. It was also intended to show how important it was to provide interesting and complex curriculum that integrated the arts and sciences, and utilized the students’ own culture and experiences to inspire learning. I discovered then, in my early teaching career, that learning is best driven by ideas, challenges, experiences, and activities that engage students. My experience over the past 45 years has confirmed this.

We have come far from that time in the ’60s. Now the mantra is high expectations and high standards. Yet, with all that zeal to produce measurable learning outcomes we have lost sight of the essential motivations to learn that moved my students. Recently I asked a number of elementary school students what they were learning about and the reactions were consistently, “We are learning how to do good on the tests.” They did not say they were learning to read.

It is hard for me to understand how educators can claim that they are creating high standards when the substance and content of learning is reduced to the mechanical task of getting a correct answer on a manufactured test. In the panic over teaching students to perform well on reading tests, educators seem to have lost sight of the fact that reading is a tool, an instrument that is used for pleasure and for the acquisition of knowledge and information about the way the world works. The mastery of complex reading skills develops as students grapple with ideas, learn to understand plot and character, and develop and articulate opinions on literature. They also develop through learning history, science, and technology.

Reading is not a series of isolated skills acquired in a sanitized rote-learning environment utilizing “teacher-proof” materials. It develops through interaction with a knowledgeable, active teacher—through dialogue, and critical analysis. It also develops through imaginative writing and research.

It is no wonder that the struggle to coerce all students into mastering high-stakes testing is hardest at the upper grades. The impoverishment of learning taking place in the early grades naturally leads to boredom and alienation from school-based learning. This disengagement is often stigmatized as “attention deficit disorder.” The very capacities that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is trying to achieve are undermined by the way in which the law is implemented.

This impoverishment of learning is reinforced by cutting programs in the arts. The free play of the imagination, which is so crucial for problem-solving and even for entrepreneurship, is discouraged in a basics curriculum lacking in substantial artistic and human content.

Add to this the elimination of physical education in order to clear more time to torture students with mechanical drilling and shallow questioning and it is no wonder that many American students are lethargic when it comes to ideas and actions. I’m sure that NCLB has, in many cases, a direct hand in the development of childhood obesity.

It is possible to maintain high standards for all children, to help students learn how to speak thoughtfully, think through problems, and create imaginative representations of the world as it is and as it could be, without forcing them through a regime of high-stakes testing. Attention has to be paid to the richness of the curriculum itself and time has to be allocated to thoughtful exploration and experimentation. It is easy to ignore content when the sole focus is on test scores.

Your administration has the opportunity, when NCLB comes up for re-authorization, to set the tone, aspirations, and philosophical and moral grounds for reform that develops the intelligence, creativity, and social and personal sensitivity of students. I still hold to the hope you mentioned you took away from 36 Children but I sometimes despair about how we are wasting the current opportunity to create truly effective schools where students welcome the wonderful learning that we as adults should feel privileged to provide them.

I would welcome any opportunity to discuss these and other educational issues with you.

Sincerely, Herbert Kohl


COMMENT by Cyril Bryan, Guest Contributor.

Readers would note that some of the most popular items on this Web log relate to education. This is mainly due to the fact that Randall Butisingh has written his thoughts, and novel ideas relating to education which he practiced as a teacher for over 40 years.

I have selected this article “An Open Letter to Arne Duncan”, written by Herbert Kohl for inclusion on this Blog as the ideas of Mr. Kohl , I think, mirrors those that have been advanced by Mr. Butisingh in his writings. Mr. Arne Duncan, to whom this letter is addressed is the Education Secretary in the USA Obama government. Since the elections, there has been intensive politicking in regard to education in the USA as there are vested interests, like they are in Health Care, against change…. and Change is sorely needed in both of these critical areas, where most of the country’s budgets are spent.

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education strategies have failed, and what will replace them is the center of intense debate. Many of the issues that have been raised in relation to modern education, are the same in most countries of the world, so many countries could learn from the American experience.  The stress on passing exams through rote learning and the limited curriculum that excludes the arts and other creative subjects has created students who are unfit for this modern world that rewards creativity and adaptability. Education that stifles creativity also stifles the culture, economy and progress of a country, especially in these times of rapid technological change.

We do hope that the USA Education Secretary Arnie Duncan does read this letter and take note of its valuable insights. He said in the NEA Today Interview that he did read Mr Kohl’s book “36 Children””, and wrote on it in one of his College essays, and that the book did have an impact on him….. so he should understand what Mr. Kohl is talking about. Let us all hope that he does, and is capable of implementing at least some of them, for the sake of the USA and the World.

– Cyril Bryan

Next page