Saturday, February 26, 2005

The bowl that burnt down Georgetown

On Wed. Feb. 23, we celebrated another Republic Day.

(Whooptee-doo and all that, we have our own flag to wave.)

(Ahhh…something to celebrate: star apple is in season, purple and milky white, as sweet as ever.)

Feb. 23 2005 is also the 60th anniversary of The Big Georgetown Fire.

In a letter to the newspapers, Ameena Gafoor (editor of The Arts Journal) writes that the fire started a little after 4 p.m. at Bookers Drug Store. It raged for 8 hours.

One of the many buildings burnt down was the Fogarty’s Building. On the top floor was the radio station VP3BG. At VP3BG were Paul Persaud also known as Paul O’Hara (the first ever radio news reporter in the colony) and Charles Kellman, a local broadcaster/businessman.

These two fellas were almost trapped in the building by a baby grand piano…some smart person had tried to save the piano by pushing it down the staircase, and it blocked the path of escape. But somehow, Paul Persaud and Charles Kellman managed to get out. And first thing next morning, the radio was back on air, operating elsewhere.

“And,” writes Ameena Gafoor, “the piano was found in a side street on a donkey cart – no-one knows how it got there.”

She also writes, “ Reports have it that during the eight hours that the fire raged, efforts were made to revise the Insurance laws of the colony to allow dynamiting of buildings to prevent the fire from spreading rapidly. The laws were revised but not implemented.”

Well people…is a bowl that make Georgetown burn down! If my nanee was alive you coulda ask she.

Yes! If my nanee was alive she woulda tell you about that bowl.

My mother tell me that she mother tell she about that bowl.

That bowl was found when they did digging the Bellamy Canal, which stretch from Abary Creek to Mahaicony Creek. The men dig that canal with shovels!

They find plenty, plenty Dutch artifacts. One of them was the bowl. The bowl had the words on it, “Dembra (Dumbra) Gyal Forever.”

(Don’t ask me what a Dutch artifact was doing with Creolese written on it).

The men handed over the bowl to the man overseeing the digging project - Van Certima (Van Certiman?)

On his way home, walking along the dam, a li’l boy appear in front of Van Certima (Certiman). The li’l boy say, “Take back that bowl, take it back right now where it come from.” Then the li’l boy vanish.

You think Van Certima (Certiman) listen?


He take the bowl right to the museum.

And that self, same night Georgetown burn down.

Three days later, poor Van Certima (Certiman) dead.

And that is the true, true story how that Dutch bowl burn down Georgetown.


Anonymous said...

Guyana is haunted. I know that for sure. One day my sister and I were sitting in my room, she sewing and I reading and we talking, suddenly this sweeeeet sweeeet smell took over my room, we just looked at each other and ran out the room to where mommy was sitting. mmm hmmm. Now i wonder if a certain bowl that dates back to Pa's grandmother is haunted..u think???

Anonymous said...

The web is see my grandfathers name in the article was a surprise. Charles Kellman was the orignial owner/operater of VP3BG and my mother sang on the Station. Thanks for the posting.

Guyana-Gyal said...

Dear Anonymous, you made my day, truly.

Your grandfather I assume was Charles Kellman? I hope you do have recordings of your mother singing on that station.

Please tell us more? Anything you remember?

I can pass on what you've said to Ameena Gafoor, the editor of The Arts Journal, very much interested in keeping our history and art alive.

Thank you so much for dropping by and leaving your message. I hope you enjoy the rest of my blog. It is basically about the lives, laughter & tears of Guyanese today. Told the way folks here speak, think...

Dermot said...

Just came across the piece about the bowl. Charles Kellman was my grandfather and I'd love to know if there are any more stories about him or about the radio station. I grew up in Ireland and only met him once but my mother painted a portrait of him at the microphone so its a strong memory

Paul Fajgenbaum said...

I am the eldest grandchild of Charles Kellman mentioned in the story about the bowl. I knew both of my grandparents (Charles and Gwen aka Dolly) very well as my brother and I were for the most part the only grandchildren that lived in Trinidad. My grandparents were typical Guyanese whose hospitality and kindness were limitless. I had some pictures,of the opening of the radio station VP3BG, which I passed on to my sister and may be able to get them if anyone thinks they may be of some value. The info that I have was that VP3BG was opened around 1933/1934 by Charles Kellman, Louis Kerr and James Rowe. It was officially opened by Governor Bell and his entourage of"colonial" staffers sometime in 1934. One of my uncles(Charle's son) said that the station in an attempt to expand its scope started airing paid Religious Broadcasts ---one of the first groups to take advantage of this was a Hidu group--this was long before ecuminism and as a result my grandfather faced constant harassment from advertisers and 'others'. Charles 'sold' out or was forced to sell out
his interest (thats another long story about locals vs colonials) in 1942 and moved to Trinidad with his wife and seven children.In teresting to see that the Irish, US and Trinidad cousins independently came accross the story of the bowl within a few days of each other--talk about a global village--I have often wondered what our grandfather would think of communication in today's world---paul

Guyana-Gyal said...

Hello Paul and Dermot, this is exciting, how you've both come across this tale of your grandfather on this blog.

A person who would be interested in all you've said is Ameena Gafoor, editor of The Arts Journal...I will pass on this to her as soon as I can.

Yes, I wonder what your grandfather would think of communication today.

I plan to go visit Paul O' Hara [mentioned here, who knew Charles Kellman.]

Thanks for dropping by and sharing.

Paul Fajgenbaum said...

Dear Guyana-Gyal, if you do get to yisit Paul O'Hara I would love to be informed of his memories and thoughts of my grandfather. He should be the elder statesman of Guyanese Radio. My uncle recalled that VP3BG was the only 'Commercial Broadcast Station south of Miami' and Charles Kellman was known as 'Uncle Charlie ' to thousands within shortwave radio range. He also said that VP3BG provided a service of announcing Births, Deaths , Hospital admissions and discharges -as well as other valuable pertinent info. that was not available by any other means ,at the time, considering the size of the country,the low literacy rate and the lack of other communications channels--Paul O'Haras' comments would be interesting--best wishes --paul fajgenbaum

Guyana-Gyal said...

Now I MUST go visit, him Paul :-)