In 1966 at the time of Independence I was resident at the Palms. The reason for this was that I was visually impaired as a young man, and I came down from New Amsterdam to attend the Institute for the Blind in Georgetown.
The Queen’s representative to British Guiana on Independence was the Duke of Kent who was accompanied by the Duchess. I remember the visit of the Duchess of Kent to the Palms on 26th May 1966, Independence Day. She was greeted by then Minister of Health, Ms Sylvia Talbot, the Poor Law Board Commission, and officials of the Palms.
I remember playing the National Anthem of Guyana on the piano. It was the first time I played the anthem in public, and after my rendition, the Duchess of Kent shook my hand.
I must speak about the great support shown to residents of the Palms by the leadership of the government in those days. Stalwarts of the People’s National Congress, such as Jane Phillips-Gay, Winifred Gaskin and Beryl Simon were supportive of persons resident in the Palms by providing treats for them on a regular basis.
The Palms was close to the heart of the Prime Minister, Mr Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, who visited often. Mrs Kathleen D’Aguiar, the wife of Mr Peter D’Aguiar, Leader of the United Force, also played an active part in seeing to the needs of residents of the Palms.
On the night of Independence, there was a grand flag-raising ceremony at the National Park. Residents of the Palms, because of their circumstances, could not attend, but there were radios in the wards, and all, bar none, listened to the radio and as such kept abreast of what was going on. Happy fiftieth anniversary Guyana.