I thank your newspaper for sending Kenesha Fraser to Dartmouth, Essequibo Coast, to produce a January 5, 2014 story on the village. Generally speaking, I agree with most of what Ms Fraser wrote. Nevertheless, I do have questions on what some of the Dartmoutharians reported to her.
As a born and raised Dartmoutharian, who experienced a regularly flooded and slushy Dartmouth, old houses with no electricity and a public road as bumpy as the rough Atlantic, I agree that Dartmouth’s houses, streets and public road are much improved. Indeed, one is now able to drive a car around the village or into the backlands where the villagers farm. Regarding the four churches mentioned by a villager as development, though, I’m not very certain how they promote development in the village. Certainly, all churches are expected to attend to their members’ spiritual lives, but Dartmouth needs more from its churches. The village has youngsters who are illiterate; there is no village library, sports team or craft shop. Churches are usually in an advantageous position to help people who need more than spiritual guidance, and the four churches in Dartmouth could seek to address the noted deficiencies. (As an aside, I have donated scores of books to Dartmouth’s 8th of May Government School. I know that those books are not utilized by the village as a whole, but I hope that school children are making use of them.)
My, friend and cousin, retired education officer, Reginald Hoppie, was correct in saying that Dartmouth is a comfortable place to live. I understand “comfortable” to mean that Dartmoutharians are still largely hospitable to each other. Indeed, some villagers still remember the village by its moniker ‘Big Hospital’. However, many Dartmoutharians have given up farming, complaining that their fellow Dartmoutharians constantly steal from them. Dartmoutharians should repeatedly hold village meetings or take other positive actions to address the “uncomfortable” situation of villagers stealing from their neighbours’ farms.
When I was growing up in Dartmouth, it was a bustling agricultural village; it bloomed so much that in the ʼ60s and ʼ70s the Guyana Government held a weekly depot in Dartmouth to buy a wide variety of produce from the villagers. That has changed dramatically – Dartmouth is no longer a vibrant farming village; the young man who told Ms Fraser that the village once produced large quantities of mangoes touched on only one aspect of current non-production. I got the shock of my life when I was in the village in 2003 (been back several times since) and saw a stranger driving through in a van, selling greens and vegetables!
One of Ms Fraser’s Dartmouth informants told her about having to go to the backlands to get drinking water before the change, where government-managed water now goes into homes. While I’m happy about the latter development, I’m puzzled about what was a retrograde step since, when I was a boy in Dartmouth, there were three road pipes conveniently placed many yards apart on one side of the public road, and people only drank backdam water when they went to their farms. The road pipes were removed for the development of the public road, but the teller’s tale might have been related to some peculiar situation – perhaps a temporary water shortage for one or the other reason and she, living close to one of the backdam canals, used the water.
Another of Ms Fraser’s informants seemed to suggest that parties and ‘limes’ were signs of progress. When next I’m in Dartmouth, I’ll try finding the informant to tell her a little about the academic achievements of the late Drs Ptolemy Reid (veterinarian and former Guyana Prime Minister) and Harry Annamunthodo (renowned surgeon). I’ll let her know, too, about more recent achievers, such as Dr Kurt Clarke (attorney in Texas), Ian Cornett (mathematician), Dr Sampson Hopkinson (biologist) and others. The-parties-and-‘limes’ informant will, hopefully, understand that Dartmouth can have tremendous development if young Dartmoutharians walk in the footsteps of the individuals mentioned.
One of the most attractive and useful buildings currently in Dartmouth is the hotel, Chic Paris. Rickford Little, the owner, has done brilliantly. Since Dartmouth is seven miles midway between Anna Regina and Charity, the Chic Paris is well placed to accommodate visitors who wish to explore the lakes aback of Anna Regina (or within that proximity) and the Pomeroon River.
Generally, I appreciated Ms Fraser’s article on Dartmouth, but she might have done better had she spoken with some more senior Dartmoutharians. Older people are more knowledgeable.