During his tenure, Harold B Davis, the first Executive Chairman of GuySuCo commissioned (in the 1980s) the coordination of a range of heritage projects for the sugar industry. Ogle Estate was identified as the primary location for the collection. Some indication of the start made – pieces of erected old equipment – can be seen at the entrance of what is now the Collins Public Service Staff College, which only shortly before was GuySuCo’s Head Office, transformed from the latter’s Residential Training Centre, which in turn was once the home of a Chairman of Booker Sugar Estates, the former owner. Edgar Readwin was, for a considerable period, the colony’s lawn tennis champion, before he was outplayed by an industry colleague – the well known Ian McDonald.
Meanwhile, it was always the intention that the area surrounding the Chateau Margot factory chimney (on the way east to LBI Estate) would be a focal point. That factory had the reputation of producing some of the finest Demerara sugars in the 19th century.
In Berbice two other areas were identified. At the entrance to GuySuCo’s Apprentice Training Centre at Port Mourant can be seen exhibits of old factory equipment boldly displayed.
Then there was always Skeldon Estate, on the West Bank of the Corentyne River, which since the colonial era was regarded as a sort of ‘tourism’ destination, although that expression was hardly in use in those days. But the few city-based foreigners (diplomats) there were, sought to spend holiday weekends at far Skeldon. In the relative entertainment desert at the time, Skeldon Estate became a hospitality mecca of sorts.
But to fast forward, just over a decade ago in relation to an agri-tourism project sponsored by Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Skeldon Estate was heartily endorsed by the then Minister of Agriculture in the last administration, to be a prominent ‘tourism’ destination. With the construction of a new factory, the vision was that the old one would be specially preserved for organised tours.
The fact was that every management team of Skeldon Estate was alerted to its special historical significance – for both local and foreign personnel.
It is in this connection, therefore, that during his tenure, the last CEO of GuySuCo continued the commitment to preserve its identifiable ‘treasures’ – the coordinating responsibility for which was assigned to his Corporate Communications Manager.
A company building had already been identified at LBI Estate for storage and presentation, as feasible.
For this exhaustive exercise, the management team of the National Trust was engaged, and at least two meetings were held in GuySuCo’s Boardroom in late 2017, with a view to mapping out a comprehensive programme for sugar heritage preservation.
Hopefully from the foregoing, it would be appreciated that the industry has long lived with a consciousness of such a responsibility.
I myself, however, have grieved over the rejection by two Booker colleagues (one local and one overseas) while dining one evening in the 1980s at Herdmanston House (now Herdmanston Lodge), of my suggestion that its heritage should be secured as a library that would offer research material, not only of the sugar industry, but expanded to provide books on agricultural science, engineering, chemistry and other technical components for the benefit of UG students in the first instance, and other academics.
Alas, the sense of grief lingers on.
E B John