Essequibo beckons!
by Jaime Hall
Guyana Chronicle
November 24, 2002

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AS PART of the activities in observance of Tourism Awareness Month 2002, the Ministry of Tourism has organised a series of familarisation trips for media personnel to outlying regions of Guyana.

The objective of these trips is to raise awareness in the media corps about Guyana's tourism products by affording the opportunity to visit the sites of tourism potential and interest and also to interact with the local people.

Last Tuesday, officials from the Tourism Ministry and the National Trust, led members of the media on a tour to the Essequibo Coast to visit a number of Heritage Sites.

Those sites include two brick chimneys being used on former Dutch sugar plantations. One was at Aurora and the other at Anna Regina.

Visits were also made to Devonshire Castle Monument, Damon’s Cross, La Belle Alliance, Dutch Tombs at Colombia and Taymouth Manor, and the St. Bartholomew's Anglican Church - all on the Essequibo Coast.

Are churches up-side-down ships?
St. Bartholomew's Anglican Church at Queenstown, Essequibo, which was established in 1842, has been listed by the National Trust of Guyana as one of Guyana's Heritage sites.

It was being preserved because of its historical significance to the work of African slaves who were brought on ships across the Atlantic to Guyana to work on the plantations. Originally, the building was a coffee logie which was built by the slaves.

The architecture of this massive concrete and wooden structure, which sits on a sand reef in the Cinderella County with an adjoining graveyard, is impressive.

With a tall roofing structure and the two sidewalls that curve into each other making an arch-like front wall and many other features, particularly in its interior, give the impression of a ship, Secretary of the Church, Elsie Marks said.

"This building is an upside down ship," she pointed. The roof spells that out - it looks exactly like the great hull of a ship.

In the building's interior, to the left, two stairs lead to the balcony which takes pattern from the wheelhouse where the captain sat.

The pews are in two rows, and are strapped together in the middle, symbolic of the way the slaves were shackled, one slave to another, Marks explained.

The windows on the sides of the building were also patterned from the holes in the hatch of the ships which allowed slaves to breathe fresh air.

The church boasts baptismal registers that date back to the 1870s and there are fine examples of local craftsmanship visible in the wooden furniture and ornaments.

Marks said St. Bartholomew's was the first Parish Church. It was then attached to St John's Church, the sister church and Holy Trinity.

She said the church was built as education was being introduced in to the system by the London Missionary Society. The Society taught the slaves and their children to read and write.

Since its establishment, several overseas-based priests have served at St. Bartholomew's, the last being Reverend V.C. Kidd from the Church of England who served from 1932 to 1943.

"Within the church now, we do not cater only for the spiritual education of persons, but their educational and social upliftment as well,” Marks said.

A school was attached to the church. She noted that many prominent persons of Guyana were nurtured at the very institution. They include Economist Clarence Ellis and Dr. Kassim Bacchus.

Marks said that in spite of the presence of about 15 other denominations in the Queenstown Community, she is still heartened to see an attendance no less than 100 worshippers including very many children attending church service on Sundays.

For the maintenance of the church, fund-raising activities such as bingo, the well-known Old Year’s night dance, fairs and coffee mornings, among other activities, are held.

St. Bartolomew's celebrated its160th anniversary on October 24, 2002.

“The young people have become conscious of the history of the church since its last anniversary, with the motto `Reclaiming Our History’, she said.

"We have come to decide that we have given our days and it is time...we now need to support them so we would have things going even though we have passed on...We will be able to leave foot prints in the sand".

The Dutch graves
Duputee Williams and her family have been residing at Cotton Field for more than two decades. In the front of her yard lie three Dutch tombs.

Her family had dug about six inches below the surface of the yard to expose one of the tombs to visitors. At the head of the tomb was an engraved image and the name of the person who was buried there, their birth and time of death.

She said her mother-in-law used to clean the tombs, wash them with blue, and pray to the dead there. She said, however, there had been no strange occurrences in the yard which was an old burial site. This would be quite unusual for persons who are superstitious.

She said some visitors came from Suriname a few years ago to investigate the graves in an effort to determine who were the persons buried there, and if they might have been their relatives. But they were unsuccessful in that quest, she said.

However, the visitors cleaned the tombs before they went away, she recounted.

Another resident of the area, Ms. Bagmat Rambarak, 72, said the tombs were there since the days when the Dutch operated a sugar estate. A logie was also built in the vicinity. The National Trust would be working in collaboration with the Region's Administration in an effort to preserve the area as a Heritage Site.

There is also another large tomb alongside the public road at Colombia, which residents say is a family tomb that contains the coffins of about six persons.

One resident recounted that in 1972, a truck had crashed into the tomb, tearing away part of the concrete face and they were allowed to see inside.

There were six glass coffins, three small ones and three big ones, she said. Shortly after the accident, the damaged area was sealed off by a mason.

The actual age of the tomb is not known, but one resident claimed it was in existence before the arrival of his great grandfather from India in 1908.

Aurora Brick Chimney
Just close to the Essequibo River bank, in the village of Aurora, is a tall brick chimney which was build by the Dutch sugar plantation owners and was afterwards taken over by rice millers during the 1950s.

Research and Documentation Officer, National Trust of Guyana, Mr. Lloyd Kandasammy, who was a member of the team touring the region said his organisation will assume responsibility for the chimney, and will make it one of Guyana's Heritage Sites.

He said it could be gazetted as an international monument and will become the property of the National Trust. That organisation will assume responsibility for maintenance and provide rules and regulations for guidance of activities in and around the area.

The other way of preserving the area is by offering advice through collaboration with the region to provide expertise guidance to architects, engineers and others to help develop the area and maintain its prestige so that there would not have something modern contrasting with the ancient.

"They both would have the same architectural ambiance so that the entities you would wish to develop in the area would blend and relate to each other," Kandasammy explained. Plans are underway for the development of this Heritage Site which could begin in 2003, he said.

The foundation of the chimney is under possible threat of erosion since it is less than ten feet away from the Essequibo River bank.

A visit was also made to the brick chimney at Anna Regina which is in the compound of the Caricom Rice Mill.

This chimney is said to be the tallest of the other two Dutch chimneys - one at Aurora, and the other at Chateau Margot on the East Coast Demerara.

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