Epsom is one of the smallest villages in the ancient county of Berbice. Located on the Corentyne Highway, 44.5 kilometres (27.6 miles) from New Amsterdam, the village has just about 30 houses. The Eversham Koker is a landmark; once you pass the koker and hop over the bridge, you are in Epsom.
When the World Beyond Georgetown visited the tiny village it was clear that it comprised mostly hard-working folks, almost every resident was busy doing something or the other; and given its agricultural background, several villagers were coming out of the backdam with their feet, hands and clothes splashed with mud.
Asked about Epsom, Leila Sinclair, 68, said, “This village is an agricultural village. It really comes from the colonial times. My mother is 88 years old and she born and grow up here but she not feeling well now. It was a slavery environment.” She recalled that growing up, she saw evidence of this in “all these old wares and little things at the back.”
She added, “The name Epsom comes from England. It really comes from the slave master. A white man owned this place then my great grandparents and two other men bought the place in 1877. One by the name of Bundhu, he went back to India…, my great grandfather Frederick Albert and another man name Jarmaine Da Silva [were the original owners]. But in 1992, the place went under board, we started to pay rates…and we were so happy to do it.”
She further said, “The people mostly do farming. Them does plant cash crop, the fruit trees, coconut trees.”
She explained that she has travelled to several Caribbean islands but always looks forward to returning home to her village.
According to Sinclair, representatives from National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) held several meetings with residents in the village promising to build a sea defence along the shore, however nothing has been done as yet. She called on officials of the NDIA to look into the issue. “I plant cash crop, I have my lime trees and lemon trees in the back dam,” she stated.
The woman, who resides with her mother, son and granddaughter, also rears cattle and other livestock.
Eighty-five-year-old Thomas Newton gets up every day and tends his garden. It is a job he loves. Newton said. “The village is mostly agricultural about planting rice and cash crops. Me a plant balanjay (boulanger/eggplant), tomato, cassava,” he said. “All the days of me life me a live here, me enjoy living here. It is a nice comfortable place to live, you na get no quarrel with people.” He also made mention of losing coconuts in the backlands. “We get coconut trees a back there and them a steal out the coconuts,” he complained. However, he stated that more job creation is necessary to eradicate the stealing. “Them na get no employment, them na get nothing and them got to live someway somehow, we need more jobs.”
Epsom has no schools, health centres or places of worship, villagers said they would visit neighbouring villages to access those services.
Shondell Blair, who has been living in the village since she was five years old, and is now a mother of two sons, believes that the village is an excellent place to raise children and teach them the necessary values of life. Her older son, Jaffarrie Albert, who attends the Eversham Primary School, stated that while he loves living in the village, he wished there was a playfield, where he and his friends could play.
Blair’s mother, Lorene Smartt, 58, said, “It’s a small community.” She agreed with her grandson that it needs a playground.
She explained that villagers would usually “lock up” their houses early in the afternoon to have their dinner and “watch news. Long ago people use to deh out late and gaff but now with the ruckus of thieves people a lock up early.”
The woman told World Beyond Georgetown that the village had been promised street lights for some time now, she stressed that she hopes to see this promised fulfilled soon.
Smartt, who has been a cleaner at Eversham Primary School for over 20 years, stated that she has been living in a relative’s house for years. She said that after years of working, she is finally able to build her own home. The woman, whose face lit up with joy, pointed across the road to her house under construction. She said, “I gun retire next year, so I gun be moving over there. This is the first house I own. I’m glad.”
Her husband, Onan Thom, 69, is disabled. He explained that some six years ago he was employed with a timber company and a piece of wood cut his foot. “The wood does be sprayed with a very dangerous drug for export and I lapse with the foot to be honest, with medication,” he said. “The foot started to get infected, so by time them start to treat it, it couldn’t take treatment they had to amputate it. The only option was to amputate it. I does stay home and stress a lot. Being home has been terrible.” He pointed out that he has always loved working.
He advised that if a person is injured whether on the job or not, they should forget what is going on, forget about work and get the necessary treatment for the injury. He said, he wished he had done this. “I was so interested in the job. The doctor gave me leave but I went back to work cause I was feeling lil good,” he recalled, noting that it was the biggest mistake he had ever made.
Thom was on his crutches taking his grandson back to school after lunch. According to Thom, his grandson used to walk to school alone. However, the child had told him that cars would not slow down on the bridge but instead would speed past him. He explained that since becoming aware of this he began accompanying his grandson. He would take him across the bridge, then watch him until he entered the school yard before turning and heading back home on his crutches.
A few other residents were a bit reticent. Junior Robert Beaton, 44, who has lived his entire life there, said, “Epsom very good man. I does go in and out of the interior. Beaton resides with his sister.
Alex Prince sells various items for a living. “Whatever lil sale you get now that you got to take,” she said. “I enjoy living here.”
Ashley Caesar, 22, was in the midst of completing her daily chores. She stated that Epsom is a quiet, peaceful village. She explained that after living in the village for many years she has never encountered any issues with fellow residents. “I think the drain needs to dig out, sometimes when it rains the village a flood out.” she said.
Unlike most of the residents, 64-year-old Jean (only name given) moved to Epsom with her husband some five years ago from Whim Village, Corentyne. According to the woman, “Epsom is a quiet village. Abie want streetlights and abie want them drains clean. If you na get light, when dark night come, place a dark and abie a frighten, so abie need street lights. All over drains want clean.”
Jean, who was busy sweeping her yard, said, “Anywhere you live, you got to like.”
Her 67-year-old husband Walter Jaundoo had returned home from the backdam. “Most of my life I work tractor in the rice fields, but at present now me a pensioner and a doing lil farming,” he said. “Me does usually plant tomato and balanjay. Sometimes me go market to sell them things or sometimes people a come a me house to buy.”
They stressed that they enjoy living in the village and offered this reporter some Fat Poke fruit, from the tree in the front of their yard.
Akeem Coppin, 24, who has lived in the village for his entire life, stated that the village has seen some developments recently. He pointed out that after years of hard work, residents were rebuilding or making the necessary changes to their homes in an effort to live more comfortably. Recently, a resident of a nearby village began purchasing coconuts to sell and has since employed villagers from Epsom to work with him. He highlighted that the village has several youths who are jobless and as such he is calling on the authorities to create employment in the village or nearby. “We got a lot of youths in the village who don’t work and we need a lot more employment for them”, he said. He added that job creation in the area would deter the youths from getting into the wrong path while trying to earn a dollar.
Another resident, who has spent all of his life in the village, Gregory Ellis, 36, stated that the village is filled with “humbleness. I grow up with farming, cattle and fishing.”
While Epsom is not well known, its cheerful and kindhearted people are bound to make an impact on everyone they come into contact with.