Story and photos by Kenesha Fraser
Dartmouth, a well-populated community on the Essequibo coast situated between Westbury and Perth, is an African village that was bought by freed slaves following emancipation.
In the early years, the village was sparsely populated and the mud roads were deplorable. Now residents speak of the improvements in the village over the years.
“Since I know myself growing up in Dartmouth, it has been good. This is a good village and I could see now that Dartmouth is developing more and more. The streets are being done and more buildings are being constructed. In the spiritual sense, we have about four churches in this village. There is the Seventh Day Adventist church, the Christ church, Anglican church and the Baptist church. There is also a hotel here that attracts people to this village. This is indeed a blessed place,” said Deslyn Boston, a clothes vendor who does business in her community.
“There is a nursery school, secondary school and a health centre. The primary school is right over the bridge in Westbury. There isn’t a major drainage problem here but when the rain falls plenty we get a little flood,” she said.
Even though there is a telephone service here, according to residents, this is not used by everyone. The village is also fortunate to have potable water and electricity. Residents said that the young people who live in Dartmouth are gainfully employed in other villages on the coast or are still of school age. Other persons are small shopkeepers or engaged in rice farming.
Rockcliffe George, a rice farmer for 30 years, said that the village has seen tremendous improvement from the earlier days, although there are some problems now, and as a rice farmer, he is facing hard times.
“The [paddy payment] system that was before was totally better system than now. The millers don’t pay us on time. The government has a system in place for them to pay us within two weeks but they are not doing that. In any case, we as rice farmers are doing our best and trying to cope with the circumstances. Now concerning the state of this village, before they used to clean the road shoulders but now nobody does that.
“Another thing is that this village used to produce the most mangoes on the Essequibo coast and we could have them sold, but now that don’t happen. I have to say this village does not have a playground and for the amount of youths living here, there should have been one. There
is a ground over in Westbury, but it is small and not in good condition. We need a place for the younger ones so that they can occupy themselves in social activities rather than negative things. The community centre is almost taken away from us. It was wired about two times through Mr Damon, but the lights were never installed. We as the villagers are now trying to do something about the issue.”
George added that the land in Dartmouth was passed on from one generation to the next.
In the village, the streets mostly carry the names of persons who lived there with their families in the past.
Along Water Street, Reginald Hoppie, former education officer for Region Seven and a past head teacher, gave his views on the village.
“The livelihood of most persons here is mainly agriculture. Growing up here as a child, we didn’t have any electricity or pipe water. Eventually, we got all these things and more. There is no crime in this village at present and we live well here with each other. Right now, Dartmouth is a comfortable place to live and we have seen so much improvement over the years. People have cars and motorcycles and big houses, so you can see the advancement we have made.”
Along the Dartmouth public road, Cryselene David who sells fresh and salted pork, was already in the Christmas spirit.
“Well my birthday is on Christmas Day, so I’ve already started cleaning for the holidays. My sister will be coming from Trinidad so we will party for our birthday. Concerning this village, it is a very nice place. On Saturday nights, we have a ‘lime’ here. Everybody would come out on the road to walk and sometimes people throw parties too on those nights. Others usually put their things to sell like plantain chip and chicken foot and so on. On Boxing Day, some people give parties on the seawall or in street where I live. This is a nice place and I was born and raised here.”
Further along, another resident added that in the early years she had to walk far to get water to drink. “We used to go till in the backland to get water and the water was black water so we had to drink that.”
The Eighth of May Secondary School located in Dartmouth provides a secondary education for children living in the village as well as others along the Essequibo coast. The private hotel is
called the Chic Paris, and there is also an NDC office.
Residents dispose of their garbage by burning it
.According to the records, this village has approximately 2,700 inhabitants, including over 100 pensioners.