Buxton-Friendship

Guyana’s Premier Village

 

Theme for 2013: Milestones to Freedom: Resistance, Resolve, Emancipation & Entrepreneurship

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Buxton Heritage Group

Brooklyn, New York, USA

E-mail: lorna@buxtonguyana.net

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The Buxton  Emancipation Monument erected in 1938 to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Emancipation of Slaves.

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Contact

Lorna Campbell

New York

E-mail: lorna@buxtonguyana.net

 

 

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Agents of Social Change

 

 Foreword

Social Development aims at improving the social life of a community through organized activities which provide learning and recreation.

“Man is largely what society makes him…all adult behavior is learned from the society”.

“Society is a system of relationships which does not exist apart from the persons composing it”. It is therefore evident that a person is closely related to his social environment and as such it is important to provide opportunities for personal enrichment and recreation.

The community of Buxton-Friendship was no different in its desire to provide such opportunities and used largely interactive methods such as clubs and social meeting groups to provide growth in the areas of education, religion/spirituality, morals, health and culture. It also provided the opportunity for fostering understanding and tolerance for the varying personalities and opinions which make up a community.

In the following paragraphs the researcher takes us on a historical journey of the social development of our beloved community and examines the threads which knit us together as a ‘village faam’ly’.  

 

The Church

Social development had its roots in the churches. These cultural influences took the form of seasonal concerts, Old English plays, church choirs and dramatic societies. It must be noted that because our ancestors lost most of their African culture to slavery (or had it stifled), it was necessary for them to have a replacement and, obviously, it was what was readily available. Thus, the early villagers (ex-slaves) had their standards of culture and society set by the Vicar and his family, the Government Medical Officer (GMO) the Magistrate and the Immigration Agent. These were people of higher learning and social status and, as such, the parishioners copied their speech, dress and manners.

In 1844, the wife of the Minister of Arundel Congregational Church, Mrs. F. Henderson, started the first Bible Class in the village. Other than religious teaching, the women were taught to sew, to care the sick and how to prepare special meals for them. Later, the Christian Endeavour Society was formed; here, men were taught Public Speaking, irrespective of their educational or social status. This afforded many men  opportunities to progress in life. This church also established a Girl’s Guildry (or Girl’s Guides) under the leadership of Mrs. Matthews, wife of the Minister at that time, the Rev. Pat Matthews. It was a uniformed organization which was affiliated to the headquarters in Jamaica and Scotland and received periodic visits from representatives. The girls were taught handicraft, first-aid, country dancing and drama among other activities. The name was eventually changed to the Girl’s Club and was no longer uniformed.

Then came the Rev. W.H. Pollard during whose tenure there was a great cultural upsurge. Using the Young People’s Fellowship as an agency, he was able to raise the level of drama in the village. And being an ardent student of science, he also held lectures on ‘Creation of Man’, challenging Darwin’s views on man’s evolution.

The Methodist (Wesleyan) Church had a Wesley Guild for young people, and it’s activities included singing, games and concerts. The Women’s Own, which was later changed to Women’s League, was formed in 1926 by Mrs. Giddings, wife of Rev. Giddings. Members were involved in Bible-reading, community singing and Busy–Bee. They held Prayer Meetings when there were visits from Ministers of the church. In order to raise funds to assist in the rebuilding of the church, the group staged secular and sacred concerts and organized fairs, supper-parties and excursions.

St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church had a Youth Club which was led by one Mr. Bridgemohan. Its members met every Friday, and had planned activities such as religious instructions, games, socials and exchange visits with other Catholic Youth Clubs.

St. Augustine’s Anglican Church had two groups: The Girl’s Friendly Society (GFS) and St. Augustine’s Mothers’ Union. GFS, which met every Friday afternoon, was for young girls of the church and was a branch of training that led on to the Mothers’ Union. It was started in 1956 and sponsored by the Convent of the Good Shepherd. Its aim was to keep the girls together in a Christian environment and to teach them to be useful members of the community. There was a varied programme of religious instruction, knitting, embroidery, etc., and an annual exhibition. A training course was also held every year at the convent for two delegates. Every third Sunday was identified for corporate worship when a Sister from the Convent would come to address the girls. 

The Mothers’ Union was started in 1954 by Sister Uranie of the abovementioned Convent and, as its name suggests, the organization was designed for mothers and married women. The main activities were Bible reading with related questions and answers. There were also prayer sessions, a small cookery class and a monthly visit from Sister Uranie.

The Seventh-Day Adventist Church was established in 1919 at Flora’s Hall on Company Road. The cornerstone was laid for a new church building in 1953. The congregation moved to the present site at Buxton Middle Walk in 1954 when the building was completed and opened for worship. This church ran a Dorcas Society, which is a group that focuses on Bible study and humanitarian work.

The Church of God also had its early beginning in Flora’s Hall. However, in 1933, a piece of land was bought at its present site and the church building was constructed. Among the many social activities organized by this church were:

à An open Savings Bank for the community, which was successfully maintained for many years.

à An annual one-week vacation Bible school, in August, for children of the village, with an exhibition for parents on the last night.

à An annual ‘Christmas Basket’ for the less fortunate in the village.

à Regular Bible Classes

à A Youth Fellowship

à A Boy’s Brigade

à An After-Care Club for young men who had graduated from the Boys’ School at Onderneeming, Essequibo. This group was chaired by the late and popular Rev. Oscar A. Lupe (‘Parson Lupe’).

 

The Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, also known as the Machetzki Memorial Church, began work in Buxton in 1940 through Catechist Reginald Singh. At first, membership was poor because the church was sited in the heart of the East Indian population of Hindus and ‘Mohamedans’ (Muslims) at Buxton Front. However, through untiring efforts, a Sunday School was formed in 1942. The Minister appointed to the church, Pastor Machetzki, died and his wife, who had been collecting donations in the USA for a new church building, also died soon after. Thus, the church was named in their memory. Funds continued to be raised by the members and well wishers and, in June 1949, the building was completed and dedicated. This church ran a Luther League for its young members.

   

The School

The schools also played an important role in the social development of the village. Other than educational needs, they also catered for those not academically inclined and for those who wanted to learn additional skills, such as domestic training in cooking, sewing and gardening. There were also school concerts, school sports and ‘Open Days’ when the village was invited in to see what the schools were producing.

Arundel Congregational School was the first to start teaching Domestic Science on a small scale. Groups of girls learned to make cakes and pastries, and to prepare meals. This was done at the homes of two teachers, Misses John and Weatherspoon. These items were sold and the profits, along with a grant from the government, enabled them to set up a Domestic Science Centre in the school. Continued sales on a larger scale soon enabled them to purchase a refrigerator.

St. Anthony’s RC School, which began a Co-operative Thrift Society about 1953--1954, also had a Literary Club for the pupils of the upper division. The pupils were allowed to elect office-bearers and to draw up their own programme under the supervision of the Headteacher.

At St. Augustine’s Anglican/Friendship Government School, the boys who did gardening had a Gardening Club, and the girls of the Domestic Science class had a Domestic Club. Both clubs sold the items they produced and used the funds to purchase tools and other necessities. There was also a Girl’s Club formerly called the ‘Pure Thought Circle’. This club was founded by the late Ms. May Accra around 1939. Meetings were held once weekly, and its activities included poetry afternoons, impromptu speeches, discussions, singing, drama, debates and indoor games.

 

Others

Outside of the church and the school, there were other clubs and societies in the village which also held positions of prominence.

The Dramatic Club was started around 1952, and changed its name to the Buxton Drama Circle in 1959. The club had about 40 members and was headed by Brother Eusi Kwayana, who was known then as Mr. Sydney King. It was also presided over by Mr. Thaddeus Simon. Its members included a wide cross-section of persons, that is, persons from all phases of village life. The group staged many plays including ‘Goose and Gander’, ‘Scrooge’, ‘Julius Caesar’ (from Shakespeare), and’ The Proposal’ (a Russian play by Chekov). They also performed plays written by members, such as ‘Coconut Heiress ‘and ‘Tell it on the Housetops’.  The club won the East Coast Award when it emerged winner in the East Coast Drama Competition, staging the play ‘The Old Bull’.  In August 1959 the club went on a five-day camp to Madewini on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway. The group also went on tours to West Coast Berbice, the Corentyne, the upper and lower East Coast Demerara.  The club held training courses in drama. Two of its members participated in courses held in Georgetown. Members also benefited from lectures by senior members of the Georgetown Dramatic Club. The group was quite a progressive one and its productions were much anticipated, thus earning it a place of prominence in the social fabric of the village.

The Buxton Boy Scout Movement was started in 1959 by the late Messrs. Steir Talbot, Harry Alleyne and Theodore Jarvis. It was preceded, in 1935, by two church groups: Anglican Troop 27, captained by Mr. Oscar Paul, and Methodist Troop 29, captained by Mr. Thurnley Caesar. These two troops operated until 1942. Between 1942 and 1945, Mr. G.S.T. Hodge (George Hodge) and Mr. Paul operated an Open Troop, that is, membership was void of religious affiliation.

In 1945, there was also a Boys’ Brigade attached to Church of God. The Anglican Troop was resuscitated in 1950. under the name Troop 26 St. Augustine’s Own, and captained by Mr. Lyndon Barton. After flourishing for some five years, it again lapsed but was later revived by Mr. Glasgow. The Cubs section Mistress was Ms. May Simon. 

The Methodist group was revived by Mr. C. Browne and Mr. Hinds, and was recognized as Second Buxton. Its Cub Mistress was Ms. Urella Moffatt. 

The groups had Scout bands and often held joint activities such as Camping and Route Marches.   

The Buxton Girl Guide Movement was started in September, 1937 by Mrs. Kathleen Pitt, wife of the late Rev. Pitt of the Methodist Church. It was called First Buxton and continued until 1940 when Mrs. Pitt left the country.

Ms. Maud Zephyr had also started a company in November, 1937, which was attached to Church of God. This group was known as Second Buxton. (Note:  These were shortened names and should be differentiated from the Boy Scouts). After Mrs. Pitt’s departure, her company merged with Ms. Zephyr’s and became the Open Company. That company ceased when Ms. Zephyr became ill and left the district for some time. 

Another company was started in 1951 by the vicar of St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Father Rupert Taylor. It was recognized as First St. Augustine’s Own and led by Captain Elaine Greene. It catered for girls between 11 and 16 years of age and their main activities were Tenderfoot and Second Class work, church work, camping, hiking, rallies and athletic sports. The church’s Junior Guides or Brownies ranged between the ages of 7 and 10. The captain was Ms. Lucia Bacchus.

 

The 4-H Club

A branch of the 4H Club was established in the village in 1955 by Ms. Elsa King, the first person to organize the 4H Section of the Agricultural Department. It was called the 4H and Young Farmer’s Club and catered for children between the ages of 10 and 18, and young farmers from 18 to 30 years old. After the third meeting, there were so many children that it was decided to form three groups: Buxton United 4H and Buxton Red Rose 4H which met every Thursdays at the Village Hall and at Mrs. Dougall’s home, respectively, and Buxton Sunshine 4H, which met on Tuesdays at Buxton Congregational School. There were about forty members in each group. A business meeting and three project meetings were held every month. Each club was visited at least once per month by instructors from Georgetown, and annual elections for office-bearers were also held. Activities included farming, poultry and pig rearing, goat dairy and milch cow dairy, home economics and more. The 4Hs represent Head, Hands, Heart and Health and its motto was: “Learn to do by Doing”.

The Buxton-Friendship Women’s Institute was started sometime around 1953-1954 by Ms. Elsa Simon, a Social Welfare Officer. It was an open society and met every Tuesday afternoon. Its activities catered for the education of women in the community in courses such as: cookery, handicraft, cake decorating and home improvement. It also made donations to less-fortunate children.

Towards the end of 1957 a society called The Coconut Association was formed by Messrs J.N. Hurley (President), G.H.A Bunyan (Vice-President), J.W. Roopchand (Secretary), Ms. Maisie Ogle (Assistant Secretary) and many other members. Its aims and objectives were to prevent the deterioration and permanent destruction of the coconut industry. A public meeting was summoned which was fully represented by Ministers of Religion, the District Commissioner of East Demerara, The Superintendent of Police East Demerara, and the general public. A few days later a joint session was held between the Buxton Local Authority and representatives of the coconut industry. Some of the decisions arising were:

  • Payment of a fixed weekly wage by the Local Authority for the services of a Crop Protection Ranger (who was also a Rural Constable).
  • Securing technical assistance of the Agricultural Department.
  • Cultivation of a better/larger crop.

                                                                              

There may have been others, but these were the notable early agents of social development in the community of Buxton-Friendship. It must be noted that these clubs, societies, associations, groups, whatever you wish to call them, engaged in a vast spectrum of activities, from religious to secular, educational to recreational, and were accessible to every villager, regardless of social or religious standing. Most, if not all, Buxtonians were at some time involved in some social group, even if it was just Sunday School. It showed the importance with which our parents regarded community, socializing and developing of skills, and we are certainly grateful for this since it has contributed to making us “rounded” individuals.   

 

….by Nandi Tyrell-Kellman

 

Dedicated to the loving memory of her mother, Mrs. Sheila King-Tyrrell (31st December, 1926—13th March, 2008). Mrs. Tyrrell taught at St. Anthony’s RC Primary and later at Buxton Community High School.

The information for this article was extracted from a research  she did in 1962. None of that data was altered, but some text and format were altered to allow for current reading.

 

Footnotes:

The foreword, except for the two quotes, and the epilogue are the expressions of the person author.                 

 

                                                                                                                                                  

      

Social Change

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