“The Children’s Story of Guyana” and Guy de Weever
Preserving our literary heritage
by Petamber Persaud
May 13, 2007
GUY de Weever was born into a rich and colourful cultural inheritance, a heritage that inspired him in his formative years, a tradition which he fostered as he grew into his own and flourished, finally leaving behind a strong legacy which his children expanded on and on which generations after can build.
That rich and colourful cultural heritage started many generations ago with de Weever’s paternal grandfather who was a schoolmaster and continued through his father, Peter Moses, who was an educator, musical composer and writer. Peter Moses de Weever is better known for his folk song “Me caffee in de morning”.
What is a little known fact about the elder de Weever is that he published at least two books, “Companion to Lucas Geography” (1900) and “Principles of Agriculture” (1908).
Enriching the legacy on the distaff side was Guy de Weever’s mother, Paulina, who was a teacher. His uncle, Aloysius, was an educator, musician, and writer, authoring a Geography text book. Two of his cousins, Celeste and Lynette Dolphin, were cultural icons; Celeste introduced “Broadcast to Schools” and edited the “Kaie” journal and Lynette, who was a musician, headed the National History and Arts Council.
Elma and Arthur Seymour, relatives by way of marriage, were influential figures in education, the arts and literature of this country. This was the world of Guy de Weever who born in March 1907 in Onderneeming, Essequibo, Guyana.
That country boy came to town (Georgetown) and made good. He attended the country’s premier educational institution, Queen’s College, and excelled at academic studies especially in the area history. He also did well at athletics where his speciality was the 220-yard sprint.
Guy de Weever was a graduate in the first batch (1931 -1932) of teachers from Teachers Training College; a batch that produced many notables including educators, writers, poets and music composers.
The 1930s was a defining period of his life. In 1932, de Weever published “The Children’s Story of Guyana” which was described by W. Bain Gray, Director of Education at the time, as “the first attempt to provide a history suitable for use in schools.”
And what a book it was and still is. It was reprinted 28 times from 1933 to 1973, an edition almost each year since first publication, making it one of the more successful books in the history of Guyanese literature and the most successful history text.
de Weever was also a headmaster (Anna Regina Anglican School), a short story writer, and journalist contributing articles on Guyanese issues, West Indian economic and political affairs to periodicals like Commonwealth Review, Continental Review, Elder Statesman, Crown Colonist, and National Review.
Guy de Weever was according to Arthur Seymour a “great reader and admirer of the work of H. G. Wells and Arnold J. Toynbee”. His reading list included the works of Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham, O. Henry and Galsworthy.
Apart from his academic persuasion, de Weever was also a jazz pianist. In fact, he met his wife through his love for music. Elma Seymour nee Bryce reported that the family possessed a “pianola” whereon Guy and his good friend Percy Casey used to visit the home to play and that how the friendship between Irmin Evelyn Bryce and Guy de Weever began.
Guy and Irmin were married in 1932 and produced three children who expanded the cultural and literary heritage into which they were born. Jacqueline, the eldest, has authored several books including “Chaucer Name Dictionary” which began as her Ph. D dissertation, “Mythmaking and Metaphor in Black Women’s Fiction” and “Sheba's Daughters: Whitening and Demonizing the Saracen Woman in Medieval French Epic”. Godfrey became an artist and Barbara is an attorney in New Mexico.
What a storybook life but all was not smooth sailing. As early as the late 1930s, his activities were constrained by illness. Then his compilation of a history of Guyana was sidelined in preference to Webber’s “A Centenary History and Handbook of British Guiana”.
Guy Egbert Leon de Weever died in May 1971, leaving behind an enduring legacy in the monumental work, “The Children’s Story of Guyana”, which survived colonialism, witnessed Guyana gaining Independence and Republic status.
* Online correspondence with Jacqueline de Weever, 2007
Responses to this author telephone (592) 226-0065 or email: email@example.com
* Books to be launched: ‘Selected Poems by Egbert Martin edited by David Dabydeen, a Derek Walcott book, and ‘An Anthology of Short Stories from Guyana’ edited by Petamber Persaud, published by Dido Press, UK.