Guyana translates as ‘land of many waters’
This is the most common translation of the Amerindian word.
There are four great rivers: the Berbice, Corentyne, Demerara and Essequibo. As the novelist Edgar Mittelholzer put it of his countrymen: ‘Guianese always smile when Trinidadians talk of their “rivers”. A Guianese conceives of a river as a stream at least half-a-mile wide. Anything less is a mere creek’ (With a Carib Eye, p.76).
Average annual rainfall is nearly double that in the UK. Much of the coastal strip is below sea level.
‘a vast, largely uncharted wilderness …’
Mike Atherton, ‘Green and troubled land’, Intelligent Life, 2.3 (Spring 2009), p.117.
a classic ‘monoculture’ of very limited possibilities
When he visited BG in the early 1960s, Naipaul pointed out how easy it was to forget the country had a border with Brazil: ‘For most Guianese the coast is Guiana: everything beyond is bush’ (Middle Passage, pp.95-96).
An-oft quoted statistic in the report of the 1949 Venn Commission was that each square mile of cane cultivation required 49 miles of drainage and 16 miles of waterways.
still sometimes called ‘nigger yards’ but … mostly occupied by Indian ‘coolies’
Gordon Lewis concludes with characteristic piquancy that the importation of indentured labour from East India ‘had the fatal consequence of producing racially dualistic societies divided into mutually antagonistic groups of ‘coolies’ and ‘niggers’ (the very epithets themselves testifying to the general contempt in which both were held by the elite groups)’ (Growth of Modern West Indies, p.75).
Naipaul again: ‘In Trinidad there is no memory of slavery; in British Guiana it is hard to forget it. The very word “Negro”, because of its associations of slavery, is resented by many black Guianese; the preferred word is “African”, which will cause deep offence in Trinidad’ (Middle Passage, p.99). But he also saw that the sugar-system, kept going by the indenture of Indian migrants, required class contempt as much as racial contempt: ‘For the efficient running of the latifundia the workers must be regarded as a caste apart and must be continually reminded of their condition’ (p.118).
Of course, there were derogatory terms for the whites as well, which frequently appear in Guyanese literature: ‘backra’, ‘white bitches’, ‘de big shot people’, ‘kikuyu’.
Hammond picked up something mysterious…
David Foot provides a persuasive, if ultimately unprovable, case that this was not, as officially stated, poisoning from a mosquito bite but syphilis (Hammond, pp.18-22, 41-45).
Ken Farnes concluded that the colony was ‘the worst place in the world’
Farnes conceded that the colony actually compared well to the ‘back blocks of Birmingham’ but complained that ‘our hotel was not exactly a Ritz’ and allowed himself some expedition humour: ‘we noted above all how little of note there was to note’ (Tours and Tests, pp.89-90). These matters can be relative: on the previous tour of 1929/30 Headley remembered ruefully that he had to share a bed with Constantine in basic accommodation, only to ‘see the MCC lodged in much more luxurious quarters’ (White 1974, p.21).
‘golden beaches’ … ‘oozy, squelching mud’
Wardle, Happy-Go-Johnny, p.60.
Evans found the humidity below sea-level caused him unbearable prickly heat
Behind the Stumps, p.173. See also Sandford’s 1990 biography, p.62.
‘Georgetown is an interesting old place…’
May, A Game Enjoyed, p.177.
the accommodation – which Graveney thought ‘awful’ …
As quoted in Andrew Murtagh’s biography: ‘Georgetown was a rough old place … I went back there 14 years later and the hotel was exactly the same – awful’ (Touched by Greatness).
‘young men happy in Georgetown’
Hutton, Fifty Years, p.107.
Clive Lloyd recalled that ‘in Georgetown in the 1950s a man’s options were limited. You could go to a dance or to the cinema, but there was not a lot to do’ (Lister, Supercat, p.32).
‘almost the entire audience leaped to its feet…’
Hutton, Fifty Years, p.107.
Although the captain had been warned BG was a ‘hotbed’
Fifty Years, p.107.
‘The Brown Bomber’ provided a focal point for opponents of white supremacy
Gladstone Mills remembered Louis being a Jamaican hero ‘long before Muhammad Ali’ (Grist to the Mills, p.37). Naipaul thought celbrations of his victories in the ring were a rare example, in the complex world of the Caribbean, of ‘racial pride pure and simple’ (Middle Passage, p.17). Several academics have since argued the same: Glynne Griffith (in Kelley/Tuck, 2015) asserts Louis was ‘a proxy for the long-suffering black race’.
‘the bulk of a cinema audience remaining seated…’
Bannister, Cauldron, p.83.
‘most of the coloured population’ … long ‘refused’ to stand for the anthem
Constantine, Colour Bar, p.151.
Frank Birbalsingh, who grew up just outside Georgetown in the 1950s, thinks we should take these assertions with a ‘pinch of salt’ and that many Guyanese would have still stood for the anthem at that time (interview with the author, 20 June 2018).
It is in any case interesting to note how reactions to the national anthem were an emotive topic in the Caribbean in the years leading up to independence. Morley Ayearst, writing in 1960, claimed that the Queen’s visit to Jamaica in 1953 changed some attitudes:
It was observed that after the royal visit to Jamaica, the poor people occupying the ‘pit’ in the moving picture theatres who had formerly walked out during the playing of ‘God Save the Queen’, now stood and cheered. Evidently Queen Elizabeth was now ‘their Queen’ in a personal sense after they had themselves seen her.
And the anthem was occasionally a matter of debate in Britain: in 1953 the News Chronicle’s report on the annual conference of the Union of Foundary Workers in Scarborough noted demands from the floor to sing ‘The Red Flag’ instead.
Hutton also noticed the crowd for the tour match was louder…
Hutton, Just My Story, p.55.
Flares were visible in the distance from military exercises…
On the second day of the tour match, Bannister noted ‘a smart gallop by a mounted policeman along the leg boundary and the letting off of Very lights during a military exercise in the far distance’ (Trinidad Guardian, 17 February 1954, p.1).
Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham returned home after a world tour
This had been perhaps ill-advised in that meetings to drum up support for their cause with politicians behind the Iron Curtain played into the hands of those who portrayed the PPP as Communists. But perhaps Jagan and Burnham also feared they would be placed under house arrest, as other PPP leaders had been (and as Jagan shortly would be).
Jagan later admitted to political immaturity and tactical mistakes…
Quoted by Rabe, p.43: ‘We allowed our zeal to run away with us, we became swollen-headed, pompous, bombastic.’
Raymond Smith (1962, pp.173-74) believed that the PPP did not expect to win the 1953 election and would have preferred to act as an influential opposition exposing ‘the sham of the paternalistic constitution’ rather than forming an administration where they would feel obliged to fulfil their promises: ‘Whether it be to their credit or their shame they tended to mean what they said in their election manifesto.’
‘something new in British Guiana politics’
As revealed in the release of classified files by the National Archive in 2011.
This Guardian article includes the quotation and also discusses the role of Jagan’s American wife Janet. For reasons of space, in the book I have not discussed her important role in the PPP – but she was an indomitable character, and a particular hate-figure for anti-Communists (with some anti-semitism often added).
to grow rice for themselves not sugar for the British
In his short story ‘King Rice’, Rayhat Deonandan makes cricket the arena for this conflict, in a grand final between Eyeflood and Windsor Forest, ‘the imperialist-sponsored sugar team against our intrepid heroes from the autonomous mudlands’. Although Eyeflood win the game, a Windsor Forest fan shouts ‘King Rice!’ as he scatters some in the crowd: ‘Then, in a more guttural tone, he gestured to the bewildered Eyeflood team and cursed: “Slave sugar”’ (Bowling was Superfine, p.140).
According to Raymond Smith (1962, p.49) there were 230 plantations in BG in the early nineteenth century, almost all under separate ownership; by 1958, there were 18 controlled by two companies and only one independent plantation left. Smith’s book contains a magisterial analysis of Bookers’ role in BG society (pp.82-87).
a new confidence and panache in the Indian-Guyanese community
It is interesting to see Edward Kamau Brathwaite, take a different view of the emergence of figures such as Jagan and Kanhai, seeing it as evidence that successful ‘East Indians’ could be absorbed into ‘coloured’ society (Roots, p.40).
the progressive chairman of Booker, Jock Campbell
Seecharan’s Sweetening Bitter Sugar is exhaustive on Campbell’s involvement in BG. Campbell was remarkably liberal for the Chairman of a multinational company, but even he baulked at the PPP’s militancy in 1953.
There was not a hint of trouble.
This Pathé footage carries no commentary but includes some fascinating glimpses of the match, and the atmosphere in Georgetown more generally.
under the slogan ‘No Constitution No Cricket’
See Jake Crocker, Daily Chronicle, 13 March 1954.
Moss may have complained of being kept awake by tropical storms…
Interview with the author, 31 March 2015.
‘apart from the airport when you are about to depart’
Bailey, Wickets, Catches and the Odd Run, p.190.
‘particular significance’ … ‘In Test Matches, whenever England’s position…’
Peter May’s Cricket Book, p.48.
Swanton … still bemoaned the lack of ‘drill’ in the field …
a new energy in the party and frequent ‘pep talks’
Bannister, Cauldron, p.92.
‘we knew all about the things that were being said of us’
Watson, Double International, p.60.
When David Gower’s side went 2-0 down in the Caribbean in 1986, Bailey looked back to the way Hutton’s side regrouped in 1953/54: the ‘most important’ factor of all was ‘a togetherness combined with a resolution to show everybody, especially our critics, what we could do’ (Financial Times, 22 March 1986, p. xviii).
Hutton had to deny rumours that an ‘SOS’ had been sent out for Bedser…
Bedser’s winter coaching of the Ladies team made the front page of the Argosy (before MCC arrived in BG) on 11 January.
‘We have a very good side and we have to sink or swim…’
Daily Argosy, 16 February 1954, p.1. Also reported in Gleaner, 17 February, p.10
‘a far more united side, maybe drawn together…’
Hutton, Fifty Years, p.105.
Statham took note of the local ‘wide boys’ offering short odds…
Cricket Merry-Go-Round, p.94.
Roberts in The Gleaner assumed the third Test would follow the ‘pattern’ of the first two, and that England’s best hope was a draw (20 February 1954, p.8).
Trueman … ‘moved the ball considerably in the air’
Ditton, Gleaner, 17 February 1954, p.10.
Statham … remembered Bourda was one of the few places…
Bailey (1959, p.34) described Statham as ‘essentially a seam not a swing bowler’ and Trueman (1997, 120) that he ‘never swung it on purpose’.
But Statham did tell Frank Tyson that he found he could move the ball ‘through the air’ in BG to the extent that he found it ‘difficult to control’ (Typhoon, p.133).
‘tremendous shrewdness’ … ‘a bucketful of runs’
Graveney, Cricket Through the Covers, p.117.
Suttle … under consideration to replace Palmer …
Hayter (Times, 17 February 1954, p.12) felt that Palmer’s omission from the tour match ‘may suggest’ Suttle for the Test.
provided what Ditton called a ‘tonic’ before the Test
Gleaner, 21 February 1954, p.1
‘one or two umpiring decisions which gave the batsmen perhaps…’
Ditton, Gleaner, 20 February 1954, p.1
‘a lot of private indignation was aroused by the refusal…’
Bannister, Cauldron, p.85
‘some of the most peculiar umpiring ever seen’
Trevor Bailey’s Cricket Book (1959), p.49.
‘were not quite of Test standard’
Hutton, Just My Story, p.55.
‘the worst umpiring I have seen in first-class cricket’
Hutton, Captain’s Report, reproduced in The Cricketer, January 1996, p.28.
‘was only too clear’ … ‘said something which he should not’
Bannister, Cauldron, p.86.
variously reported to be either Wardle or Suttle
Bannister (Cauldron, p.86) names the fielder as Suttle.
He refers to it in four of his autobiographies
Fast Fury (1959), p.39; Freddie Trueman Story (19), p.38-39; Ball of Fire (1976), p.51; As It Was (2004), p.161-62. See also his interview in Len Hutton Remembered, p.165.
‘It wasn’t Freddie, it was Johnny Wardle…’
Chris Waters, Fred Trueman, p.109.
‘which was bound, or so I thought, to have hit the middle stump’
Wardle, Happy Go Johnny, p.131.
‘I wasn’t bothered; I just wanted to know’
Happy Go Johnny, p.131.
‘Na then you little Welsh bastard’
As quoted in Mark Peel’s article on swearing in the Yorkshire dressing room (Cricket Statistician, 176 [Winter 2016], p.33).
Trueman, not a shrinking violet himself in this regard, remembered that Sellers ‘would curse and swear like a trooper’ (Freddie Trueman Talks Cricket, p.93).
‘And there’s nowt o’ colour prejudice in it – …’
Arlott, Fred, p.80-81.
‘They used to chant, used to try and hurt me…’
In 1997 Trueman was still referring to the ‘coloured’ Charlie Williams – ‘a thoroughly nice chap and a damn good comedian, too’ (Freddie Trueman Talks Cricket, p.30).
Michael Rines worked as a dressing-room attendant at Scarborough and ‘did not like’ Wardle, although Wardle does not appear to be the Yorkshire cricketer whom Rines overheard use the term ‘Sambo’ to address the West Indian Hughie Croskill, who was playing as a pro for Scarborough CC while qualifying for the bar (Len Hutton Remembered, p.148).
There was a rapprochement between the two men on the next tour…
Controversy followed Kippins throughout his career. In 1964/65, he was pressurised into withdrawing from the Test against Australia after local discontent about the Barbadian Cortes Jordan (who had no-balled Charlie Griffith) being brought in to stand alongside him instead of a local umpire. In 1967/68, he had bottles thrown at him after allegedly stopping play two minutes early with England’s last pair at the crease (Lance Gibbs also felt he had a cast-iron shout against Jeff Jones turned down). In 1970/71, according to Ajit Wadekar, Kippins rejected appeals for a blatant catch behind when Gary Sobers had made 1 in the Third Test against India. Sobers went on to score 125 not out.
‘another of the Yorkshiremen on the field’ … ‘made Len listen…’
Trueman, As It Was, p.160.
‘broke down all communication as far as I was concerned’
Waters, Fred Trueman, p.109.
‘Why aren’t you giving these batsmen out lbw?’
Waters, Fred Trueman, p.109.
‘hard to contain himself’
Bannister, Cauldron, p.85.
Hayter noted drily that Trueman’s first over was ‘full of excitement’ (Times, 20 February, p.4).
whether or not he knew that umpire and batsman hailed from the same club
Gibbs and Kippins were both Malteenoes men.
‘if not at the umpire, certainly in his general direction’
Robin Wishart, interview with the author, 15 February 2019.
In Australia in 1946/47, he had seen Hammond hesitate…
For a summary of that tour which touches upon this subject, see Peel, Ambassadors, pp.17-36.
Any cricketer who has played in a match where he believes the umpires…
My only experience of this, strangely enough, was when I guested for Crathie CC in a match against the Queen’s Household at Windsor Castle. The home umpiring was so biased the game became farcical.
‘I could have cried for Sonny …’
Graveney went so far as to suggest that the riot at the Trinidad Test in 1960 could be ascribed to ‘long memories’ of biased umpiring at Edgbaston three years earlier (Cricket over Forty, p.57).
perhaps because he had developed a jaundiced opinion of Guyanese officials
Ganteaume, who played inside-right on the same Trinaidad team in which Stollmeyer played right-wing, reported some ‘bad football refereeing decisions’ on tour in BG (My Story, p.155).
Headley, who was booed by the Bourda crowd when he captained Jamaica there in 1947, ‘thought the umpires were biased’ and complained that ‘the balls were being switched’ (White, p.121).
Hutton also reports Stollmeyer watched the colony game.
According to Bailey…
Wickets, Catches and the Odd Run, p.190.
‘surely he cannot dictate to them as to where these umpires…’
Nethersole, quoted in Gleaner, 22 February 1954.
MCC always ‘made the same fuss’ over the umpires…
Jack Anderson, in Gleaner, 24 February 1954, p.10
‘It was a matter of wide discussion that Hutton’s approach…’
Walcott, Island Cricketers, p.89.
no ‘sign of weakness and appeasement’ to the PPP
Jones, quoted in Seecharan, Sweetening Bitter Sugar, p.153.
‘no intention of making the constitution work’
The quotation appears in the draft of Savage’s speech included as item 37 in this useful collection of declassified documents.
the umpire as a ‘symbol of constitutional government’
In a 1932 article by R.L. Hodgson, cited by Huggins and Williams, p.6.
One of the candidates to head the Commission of Inquiry into the suspension of the BG constitution was Sir Norman Birkett, Liberal politician and alternate British judge at the Nuremberg trials. Birkett had prefaced a 1947 revision of the Laws of Cricket by asserting that ‘the MCC exists to foster the true spirit of the game wherever it is played’, while also emphasising that its role was only to ‘help and support’.
‘taking a risk in having someone they had never seen’
Palmer, as reported in Gleaner, 22 February 1954, p.1.
the ‘unfortunate incidents’ of the previous season’s Test
Bailey, Wickets, Catches and the Odd Run, p.187.
Robin Wishart thinks Gillette…
Interview with the author, 15 February 2019.
Gillette … described as a ‘dignitary’ at a function for the Pakistani tourists in 1958
When the Berbician leg-spinner Ivan Madray recounted the story of a function for the Pakistani tourists in 1958, notorious for Rohan Kanhai losing his temper about local players being charged for drinks, he recalled ‘all the dignitaries were there, including Wing Gillette’ (Birbalsingh/Seecheran, Indo-Westindian Cricket, p.126).
‘It was at least twenty minutes before I realised…’
Bailey, Wickets, Catches and the Odd Run, p.187.
Sonny Basdeo, who batted at No.11 and bowled five overs
Basdeo did pick up an injury during the game, but there was definitely a feeling that Indian players tended to be overlooked for the national side. The two more rural counties of BG, Berbice and Essequibo, felt discriminated against by the urban clubs of the dominant county, Demerara. When Ivan Madray referred to ‘Georgetown bigots’ he was thinking of GCC but also the capital’s East India Cricket Club. The Berbice side was predominantly but not exclusively Indian. It had once included John Trim, the great fast bowler controversially overlooked for the 1950 tour, considered by players of the next generation like Madray as ‘black, but one of our own’. The team which won the first inter-county competition inaugurated later in 1954 (for a Cup named after President Jones) included Basil Butcher, who would be the first cricketer of indigenous Amerindian descent to represent West Indies.
‘the attitude of African Guyanese to this outpouring of support…’
Devonish, in Liberation Cricket, p.181.
The novelist Edgar Mittelholzer was a relatively conservative brown, but he was born in New Amsterdam in Berbice and his Caribbean travelogue published in 1958 gives some sense of the condescension shown by Demerarans: ‘“All the mad people are in Berbice” has become a favourite taunt of superior Georgetonians when referring to the eastern county’ – the only lunatic asylum in the colony was near his hometown (With a Carib Eye, p.142). But Mittelholzer also suggests that some of the Demerara-Berbice antipathy was grounded in caricatures of Indians (p.145):
Apart from the three large sugar-estates on the Corentyne Coast [where Jagan and Kanhai were born], most of the terrain is devoted to the cultivation of rice. When you think of the Corentyne Coast you think of three things – rice, East Indians and sensational murders. The Corentyne Coast is the stronghold of the East Indian element and during the first two or three decades of the present century the Coast became notorious for its shooting affrays and cutlass-hacking incidents. ‘Coolie and cutlass go together’ is a well-known local saying.
‘probably incline more towards the Indian than the Negro’
Simms, British Guiana, p.61.
…less of an animus against the Chinese community in Georgetown…
See Smith, British Guiana, p.104.
It has been suggested that Governor Foot’s anti-Communism helped fuel an animus against the Chinese in Kingston. See Lowenthal 1967, p.562.
‘entered sensitive local territory’
Hutton, Fifty Years, p.106.