I was recently reminded of my youthful attachment to the Ministry of Communication and Works, when it was included as part of the Interim Government assembled by the British colonial administration following the suspension of the British Guiana constitution in 1953.
As a Class II Clerk I was transferred from the Public Works Department, located on the same Kingston site as the existing ministry, in 1954. It was housed in what was called the Ministerial Building in the now garden space situated on the eastern side of High Street, across from the Parliament Building and immediately west of St Stanislaus College.
Interestingly, several ministries established at the time were headed by ‘members’ and not ‘ministers’. The Member for Communication and Works was W O R Kendall (of New Amsterdam, Berbice). The Permanent Secretary was J Allan Young, promoted from the post of General Manager, Transport and Habours Department, who wrote the seminal work on Local Government in BG for his M Phil.
Other members of staff included R E O Moriah, Permanent Asst Secretary, who along with C V Alert, Administrative Assistant, later qualified as a lawyer. Then there was W St C (Sugar) Best, also Administrative Assistant.
As a young desk clerk my portfolios included telecommunications, transport and distinctively, civil aviation. I have always remembered how I was required to find and arrange a photograph of the ‘Canje Pheasant’ to place symbolically on the invitation to the launching of the new vessel of the same name. I had also to organise the on-board party, at which I recall becoming drunk with self-importance and alcohol.
It would appear that despite my precipitate exit from the above event, sufficient confidence was placed in me to organise an annual meeting of Directors of Civil Aviation of the West Indies in British Guiana. Our Director at the time was expatriate Jack Nicole, whose son and I had earlier shared the same fifth form class at Queen’s College.
The programme included a memorable air trip to Kaieteur Falls and return to Georgetown with a stop-over at the smaller Orinduik Falls.
The above were two of the exhilarating experiences working under a very fatherly ‘Member’, a demanding PS who actually graded my submissions, and models of high performance in the other officers mentioned.
The one inconsolable memory was of reviewing at my humble desk the UK government’s plans at the time for building a bridge across the Berbice River, stretching from the village of Ithaca on the West Bank to the point directly opposite – immediately south of New Amsterdam. It occurred to me that I have lived to see a tidal shift several decades after in the movement of the bridge much further north.
E B John