Royal agricultural and commercial society of Briti.

Timehri: the journal of the Royal agricultural and commercial society of British Guiana online

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have the effeft of unsettling their minds, the Post-holder
considering that Mr. S/s conduft was diametrically oppo-
site to the orders he (Post-holder) had received from
Government, and wishing to correft the traveller from
mixing too freely with the Spaniards, the Post-holder
making use of language to that effeft caused a misunder-
standing between the two men. All this care and pro-
teftion on the part of the British Government towards
our new arrivals exasperated the Oronokers so much that
during my time, even, reports were circulated amongst
the Spanish Arrawaks that large-sized launches from
Oronoko manned by Spaniards were expefted in Monica
— brought up for the express purpose of taking all of
them back again to the Oronoko ; hand-bills were also
distributed among the Monica people offering to each
person who returned to Rio Oronoko a supply of imple-
ments of husbandry free of cost ; but no offers had any
effeft nor was it to be wondered at when it is known
their escape from Rio Oronoko was to avoid military
duty for which they were now called upon to sgrve, and
without pay or clothing and rations very irregularly
distributed ; the result was that they refused to a man
to return, stating they were already established in Moruca
and under the proteftion of the British Crown.

I am come now to a very painful circumstance — the
spread of leprosy among the Warrau Indians — proving
beyond a doubt that the disease is infe&ious, although
there are many physicians, at the present day, who deny
the faft.

The Government of that distant period could not have
imagined thkt leprosy was contagious, otherwise the un-

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Colonial Jottings. 99

fortunate creatures would not have been sent to thePome-
roon Post. The Post-holder being a Government officer,
it was thought the lepers would be better looked after
and their wants better supplied, which I am sure was the
case ; but look at the sacrifice ! Until I had taken the
census of the whole distrift, namely— Pomeroon, Moruca»
Waini, Barima and all their tributaries I was. ignorant
of the extent of the disease ; but having visited each
Indian settlement I couldn't longer be deceived, Pome-
roon being considered the most important outpost in the
colony, the Government of that day supplied the post-
holder with a sailing boat, which, as I'll shortly explain,
was found to be very useful ; besides a crew, monthly, of
fifteen Warrau Indians. As the lepers were not kept sepa-
rate, the intercourse between them and these Indians was
of frequent occurrence, and the spread of the disease is not
to be wondered at. The Indians were to cultivate
plantains and other vegetables, at the same time to be at
the beck and call of the Postholder whenever their ser-
vices were required as boatmen.

The utility of supplying the Postholder of Pomeroon
with a sailing boat will now be explained : —

John Cozier, (Dutch), whose appearance was distin-
guished by his wearing a double night cap made
of red woollen yarn. When the cap was opened and
stretched to its full length it measured fifty inches.
Part was applied as a covering to his head, the remainder
was used as a covering to his face to proteft him from
mosquitoes. On one occasion, a Spaniard ascended
Pomeroon in his launch, as high as " Hope and Success/'
JOHN Cozier'S property, then under cotton cultivation.


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106 TlMEHRI.

The Spaniard seeing the driver of Hope and Success,
arranged with him to convey all JOHN Cozier'S gang of
slaves, seventy in number, to the Oronoko. The driver
was quite agreeable to the arrangement, and during a
Sunday night all hands were taken on board, and pro-
ceeded to the Waini River. JOHN Cozier missing his peo-
ple proceeded to the Postholder and related the circum-
stance to him ; he the (Postholder) manned his sloop and
followed the launch which, with all the negroes, he
found on the shell bank at the mouth of the Waini. The
Postholder after securing all hands proceeded to George-
town and lodged the negroes and Spaniards in the
Georgetown Jail. In those distant days jail fees were
very high, and JOHN COZIER, on that account, could not
release them as soon as he wished ; but when he did
succeed he took his slaves back again to Hope and
Success, but fearing another escape he purchased
Uitvlugt Estate, Demerara River, and put them on it —
leaving Hope and Success in a state of abandonment
for more than fifty five years.

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By the Hon^ W. Russell.

jT is scarcely necessary to dwell upon the im-
portance of a cereal which feeds three-fourths,
I think, of the entire population of the world,
or to remind the members of this Society of the impor-
tant part it plays in feeding a large bulk of the inhabi-
tants of this colony, calling for no less a sum than
£223,284.17.3 to be transferred from this colony to
India in payment for this food supply. My purpose is
to trace out the various steps taken to grow a home
supply here, where both soil and climate are apparently
more favourable for the plant than in any other part ot
the world.

In the year 1848 I first saw rice growing, in Berbice;
and it affords the best illustration that I can give of rice
cultivation on upland. I had been in pursuit of game on
the 1st of August holiday, and the dogs gave tongue, in.
dicating that the quarry was at bay in a high bullet tree
reef ; so with the " yackman," I made for the scene of
yelping, and to my astonishment after struggling through
a considerable distance of tangled bush I came upon
an opening where a lovely green crop, something simi-
lar to an oat-field, met my view. The " yackman " him-
self, an African, at once pronounced it was rice, and
told me that this was the labours of the "Timini" peo-
ple, a race of Africans introduced by Messrs. Laing from
New Providence, Nassau. Following up, we found a
huge ant-eater backed up against a tree stump, keeping

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102 TlMEHRI.

the dogs at bay. My companion soon made short work
of the ant-eater, saying it was good meat. Everything
is meat to the African huntsman. I now gave attention
to the mode of planting this, to me, new plant ; and in
my after travels in the forests of the interior, I have seen
ways of land tillage reminding me of those praflised by
the Timini rice growers. The forest is felled, all ex-
cept the huge giants, and then after junking the branches
and scattering them over the surface until they are dry, '
a fire is set, and the whole consumed except a few
stumps and the larger pieces. The land in this condi-
tion is tickled with a pointed piece of hard-wood, or
more generally by the never absent cutlass ; a few grains
of seed are dropped into holes, which are roughly
covered up; and this is the whole work the husband-
man bestows upon the land to cause it to produce an
abundant crop of rice, maize, ochroes, pumpkins, and the
various legumes, such as pea, bonavist, &c, &c.
Such had evidently been the cultivation bestowed upon
the rice fields in question, which must have been planted
to gain the summet rains of June and July, and were
then in August almost ready for the sickle.

Having reported my find to the managers — we had
even then dual control— they were much interested in
this work of industry on the part of the Africans, who
had thus provided themselves with a food supply, at the
cost of so little labour; and there was much talk about
spreading the industry. The time came for reaping the
rice, but unfortunately at the same time the cane fields
required to be cut, and the rice cultivators could not be
made to see that Massa's canes came before their rice.
The consequence was that not only the rice growers,

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Rice. 103

but the whole gang became disorganized. They stowed
away the rice, tied in bundles over the collar beams of
their cottages, until one or two fell in, and there was the
mischief to play all round ; and what was a short time,
previously considered a grand industry was now de-
nounced as a perfeft curse ; for, African-like, while the
rice held out, it was a case of pounding rice, and en-
tirely neglefting the cane piece. I need not say that
rice growing was put down, and the Timinians soon
after removed to some new location.

I have gone somewhat fully into these my early recol-
le&ions for two reasons. First it explains how rice may
be induced on dry land to produce two crops per annum, by
simply burning off rough herbage in the dry weather and
sowing the seed with the first rain, say in May, in which
case the crop is ready for reaping in Oftober ; and in the
same way, rice planted in first rains in November would
be ready for the sickle in April. The rapidity of the rice
growth chokes off all other indigenous weeds ; hence
there is no call for expensive weedings. Secondly, it
shows what in my opinion has kept back the spread of
rice cultivation, viz : sugar. While sugar commanded a
high price in the markets of the world, the faft of this
colony having unlimited room for the extension of sugar
cultivation, and having a sparse population, most of
whom preferred the planters' cash on the weekly pay
day, to the insecurity and time required for rice or other
food produtts to mature, besides risk of robbery, accoun-
ted for the small attention given to Minor Industries.

At the present time, with a supply of labourers more
equal to the demand, and a dying-out of all gambling in
eonne&ion with sugar, and when many of the introduced

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164 TlMEHRI.

workers from India, China, and Barbados, have been
taught in the school of adversity that if they want to reap
and eat, they must sow and labour, a new departure may
be considered as having overtaken the colony.

The praiseworthy attempt Mr. COLVIN to grow
rice on a large scale in Canal No i, and by the Company
which started under such favourable circumstances at
Vive-la-Force, both failed from similar causes — want of
prattical knowledge of the land and seasons, and also
want of a water supply — to which I ought to add, the
stubbornness and want of belief on the part of the
labourer employed in carrying out details.

The next praftical test came under my own observa-
tion and encouragement about 1865, when a couple of
hill coolies asked me to allow them to have 16 acres in
front of Edinburgh house for rice growing. Seeing the
heavy work of breaking up the land, I suggested bullocks
and the plough, to which they readily agreed, and when
I thought I was doing a great thing in adding a couple
of Yankee eagle ploughs to the oxen, they said in their
looks " Poor buckra, he no sabe." Instead of my ploughs
and harness, I found them with a mangrove root shaped
into an Egyptian plough with a long stick leading up
to the yoke, the latter being a straight courida stick
with two holes bored at such distances from each end
as to admit of two pins being driven through, one on each
side of the bullock's neck; these were tied under the
throat with a piece of string. When the team was ready
to operate — and the way those coolies managed a pair
of oxen direct out of the pasture was a sight worth
seeing — they disturbed and worked up the surface of the
land into such a puddle as would have disgusted an

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Rice. 105

agriculturist from the old country, and made him think
the land ruined for ever. Having reduced It into this
state, a plank was set on edge, and with a pole extend-
ing to and fastened to the yoke, this blunt rake was
hauled backwards and forwards until the surface was as
smooth as a billiard table ; water was of course admitted
all through these operations. On a small paddock of
about 4 square roods, was sown the seed rice, much as
we see cabbage-seed planted in English gardening.
By the time the land was reduced to the puddle above
described, these seedlings were seven to eight inches
high, and the seed bed being in a state of pulp, they were
easily pulled up in handfuls of a dozen to each handful.
These were conveyed to their final destination, and the
operator separating a single stalk plunged his hand
down some four or five inches into the puddle, and by a
judicious turn of the hand, left the rice shoot firmly
planted in the soil, each plant being set in squares nine
by nine inches or thereabout. For the first few days the
plants so pulled about looked drooping and seedy, but
they did not remain long in this condition, for on the
plant taking to its new position it began to throw out
shoots more like leeks than a simple cereal. In a
month's time the women and children went through and
plucked out all indigenous weeds and grasses, and
tying these into small handfuls, placed them under foot
and firmly imbedded them in the soft soil, there to rot
and form manure for the rice crop. Water was let on
from navigation canals at stated intervals, and when the
water ran low, recourse was had to the basket with double
strings, and the lift being next to nothing, it was astonishing
how soon a couple of men could lay an acre under water.


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Io6 TlMEHRl.

When the rice came into ear all the grain-eating birds
flocked rbund the devoted patches, some of them suck-
ing the milky fluid out of the embryo rice. The ryot
was equal to the occasion, by planting a series of
poles one at every ioo feet with the tops slightly benb
and a kerosine tin containing a few pebbles suspended
to each pole; these were joined by an endless line to
the outside of the field, and when an urchin gave a pull to
the string, all the tin contents gav« a sudden clatter,
quite enough to dismay and frighten the most pert of the
feathered tribe. While this was going on the two men
betook themselves to preparing mortars and pestles
and a barn anent harvest; the two span of bullocks
having become so to say a part of the household, played
with and caressed by the women and children.

Harvest arrived, with need of additional hands, to
reap the crop while it was crisp and dry ; and here came
the first clash between manager and rice grower, the one
wishing to keep his mill supplied, the other wanting to
save his rice. I decided in favour of the rice grower, as
the reaping was not likely to employ too long a time. The
workers, with a small toothed reaping hook, smaller in
size but much the same as the now obsolete tool formerly
used for reaping in the old cou-ntry, cut the head of grain
off with about a foot of stalk, which being made into
small sheaves after remaining in the sun for a time, were
finally conveyed to the barn, a rough strufture thatched
with cane bands. A stake was driven into the ground at
one end of the barn ; by freely ramming the surrounding
earth, a threshing floor was secured say about 12 feet in
diameter. The bullocks were yoked close together and
made to walk round this stake, while sheaf after sheaf

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Rice, 107

was thrown under their feet and shaken up so as to bring
every part under the tread of their feet. It was simply
astonishing how quickly the grain was by this means
separated from the straw, the paddy being from time to
time swept into heaps and put into bags, for the winnow-
ing operations. This was done in a clear space, exposed
to the wind, by the well known ancient system of letting
fall from a sieve. The paddy once ready for market, a
ready sale for it was found on the estate.

Harvest over, water was let on, and a fine ratoon crop
came up as by magic, little inferior to the first. After
reaping this crop, the land was again treated in exaCtly
the same way by puddling as at first, of course the work
being much easier.

For want of labour, in 1872 the rice cultivation ended.
The whole of the above description can be applied to the
venture in rice cultivation which has been carried on for
several seasons on Novar and Dundee, in the Abary
district, by the coolie proprietors of those estates.

While I was watching the rice industry on the West
Coast, the late Mr. BASCOM at Anna Regina tried a
most interesting experiment among the Chinese of that
estate. To gain a reservoir supply of water for his gang
and machinery, he constructed that grand reservoir, one
of the sights of Anna Regina ; a two feet earthenware
pipe was placed, conducting the water from Quacka-
booka which stands at a high level, under ground and
through the Chinese quarters. Now, Chin Chin was not
slow to grasp the situation, and, unknown to Mr. BASCOM,
uncovered the pipe, drilled a hole in it, inserted a bam-
boo, and by that means secured a never-failing supply of
water for his gardens which were then covered with

O 2

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eddoes and other vegetables. Having secured water, they
set to work in true Chinese fashion, and reduced the
height of the land, by digging out certain areas and rais-
ing others, making the garden ground what it remains to
this day — a pi6lure of Chinese rural scenery. The low plots
produce the most magnificent rice and have continued
to do so for at least 18 years without rest ; and a reason
for this may be found in the following passage from De
Bow's Review : — " The Chinese, who pay the greatest
attention to the cultivation of rice, manure their land
with all sorts of filth, dung, &c. They preserve all the
scrapings of pig's hair, the barbers carefully preserving
the human hair, which is no small quantity where the
head is shaved, and the cultivators of the soil readily
purchase this compost at a penny per pound, and barges
are to be seen on the canals entirely laden with nothing
else. The Chinese cultivators look upon hair, of what-
ever nature, as of extreme value in rice cultivation. It is
not unusual for them to mix lime with the water of
irrigation, which they consider draws off insefts and gives
warmth to the ground."

Those who pass to the leeward of the Chinese gar-
dens of Anna Regina in the spring time will readily
recognise that this peculiar habit of conserving manurials
has not been forgotten in British Guiana. Although
the Chinese thus carry out their inborn habit of
allowing no matter to go to waste, I do not think the
rice plant in the deep rich soil of this colony really calls
for manure. We see crop after crop raised on the same
land, with a tendency towards improvement rather than a
falling off ; and when we see the luxuriant crops grown
in the bottom of canals where the soil is far under atmos-

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Rice. 109

phericinfluence, this alone shows how well our soil is adapted
for rice. By the way, there is a considerable area of fine
rice grown in many distrifts of the colony in navigable
canals, when these are out of use. Some planters 6bje6i,
because of the tendency of the sides of a dry canal to
break in, and there is reason in this objeftion. The
canal bottoms are specially suitable for a paddy garden
because of the ease of irrigation.

These Anna Regina garden lands have been held rent
free, being simply the garden grounds attached to the
cottages. For several years past the industry has been
spreading, the waters of the Quack-a-booka, a fresh
water canal, having being laid under contribution ; and
on the coolies applying for land on which to grow rice on
a sound tenure, Mr. GlLZEAN very readily acceded to
their demands, and now there are over 200 acres — it will
in a few months be 300 — of grand paddy fields, adding
quite a charm to the surrounding scenery. Before
explaining the mode of dealing with Anna Regina paddy
fields, I must ask you to allow me to turn for a moment
to what I shall denominate " Manna Rice," or that grown
in a semi-wild state on the savannahs of the East Coast.
The idea of a spontaneous spread of this growth from
particles let fall by labourers when working on service
canals might have been entertained had these people carried
paddy, instead of rice prepared for the pot, which latter
is the condition in which all rice is used as food, and is
no longer in a condition to germinate. The fa6l is, small
patches of rice have been grown on spots since the East
Coast water scheme brought the savannahs into notice ;
and the fires of '82, '83, and, '84 having cleared off all
the rough herbage, ferns, &c, &c., the state of the land

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naturally invited the rice growers to extend their opera-
tions, which they did to some effe6i.

The land behind the La Bonne Intention is very
favourable for this wild system of cultivation, as the
canal which I dug to gain water has a trunk or syphon
underneath the main service canal by which the water
behind that seftion of coast can be regulated. The water
conne&ion being continuous, by the navigable canals
direft to the sea, to relieve the rice growers' lands throws
no additional strain on the drainage of the estate, but
rather does good, by keeping the channel open. In this way,
every dry season, the water can be lowered to allow of
harvesting and burning off the rough surface preparatory
for another sowing. In the figures supplied by Mr-
IMLACH it must be clearly understood that they relate
to semi- wild cultivation, as follows : —

A bag of rice for seed will plant about 4 acres, and costs

Weeding and burning ...

Planting 1 day, 1 man...

Reaping, 4 strong men, 6 days at 52c. ...

Threshing and cleaning

Gives in a good season 30 bags rice at $2 40

or $12 00 per acre, in 6 months, profit ... ...$ 47 92

If they clean this rice it will give 15 bags and will cost :

Growing ... ... ... ... ...$ 23 12

Cleaning ... ... ... ... ... 19 32

42 32
15 bags cleaned at 32 cents per gallon, equal to $6 40 per bag,

White Rice ... ... ... ... ... 96 00

Profit $ S3 68

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Rice. hi

The cost for scaring birds in the savannah is nil, the
only birds to be seen are a species of wader resem-
bling at a distance rc Negro Cop," and they are now

In putting a price on rice grown on the East Coast,
the local selling value for paddy was given ; the cleaned
rice is white, such as you see on the table, which is sold
retail at 36 cents per gallon. I may mention that the
command of water to let off and on at pleasure is of
vital importance, when attempting to grow anything in
such pegass land, which burns up in dry weather to a

Turning now to Anna Regina, as the most perfeft
mode of cultivating rice, entirely by spade and hoe, that
I have seen or read of, the arrangement is as follows : —
As to the land, the abandoned cane fields, by preference
in the lowest lying se6tion of the properties, find most
favour, as being the more readily put under water
from the navigable canal. The arrangement is eight
months rent free ; at the expiration of that term $23 04
annually is paid in monthly instalments. An arrange-
ment which refers more to the question of immi-
gration is also entered into by which three days per
week labour when called upon counts half rental, but for
the objeft of this paper I confine myself to the ordinary
tenants' agreement of $23 04 per annum, of course,
including water.

The rice farmer, having signed his agreement, enters
upon possession, and when land carries sage, waak-a-baki,
and such like, it is preferred, as the land is in better
heart than where simple nut and bahama grass forms a
complete sod. The bush is now all chopped down with

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112 TlMEHRI.

cutlass, and the cuttings when dry are partly carried
away for fuel to cook food and the remainder is burned
where it lies.

The beds are what are known as round ridged, the
small drain in many cases forming a hollow 6 feet at
surface, 2 feet at bottom and 4 feet deep. The workman
begins by reversing the order of cane culture, and delves
the entire surface with all its noxious grasses a foot
deep, and buries all in the drains which cost the sugar
planters so much to dig. This work at once gets rid of
all grass, and the hoe is set to work to chop the ground
quite fine to a depth of 4 to 5 inches ; water is now let
on, and the whole made into a puddle exa6lly a s
I have already described at Edinburgh ; in fa6i, the
after treatment is exaftly the same, and in every way
resembles the best system carried out in South Carolina.

The Anna Regina paddy farmers seldom grow a ratoon
crop, being satisfied to reap 3 full crops in the year
after the preparation and planting. In the eight months
allowed rent free first year, they establish and reap one

Online LibraryRoyal agricultural and commercial society of BritiTimehri: the journal of the Royal agricultural and commercial society of British Guiana → online text (page 8 of 25)