Story by Dacia Whaul
Photos by Arian Browne
Sandwiched between Success on the west and La Bonne Intention on the east, is the close knit community of Chateau Margot on the East Coast of Demerara, comprising about 600 people, according to the estimate of one resident.
This village is the home of the Chateau Margot Chimney, which once was part of a nineteenth century sugar factory that was broken down or perhaps disintegrated. All that remains now is the tall brick chimney which reaches into the sky and is something of a landmark on the lower East Coast.
Chateau Margot was once a sugar estate, but the village, according to one resident, had its origins in the 1960s. The humble cottages from those early days, lit at night by kerosene lanterns are no longer to be seen, and well-appointed modern houses with colourful fences line the streets.
“What can I tell you” said Sunita Mankaran, “this is a very quiet place.” She said the peace is because many families are self-employed and do not have the luxury of socializing much. “Well people come out whenever there is a wedding though,” she added.
“Most people are family or friends” said an elderly woman, who described the Chateau Margot she grew up in. The relationships tightened by virtue of marriage, she explained. “It was a quiet place” she said smiling, “We use to go and catch fish every afternoon… Sometime you feed
fowl or help out your parents with the little kitchen garden,” she recalled; it was all about humble living. “You had to water the plants,” she said, making a gesture suggesting she had not enjoyed that chore, and adding “We had to gather firewood to cook on the fireside.”
“In the ’70s this place was all pastures,” said another resident.
Peter Hariram, who recently graduated from Annandale Secondary School, told Sunday Stabroek, that he likes living in Chateau Margot, except for the fact that “there is no ground for cricket.” However, he said, those dedicated to the sport, go to Success to play a game or two, as the ground there is available to them. He expressed disappointment that the ground around the chimney is now locked. He said youths would fly kites in the compound during the Easter holiday, or simply play cricket in the yard. Now the chimney compound is home to cattle.
“I moved here in 1981, after I got married” said Ruplall Dudnauth: “It was small, but is now becoming… metropolitan,” observing that though the first settlers were East Indian, “All races reside here now.”
Not only do all races live in Chateau Margot, but there are a variety of business operations in the village; some residents own or operate lumber yards, mechanic shops, furniture factories, grocery shops and shopping marts.
Dudnauth told this newspaper, that he had left the village in the ’90s to pursue a degree in cultural studies at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom. “I came back and retired here,” he said; “this is a nice place to retire.” Nowadays Dudnauth enjoys gardening and playing his version of golf in his spacious back yard.
The villagers enjoy all the modern conveniences – electricity, potable water, a telephone service and good roads. Many families own a vehicle. There are the Chateau Margot nursery and primary schools, while secondary age students may attend schools like Annandale Secondary or one in the city. For health care villagers have the option of having minor ailments treated at the Beterverwagting Health Centre, while for everything else there is the Georgetown Public Hospital or the private hospitals in the city.
For those who do not have a kitchen garden and want fresh produce, they can make a trip to the Mon Repos Market, only a few minutes away.
One villager told this newspaper that the village is not plagued by criminality. “Once and far people from outside here come and steal,” a resident said. In case there is a fire, however, they have to call a fire station in Georgetown. Though there is no police station, there is a community policing group. The village also has a gas station.
Residents said the drainage was efficient, until what they described as ‘unscrupulous persons’ dug the main trench on the main road and the waste slid back in, clogging it, and blocking the outflow from Chimney Road in the village in the process. Now they experience flooding if it rains for extended periods.
Like many other communities on the lower East Coast, Chateau Margot exists in the penumbra of Georgetown, and many inhabitants find work in the city. However, said Dudnauth, “It is still a tight knit community, in as much as it is shifting from a small rural village to a budding metropolitan [one].”