Guyana Resource Center
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"
Image hosting by Photobucket Image hosting by PhotobucketKaieteur Falls, the world's highest single drop waterfall (741 feet).Image hosting by Photobucket Image hosting by Photobucket

by Petamber Persaud
Even for those who witnessed the events of May 1966, it may not be easy to evoke the heady emotions experienced at that time. Sadly also, there are many, far too many Guyanese, and non-Guyanese, who are still not conscious of what happened during that month to mark the beginning of a new era - the establishment of the nation state of Guyana.

However, a few events were of such magnitude, so elaborate in preparation and spectacular in execution, that they should forever be prominent fixtures in our culture, forming symbols of inspiration and pride.

Historical Pageant
For instant, the historical pageant, ‘Ours the Glory’, was an open air affair in the National Park performed within the bounties of nature which included a lake. The stage was an earthen mound measuring 40 feet by 60 feet, the height varied from 3 feet to 4 feet, natural gradient of the hill. The cast was one thousand and fifty children with one and forty-one backstage assistants. And there was more to such a production. For instance, the script was done by A. J. Seymour with Frank Pilgrim and Shirley Patterson assisting as historical advisers. Numerous committees to deal with dance, music, wardrobe, lightening and special effects consisted of scores and scores of professionals. Cicely Robinson, in charge of the whole affair, was ably assisted by Pat Anderson, Beryl McBurnie, Pansy Duke, Vesta Lowe, Magna Pollard, Marjorie Broodhagen, Edith Pieters, Belle Tyndall, Miss Nona Permaul, Major Louis Kerr, W. R. A. Pilgrim and Rafiq Khan.

Water Pageant
Staying on the subject of pageants, let’s look at one with a difference. That water pageant forty years ago, organised by Mr. S. M. V. Nasseer, was indeed a novelty. For instant, guests were ushered to their places by costumed girls depicting our six races while costumed girls depicting flowers of Guyana atop colourful pontoons titillated the display route. The pageant included a rowing race, speed boat exhibition, a ski demonstration and a fire boat display. (Yes, we had fire boats then to assist in fire fighting on the waterfront.) The Duke and Duchess of Kent, guests of honour, witnessed the event from a special Royal Launch.

State Banquet
Another elaborate affair was the State Banquet staged in the auditorium of Queen’s College. To seat and to attend to the needs of some 500 foreign and local dignities with attendant sophistry was no easy undertaking but it was well orchestrated.

School Children in Concert
The venue – Astor Cinema in Georgetown. The event – children rendition of the new National Anthem. Imagine 5000 voices in great acoustic condition belting out ‘Green Land of Guyana’. Imagine taking 5000 children from different schools and getting them to do it right. Many attested that the pride beating in the hearts of the young performers came to the fore in no uncertain manner.

The Government House Cabaret
Planned as a unified presentation comprising varied music and dance items under a central theme, it ran into slight difficulties, causing each item to be performed separately. In the end, all was well – the mechanics behind the scene were that resourceful.

Steal Band and other Musical Concerts
Those concerts (of steal band, calypso and orchestra music) organised by Frank Pilgrim, assisted by A. F. Phillipe, were taken various parts of the country. More importantly, however, steal band music was carried to the hospitals at Best, on the West Demerara, the Mahaica Hospital, on the East Demerara, and to the Palms on Brickdam.

There were many exhibitions including photographic, art, handicraft and folk dance, a few staged outside the month of May, some even outside of Guyana.

Historical Broadcasts
Those weekly broadcasts started on February 23 to coincide with the anniversary of the Berbice Slave Rebellion of 1763 and continued to conclusion on May 11, 1966 – the day before the Guyana Independence Bill became law in London on May 12.

Royal Visit
The visit of the Duke and Duchess of Kent was mainly to hand over the Constitutional Instrument but there were other official commitments for the royal couple. They attended ‘Evensong’ at St. George’s Cathedral, Independence Rodeo in the Rupununi, a flying visit to Berbice, a children’s rally in the mining town of Mackenzie, and a float parade in Georgetown, among other events.

The Arch
The Commemorative Independence Arch constructed by Demerara Bauxite Company Limited (Demba) was made from local materials – aluminium from bauxite mined at Mackenzie and quartz stone from Mazaruni River. The arch ‘springing from a common rock, the three arches taper upwards towards the clouds, representing the three counties of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice’, was erected at the top of Brickdam, a main thoroughfare, as a monument between colonialism and freedom.

Caribbean Writers and Artists Conference.
That conference of writers and artists from Guyana and the Caribbean was held on May 30 in the History of Queen’s College. It was declared open by Prime Minister, L. F. S. Burnham and chaired by A. J. Seymour under the theme ‘Independence and the freedom of the artist’. Some of the delegates included Jan Carew, O. R. Dathorne, E. R. Braithwaite, Donald Locke, Carlisle Chang, C. L. R. James, and George Lamming.

Other Related Events
Not all that happened then was of an official nature; there were many others (private sector and individual) initiatives. For instance, the Vieira family initiated the Manuel Vieira Independence Scholarship, Mountaineer Adrian Thompson and a seven-man team planted the Golden Arrowhead on Mount Ayanganna, the highest point in the Pakaraima Ranges, and Essequibians announced their intention to elevate the slave martyr, Damon, to status of national hero. The Golden Arrowhead was hoisted almost simultaneously in over 150 villages across Guyana.

Apart from the events marked by great pomp and elaborate ceremony, there were many other occurrences with significant connotations for Guyana. For instance, the office is Opposition Leader was instituted, we got our first Ombudsman, the Lord Mayorship came into being, the British Guiana Volunteer Force was disbanded, Atkinson Base, leased to the American for an extended period, was reclaimed, and the titled deed of land for the erection to University of Guyana Campus was handed over by Lord Campbell of Eskan to Pro-Chancellor, Sir John Carter.

And at the witching hour of midnight May 25.…

And there was rain – showers of blessing….

Looking back, it was a hectic month, a hectic Independence Week, and a hectic Independence Day 1966 – a major part of our heritage.

Guyana Chronicle