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Guyana Jottings 1


On March 1889, a Portuguese shopkeeper in the Stabroek Market, Georgetown, struck a black boy. The boy became unconscious but he report which spread around town said the boy was killed. It became the starting point of another series of riots known in Guyana's history as the Portuguese Riots or the Angel Gabriel Riots.

At that time, there were strained relations between the two races and one James Sayers Orr, who hated Roman Catholics, worsened those relations. Blowing upon a horn to call his meetings to order, he openly attacked the Portuguese, blaming them for the unfavorable economic condition in which blacks found themselves. When tempers began to run high, the Governor of British Guiana intervened. Orr was arrested and his supporters began to riot.


The Paradoxical Frog, the name given to this frog comes from the fact that it does not grow up, but grows down, so to speak. The tadpole of this frog is as big as a hen's egg, but the adult frog is much smaller. The frog's life history works in the opposite direction to that of an ordinary frog, at least as far as size is concerned.

The Pouched Frog is another curiosity. It has a long slit down its back and opens the slit to receive the eggs. Once the eggs are in, the frog seems to forget about them and jumps around on its normal business. Meanwhile, inside the slit, the eggs change into tadpoles, the tadpoles grow legs, and their tails begin disappearing. When the youngsters are ready to face the world, the slit opens again and they pop out, ready for action.

Poison Arrow Frogs are among the smallest amphibians - 1.5 to 2.5 inches long. These frogs are extraordinarily colorful and reflect vivid colors and patterns reminiscent of assorted candies. Amerindians learned to catch these frogs and smoke them live above a fire. As soon as the frogs start to become hot, they secrete a kind of slime from their bodies. The slime is scraped off, collected, and used as potent poison. An arrow dipped in the poison can be used to kill a wild pig or other animal.

The Leaf Toad is about 3 inches long, flat-backed, with an upturned snout. One type is pale fawn in color, marked with a midrib and blotched in a way that imitates a fallen leaf. If you were to pick up this toad it would not show any sign of alarm.


Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow (1884-1958) is generally referred to as the father of trade unionism in Guyana and also the Caribbean.

.His first job after leaving school was that of a dock worker on the Georgetown waterfront. At age 20, he was already active as a trade unionist. In 1917 he founded the British Guiana Labour Union (BGLU), the first trade union in the Caribbean.

Two of the major ways in which Critchlow has been memorialized are by a statue in the compound of  the Georgetown Public Buildings and by the establishment of the Critchlow Labour College in his honor.

The statue in the likeness of  Mr. Critchlow, sculpted in bronze by Mr. E. R. Burrowes, with assistance from Walter Milling and Andrew Lyght, is mounted on a reinforced concrete pedestal 6 feet 6inches high. The following inscription is written on a marble plaque at its base.

‘Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow:

 Father of the Trade Union Movement in the Commonwealth of Nations.

 Born 1884- died 1958.

 Exegit Momentum Perenus Aere.’

This monument was unveiled by the then Premier of British Guiana Dr. Cheddi Jagan on 2 December 1964.

The Critchlow Labour College (formerly the Critchlow Labour Institute) was founded on 12 October 1967. Initially established as a center for Trade Union education, it was expanded to provide specialized instruction in the theory and practice of trade unionism, and basic studies in the humanities and the social sciences.


Mashramani, often called Mash, is an annual celebration commemorating Guyana's  Republic Day, 23 February 1970, when Guyana became a Republic. The day is marked by float parades, and includes steelband music, calypsos, and general festivities.  Mashramani is  an Arawak (Amerindian) used to signify "feasting and dancing that characterised the successful completion of land preparation and cassava planting by our indigenous people, the Amerindians".



Wordsworth McAndrew, best known name in folkloric matters in Guyana, told about his introduction to folklore in Guyana. When he was a young man, he worked at the GIS (Government Information Service) in Georgetown. Information Officers like Basil DeRushe, Maurice Dundas and Percy Haynes would go around the country recording mainly news material, but would also include items of folklore they came across or sought out. Vic Forsythe, who was the Chief Information Officer, would mark the spools of tape with recordings of  the folkloric items "DO NOT ERASE. HOLD FOR ARCHIVES."

According to Wordsworth, these tapes were kept, but were collecting cobwebs. On one occasion, when he was finished his work, he began listening to the tapes. It was then, he said, that he really fell in love with folklore.

He remembers a song by Hilton in which the singer, a porkknocker longed to go back to the interior, hoping for better luck in gold mining.

Wordsworth said he was inspired to get closer to some Buxtonion porkknockers, Buddy Willy and his Friends, veterans of the bush. Listening to their stories and their songs, and now all things folkloric, acquired added meaning for him.

Thanks to those who recorded and held recordings for archives, others were able to build upon their work. Unfortunately, much of this work was ignored and later destroyed because not everyone valued it.



Rafiq Ahmad Khan was involved in the broadcasting scene at a unique historical moment in the Caribbean. British broadcasting policymakers were grudgingly coming to recognize that the paramountcy of British cultural and political interests in the colonies had to make way for local interests. 

Managing and influencing change in this area was a difficult role that Rafiq Khan played well. Starting out as a radio announcer in 1949, when he was just 16 years old, he came up through the ranks. In 1956 he became Program Director of Radio Demerara, British Guiana’s sole radio station in those days. In 1958 he set up and nurtured BGBS (which later became GBS) as a companion station to Radio Demerara. With both stations operating under the umbrella of the Guyana Broadcasting Company, he was appointed General Manager in 1970. 

By then, British Guiana had gone through tumultuous changes, and had, in 1966, become an independent Guyana. In the year 1970 Guyana went on to become the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.

Throughout the changing scenes, Rafiq Khan coupled management skills with continued demonstration of  his abilities as broadcaster par excellence and master of the spoken word. Notably, he led or participated in radio broadcast coverage of major national events in Guyana. 

He also nurtured local broadcast talents and in some way touched the lives of virtually all professional Guyanese broadcasters of that period. He encouraged the production of local radio drama, comedy, and music, always insisting on the highest standards possible. 

As head of a major media organization, he could not escape the rough currents of political and social change. To his credit, he survived them rather well. 

Armed with the experiences of a unique historical moment, with no textbook to go by, he himself became a textbook in managing and influencing change and development in broadcast communication in the Caribbean. 

Even while Rafiq Khan served the Guyana Broadcasting Company, he became Management Consultant to the Rediffusion Group of Broadcasting Systems in the Caribbean. After resigning from the Company in 1978, he served regional communication organizations in various capacities. In 1979, he began a period of 13 years with Unesco, 10 of them as Regional Communication Adviser for the Caribbean. 

Rafiq Khan continued promoting excellence in radio and television as he advised governments as well as non-government institutions on the development and use of communications nationally and regionally, as he lectured at UWI and  University of Guyana, and as he served as Communications Consultant. 

After retirement from Unesco in 1992, he went into private practice as International Media Consultant.

Rafiq Khan has received awards for his contributions to broadcast communications from governments and regional organizations throughout the Caribbean, including induction into the Caribbean Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 1996.


Rose Hall Town, Corentyne, Berbice is 14 miles from New Amsterdam, and  is the smallest town in Guyana. Rose Hall was once owned by Dutch planters and later purchased by field slaves. In 1908, it acquired village status and in 1970 became a town. Rose Hall Town has three wards: Middle Rose Hall, East Rose Hall and Williamsburg.


Bartica is a township located at the confluence of the Essequibo and Mazaruni Rivers. It has an area of approximately one square mile. The name Bartica means "red earth." Started as an Anglican missionary settlement, it came to be regarded as the "gateway to the interior" before the coming of the airplane, serving as it did as the jumping off point for journeys into the hinterland. It was then also the first settled village that (often free-spending) porkknockers came to when journeying back home from the interior. This village developed many of the features of a town, and was early called Bartica Town.

During the Easter weekend every year, Bartica hosts The Bartica Regatta, a growing variety of entertaining holiday activities including water sports (featuring mostly speed boats), cricket, boxing, soccer, talent shows, a street parade, and a Miss Bartica Regatta Pageant. The Regatta attracts people from all parts of Guyana and even from abroad.



Guyana is made up of three counties: Essequibo, Berbice and Demerara - in order of size. The three counties were originally three separate administrative areas. Later, the administration of Demerara and Essequibo was combined. Then, in 1831, Demerara-Essequibo and Berbice were united into one and became British Guiana.

Internationally, the best known county is Demerara, the location of  the capital city of Georgetown. In old literature and documents the term Demerara is sometimes used to refer to the whole country. Examples are: Demerara bauxite (some of it, from Berbice), Demerara sugar (from any of the counties), Demerara greenheart (most of it from Essequibo).

For administrative purposes, Guyana is also divided up into 10 regions:


Ball Oil - Keith Glasgow, a fast bowler

Big Gun - Nelson Cannon Jr., because of his huge size

Bourda Monarch - Joe Christopher. Why Bourda Monarch? Help!!

Bruiser Thomas - a real bruiser on the field

Mae West - Berkeley Gaskin, for his graceful body-line bowling

McDonald Dash - this fast runner was well named by his parents

Rocky McPherson - stuck to his game as moss stuck to rock

Speedy Franklin - a fleet-of-foot basketballer

Sporty Thomas - father of Bruiser Thomas

Stretch Lynch - stretched out to over six feet in height.


Georgetown’s grand old market which tries to sell everything – fruits, vegetables, livestock, meat, fish, furniture, manufactured household goods, tools, jewelry and more. It extends from Water Street to the bank of the Demerara River adjacent to the Demerara Stelling.  In 1842, the Georgetown Town Council designated the area on which it is located the Stabroek Market, giving confirmation to a name the area already had, as it was the most popular market area in Georgetown. The market was designed and constructed by the Edgemoor Iron Company of Delaware, USA over the period 1880-1881. The original site occupied 70,000 square feet, 50,000 of which were reclaimed from the Demerara.  The engineer in charge of the building operations was  Nathaniel McKay. Always congested, busy and noisy, the Stabroek Market area is the  busiest  in the city of  Georgetown – a focus of taxis and minibuses, and close to the stelling used by the ferry moving people to and from the other side of the Demerara River, and also from other parts of the country, such as the Pomeroon area in the county of Essequibo.


This is the premier auditorium for cultural presentations in Guyana, located on Homestretch Avenue, Georgetown. D’Urban Park. 

After the destruction of the Assembly Rooms, the auditoriums of Queens College and St Rose's High School were in the main used for major cultural presentations, but these were clearly inadequate for ambitious theatre. 

The decision to erect the Centre was made early in 1971 and Guyanese architects were invited to submit designs for the building in a competition held that year.

 From the four entries received, the design submitted  by Norris Mitchell Associates was selected. 

It was hoped that the building of the Centre would be finished in time for the first Caribbean Festival Creative Arts (Carifesta) which Guyana hosted in 1972. However this was not to be. The unfinished structure was used anyway, with the aid of three large canvas tents to complete the roofing, and coconut palm fronds as walls.

After many delays. The official opening took place on May 16, 1976.


In Guyana, bush fish is freshwater fish. Traditional sources of bush fish are the rivers and streams, lakes and ponds. The varieties include hassar, houri, patwa (a species of tilapia) and yarrow. People who go bush fishing may use nets, rods and lines, and other kinds of fishing tackle.

Amerindians used other methods as well. They would spear or shoot the fish individually with bow and arrow,  or poison a pond full of them by adding crushed herbs to the water.

More recently, catching these kinds of fish was  associated with agriculture. An abundance of fish which grew in the rice fields became available when letting the water out of the rice fields before harvest time. In the sugarcane fields, some of these fish were also available wherever water collected. However, the almost universal use of chemical fertilizers and weedicides made fish form the rice and sugar cane fields undesirable.

An interesting development

In recent times, an experiment in organic agriculture is being tried at the Uitvlugt/Leonora Estate, West Coast Demerara in Guyana and is making fishing in the canefields acceptable again.

This fact came out in a report at a Caribbean Biodiversity Capacity Building Workshop presented by Phillip Da Silva, Head of the Department of Biology and Manager, Centre for the Study of Biological Diversity, Faculty of Natural Science of the University of Guyana.  The project’s enthusiastic hands-on man was Uitvlugt Sugar Estate Farm Manager, Nicholas Duke. 


Curare is the name used for any of a number of substances containing D-tubocurarine, used traditionally as arrow poison by Amerindians in the Amazonian area, including Guyana. The poison paralyzes the respiratory system resulting in asphyxiation and death. Amerindians therefore used curare in fishing and hunting. Today, anesthetists use curare in small quantities to relax muscle tissue, especially in abdominal surgery. Another name for curare is “wourali.”

About curare


S. Davson and Company owned three sugar estates in British Guiana. Its competition was the giant, Bookers Sugar Estates. It was Davsons that  employed Dr. George Giglioli as medical offficer to improve  conditions on its estates after he was laid off by the Demerara Bauxite Company. Dr. Giglioli's return turned out to be very important to the entire country.


In order to remove poisonous juices from cassava root (manioc) to make the plant edible, Amerindians invented the matapi or matapee, made, in Guyana, from the itiriti or mukru  palms.

 It is an ingenious  plaited basket sieve in the shape of a cylinder with loops at each end. The matapee is hung securely from a beam, using the top loop. Grated cassava is placed inside the matapee, from the top. A pole is placed in the lower loop and, with the aid of someone sitting on the pole, the matapee is stretched downward and the juice is squeezed out, leaving the grated solids inside the matapee. Alternatively, a heavy enough stone may be used instead of a person. The liquid extracted by this squeezing action falls into a basin or bowl  positioned underneath the matapee. The liquid is used to make casareep, the remaining meal to make cassava bread.

The Tupis of Brazil call their matapee a "tipiti." It is made of jacitara palm bark.In Trinidad and in Dominica, a matapee is called a "coulevre." This term was introduced by French settlers in those islands, as the shape and diamond weave of the matapee reminded them of  a type of snakeskin pattern in France called by that name. In Suriname the matapee is known as the “Carib snake.”

Another name for matapee is "sebuccan."


New Amsterdam, the main town in the county of Berbice, was founded in  1791. At that time it occupied an area of  554 acres. It was governed at first by the Board of Police. In 1844 administration was taken over by a Board of Superintendence. The Town Council of New Amsterdam was established in 1891. The Council was made up of seven members, but was expanded to nine members in 1916 with the addition of representatives of the Government. The composition of the Council then became six elected members and three Government appointees.

Business and industrial activity developed along the Strand, also called Water Street (because it is close to and  runs parallel to the Berbice River), and along Pitt Street, between the Strand and Main Street, another major street. Where Pitt Street meets the Strand, the municipal market developed, making the intersection the busiest part of the town.

Among the buildings of interest are Mission Chapel on Chapel  Street, All Saints’ Anglican  Church at Main and Church Streets, , All  Saints’ Scots Church at Main and Vryheid Streets, and the Roman Catholic Church of the Ascension at 19 Main Street.

For a long time, the former New Amsterdam Public Hospital was the most striking edifice in the town. Constructed in 1878, this grand building occupied a block on Charles Place between Main Street and the Strand.

For many years, a ferry service across the Berbice River linked New Amsterdam on the east bank and Rosignol on the west bank. Today , a bridge, opened on December 23, 2008, spans the river.

See COFONA - Council of  Friends of  New Amsterdam


The capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris), which lives in Guyana and other tropical South American countries, is the largest rodent in the world. Rodents (such as a mice, rats, squirrels, or beavers, characterized by large incisors adapted for gnawing or nibbling) are the most diverse group of mammals with more than 2,000 species. The largest of them, the capybara,  also called the "water haas" in Guyana, belongs to the guinea-pig family, has thin, yellowish hair and may attain up to 50 kg/110 lb in weight  It  has  short limbs and a stumpy tail that occasionally grow to more than 1.2 meters (4 feet). This animal is semi-aquatic, spending some of the  time in the water and some of the time on land. The capybara lives in marshy areas and dense vegetation around water. It swims well, and can rest underwater with just its eyes, ears, and nose above the surface.


The GCC ground is a test match ground located in Bourda in Georgetown, Guyana, between Regent Street and North Road. It is one of the largest in the Caribbean with a seating capacity of 22,000 and members stands believed to be over 200 years old. Bourda is a good batsman's pitch, with a slow wicket and a fast outfield. It is also believed to be the only test match ground below sea level.

Cricket matches between Trinidad and GCC were played there as early as 1883, and later between GCC and teams from Britain, in 1895 and 1897. It hosted its first Test in February 1930 against England, which the home side won by 289 runs and George Headley scored a century in each innings.  Clive Lloyd and Rohan Kanhai have stands named after them at Bourda. 


On April 24, 1870, Charles Barrington Brown, one of two British geologists appointed government surveyors to the colony of British Guiana (Guyana), became the first European to see the Kaieteur Falls. The other surveyor was James Sawkins. Brown and James Sawkins arrived in Georgetown in 1867 and did some of their mapping and preparation of geological reports together, some in separate expeditions, but Sawkins had taken a break from his work when Brown came upon Kaieteur.  After completing their surveys of thousands of miles of interior rivers during the heady days of gold discoveries, the surveyors left the British Guiana in 1871.

Brown’s book  Canoe and camp life in British Guiana was published in 1876. Two years later, 1878, he published Fifteen thousand miles on the Amazon and its tributaries.


Black sage is a well-known shrub or small tree that grows wild in Guyana. For many Guyanese, especially in rural areas, it was the “toothbrush tree,” as its hardy stem was pounded or chewed and used to brush teeth. The black sage brush also removed unpleasant odors from the mouth, and (so some claim) whitened the teeth. Ground black sage leaves were also used to get rid of insect pests such as the mites that live in chicken pens.

The scientific name of black sage is Cordia curassavica.


 It is not easy to play the Scottish bagpipes and as far as is known only one Guyanese mastered the art – John H. T. Fredericks. He was a policeman who played the piano and who, because of his knowledge of music, found himself in the British Guiana Police Drum and Fife Band. At first, the played the piccolo. He read bagpipe literature and taught himself to play this instrument, with its reed pipes and its inflated skin or cloth bag, the reeds being vibrated by wind fed by arm pressure on the bag. Soon, with the encouragement of the then Director of Music of the British Guiana Militia Band, Major "Snake Hips" (“Snakehips”) Henwood, the bagpipe became a featured instrument of the Drum and Fife Band, and John Fredericks the featured player on the chanter - the bagpipe which carries the melody.  He has been known as “Bagpipes” ever since.



The Demerara Harbour Bridge, a floating steel bridge across the Demerara River, is reportedly the largest pontoon bridge in the world. It is located four miles outside of Georgetown. 

The bridge is approximately 1.25 miles long  and has 61 spans. A high-level span provides a horizontal clearance of 105 feet or 32.0 meters and a vertical clearance of 26 feet or 7.9 meters to permit small craft to pass at all times. In order to permit the passage of large craft, two retractor spans retract fully to leave a horizontal clearance of 254 feet or 77.4 meters. 

 The Demerara Harbour Bridge extends from Bagotstown/Peter’s Hall on the east bank of the Demerara to Meer Zorg/Schoon Ord on the West Bank. There is a toll station at the eastern approach. 

Total construction expenditure on the bridge, opened July 2 1978, was $37,800,000.


It was the Luckhoo Swimming Pool, one of the delightful spots in Georgetown for 25 years. Thousands waded into the pool by themselves, or with swimming instructors, or plunged in from springboards while lifeguards watched attentively, ready to go into action when necessary. Some were recreational swimmers; others were competitive swimmers going through their paces.

The Luckhoo Swimming Pool, located in Georgetown, near to the seawall, west of the Pegasus Hotel. To the north was the sometimes-muddy Atlantic.  It had deep and shallow sections, underwater and overhead lighting. There were male and female changing rooms, a refreshment section and a car park. 

The pool was named after the lawyer, politician and diplomat, Sir Lionel Luckhoo,  who conceived of it and worked to make it a reality. Luckhoo was Mayor of Georgetown in 1955 and again from 1960 to1961.

Sir Lionel had a lot of persuading to do. By the time he gave up office as Mayor in 1956, he was chairing a committee working to implement the idea. By May, 1957, they had raised $28,500 to start work at the site. The pool was opened some time between 1960 and 1962. 

But one day in 1984, the pool was closed. A diver, Alfred Mann, had gone in as usual to clean the pool with a broom. He soon found that his broom got stuck. A check revealed a half-inch crack running east to west.

At one stage, workmen from the Stone Depot of the  Mayor and City Council, chipped one foot on each side of the crack, re-laid steel and re-cast it. The crack reopened in two years. The pool was then closed for good.


Victoria Village (formerly Plantation Northbrook) is located on the East Coast, Demerara, about 18 miles from Georgetown. It was the first free village to be established after emancipation. In November 1839, eighty three ex-slaves from five nearby estates (Douchfour, Ann’s Grove, Hope, Paradise and Enmore) pooled their resources and bought Plantation Northbrook for 30,000 guilders or $10,283.63. Each of the eighty three owned one lot of land. The owners named the village Victoria, most likely after Queen Victoria who, they felt, had helped to emancipate them

Among the first attempts at a Code of Local Government in Guyana was a set of regulations set up by the village in 1845.

The first church built there, a Congregational church, named after Wilberforce, the abolitionist, was erected in 1845. A memorial tablet was placed in the church honoring William Africa Baptiste, known as `Boss Africa’, who became accepted as the Father of the village. Baptiste, who died in 1881, was the first village schoolmaster. Wilberforce Congregational church at Victoria still stands today.

William Nicholas Arno's "History of Victoria Village" gives a useful account of the origins and development of the village.


Guyana Sports Club (GSC), formerly the British Guiana Cricket Club (BGCC) was located at Thomas Lands, Georgetown. Founded in 1896, the Club catered to a number of games including cricket, football, cycling, athletics, hockey among other outdoor sports.

Over the years the GSC building deteriorated to such an extent that it was demolished by the City Council in 2003. The expectation is that a new sporting facility will be erected in its place.


(The following is an extract from John Campbell's excellent book on policing in Guyana)

During November, 1944 the Police Male Voice was formed by Warrant Officer James Alexander Phoenix later Reverend Phoenix). James Phoenix as a Corporal was a piccolo player in the Police drum and fife band and he composed the march 'Ellisum' which was widely played by the band. On his transfer to Springlands Police Station in 1942 as Sergeant he started a Mixed Voice Choir called the 'Skeldon Music Lovers Choir' and there he acquired his conducting technique. The results were so satisfying that on his promotion to Warrant Officer and transfer to Brickdam he decided to form a Male Voice Choir in the Force. The Choir group had a humble beginning with twenty Policemen practicing in the home of Constable 4377 'Teach' Harding (later Inspector) in Murray Street, and two of the initial members, Edgar Mann and John Fredericks were members of the Skeldon Music Lovers Choir.. Other founder members included, Cyril 'Saggie' Jarvis who later became the most popular conductor of the Choir, George Cruickshank, Eric Rodney, Samuel McCammon and Henry Burrowes.

The Group made its first appearance on Christmas Eve that year by visiting the Georgetown Hospital and other places singing carols and the first concert was held on 24th June, 1945 at the Town Hall, Georgetown (now City Hall) with Mr. Phoenix as Conductor. Later the conducting of the Choir was handed over to 'Saggie' Jarvis who came from a long line of dedicated Policemen.

The Choir moved from strength to strength making public appearances throughout the country including command performances before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret on their visit to the country. In 1956 the Choir emerged champions at the Trinidad Music Festival and in 1967 it eclipsed the championship for Male Voice Choirs at the Music Festival in Guyana. The Choir represented Guyana at Expo '67 in Montreal Canada and extended its tour to the United States of America where it held many performances in New York including a mid-day concert at the Chase Manhattan Bank and appeared at the International Police Academy in Washington where it entertained the student body.

Note: The Guyana Police Male Voice choir is now defunct.


Computing, the British weekly, called Shakuntala Devi the "Hindu Mathematical Wizardess". Other publications have called her a 'Human Computer.'  She makes calculations that are astounding. Give her any date in the last century and ask her what day it was. She tells you instantly. What is 59 to the 47th power? Easy. She is out with the answer, even before one finishes stating the problem. For what took the computer more than a minute to figure – the 23rd root of a 201-digit number - Ms Devi took only 50 seconds. 

She was listed in the  Guinness Book of World Records in 1980 after she took only 28 seconds to mentally multiply two 13-digit numbers:  (7, 686, 369, 774, 870) X (2, 465, 099, 745, 779) = 18, 947, 668, 177, 995, 426, 773, 730. 

Born in 1939 to a Brahmin family in Bangalore, India, Shakuntala Devi is the oldest of four sisters. She had very little schooling and her gift is one of the mysteries no one can explain.

[ Shakuntala visited Guyana many years ago and calculated accurately all the problems thrown at her.  Here are some remarks from readers.

Maurice Pahalan  says it was 1971 or 1972. She visited the East Ruimveldt School then.

9/22/04 Reuben Lachmansingh says "It was in the late fifties. I left Guyana in 1958 and she had already performed at the Metropole Theatre. I would say it was around 1956."]

2/3/05  Errol Jagan: "I would say it was around 1971-1972, she made an appearance at Guyana Progressive College."

4/25/05 Zamir:  "She visited Indian Education Trust College (IETC)* when I was a student at that school. I entered in 1968 and left in 1969, to attend UG.  .... *(IETC) The former name of Richard Ishmael High School. Hope this helps."

4/25/05: "Seems that Shakuntala visited Guyana twice." - Torchbearer.

7/11/08: Shakuntala Devi came to BG (Guyana) in late 1949 or early 1950, aged 10, a mere slip of a girl, who deflated a panel of our "best" mathematicians of the time including Norman Cameron(I think he had the nickname Nebu), head of Math at QC (where I was then). The show was at the Astor cinema before a packed audience.  Cameron had doubted her computational skills and had vowed to prove her a "circus fake" (her father worked in a circus as a human cannonball).

He was gracious enough to admit her genius after she had, with blindfolds on--and under strict security by show organisers to eliminate even supernatural help--answered all questions, posed at random, including his  "stumper", a quite complex one of roots and mixed functions she had answered in under 20 seconds; he had elatedlyannounced the answer "incorrect" by his pre-calculated figure, but the child stood firm and after ten minutes or so of regular mathematics the judges announced that she was right. Hope this helps. Sincerely, (Dr) Mohan Ragbeer.



Samuel Marshall, a Barbadian by birth and a Salvationist in his heart, moved to British Guiana in 1883 and “took” the Salvation Army with him. He was a cobbler (shoemaker) who did his regular job by day but at night he took to the street corners to testify about his faith in the manner of Salvation Army soldiers. He had become enamored of the Salvation Army way of life in Grenada, where after being converted to Christianity at a Methodist Chapel, he read the Army publication The War Cry. After that, he was a Salvationist in spirit.

To look the part, he wrote to Army headquarters in England for uniform items. When he received them he became the first uniformed Salvationist in the country. He also implored the General to send out officers to the country – “the only British possession on the South American continent.”

Meantime, the movement was known was “Marshall’s Army.” A Brother Coburn, a Salvationist from Birkenhead, England who worked on a vessel that regularly sailed into the Georgetown port from Liverpool, England was of great value. He joined Marshall’s meetings whenever he was in Georgetown and brought him songbooks, sheet music, badges, ribbons and other items.

Following repeated appeals to International Headquarters in London, Adjutant and Mrs. Edward Widgery and Lieutenant George Walker were sent to British Guiana. They arrived on April 24, 1895 to an enthusiastic welcome from “Marshall’s Army.” The Salvation Army was now officially established in the country.

Rupununi Uprising

On January 2, 1969, the police station at Lethem, the administrative center of the Rupununi District, was attacked by ranchers, mainly from the Hart and Melville families, who were armed with bazookas and automatic weapons.

Lethem Police Station was completely wrecked by bazooka shells and policemen were riddled by bullets as they tried to escape. Annai and Good Hope stations were seized and the personnel held captive along with other Government officials and civilians in the abbattoir at Lethem.

Five policemen and one civilian were killed, the government dispenser was shot and wounded, and a number of persons, including the District Commissioner and his wife, were herded into the abbattoir and held hostage.

News about the insurrection reached Georgetown by midday that day and policemen and soldiers were flown in to Manari by Guyana Airways. When the government forces moved on Lethem the rebels fled, eventually going across the border.

Congregationalism in Guyana

 Congregational Churches, first organized by Separatists in England in the Sixteenth Century, emphasized simplicity and democracy in an attempt at  reproducing a Church on the New Testament model. Congregationalists chose their own ministers rather than accept the choice of the bishop of the State-run Church of England. They avoided  elaborate garments or ritual, and encouraged the earnest personal prayers instead of  the set prayers in the Book of Common Prayer. They declared themselves subject only to Christ and the covenants they drew up in independent churches. 

Smith Congregational Church on Brickdam, Georgetown was built in honor of the Reverend John Smith. He arrived in Guyana in 1817, sent by the London Missionary Society to evangelize and teach the slaves. His relations with the slaves angered the planters and he was charged with treason in 1823. Smith, sometimes called Martyr Smith, was sentenced to death but died in prison on 6 February 1824. 

Mission Chapel, on Chapel Street. New Amsterdam, Berbice is another Congregational Church in Guyana. It was founded by the Rev. John Wray.

 The Rev C. B. Gladwin Fraser, a Guyanese by birth,  became pastor of the Union Congregational Church in Harlem, New York City in 1960 and served in that position for 31 years  before his death in 1991.


An area in North Ruimveldt, Georgetown, built up and provided with suitable infrastructure for the express purpose of initially providing accommodation for visiting guests and artists during Carifesta ‘72. About 250 new houses made of greenheart timber were constructed there.

Festival City was as self-contained as the organizers could make it. It had its own bank, post office, police station, fire service, dedicated medical staff, laundry, restaurants, shops and a pool of vehicles for transportation.

The rooms of the houses were furnished with tables, chairs and other pieces of furniture, made by Guyana’s Amerindian craftspeople from nibbee.

Festival City was a microcosm of Caribbean arts and entertainment – housing, as it did, a wide variety of performers from many parts of the Caribbean. Numerous languages and dialects could be heard there.  

Late in the evening, but especially after midnight, as the formal scheduled events of Carifesta ended, Festival City grew busier and noisier. Musicians and other performers put on impromptu performances, and ate and drank and entertained one another for as long as they were able. Tents and other temporary structures were provided to accommodate such events. Some performers rehearsed in Festival City for the next day’s performance.

After Carifesta ’72, Festival City houses became available to Guyanese who wished to buy them.


Rev. John Wray, who was sent to British Guiana by the London Missionary Society, arrived in the country in 1808 and  preached to slaves at a chapel on Plantation La Ressouvenir.  He also taught many of them to read and write, using the Bible as his main text. Those slaves who learned often taught others.  

Rev. Wray was later transferred to New Amsterdam where he established a school which had over 40 students. By 1813 the school had 80 students, including the children of slaves and colored people. However, Rev. Wray faced difficulties caused by Whites who were opposed to the education of Non-Whites.

Rev. Wray established Mission Chapel during his stay in Berbice.

Mrs. Wray also taught classes for the planter class in Demerara, and later in Berbice. She was paid for this and used the funds to send her two daughters to boarding school in England. The daughters returned to Guyana afterward and for a time ran Mrs. Wray's school.


Most early arrivals from Africa to Guyana were transported forcibly as slaves. Researchers have found good reason to believe that the first arrivals took place around 1651, and probably even even earlier, with Abraham van Pere, to Berbice. However, the first reliable mention of slaves here (Essequibo), gives the time of arrival as March 1657. Some Africans went to Guyana as immigrants after the abolition of slavery, and some, Kroomen particularly, returned to African after a period of service.

The Africans came from Angola, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the Gold Coast (now Ghana), and the Congo. Among them were Yorubas, Congos, Coromantis (including Ashantis), Kroomen and Ibos.


Built around 1870, the Assembly Rooms occupied the top floor of a building it shared with the Georgetown Club. The building was located at Company Path on the spot later occupied by the Bank of Guyana building. In its heyday, it was one of  the finest theatres in the Caribbean  It seated about 1,200 persons and had a large stage. The Assembly Rooms also provided a popular hall for ballroom dancing. The building was burnt down in the Georgetown fire of February 23, 1945 after surviving the 1864 fire.


Viola Victorine Burnham, nee Harper, (informally: ‘Comrade Vi’) was teacher, farmer, politician and an advocate of women's causes. She became a national figure when she became the wife of the Prime Minister.

She was born on November 26, 1930 in New Amsterdam, Berbice to James Nathaniel Harper, a schoolmaster, and his wife Mary (neé Chin). She attended All Saints Scots School and later the Berbice High School, with the aid of a Government County Scholarship. After the death of her father, the family moved to Georgetown and she attended Smith Church Congregational School. Again she won a Government County Scholarship, which took her this time to the Bishops' High School where she earned her advanced levels at the GCE exams.

She then worked at the Argosy newspaper. Fellow journalists there included Henry Josiah, Billy Carto, Olga Armstrong, Hector Bunyan, and Connie Theobald.

When Viola quit journalism at the Argosy she turned to teaching. She taught for four years, starting 1950, Broad Street (renamed Dolphin) Government School.

 A conditional scholarship took her to the United Kingdom where she earned the Bachelor of Arts (Hons) degree in Latin at Leicester University in the UK. After four years in the UK, she studied for the Master of Arts in Education degree from the University of Chicago, USA, where she became a Member of the Pi Lambda Thera Honor Society.

She was senior Latin mistress at Bishops' High School in 1967 when she married  Forbes Burnham, Prime Minister (later President) of Guyana. Her husband died  in 1985.  The union resulted in two daughters, Melanie and Ulele.

Mrs. Burnham entered active politics in 1976. She became Chairman of the Women's Revolutionary Socialist Movement (WRSM), the women's arm of the PNC and was a member of the Central Executive Committee of the PNC representing the WRSM.

In 1985, following the death of President Burnham, she was appointed Vice President and Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for Education, Social Development - including Women's Affairs and Culture - by Burnham’s successor, President Desmond Hoyte. That same year she was elected a member of the National Assembly. In 1989 she was appointed Vice-President, Ministry of Culture and Social Development. In July 199, she resigned.

Her involvement in the Hoyte administration was very important as it signaled that she would not be part of a revolt within the PNC of those who were not happy with Hoyte's departure form her late husband's policies, and this, in spite of being uncomfortable with some of the changes.

After retiring from active politics she devoted her energies to farming and to her other favored pursuits of painting and design.

For her contribution to the country's development she had been awarded the country's second highest honor, the Order of Roraima, in 1984.

Viola Burnham died, age 72, in Miami, Florida, USA on October 10, 2003 after succumbing to cancer following a long illness.    



Martin Carter, widely regarded as Guyana's most important poet, was educated at Queen's College, Georgetown. He was Information Officer for the Booker Group of Companies in Guyana, and later Minister of Information and Culture in the Guyana Government.

He was detained on political grounds following the suspension of the British Guiana constitution in 1953. While in prison wrote a series of  powerful poems of social protest which were published as Poems of Resistance (1954). The impact of these poems were so great that Carter became famous internationally. Poems of Resistance and his subsequent work have been translated into many languages including Russian, German and Chinese.

The June, 2000 issue of the Guyana journal Kyk-Over-Al (Number 49/50) devotes 411 pages to the life and work of Martin Carter.  


1918 - 2003

Veterinarian, politician, teacher

 Dr. Ptolemy Reid, teacher, veterinarian and politician. was an unusual person in the political world of Guyana. He was generally regarded as a sincere, honest and caring person, often by those who were  politically opposed to him and his ideas.

Dr. Reid served as Prime Minister, Deputy Leader and General Secretary of the People’s National Congress (PNC) – the party led by Forbes Burnham. It was evident that the relationship of the two men was tempered by mutual respect.  

Dr. Reid  held a number of important ministerial portfolios including those of Home Affairs, Finance and Agriculture. When the 1980 Constitution came into effect and Forbes Burnham became President, Dr. Reid was appointed Prime Minister.  He retired from the office of Prime Minister in 1984 and was appointed to the vacant position of Deputy Leader. Desmond Hoyte succeeded him as Prime Minister.  

Ptolemy Reid was born on May 8, 1918 to Herman and Marion Reid at the village of  Dartmouth on the Essequibo Coast.  He studied at the Tuskegee Institute at Tuskegee, Alabama in the United States, where he became a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. On his return home to British Guiana, he was unable to find suitable employment and so he proceeded to the United Kingdom and satisfied the requirements for membership of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. On his return to Guyana, he was employed as a vet by Bookers Sugar Estates in 1958.  

Dr Reid joined the PNC in 1960.

After his retirement in 1984, he lived a quiet life and was often referred to as an "elder statesman." The Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre, located at Church & Carmichael Streets, Cummingsburg, Georgetown was named after Dr. Reid. The center gives therapy and basic education to children with cerebral palsy and those with physical disabilities.

Following the death of his first wife, Ruth, Dr. Reid married his childhood sweetheart, Marjorie. She died on May 25, 2003, leaving him a widower for the second time.  

Towards the end of his life, Dr. Reid suffered a stroke and was admitted to the Suddie hospital. He was later returned to his home at Atlantic Gardens where he died on Tuesday, September 2, 2003 aged 85.  



Exists to bring relief to poor and needy people in Guyana. The foundation helps with providing basic and special education for children and material needs such as food and clothing for both children and adults, especially the aged. The Christmas parties organized by the foundation is the continuation of the many years of involvement in charitable work by its founder, Bernice Mansell, who ran the Radio Demerara Needy Children’s Fund up till 1999, the year the foundation was formed.

Bernice Mansell is seeking to expand the work of the organization to include many other activities including career opportunities in sewing, cosmetology and other areas. For this work, she is accepting contributions at


Sir Eustace Gordon Woolford, O.B.E., Q.C.

1953 - 1957

Sir Donald Edward Jackson

1957 - 1961

Mr. Rahman Baccus Gajraj, C.B.E., J.P.

1961 - 1964

Mr. Aubrey Percival Alleyne

1964 - 1967

Mr. Rahman Baccus Gajraj, C.B.E., J.P.

1968 - 1970

Mr. Sase Narain, O.R., S.C., J.P.

1971 - 1992

 Mr. Derek Chunilall Jagan, O.R, C.C.H., S.C., J.P.

           (Died while holding Office)

1992 - 2000

Mr. Martin Zephyr

2000 - 2001

Mr. Hari Narayen Ramkarran, S.C.

2001 - 2006

Mr. Hari Narayen Ramkarran, S.C.

2006 -

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