Obituary: Wilton 'Jinks' Angoy, AA
January 18, 2004
Wilton Anderson Angoy, a former civil servant, district commissioner and Honorary Consul to Barbados, died on 8 January, aged 97 years
More than most modern commentators would wish to admit, British Guiana's colonial administration laid a sound foundation of competence, commitment and management which the new State of Guyana inherited in 1966.
For example, the nine colonial 'districts' - North-West, Essequibo Coast; Esse-quibo Islands; West [Coast and West Bank] Demerara; East [Coast and East Bank] Demerara; West [Coast and West Bank] Berbice; East Berbice; Mazaruni-Potaro; and Rupununi, formed the framework for the 'regions' in existence today.
Each of these districts was administered by a district council presided over by a 'District Commissioner' who functioned almost as a provincial governor, exercising extensive administrative authority over territory which exceeded the size of almost any single English-speaking Caribbean island.
In colonial times, the district commissioner functioned as a travelling Magistrate and Justice of the Peace and was empowered to perform the duties of deputy to the Direc-tor of Public Works, Commis-sioner of Police, Commision-er of Land and Mines, Comptroller of Customs, and Superintendent of Prisons; and Sub-Protector of Amerindians, in his district.
In response to the challenges of these functions, so onerous in those days of poor communications, inadequate transportation and limited financial and human resourc-es, a corps d'Ã©lite of hardy officials arose in the Interior Department. Among them were men such as Lawrence Thompson, Pat Forte, Allan Young, James Bamford, Eric Cossou and Wilton Angoy. Although little is remembered today of most of those legendary officials and district commissioners, the name of at least one is preserved in Angoy's Avenue in New Amsterdam, Berbice.
Wilton Anderson Angoy, an outstanding district commissioner and civil servant, was born in New Amsterdam on 12 January 1907, a contemporary of another well-known Berbician, Edgar Austin Mittleholzer (b. 1909). From childhood, Wilton was called 'Jinks' by his family after a popular racehorse of the day. The name stuck.
After attending All Saints Scots School (New Amster-dam); Combermere School (Barbados); and Berbice High School (New Amsterdam), 'Jinks' Angoy joined the British Guiana Civil Service where he would remain for nearly forty years.
His education continued during his Civil Service career with attendance at a British Council Study Tour of Britain which focused on Local Government and Social and Industrial Welfare (1949), and a Devonshire Course at Oxford (1953-54). During his course at Oxford, Angoy remembered listening to young Forbes Burnham and Cheddi Jagan who met with undergraduates to explain the circumstances surrounding their expulsion from office and the suspension of the constitution in October 1953 in British Guiana.
Starting his career as a clerk, Angoy worked at the New Amsterdam Hospital, Customs & Excise Depart-ment and the Department of Labour. In July 1947, he was summoned to the Chief Secretary's Office where he was offered a position in the Interior Depart-ment as Assistant to the District Com-missioner James Bamford in the Mazaruni-Potaro District.
It was at Bartica, the district administrative centre, that Angoy's skill for official business and his zeal for community organisation, became evident. On his watch (1947-50), the annual 'Bartica Regatta' was institutionalised. Similarly, when he moved to the Rupu-nuni as District Com-missioner (1950-53), he played a key role, along with the cattle ranchers there, in mounting the first successful horse racing meeting on the Easter weekend of 1953. That event eventually evolved into today's annual 'Rupununi Rodeo'.
Angoy also served as District Commissioner of the Essequibo Islands District (1954-56) and of the East Berbice District (1956-60). In his home district, he excelled both as an administrator and sports enthusiast, encouraging horse racing on the Corentyne Coast, especially at the Bush Lot Turf Club and Brighton. During this tour of duty, and in recognition of his service to the community, a dam in New Amsterdam was rehabilitated by self-help, made roadworthy, and named in his honour.
Angoy saw himself as a great advocate of 'aided self-help' schemes in East Berbice, convinced that they could make a valuable contribution to housing, drainage, roads and pure water supply. Under these schemes, the Government would provide up to 50 per cent of the cost of projects in the form construction materials and equipment; residents would contribute the remainder of the materials and their labour. The scheme was used to some effect in the Black Bush Polder project which was designed, in part, to accommodate 1,500 families many of whom had been displaced and unemployed by the closure of the Port Mourant Sugar Factory on the Corentyne.
Wilton Angoy served briefly as a community development officer in the Ministry of Education and Social Development (1960-61), and as deputy chief co-operative and social development officer (1961-64), when, at the height of the disturbances, he retired in April 1964 and migrated to Barbados.
In retirement, he continued to work. He served the Government of St Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla during the 'Anguilla crisis' of 1967. He coordinated the production of the booklet, Guyana: A Nation on the Move, and various tourist guides to the islands of Dominica, Grenada, St Maarten; St. Kitts-Nevis and St Lucia on behalf of the National Advertising Company of Barbados. He also worked with Demattos Advertising Associates of Barbados.
Indeed, throughout his so-called retirement, Angoy was never idle. He continued to use his pen to propagate his theories on social development, folk traditions, regional integration and economic transformation. In Guyana, readers of the Stabroek News would recall his countless letters to the editor on a wide range of issues. In Barbados, he wrote articles for Bim magazine and the daily newspapers. He felt that the research required for writing these articles and letters on current affairs kept his mind active and was satisfied that such writing achieved his objective.
In his youth, 'Jinks' Angoy had been a sportsman of considerable ability and versatility. He represented British Guiana in football (1932-36) and in cricket at various levels (1930-43). He served as the first Secretary of the BG Cricket Board of Control and the BG Olympic Association.
He was also active in the BG Civil Service Association as Senior Vice-President and as the first President of the Junior Section. Angoy was a fervent believer in Guyana's potential for development and in the energy of the Guyanese people. For this reason, perhaps, he patriotically titled his 1990 autobiographical book, Guyana Man, with Visions of Caribbean Integration.
Wilton Anderson Angoy was appointed Guyana's first Honorary Consul in Bridge-town and, rather belatedly but deservedly at the age of 84 years, was granted the national honour of Golden Arrow of Achievement (AA) in 1991.