November 18, 2009

Buxton-Friendship

Posted in Buxton, Economics, Friendship, Guyana, Lusignan, Politics tagged , at 6:32 pm by randallbutisingh

 

Buxton-Friendship

By Harry Hergash

Harry Hergash, a graduate of the University of Guyana, taught at the Annandale Government Secondary from 1964 to 1969. He immigrated to Canada in 1974.

In this column I would like to share my recollections of the village of Buxton-Friendship, East Coast Demerara. Historically, after starting out as separate villages that were purchased and built by freed African slaves, they were amalgamated into one around 1841.  By the beginning of the nineteen sixties, Buxton-Friendship was possibly the most progressive and prosperous village in Guyana. It was known for its highly educated sons and daughters, civic minded citizens, hard working farmers and fisherman, skilled tradesmen, and prosperous business people, where citizens of African and Indian origins lived together peacefully.

Indians, who started arriving in the village in the 1890s, emulated the Africans in striving for education and social betterment in the country. By the 1950s they were scattered throughout the village with concentrated enclaves in the area along the seashore, referred to as Buxton Front, where there were some of the most renowned sea-fishermen in the country; on both sides of the railway embankment around the railway station where they worked as pawnbrokers and jewellers, and operated clothing and hardware stores; and in the area along Brush dam where they raised cattle and grew rice in adjoining estate lands. Most if not all of them adhered to Indian cultural traditions, and Buxton could boast of having some of the most educated and finest Indian musicians and singers of Chowtaals, Ramayan and Bhajans.

I remember Saturdays and Mondays as prime market days at the municipal market next to the Post Office, just off Company Road, a stone’s throw from the railway station. The interaction and relationships between Africans and Indians were based on mutual respect and trust, befitting two peoples who depended on the fruits of each other’s labour. Indians from the estate areas of Lusignan Pasture and Annandale Sand Reef to the West and Vigilance to the East would bring their produce of garden vegetables (ochro, bora, calaloo, etc.) to sell to the African villagers who would sell them fruits, plantains and ground provisions (cassava, eddoes, sweet potatoes, etc.). Both groups would then patronise the fishermen and the butchers who operated their stalls in a corner of the market where the odour was quite distinct. Before noon, the efficient Mr. Brown would have already completed his rounds and collected from vendors all market fees.

During my childhood in the 1950s, I traversed every street and cross street in the combined village in the company of my grandparents and uncles who sold feed to the many self-employed villagers who farmed the back-lands and raised chicken and pigs in their yards. Every Sunday morning we travelled around the village in a dray cart hauled by three donkeys laden with paddy, broken rice and bhoosi (pulverized rice shells produced during milling) which was sold to customers to be used as chicken and pig feed. By midday, with our task completed after serving the last customer along Friendship Middle Walk, we would stop at the Esso station, the first petrol station to be built on the East Coast of Demerara, where I would get a treat of Brown Betty ice-cream or Fudgsicle while the elders collected the “wet-cell” battery that had been left the week before for recharging.. In those days, radio sets of that period with names such as KB, Grundig, Phillips and Pye, were operated in the rural areas with current from a battery similar to a motor-car’s battery that had to be recharged periodically at a gas station.

Regrettably, the madness of racial discord and intolerance raised its ugly head in the country in 1963 and by 1964 Buxton-Friendship, like other parts of the country, was consumed. As Indians hurriedly relocated from the predominantly African villages to the safety of predominantly Indian areas, Africans did the same in the reverse. Even then, many good people on both sides risked their lives and property to help those on the other side, but it was not enough to stem the mass migration from villages and the formation of segregated communities. This was the beginning of squatting areas or shantytowns in Guyana. Overnight pastures and swamplands were cramped with makeshift houses and places like Lusignan East and West, Haslington, Logwood, etc. came into being.

Sadly, Buxton-Friendship never recovered from this restructuring. With independence coming shortly thereafter and government jobs becoming readily available, many African villagers deserted the self- sufficiency of independent occupations – carpentry, cabinet making, blacksmith, guttersmith, farming and the raising of livestock, opting instead for the apparent security of salaried occupations.  As the village tax base deteriorated, critical infrastructural work on roads, drainage and irrigation was neglected, and by the time the oil crisis and world-wide economic downturn hit us, both citizens and the village as a whole found it difficult to cope which resulted in the serious political repercussions of later years.

Buxton-Friendship’s loss of Indian fishermen and business people was the gain of Annandale and Lusignan. Almost overnight, in the midst of the turmoil and agony of 1964, a market developed in Annandale North’s Centre Street, rechristened “Market Street”. It quickly replaced Buxton’s municipal market as the commercial centre for the surrounding areas, and by 1965, African Buxtonians were also patronizing the vendors in Annandale. Likewise many of the hardware and clothing stores relocated to Annandale.  And the fishermen formerly of Buxton Front became the enterprising fishermen of Lusignan East where the fishing industry was taken to new heights as the importation of salted cod and canned fish was banned during the period of economic hardship of the 1980s.

Now more than four decades later, as I reflect on the deaths and destruction of 1964 and the havoc wreaked on the communities of Buxton and Annandale, I cannot help but recall that it was the ordinary citizens, not the external forces that combined to destabilise the country, and certainly not those individual politicians of both major parties in whose names the so many horrendous acts were perpetrated, who were the victims and losers in all the madness and mayhem. It was these ordinary folks who became homeless, and it was their children who became motherless, fatherless or orphans. And when it came to healing and restoring some semblance of peace and harmony, it was community leaders who had to pick up the pieces. It was Eusi Kwayana as the respected leader of Buxton, and Pandit Ramsahai Doobay as the respected leader of Annandale, who met with then British Colonial Secretary, Duncan Sandys, on the Annandale Side-line dam (then referred to as the Maginot line, a term used by the French in the Second World War) to discuss and work out arrangements that played their own part in establishing an uneasy peace in the villages.

I am now an emigrant from the land of my birth. As I follow developments of recent years in the communities of Buxton-Friendship and neighbouring areas, I am saddened that lessons of the past seem to have been forgotten. Ordinary citizens of these communities have once again been the victims and they are the ones who once again have to start rebuilding the good inter-personal relationships and trust, sorely damaged by needless strife and violence. The time has surely come for people to realize that while politicians remain unscathed and continue to enjoy the perquisites of office, it is they the poor folks who will always have to bear the consequences of actions by their “representatives”. It is they who have to live side by side as neighbours and interact with each other. As we look to the future, let us be guided by the actions and teachings of the elders of our communities. Let us remember a time not so very long ago, when an African grandmother would give a special bath of blue water to an Indian child to protect that child from the mythical “old-higue”, and an Indian mother would pay a penny to nominally “buy” an African child so that child could grow up to be healthy and strong. Let us remember our history.

(This is one of a series of weekly columns from Guyanese in the diaspora and others with an interest in issues related to Guyana and the Caribbean)

 

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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

——————————————————————————————–

SHORT BIOGRAPHY

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

July 27, 2009

QUO VADIS DOMINE?

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.

QUO VADIS DOMINE?

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

June 7, 2009

Cyril Bryan – Guest Contributor

Posted in Buxton, Guyana, Lusignan, Messages tagged , , , , at 4:45 pm by randallbutisingh

I wish formally to again introduce  Cyril Bryan, Guest Contributor to this Blog, who is my friend and colleague and who was instrumental in the creation of my Weblog. I have known Cyril since the mid-1950’s when we were both teaching at Lusignan School, East Coast Demerara, British Guiana (now Guyana) . In the late 1950’s he was just starting out in his first job as a Pupil Teacher. At that time his father, George Bryan, was the Head-Master at Lusignan School, where I also became Head-Master in 1962. I have not seen him since then but the age of the computer started us  corresponding by e-mail after being re-introduced by our mutual Eusi Kwayana about seven years ago.

Cyril is an Economist and Management Consultant and has specialized in Computer and Information Technology. He is very insightful and I find that many of  his ideas coincide with mine, and he, after reading my writings, decided to, without my permission, to set up a Weblog for me on October 21, 2007, and posted one of my poems:  ‘Friendship’. He then asked me to send my resume and other writings which he posted; and so began my adventure into this exciting project of Webloging.  He did my postings until I learnt to do them myself. This Blog now has 542 postings to date.

Had it not been for his vision, this weblog would  not have been created, and my writings and ideas would not have been as well known, and I would not have been as satisfied with my present life as I have been.   Since its inception, Cyril has been a Guest Contributor, and has written and selected a number of news and general interest articles for this Blog, however I have now asked him to become even more involved and recently requested him to share his ideas with me and to fill in when I need to pursue my other activities or to take a rest.  So look out for him

Welcome Cyril and share the recognition which you so richly deserve.

Randall Butisingh

December 21, 2008

WATERLOGGED CHRISTMAS -2008 in Guyana

Posted in Buxton, Economics, Environment, Guyana, Lusignan tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:27 pm by randallbutisingh

Christmas looks likely to be a waterlogged one for many East Coast Demerara residents, and at Victoria, yesterday recent heavy rainfall had caused the water level to rise to well above two feet once more.

A pig struggles to keep its nose above water in this yard at Buxton, East Coast Demerara.  (Photo by Jules Gibson)

Struggling: A pig struggles to keep its nose above water in this yard at Buxton, East Coast Demerara. (Photo by Jules Gibson)

With just days to spare before the biggest holiday of the year Victorians have inches of water in their homes. Lower flat kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms are swamped leaving some villagers without a place to do their holiday entertaining.

When Stabroek News visited the area shortly after 3 pm yesterday residents were going about their daily routines as usual. Some yards had pockets of water. However, the further into Victoria we went the higher the water level became. Yards, especially those located in the backlands, have more than two feet of water. Residents told this newspaper that the flood “is nothing new”.

Swamped! This flat house at Bachelor’s Adventure, East Coast Demerara was completely surrounded by water yesterday, which undoubtedly would have gone inside as well. (Photo by Jules Gibson)

Swamped! This flat house at Bachelor’s Adventure, East Coast Demerara was completely surrounded by water yesterday, which undoubtedly would have gone inside as well. (Photo by Jules Gibson)

“Every year around this time,” Monica Amos said, “we would get flooded. As soon as the rainy season start the water would start coming in… This has been happening every year since before the big flood in 2005.”

Amos’s yard has approximately six inches of water. The floodwater is also in the woman’s lower flat bedroom and kitchen.

“Look the water come and I had to move my stove upstairs to cook. My washing machine get water all and I don’t know if it working still,” Amos explained.

Doodnauth Persaud stands in his submerged garden at Lusignan, East Coast Demerara, yesterday, viewing the remains of what should have been the rewards of his labour. (Photo by Jules Gibson)

Doodnauth Persaud stands in his submerged garden at Lusignan, East Coast Demerara, yesterday, viewing the remains of what should have been the rewards of his labour. (Photo by Jules Gibson)

Other residents face similar situations. The family of Corporal Wesley Hopkinson, the soldier who died in a boat collision on the Cuyuni River, had more than two feet of water in their yard. When Stabroek News had visited the family almost two weeks ago there had been six inches of water.

According to residents, the recent heavy rainfall caused the water level to rise once again. Onica Murphy, a resident who lives just in front of the Hopkinsons, reported that the water had receded “a little” prior to the recent rains but now it is gradually getting higher and is beginning to smell.
Like many other locations along the coast a large amount of garbage could be seen floating in the stagnant water and residents were moving through it freely, seemingly unaware of the possible health risks.

Livestock could be seen roaming the roadway yesterday because it was the closest available ground without inches of water.

“At least we’ll have each other for Christmas… regardless of the water and the trouble it is causing us we will try our best to have a joyous Christmas after all it is the season of sharing and accepting,” one resident said.

Water levels have also risen in Buxton and other villages within that vicinity despite the efforts being made by the various drainage stations to pump the water off the land.

____________________________________________________________________

COMMENT:

This news report highlights the serious problems Guyana has with its drainage and irrigation systems. Every year there are floods along the Atlantic coastline especially during the rainy seasons. Three years ago in December 2005- February 2006,  there was the “big flood”, which lasted for some 12 weeks in some areas, with the extreme loss of property, livestock and human life to disease.

The villages of Victoria, Bachelor’s Adventure and Buxton, mentioned in this article were some of the first villages established by the freed African slaves in the 1840’s. Lusignan, located next to Buxton was once a sugar estate, with its own factory but today it grows sugar canes for Enmore, one of the large regional factories.  All the estates and villages have had intricate networks of waterways that aid in getting fresh water from the water conservancies at the south of the coast lands, and draining used and excess water into the sea to the north. This process is especially necessary in the rainy season.

The colonial estate managers ensured that their drainage systems worked well as it ensured optimum sugar production.  The villages also had efficient drainage systems before 1960. However, there has been a systematic breakdown of many of the waterways and drainage systems over the last 50 years. First, there was a heavy dependence in the past on sluices or kokers in the past which discharged water into the sea at low tide. Now the drainage authorities seem to depend more on water pumps which are costly and do not have the capacity to discharge the volumes required.

Second, a lot of money and care was taken in the past to ensure that the drainage canals were dredged and cleared on  a yearly basis so that the water flowed freely towards the sea.  Today many canals are blocked and many of the kokers are broken or non-existent. For instance, in the 1950’s the Buxton-Friendship villages had six kokers. In 2001 there were none operational. Today, I think they have one now, so it is not a surprise that the Buxton/Lusignan areas are flooded.

It is estimated that some 80% of Guyana’s 780,000 people live along the coastlines. This is the most fertile land, built by millions of years of sediment from the Amazon and other rivers. The problem is that this land is in many cases at or below sea level. It has to be defended from the sea by building sea walls that protect it at high tides. It also has to deal with the water from the highlands in the south flowing downwards to the sea, as well as the water that collects on the land during heavy rains. The drainage systems that were designed by the Dutch who ruled Guyana from 1581-1781, were the basis of the systems used later by the British. They depended on free flowing canals and kokers which drained the lands at low tide. It is believed that the failure to upkeep and improve on these systems is the reason there are such serious flooding today.

Now, with global warming and sea levels rising as well as changing weather patterns, it seems that Guyana is in for heavier rains during the rainy seasons  every year. This means that there has to be a rethinking of the drainage issues they have as this situation seems to be getting worse every year. Some fear, that with potentially rising seas and poor drainage, that the coast lands may eventually become unlivable if this situation continues. The capital, Georgetown is there,  most of the people live there, and most of the agriculture and economic investment are in these areas so this is serious.

It is feared that with continued flooding and destruction of sea defences that in the coming years the Guyana as we know may be no longer. Like Mauritius, its people may have to look for higher ground to exist. In Guyana’s case the land is there but will there be the will or the economic capacity or capability to move inland.

– Cyril Bryan

December 18, 2008

Eusi Kwayana and National Politics in British Guiana -1

Posted in Buxton, Economics, Education, Environment, Lusignan, Politics tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:40 pm by randallbutisingh

Eusi Kwayana and National Politics in British Guiana -1

by Estherine Adams

This is the first in a series of articles which gives a brief overview of Eusi Kwayana’s involvement in national politics in British Guiana between 1950 and 1961. In this article, I propose to examine Kwayana’s rise to the national political arena, and his involvement in the original People’s Progressive Party (PPP) up to 1953.  In subsequent articles, I will examine his years in the original PPP following their electoral victory in 1953, (1953-1957), and his years in the PNC, (1957-1961).

Eusi Kwayana, formerly Sydney Evanson King, who has been referred to as the ‘Sage of Buxton’, ‘Renaissance Man’, and ‘Guyana’s Gandhi’ among other titles, was born at Plantation Lusignan, East Coast Demerara, on the 4th April, 1925.  He attended Lusignan Anglican School and Lusignan Anglican School.  King began his teaching career as a primary school teacher at age 15 and later founded the County High School, which was renamed Republic Cooperation High School, at Buxton.  A staunch believer in education, he studied privately for the Inter BA in Economics.

Eusi Kwayana

Eusi Kwayana

Although King has been active in the cultural life of the country, he was involved in politics both at the local and national levels. As a local politician, King along with Martin Stephenson organized the Buxton Rate Payers Association in 1949. This association grew into the authentic representative of the increasingly alienated villagers on all issues, and even led successful opposition to the Central Drainage Board which refused to provide proper drainage, thus precipitating six floods in the village in 1949. King also served as a village councillor and deputy village chairman of Buxton during the 1950s.

However it is in the field of national politics that King has made his most telling contribution.  This was aided, by the formation of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC), the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and the People’s National Congress.  The PAC was formed in 1946 by Cheddi Jagan, Janet Jagan, Jocelyn Hubbard and Ashton Chase, with the aim of mobilizing and educating the masses for political action oriented towards achieving political independence.  The Committee, which surfaced in response to the strains of the 1940s and because the existing political organizations, as Dr. Jagan put it, were ‘opportunistic and not interested in the masses’, was of critical importance during a period which the founders felt constituted the formal beginnings of the struggle for political independence.

The PAC differed from previous discussion circles because it was overtly political and sought to reproduce itself and its ideas within the body politic.  Hence by the end of 1949 there were Worker Discussion Circles at Kitty Village YMCA Hall each Sunday under the chairmanship of Cheddi Jagan, and at Buxton Village Hall where the Buxton Programme Group was convened every Friday night by Sydney King.  Even though King was not a founding member of the PAC, he quickly became one of the prominent members of the organization, along with Martin Carter, Ram Karran and others.  They were regarded as ‘some of the most active organizers all over the country’.

The PAC was committed “to assist the growth and development of Labour and Progressive Movements of British Guiana to the end of establishing a strong, disciplined and enlightened Party, equipped with the theory of Scientific Socialism.”  Furthermore, it trumpeted the idea of replacing the capitalist structure of the society with one in which the masses, through their representatives, would be permitted to participate in major decisions affecting the economy and the country as a whole.  These ideas strongly impacted King, to the point where he was later described by the British and Americans as ‘extreme leftist and blindly pro-Moscow’.

King’s first mentioned exposure to national politics came in late 1947 when the first elections in British Guiana since 1935 occurred. Fourteen constituencies were contested over by numerous independents along with candidates sponsored by the League of Coloured People, the British Guiana East Indian Association, and the Man-Power Citizens Association.  The PAC at that time, although still a small, relatively unimportant body, sent up three members, Cheddi Jagan, Janet Jagan, and Jocelyn Hubbard who fought the elections as independents.

Though King did not contest the election, he was the chief architect of Cheddi Jagan’s 1947 electoral campaign on the East Coast Demerara which won him a seat in the Legislative Council.  Jagan stood for the East Demerara constituency and won his seat running against John D’Aguiar, a man who had had tremendous influence among the business and plantation elite and in the government. In recognizing this contribution, Jagan remarked, “One of my protégés, schoolteacher Sydney King of Buxton, was of great help to me in the villages.”

In 1950 the leaders of the PAC took the big step of forming a political party of their own, the People’s Progressive Party.   The goals of the PPP as stated in the 1951 Constitution were to stimulate political consciousness along socialist lines in the quest for “national self-determination and independence” and “the eventual political union of British Guiana with other Caribbean territories.”  King, elected Assistant Secretary, was prominent among the leaders of the party.  The other leaders were C. Jagan (2nd Vice Chairman and House Leader), F. Burnham (Chairman), C. Wong (Senior Vice Chairman), J. Jagan (Secretary and Editor of Thunder) and B. Benn (Executive Committee Member).

As a leader of the PPP King brought experience, though of a lesser magnitude than Jagan, gained from similar involvement in existing organizations to the Party. He was by this time an experienced local authority man and was also active in the Guyana Industrial Workers Union and the British Guiana Teacher’s Association, especially along the East Coast of Demerara. The personal contacts and influence of the leaders were used to stimulate interest in the Party.  King made good use of his position and reputation as a village teacher to spread the doctrines of the Party among African villagers, especially in Buxton where he was living.

During the early 1950s King had the reputation as a staunch Marxist and in his capacity as Assistant Secretary, he represented the PPP at the Congress of Peoples for Peace in Vienna in 1952.  He admitted to local authorities that he brought back some $US4000 in cash upon returning from his trip to Vienna.  This trip to Vienna was followed by a visit in 1953 to Budapest, where he reported on British Guiana’s social conditions and concluded with a visit to Prague.  Upon his return home, he was alleged to have brought back a suitcase full of Communist propaganda, pamphlets and correspondences with Communist contacts in Eastern Europe and England.

According to Dr. Jagan, it was because of “our [the PPP’s] continuous agitation the Waddington Constitutional Commission visited British Guiana in late 1950.”  Among other things the PPP’s delegation argued in favour of full self-government in presenting their evidence before the Commission.

The Commission did not accede to their demands as “it did not feel that Guiana had reached the stage for internal self-government.”  To say the least the PPP was not pleased with the decisions made by the Commission and King went as far as to say that “it amounted to devilish swindles,” and launched a ‘Constitution Amendment’ campaign at Buxton.

The Commission did, however, recommend universal adult suffrage and in April 1953 the first elections under this new constitution were held.  This time, King was a part of the       formidable list of candidates that the PPP offered to the electorate in every constituency.  The line up of rival parties was also formidable on paper but in reality none of them had been in existence as long as the PPP, and “none of them had developed any individual sense of unity of idea to be really considered politicians.  They all depended on the personality appeal of their leaders.”

The PPP contested twenty-two of the twenty-four seats and King stood for the Central Demerara Constituency. He felt that his “contact with working people left him in no doubt that the Party ‘could win the election.’”  The PPP, to the surprise of many, was victorious at the 1953 Elections, winning 51 per cent of the popular vote and 18 of the 24 elected seats in the House of Assembly. King won his constituency, polling 70.6 per cent of the total votes cast, indeed a resounding victory.

Signs of stress and strain were not absent at the moment of exultation, and they were focused on Burnham’s ambition to be Parliamentary leader of the party as well as chairman.  This and disagreements over the distribution of ministries led to a one week crisis, “Crisis Week”, before the PPP Government could take office.

A similar situation occurred at the PPP Congress in March. Just before the election, one of Burnham’s allies moved that the leader not be elected at the Annual Congress, but be chosen by the General Council after the general election.  Burnham anticipated a majority in the latter body.  In the debate on the motion, King made an impassioned speech. “This is a motion of no confidence in our leader; why such a motion of no confidence in our leader; why such a motion at this time?” he asked.

Martin Carter had suggested that King be appointed leader.  King refused immediately, despite Burnham’s agreement, because of bad principle.  It would have meant superseding Jagan, who was by far the most senior member, and King was deeply against this idea.  King moved, seconded by Westmaas, that the decision of the last Congress be implemented and the ‘Leader of the Legislative Group’ be named ‘Leader of the House’. The rank and file saw Sydney King’s point, threw out Burnham’s motion and Jagan remained leader.

The challenge posed by Burnham in “Crisis Week” was seen as a further effort on his part ‘at a rather late hour to acquire the leadership of the party’.
The ministers were selected finally, after intense discussions which very often found members in conference until well past midnight.  It is of interest to mention at this stage, that, according to J. N. Singh, “the party was then rent asunder, right down the middle, with Jagan having close to him Chase and King, whilst Burnham was supported by Dr. Latchmansingh and myself [Singh].”

Those selected as ministers of the new government were Cheddi Jagan as (Leader of the House and Minister of Agriculture), Forbes Burnham (Minister of Education), J. P. Latchmansingh (Minister of Health), Ashton Chase (Minister of Labour), J. N. Singh (Minister of Local Government) and Sydney King, (Minister of Communications and Works), responsible for Public Works, Post Office (other than Post Office Savings Bank), Transport and Harbours and Civil Aviation.
Having resolved the crisis the leaders were ready for the grand opening of the legislature on 30 May 1953.

December 9, 2008

Lusignan School by Patanjali Ramlall

Posted in Buxton, Education, History, Lusignan tagged , , , , , , , , , at 1:27 am by randallbutisingh

ONE OF THE GREATEST….

My name is Patanjali Ramlall, 60 years young. I am a Graduate from Lusignan Anglican  (Primary) School, having attended that school from kindergarten to when I passed my School Leaving Certificate at the age of 13 in 1962. Lusignan is a sugar estate located on the East Coast of Demerara, about 12 miles from the capital city of Georgetown, in British Guiana ( now Guyana after independence in 1966).

I strongly believe in the Esoteric School of Thought – some souls are born collectively, within a specific time to carry out a Divine plan. And it is not in our so-called reasoning to know what that plan can possibly be; moreover, the doctrine also poses difficulties for the layman outside of Esoterica, to even begin to appreciate its significance.

I am fortunate to have attended Lusignan Anglican School under the GREAT leadership of Cyril George Hopkinson (C.G.H.) Bryan, Headmaster. He was an excellent administrator and we had some of the best teachers who produced many outstanding students. Mr. Bryan moulded the school into one of the finest primary  and most respected institutions of learning on the East Coast of Demerara during the early 1950’s to the 60’s.

It amazes me that many of my counterparts from three little villages – Buxton, Annandale and Lusignan, older and younger, who are part of the Guyanese Diaspora, turned out to be highly qualified professionals, vocational experts, and other artisans. The fields encompass those on the medical side, law, teaching, business, writers, poets, agriculture, etc. This does not preclude the fact that there were a few students who came from higher income families and were therefore better students, but about ninety-two percent of them were from parents in the agricultural sector, (which was seasonal,) and working for under the government’s minimum wage scale.

How was it done? Mr. Bryan was as rigid a disciplinarian as he was a Master of Masters. I remember him taking it extremely personal when we did poorly in English and Arithmetic exams, he would resort to some stinging treats for low marks, but not an everyday action. His motto I remember clearly as he said it in 1959 “You live in an English colony and must use the language properly; and without Arithmetic, the ability to count, you will not be able to do anything else, you will be lost in the world.”

Like formative years, the foundation of any discipline is most important. Under his stewardship we got top notch instructions starting in kindergarten at age four, and later, in all disciplines, except science and algebra, which were not in the colonial syllabus at that time in primary schools. At fourth standard we started geometry and in School Leaving Class it became a little difficult. My daughters graduated from High School in Miami, Florida, and they never reached the level of some of my geometrical problems I encountered at age twelve.

There was an article in the Miami Herald about two years ago that stated High School Seniors were not able to find London on a map. We studied those things at age nine when we learnt about the equator, northern and southern hemispheres, temperate, and torrid zones, etc., and as was known at that time, the five continents ( now seven). My School Leaving Certificate, which I passed it at age 13, allowed me to sit and pass the GED, (equivalent of High School Diploma,) in the US army at one sitting, with no further schooling. This demonstrates the solid grounding of my education while at Lusignan School.

Mr. Bryan reminds me of the West Indian cricket team shaped under the late prince of cricket, Mr. Frank Worrell, whose legacy was passed down to captains Gary Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Alvin Kalicharran, and the most Winning Captain of all – Clive Lloyd.

Likewise, Mr. Bryan’s imprint lasted for close to two decades. As Teacher Cyril Sarjoo stated earlier, Lusignan was the winner for most competitions and exams, and had a myriad of activities including gardening, sewing, bookbinding, shoe making, cricket, and even a library at the back of standard one. The library was later moved over to the Community Center. In cricket the Lusignan School team coached by Mr. Bryan had a streak of seven successive inter-school championships 1955-61 with Brahmdeo Persaud captaining the first three years, never duplicated.

Whatever the purpose for so many graduates of Lusignan Primary School being involved in an amazing mass emigration, globally, there can be no doubt that it is only the beginning a Higher Plan. I believe the greatness of the Master, Mr. Bryan, will unfold in future generations. When he stopped teaching in 1961 British Guiana lost a great guru, teacher and Headmaster. After he left, Mr. Randall Butisingh carried the baton and was exemplary when I graduated one year later.

Patanjali Ramlall
8th December 2008

December 5, 2008

LUSIGNAN SCHOOL by Cyril A. Sarjoo

Posted in Education, Guyana, History, Lusignan tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 12:21 pm by randallbutisingh

LUSIGNAN SCHOOL by Cyril A. Sarjoo

Dear Mr. Butisingh:

I am indeed very honoured to be asked to make a contribution to your BLOG.

My name is CYRIL A. SARJOO, age 66, from Lusignan, East Coast Demerara, GUYANA. I have known Mr. Butisingh and Mr. Cyril Bryan since the 1950’s.

I was a primary school pupil of the Lusignan Anglican School (now Lusignan Government School) in the 1950’s, when the Headmaster was the distinguished Mr. Cyril George Hopkinson Bryan, the father of Cyril Bryan who is a guest contributor on your blog. Under his tutelage I became the first pupil teacher that the school produced (1958). The first In-Service Teachers’ Training on the East Coast was held at Buxton in 1962, and I was fortunate to be the youngest of about five teachers at that school to be selected. Lecturers included Miss Ceciline Baird, Mr. Agostini, Mr John, Mrs. Lucas. Courses included teaching subject content and methodology. School Master, Mr. A.A. Charles was in charge of the Training Programme.

I taught in that Lusignan School for 25 years and attained the position of Senior Master before I migrated to the USA in 1984. During my years there I have worked with many Headmasters and acting Hm’s namely – Mr. George Bryan, Mr. Reginald Sears, Mr. Randall Butisingh, Mr. Jaleile Rahman, Mr. Roopram, Mr. Cumberbatch, Mr. James Singh, Mr. Derrick Prashad and Mr. Laljee.

Among the outstanding and dedicated teachers were Mrs King, Mrs Simon, Mrs Lee, Miss Stephenson, Mr. Ogle, Mr. Chadwick Yearwood, Mr. Goliath, Miss Edwards, Mrs Mendonza, Mr. Cecil K.S.Mercurius, Mrs. Winifred Holland-Bryan, Mrs Melbourne, Mrs Williams, Miss Griffith, Miss Ena Narine, Miss Olive Narine, Mr. Cyril Bryan, Miss Minty Persaud, Mr. Baksh, Mr. Deoram Persaud, Mr. Sidrahim Shaw, and Mrs Faneeza Shaw.

Some of my schoolmates were Bramdeo Persaud, Walter Baichulall, Winston Campbell, Ramsarran Singh, Deoram Persaud and Sheila Persaud.

Those Headmasters and teachers demonstrated a high degree of professionalism, conscientiousness, dedication, integrity, discipline and morality which was the norm in those days. You could not help but to imitate and embrace and emulate the values of that kind of behaviour in your daily lives.

From 1963 when Mr Butisingh took over we made a supplementary reader for the Middle Division based on the history and geography of Guyana. Mr. Mercurius was the leader of that project. We even presented a programme over “Radio Demerara” based on the project. Our school magazine reflected activities in the school district and the PTA. Articles were stenciled and reproduced. We had an annual Xmas concert with skits, songs, dances and the Nativity.

Highlights of extra-curricular activities were games, observance of holidays, school trips, inter-school cricket and athletics, agriculture and home economics

The Lusignan community was chiefly agricultural with a large populace working in the sugar estate. A Community Centre was built in the early 1950’s. Mr Butisingh, in conjunction with the Welfare officers Mr. Ali, Mr. Bart and Miss Philomena, was instrumental in organising numerous activities at the Center – games, library, arts and crafts, cooking and needlecraft. Literary activities included organisations within the Centre – the Adult Education Group, the Study Group and the Tenants’ Association. Qualified personnel were invited to lecture on relevant topics. We staged plays and competed with other sugar estates. We had regular film shows and documentaries about operations at other sugar estates, life in other countries like England and the West Indies. Fairs on the Centre grounds would last a week and drew large crowds.

Those educational activities achieved a high level of success and benefits to the community and neighbouring districts of Annandale, Buxton and Mon Repos from where participants came. Also The Guyana Teachers’ Association district of Lusignan – Non Pareil (Enterprise) had monthly rotating meetings which benefited all schools in the district. Schools and Head Masters in the district were: Lusignan: Mr. George Bryan, Buxton Congregational: Mr. Payne and later Mr. Taylor, Buxton Methodist: Mr Burke; Buxton Anglican: Mr. Edmond Wills and later Mrs. Winfred. Bryan, St Anthony’s Roman Catholic: Mr. Seaforth, and Non Pareil: Mr. Frank Bryan (brother of Mr. George Bryan).

Inter-school activities included annual cricket and athletic sports. There was fierce competition among Head Masters and their schools to see which school would get the most passes at the School Leaving Exam, the Secondary School Entrance Exam, and the College of Preceptors Exam. Of course, Lusignan headed the list year after year in academics as well as in school cricket.

Those who were connected with the Lusignan Community would surely realise that their experiences and memories were precious and unforgettable and their lives were impacted in some measure by them.

I HOPE THAT IF YOU WERE CONNECTED WITH LUSIGNAN AND YOU READ THIS IT WOULD EVOKE SOME FAVOURABLE MEMORIES.

– Cyril A. Sarjoo – December 2008

October 21, 2008

OUR FIRST WEBLOG ANNIVERSARY

Posted in Buxton, Education, Lusignan, Messages tagged , , , , , , , at 3:37 am by randallbutisingh

OUR FIRST WEBLOG ANNIVERSARY

A MESSAGE by Randall Butisingh:

Today, October 21, 2008 is the First Anniversary of our Weblog. This project was not conceived by me. I never dreamed of it, but it was the vision of one whom I have not seen for over forty years. Thanks for cyberspace, he was reintroduced to me by my good friend Eusi Kwayana, educator, writer and politician who served as minister in the short-lived PPP government of 1953, and the P.N.C. Government in the sixties, in Guyana, but is now domiciled in the U.S.A.

Cyril Bryan is that magnanimous person. He is the eldest son of the late George Bryan (1911-2004), school master, and one of the most qualified, intellectual and erudite pedagogues of his time. I had the privilege of serving with George Bryan as senior assistant at the Lusignan Government School in Guyana. It was there in the late 1950’s that I met young Cyril, a pupil teacher.

After his reintroduction to me, I sent him a package with some of my writings. This may have awakened his interest as it was evident that there was an affinity of ideas between us. So, after about a year of our meeting the SURPRISE came. He set up a Weblog for me without first acquainting me and posted one of my poems – FRIENDSHIP. He also requested my Biography which I mailed to him within a short time. From then on began the daily postings; I typed the messages and he, the posting. To date, there are 380 postings under 19 categories of messages including education, poetry, economics, politics, philosophy and the environment which have attracted to date over 25,500 views from every continent.

I am happy to say that my messages, and also that of the best I have selected from other sources have impacted well on our viewers, judging from the warm and favourable responses we have regularly received and the comments got on Google.

This achievement could not have been possible without the commitment of Cyril and the help of my granddaughter-in-law Vanessa, as my knowledge of computers was only basic. But thanks to them, I have now learnt to do my own postings which were formerly done by Cyril who still helps me with some of the technicalities, and sometimes stand in for me when I am out.

During my preoccupation with the Weblog, I had to go poco a poco with my Spanish. However I have been able to memorise the Padre nuestro (Our Father) and portions of the 23rd Psalm. I have also been able to keep up with my other activities such as the eastern languages and music.

In closing I wish to thank every one who has been able to make this Weblog the success that it is, and if it has in any way touched the heart of any, we will know that we have not blogged in vain. Remember always, it is never too late to learn, that the soul never grows old, and that every new day you are given a clean slate to write on, the past is a dream, it does not exist, do your best today. Live it as if was your last, and work as if you will live forever; Tomorrow will also be a beautiful today.

May GOD BLESS YOU ALL and HAPPY VIEWING!

………………………………………………………………………………………

COMMENT from Cyril Bryan:

It is with great humility that I accept the thanks of “Teacher Randall”, for the help I have given him to achieve his dreams of influencing others with his positive and creative capabilities. He is almost 96 years old and he is still contributing daily to mankind’s development. He is an inspiration for me as I would like to be like him at his age, if I am able to live that long.

As he noted above, I was very impressed by his poems and writings, but more so by his drive to be always learning and creating. He last saw me in the late1950’s when I was a teenager, now I am 68 years old and he is almost 96….. Time flies!!! When he wrote me an e-mail last October saying he was soon to be 95 on December 1, and in the Autumn of his years, I had a sense that he was getting bored., I decided to add a spark to his life by introducing the idea of a Weblog where he could put all of his poems, writings and interesting articles into for all to see. His commitment was overwhelming and it has ensured that the Weblog has averaged over one entry per day for the last year.

Mr. Butisingh has become an inspiration to me and many others around the world, with his poetry, philosophy, and especially his ideas of continuous learning and being creative no matter what age you are. This Weblog has reconnected him to many of his students and friends of the past who were “lost” until they found him on the net. He has also met many new friends from around the world and his daily life is now busier than ever … just the way he likes it.

Mr. Butisingh is now writing his “Reminiscences”, a collection of chapters in an on-line book he will soon be publishing that reflects his life. We all look forward to the interesting stories from a man who lived before electricity, cars, airplanes, radio, TV and computers and who now fully embraces them all in the content of his Weblog. I know that we all wish him the best of health and strength to complete this and many other projects in the future.

We do know that his ideas and words of wisdom will forever be in cyberspace for all to read and be influenced. I am glad that I am able to help him to achieve his goals and actualize his dreams.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to the Randall Butisingh Weblog!

October 13, 2008

The Soul of Hector McDonald Lee

Posted in Buxton, Education, Guyana, Lusignan, Poetry tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 1:17 am by randallbutisingh

The Soul of Hector McDonald Lee – (Poem by Eusi Kwayana)

( for the late Buxtonian, Hector Lee who died in September 2008)

Today is a day like no other

Closing one season, opening another

This is not my elder like my Mother

Nana Brown an ancient figure

Mama Freda, or like Miss Irene, Congo Queen

Not like Teacher George, or Stir About

Or Teacher Ruby

Not my very junior, junior like famous Floyd

This is a round like Sidney Brown

My own generation‘s son.

Ring the bell, the solemn bell

Beat the drum, the joyful drum

Our day of Sorrow and Pride has come!

Pride at the gift of such a being

Sorrow at the painful act of parting

At the loved ones he is leaving

With no thought of soon returning

Pause a moment let me praise

A silent Icon of our days

When this tall Kumaka fell

In a country unaware
What a massive loss was here

All were struck dumb

That this day would ever come

The one on whom we close the gate

Combined all talents in one rich head

And shared them till he took his bed

He made generations literate

on all Guyana‘s river banks

Teacher of teachers, a teacher‘s teacher

When young learners fell through the school cracks

No need to panic; relax, relax

Hector caught them in his net

making of them scholars yet.

Historian, mathematician, philosopher

Counselor, all combined

Luminary of the poor

Turning no seeker from his door!

Ring the mourning bell beat the joyful drum

Bless the day his Mother gave him birth

Bless his footsteps across Guyana

Non Pareil Leguan, Sandvoort,

Enterprise, Kitty


Bless the harvest of his works

Bless the day we lay him on the breast of Mother Earth

In the hope of second birth.

Only souls like his, though long forsaken

Can put back together what is broken.

*********

The following are Extracts of a MINI biography of the late Buxtonian Hector Lee (1926-2008), taken from Emancipation magazine (1999-2000):

Hector Lee was born in February 1926 in Buxton village, the first son of Buxtonian coppersmith Albert Lee and Ivy Sam. Lee attended St Augustine Anglican church at Buxton under Headmistress Dorcas Glasgow and Headmaster Frank Russell, and obtained passes at the school Leaving and Pupil Teachers appointment examinations in 1939 and 1941 respectively, before joining the Teaching Profession as an Acting Teacher at Lusignan Anglican School in 1943. In 1960, he was transferred to St. Peter‘s Anglican School, Leguan… His tenure at St Peters came to an abrupt end in 1964 when the school building was destroyed by fire during the disturbances. In 1963, he accepted an appointment as Headmaster of St Stephen‘s Anglican School in Richmond, Leguan, and carried on his good work there for another three years. He was transferred to St James the Less Anglican School in Kitty, Georgetown, in 1968, and remained there until his retirement in 1981…In his early post-retirement years, Hector Lee voluntarily instructed young teachers in Buxton and taught free of cost at company Path Primary School in his village… Although neither the State nor the Guyana Teachers Union ever publicly honoured Hector McDonald Lee, he is held in high esteem among villagers as one of the most beloved sons of Buxton. He was later awarded the CIMBUX award in Education from the that organization based in Washington D.C. USA.

———————————————————————–

COMMENT

Date: Wed, 17 Sep 2008 09:58:53 -0400
From: ramtiwari@excite.com
Subject: RE: HECTOR LEE

Dear Lyndon, Teachers Eusi and Randall,
With you and many others, my family and I mourn his loss to Buxton, to Guyana and elsewhere he trod in his journey in life.
May his Soul rest and grow in peace. We grieve his loss. The Ancestors welcome him in their sacred celestial home.
‘AYUSHMAN BHAWAH’ – Peace and Blessings on his Soul. ‘OM SHANTI, SHANTI, SHANTI, HARI OM’.
Butters/Ram.

Rampersaud Tiwari

COMMENT

From: randallbutisingh@hotmail.com
To: ramtiwari@excite.com;
Subject: RE: HECTOR LEE
Date: Wed, 17 Sep 2008 14:18:12 -0400

Dear Ram,
I, too mourn the loss of my pupil Hector Lee, a Buxtonion who reflected the past glory of his once renowned village. I here extend my Sympathy to his bereaved relatives and friends. Hector was a pupil of St. Augustine’s School and I am happy to say that Albert Ogle (God rest his soul) and I were part of his training.  He was a brilliant pupil, all round, especially in mathematics. I recall the day when Albert and I were wrestling with a problem for about half-an-hour and couldn’t solve it; I suggested that we take it to Hector.  He was at that time in the last grade of the elementary school studying for the School Leaving Examination.  Within a few minutes Hector brought back the slate with the problem solved.  It was not until recently I divulged that incident to him.  Hector passed the Teachers’ Certificate Examination in the First Class at one sitting, almost self-taught.  Later, he served as head teacher with the commitment and dedication which was the legacy of his head teacher Frank H, Russell, an amazing man who also helped to make me a good teacher. After retirement he continued to educate the youth of his village.  Hector was a worthy recipient of the Award from CIMBUX for Education and, with CIMBUX, I honour his memory.  Humble and unassumiing,he has left a legacy in the many whose lives he has touched and elevated.
May his soul rest in peace.

Teacher Randall.

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