Hilbert Spence and Wordsworth Mc Andrew deserve national honours

Since Guyana attained republican status 37 years ago, the government usually announces a list annually of persons who are honoured for their outstanding contribution to the country – be it in sports, music, culture, education, and other fields of endeavour.

Photographers, cricketers, politicians, have been honoured, and lawyers – a few of them not worthy of elevation – have been appointed Senior Counsel.

Two persons to my mind who have contributed significantly to the country have been overlooked. I refer to Hilbert Cedric Spence who gave more than 50 years of his life to his country. He served as President of the Berbice Chamber of Commerce and vigilantly championed Berbice business causes which up to at that time had no coherent voice. During his tenure in office he consistently pointed out that Berbice must not be second to Demerara, but must be accorded the same fair treatment.

He and a few turfites worked tirelessly to set up a race track at a mosquito infested area on the esplanade in New Amsterdam in the sixties. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the United States, and on his return he was appointed to the New Amsterdam Town Council where he served for a few years.

Although he was born in Mahaica on the East Coast and spent his early days in Georgetown, he championed the cause of Berbicians and was a charter member of the Berbice Lions Club – the second Lions Club in Guyana. He was also instrumental in dredging the Berbice River to allow ships transporting bauxite to traverse freely to and from Everton.

He entered the political arena in 1964 as a member of the United Force. He was named Minister of Trade and he was the signatory to the Carifta agreement, a trade agreement between Guyana, Barbados and Antigua. He signed on behalf of Guyana whilst Prime Minister Vere Bird, and Errol Barrow signed on behalf of Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados..

Wordworth Mc Andrew, top folklorist, poet and creative artist, spent more than three decades promoting folklore in Guyana. He produced tons of folklore music, poems and documentaries which were aired on the local radio stations. He also strongly advocated that folklore be taught in the schools and had many cultural presentations including Guyana folk life, creolese poems, and a book entitled rumshop lime.

Mac and I were the producers of GBS Nationwide in the late sixties and early seventies in which we travelled the length and breadth of Guyana interviewing the old as to the way of life in the various villages and taping queh queh, maticore music and other cultural festivities.

The 71 year old former Queen’s College student has been described as a national treasure by the Guyana Folk Festival headed by Dr. Vibert Cambridge, Professor at the Ohio University.

Wordsworth is so well recognized in the cultural and folklore world that the Guyana Folk Festival Committee established the Wordworth Mc Andrew Awards five years ago to celebrate creative Guyanese talent. So far more than 75 persons were given the award in various fields.

It is rather ironic for Awards to be named in honour of someone who has not been given an award in his country.

Mc Andrew is now ill and is residing in New Jersey while 86 year old Spence, who is also not enjoying the best of health, still lives in Durban Street, Lodge.

I strongly urge the acting Chancellor of the Judiciary Chairman of the National Honours Committee and his members to include these two in the next list of Awardees.

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