Set like a gem in the crown of South
America, nestled on the North-Eastern shoulder, defying the raging
Atlantic Ocean, Guyana's many waterways reflect the source of it's name
"The Land of Many Waters"
Guyana was discovered in 1498 by the
Europeans, its history; therefore stretches back a bit more than 500
years!. Guyana's past is punctuated by battles fought and won, possessions
lost and regained as the Spanish, French, Dutch and British wrangled for
centuries to own this land.
???? The Amerindians
migrate to, and inhabit South America. The legend of the Empire Of
Eldorado is born.
1593 -The earliest account of the territory
of Guiana is made in a dispatch to the Royal Council of Spain in which the
Governor of Trinidad, Antonio de Berreo, describes his journey down the
Oronoco and his attempt to explore Guiana.
1594 -Sir Robert Dudley makes inquiries
about the rumoured Empire of El Dorado when his ship puts in to Trinidad. A small boat is sent to
investigate and its crew returns to say that the natives (Amerindians)had
told them of gold-mines so rich that the people of the country powdered
themselves with gold dust. 'And farre beyond them', they said, 'a great
towne called El Dorado, with many other things.'
1598 -The Dutch make their first voyage to
1621 - Dutch West India Company receives a
charter for the Essequibo.
1640 - Slaves arrive in the colonies from
1657 -A small Dutch settlement is
established on the Pomeroon River.
1666 - War breaks out between England and
1763 -The Berbice Slave Rebellion breaks out
(at the time when Berbice is a separate Dutch colony). It begins on one
estate, but soon spreads to others along the Berbice River. The revolt is
the result of the cruelty with which the Dutch plantation owners
have been treating their slaves, and it is led by a male slave
called Coffy. The few hundred white settlers are soon overwhelmed, and the
uprising will only be put down after the arrival of warships and with the
help of troops from as far away as Barbados.
[Coffy will commit suicide three months
after the beginning of the affair . His followers will be hunted down for
another year, before the Dutch authorities will be satisfied that the
rebellion has been crushed.]
1781 -War breaks out between England and
Holland. The colonies of Demerara, Essequibo, and Berbice are taken by the
1782 - Some months later, the French,
who are also at war with England (and who are the allies of Holland),
under the command of the Marquis de Lusignan (whose name is perpetuated in
the plantation of that name) take the three colonies. The French
build Fort Dauphin at the mouth of the Demerara, and nearby, begin
to build a new town - "Longchamps".
1783/4 - (a) The colonies are restored to
Holland. (b)Longchamps is chosen as the site of the new colonial
capital, later to be called Stabroek. (c) The Dutch move the seat of
Government for the Demerara territory down river to its mouth, where they
begin to build the town of Stabroek in a geometrical 'grid-iron' system of
streets, divided by canals in the manner of their home-country. (d) The
Dutch build a series of sluice-gates or kokers at
points where the canals meet the Demerara estuary. At high tide, the
kokers form a barrier between the Atlantic Ocean and the canals. At
low tide they are opened to allow the accumulated water from the land to
1796 -War breaks out again between
England and Holland. The colonies are taken by England, for the second
1802 -At the peace of Amiens, Guiana is
returned to the Dutch. English settlers are given three years to wind up
their affairs, and to then leave.
1803 - War breaks out again between England
and Holland. In September, Hood arrives at the mouth of the Demerara,
and demands the surrender of the Colony. Guiana is handed over without
fighting, never again to be returned to Holland.
1811 - The first St. George's (Church) is
constructed in George Town (on the site where St. George's school now
1812 - The town of Stabroek is renamed
1814 - Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice are
assigned to England during the Great peace.
1822 - The Town of New Amsterdam is laid out
1823 - There is a slave insurrection on the
East Coast of Demerara.
1828 - The Public Buildings (now
Parliament Buildings) are built - Hadfield, architect. (completed
1830 - The 103ft tall, red and white striped
Lighthouse is erected at the mouth of the Demerara River (Water Street).
It replaces the original wooden structure that was built in 1817 by the
1833 -The Act Of Abolition of slavery is
passed. The slaves are not granted full freedom, but are bound to their
masters for three-quarters of each day for a period of seven years.
1835 - Portuguese labourers are imported for
work on the plantations. (Almost one thousand immigrant Portuguese die
from tropical diseases).
1837 - John Gladstone suggests
East Indian indentured labour as a solution to the drifting of Africans from the
plantations to the towns. Permission is granted to bring 'Coolies' for his
1837 - While exploring what was then British
Guiana, botanist Robert Schomburgk stumbles across a spectacular water
lily of gigantic proportions. Stretching about six feet across, the
like an enormous pie plate and can easily support a coiled boa napping in
the shade of its tremendous blossom, which
boasts an expansive corolla that runs the gamut of pink between its pearly
white petals, and bright red center. The chivalrous Schomburgk christens
the future pride of botanical gardens "the Victoria Regia" in honour
of the British sovereign.
1837 - Georgetown has its first Mayor and
1838 - A floating light is placed on the
1838 - August 1st,"Full and unqualified
liberation of the Negroes".
1838 - The first indentured labourers drawn
from the hill areas of South India, arrive in Guiana. 156 East Indians
arrive from Calcutta on the "Hesperus". They are under indenture for a
five year period, and for the first part, they are housed and given
rations, but are not paid. Great mistreatment of the labourers result in
prosecution of some of the planters.
1838 - Schomburg discovers Mount Roraima.
1838 - The Colony is divided by ordinance
into the three counties of Demerara, essequibo, and Berbice.
1839 - Four hundred German Rinelanders and
Wurtembergers are enticed to British Guiana. (Almost all succumb to
1842 -Georgetown is declared a city.
1842 - In June, a new and larger St. George's (church) is opened (on the present site) in Georgetown. This building will
later become the first St. George's Cathedral.
1843 - The corner stone for the Public Buildings (now the Parliament Buildings) is laid in Georgetown.
1843 - The end of the first period of
indenture. Many of the labourers return to India.
The 1840's - England suspends the indentured
labourer system. Immigrant labour from India, Portugal (mainly Madeira)
and China is permitted, under Government control.
1844 - Queen's College is founded.
1848 - The Demerara Railway Company
introduces the railway in British Guiana. The railway runs from Georgetown
for 60 miles down the Atlantic coast, to Rosignol on the Berbice River.
1853 - January 12th. The first contract
Chinese labourers arrive in British Guiana on the "Glentanner". Most are
assigned to Windsor Forest, Pouderoyen and La Jelousie estates.
1856 - February 18th,Georgetown riots -
property of Portuguese destroyed.
1860 - March 11th. The first female Chinese
labourers arrive on the "Whirlwind".
1864 - The Mahaica Bridge is opened.
1870 -Members of a geological survey team
discover the Kaieteur Fall
on the Potaro River in central Guyana.
1874 - The last contract Chinese labourers
arrive in Demerara.
1879 - Between 1879 and 1884 the Botanical
Gardens are laid out on the site of an abandoned sugar plantation -
Vlissengen. Located at the eastern end of the city's limits, the gardens
are laid out by a Trinidadian - J. F. Waby, from plans previously prepared
by another Trinidadian - botanist H. Prestoe.
1880's -The Stabroek Market is built. This
structure is inspired by the Dutch style of building. It is a long gabled
building framed in iron with a facade of white and brick-red painted wood,
with a central clock tower, capped by a red pyramid supported by
slender posts on a balconied roof.
1882 -As a barrier, the 'kokers' are
inefficient; the sea and the river are constantly encroaching on Stabroek.
In 1882, construction of the Sea Wall is
completed, and keeps the water under control.
1884 - The Promenade Garden is extended to
its present (21st century)proportions on an entire city block (east of
State House.) This area was once used as a public display for the hanging
of slaves who were connected with the 1823 East Coast rebellion.
1884 - Sir Everard Im Thurn ascends Mt.
1889 - The Town Hall (now the City Hall) is opened in the city of Georgetown.
1890 - Secondary diamond deposits are
discovered in Western Guyana. (Since 1890, Guyana has produced 4.5 million
1892 - A new St. George's Cathedral (the fourth St. George's structure) is constructed
in the city of Georgetown.
1899 - The International Tribunal
establishes the country's borders.
1900 - October 18The jagans, Cheddie's
parents, left Calcutta in the "Elbe". Arrived Demerara on January 5th,
1904 - The demarcation of the boundary
between Guyana and Venezuela in accordance with the 1899 Award of the
Paris Tribunal, is completed.
In June the King of Italy hands down his
award in the arbitration proceedings between Brazil and British Guiana.
1917 - The Government of India abolishes the
indentured system. No more East Indian labour is allowed to enter Guiana.
1923 - The old drainage system, which
provided an excellent breeding ground for disease and insects, is
replaced by a pipe-line sewage system. The introduction of the pipe-line
sewage system permits the filling-in of many of the central canals . (The
now, in 2001, runs down Main Street was once a canal filled with the
Victoria Regia lily plants.)
1928 - The Constitution is changed, and
women are given the vote on the same terms as men.
1946 - Census - population 375,819
1950 - A piped supply of potable water is
made available in Georgetown.
1953 - The Waddington Constitution is
suspended on December 22nd. The Royal Welsh Fusiliers are dispatched to
British Guiana to control any outbreak of violence which may follow the
suspension. The House Of Assembly is disbanded. All political
parties are forbidden to hold meetings, and certain P.P.P. leaders
are forbidden to leave Georgetown. The Legislative Council is now composed
of nominated and ex-officio members.
1954 - On June 6, the British Guiana Credit
Corporation commences its operation. This facility's objective is to
provide credit for the development of small businesses.
construction of 18 low cost houses ($1,150.00 each) at east la Penitence
Housing Scheme is started.
The Potaro Hydro Electric Company Limited,
which proposes to investigate the feasibility of exploring British
Guiana's hydro-electric potential, is registered.
1955 - British Guiana Airways is purchased
by the Government for Stg.823,000 from Colonel Art Williams.
1957 - In June, the Clerical Workers' Union
changes its name to The Clerical and Commercial Union.
1958 - The Legislative Council passes a
resolution exhorting the British Government to grant Cabinet status to
British Guiana, as it had conceded to both Trinidad and Jamaica.
1961 - Elections under Internal
Self-Government Constitution. The PPP Party is victorious.
1962 - Arthur Schlesinger, U.S. Secretary of
State visits British Guiana and concludes that Dr. Jagan's heart is with
the Communist world, and although all alternatives to Dr. Jagan are
terrible, he feels that if Mr. Burnham 'will commit himself to a
multi-racial policy' an independent British Guiana under him would cause
the U.S. fewer problems than one under Dr. Jagan.
The February Riot Commission sits from June
22 to 28th in Georgetown. Senior Counsel Lionel Luckhoo submits DR. Jagan
to a robust examination in which Dr. Jagan admits that he is 'a
communist'. The circumstances of this admission seriously affects the U.S.
attitude to Dr. Jagan and to British Guiana and paves the way for their
promotion of Mr. Burnham to political power in Guyana.
1963 - On June 21, 1963, as U.S. President
John Kennedy and a high powered team prepares for a meeting with British
Prime Minister Harold McMillan and his team at Birch Grove in the U.K.,
the State Department instructs its U.K. embassy by telegram to let it be
known that McMillan had agreed that H.M.G. no longer has any faith in Dr.
Jagan, preferring Mr. Burnham as the more manageable alternative. At the
Birch Grove meeting, it is decided to establish a Burnham-D'Aguair
Government and grant British Guiana independence.
Five people including a High School student
are shot and several people beaten as a new wave of violence hits the city
on June 11 and June 12.
Georgetown is declared a 'Proclamation Area'
and another ban is put on all public meetings.
The Guyana Rice Marketing Board escapes
being demolished when a large quantity of dynamite is discovered under the
wharf. Two ships, one belonging to the Russian and the other Cuban,
recently berthed, also escapes destruction.
1964 - Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Janet
Jagan, resigns her post claiming she had no control over the police.
Essentially her resignation is in protest of the police inaction to the
violence perpetrated against Indians at Wismar-Christianburg earlier in
Violence erupts on an intensified scale soon
after the arrival on June 17 of a Cuban tanker M.V. Cuba bringing much
needed fuel and gasoline to the colony. The forces opposed to the
Government of the day had organized an embargo and as such, vital supplies
of necessities were delayed. The Cuban vessel is interpreted as breaking
the embargo and the opposition parties let loose the 'Gods of War' in
Georgetown and its environs.
The Parliament Building is blockaded by
angry protesters who assault Ministers and civil servants who dare to
remain on the job.
An incendiary device is thrown into the
Hadfield Street home of Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works and
Hydraulics, 52-year-old Mr. Arthur Abraham, causing his death. Seven of
his nine children also die. After the fire, four bodies are found huddled
together on the stairway and three on the upper flat.
Prime Minister, Harold McMillan, speaking in
the House of Commons, on June 17, recommends that the Commonwealth Prime
Ministers' Meeting should consult on the crisis situation in British
Guiana. On June 24th Prime Minister DR. Cheddie Jagan concurrs.
1964 - Proportional Representative System. A
coalition Government of PNC and UF attains power.
1965 - A three storied building which houses
the U.S. Consulate and the JFK Library is bombed on June 24. Miss Shakira
Baksh (later to be Mrs. Michael Caine) is injured in the blast.
On November 15th, 1965 New "Bank Of Guyana"
notes come into circulation in denominations of $1, $5, $10, and $20.
1966 - May 26th,Independence. The colony of
British Guiana becomes independent of British rule, and is known as
1966 - On June 23, officials from both
Guyana and Suriname begin talks in London in relation to the countries'
1966 - British troops leave Guyana.
1969 - The protocol of Port-of-Spain is
signed by Guyana and Venezuela leading to a 12-year moratorium on the
1970 - February 23rd,Guyana, the
independent country - becomes a Co-operative Republic, and is
now known as the "Republic Of Guyana".