Former shift foreman remembers the start of local alcohol production

Harripersaud Goolam believes his journey up the professional ladder at the Diamond distillery from washing vats to shift foreman reflects the progress of manufacturing alcohol in Guyana.

A pint-sized 17-year-old when he started working at the Sugar Estate at Diamond on the East Bank Demerara, Harripersaud meandered his way up from washing the vats on completion of a session of fermentation, to a mixer; finally becoming foreman of a shift in the Fermentation Plant.

“In those days,” he told Stabroek News, “One bell meant that water was to be pumped into the vat, and two bells meant that water was to be stopped.” A third bell meant that the ‘raw wash’ was to be pumped into the vats, he explained. He worked regular shifts at the distillery, which was controlled by the sugar laboratory and recalled the days of Chemist Spelling, a little of the late Allan Harley, the spell of the Singhs, including KP Singh whose appointment was hailed as a successful family tradition.

The man said in the early days of his working life he found it pleasurable to walk from home to work, which was just across the road to the factory compound. He said the operation of mixing the wash which was subsequently distilled to alcohol was done in the factory. In those days, the washing of the vats, and the supply of new sets of wash in the Fermentation Loft was controlled in the Diamond Sugar Factory. The Demerara Sugar Company owned the operations at Diamond and at Leonora at that time.

The man said the development of the alcohol product reached new heights when the talents of Czechoslovakia-born John Radzik Sochaki were added to the pool at Diamond. A Chemist, Sochaki had recommended that the wooden vats be replaced by steel drums which still obtains now. The mixing of the wash became more scientific and soon a new Complex emerged. Then the operations at Leonora were also relocated to Diamond.

Harripersaud said progress was also evident at the Colour Plant, the emergence of the Research Laboratory, its subsequent closure, and the re-naming of this outfit after Sochaki. According to the man, a great transformation took place after a number of experiments undertaken by Sochaki; before long carbon dioxide was being produced. It was a great eye opener and a testament to development when he visited the Diamond distillery and observed that the entire operation is now manned by one person from a computer room.

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