Eccles is a thriving community just beyond old Georgetown. It has been around for more than 70 years, with its business growth beginning some 30 years ago. Eccles has two gas stations, supermarkets, liquor restaurants, auto sales, and a few fisheries including Noble House Sea Foods at the back, Demerara Oxygen Company, now part of the Massy Group of Companies and a number of other businesses.
The Old Road through the scheme it was said, was once the public road until the building of the East Bank Demerara Highway from what used to be all cane fields.
During my visit it was raining in torrents. One man took shelter under the newly built overpass and others at a liquor restaurant called ‘The Flat Shop’ where I ended up also. The proprietor is Chandra Katwaroo.
Now 58 years old, Katwaroo was born and raised in Eccles, her parents arriving eight years prior, with her father coming from Peter’s Hall Plantation and her mother from a village in the Demerara where her mother’s parents, the Latchmans, owned Liberty Hall Estate.
“In the early sixties and before then, from what I’ve heard, there was no road here. Everybody used the Old Road at the back. Cane was growing all over here. Then after they started giving out house lots here, they reduced the cane fields and went a little bit back. There were trenches that they filled up. In the 60s the houses across the road started developing and then 20 years back or so they opened the New Scheme,” she said.
In her girlhood days, Katwaroo attended the Agricola Methodist School until third form and later took a transfer to Muslim Education Trust College, a private school, which later became Brickdam Secondary.
The woman shared that village had more of a quiet atmosphere in her earlier days. She still considers Eccles to be relatively quiet as persons will not have music blaring nor will villagers have quarrels with each other. She added that although residents are more reserved, they still try to maintain neighbourly relations with each other.
With no temple in her part of Eccles, Katwaroo would from time to time visit the Peter’s Hall Mandir, two villages away.
Christmas, she said, is the most beautiful holiday for many persons adding that it brings people together from all kinds of religious backgrounds. Her Christmas meal would be fried rice and baked chicken and black cake. She always makes extra for her neighbours, friends and customers. Katwaroo said that because Hindus do not eat beef, she will not have pepperpot, but added that her late brother, whenever he visited, used to make the dish with mutton.
Asked about challenges faced by the residents, she said, “You see the people here, whatever challenges they have they work on fixing it and conquering it so they can have a peaceful and better life. We’re not the kind of people who sit down and wait for things to happen… We are hardworking.”
Bibi Zamerule Baksh is one of the oldest residents of Old Scheme, Eccles at 81 years old. She hails from De Kindren on the West Coast Demerara. Baksh was still at kindergarten when her mother passed away leaving her and a sister. Her father went on his way, so she and her sister were taken in by an aunt in Eccles. Not very lon after, the siblings went to live with their grandmother at Grant Zorg in the Pomeroon River. When she turned ten, Baksh returned to live in Eccles.
“Eccles then was more peaceful than it is today. I didn’t have much friends here. I kept to myself. When I was old enough, I used to work at License Knitwear. We used to sew all kind of clothes. They had people who used to cut, and we had special pieces we would sew. I try to sew a thing or two… I never learnt how to properly sew because we were only sewing pieces,” she recalled.
“I living here a long time now and it’s nice to live here. The people are cooperative and they live nicely together.”
Nearby, her son Sheik Baksh was listening intently as his mother spoke. He grew up in Eccles and recalls playing marbles and cricket. He attended Eccles Primary School, situated obliquely opposite to where he lives. Though he admits that life in his days was somewhat harder when it came to doing household chores, he also said that the children today may have it more challenging with regard to the school curriculum compared to what he was taught years ago. Yet having easier access to the internet with the use of various gadgets makes life today much simpler.
Sheik Baksh said Eccles, the Old Scheme that is, has everything one would want in an environment when it comes to a peaceful atmosphere and numerous amenities situated at walking distance. To top this off, he said, the people live like family.
By now the rain had eased and so I made my way to Cow Pen Street while trying to figure out how it got that name. Abdool Nazir of Cow Pen Street explained: “Years back it had a big cow pen at the head of the street as soon as you come in there. It was run by the estate which kept the village’s cows. They had plenty, plenty cows there. They would loose them during the day to graze about the area because it had plenty grass growing. They do away with it like 30 years now, but persons still have cows in the area; they would loose them to go graze on the ballfield.”
Nazir was born in Eccles 58 years ago. His parents were from Windsor Forest on the West Coast Demerara and Bel Air.
Growing up, he said, it was very nice. He recalled playing all sorts of games with his friends. The people, he said, are the icing on the cake when it comes to advantages of living in the village. In addition, the readily available services make it convenient. There is nowhere like Eccles, the man finished.