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through the bush and then made his offer for various stretches of land, offers which were accepted. All his properties proved to be rich bauxite-bearing lands, but it has always been a mystery how he managed to find bauxite which lay well below the top-soil or 'over-burden' without even drilling. An employee of the Demerara Bauxite Company told me that the old man could simply 'smell out bauxite'. Mackenzie had a brilliant legal mind and during the two and a half years he spent in the Colony he laid the foundations of the present Company. Then he caught a disease of the Interior and returned to the United States where he died a year later.
Demba, as the Company calls itself, is now a subsidiary of the Aluminum Company of Canada, and is operated largely by Canadian personnel. It employs about 2,000 Guianese and pays the highest wages in the Colony. The partially refined bauxite is shipped to Canada, where power is cheap.1 British Guiana produces one-fifth of the world's bauxite and its export accounts for nearly go per cent of the Colony's export revenue, over 15 per cent of the Government's total revenue and about 9 per cent of the national income.
I was met at the stelling by a cheerful, bearded Canadian who drove me in his jeep past the dust-shrouded factory where great cylinders glowed with heat as the ore was calcined in them. A few minutes later we had reached the section of the town where the Senior Staff of sixty-five lives, a long macadamized road with large well-designed houses set in compounds on either side. Blonde-headed children played on the lawns while their mothers snipped at rose-bushes or took green-fingers to herbaceous borders. There was a contented atmosphere, a sense of comparative rootedness and rural peace. We approached the large white club-house where I was to stay. A swimming-pool had been built on the lawn in front of it; swimmers sat at tables under orange umbrellas with drinks beside them. I might have been approaching the country-club of some prosperous New England county.
It was a Saturday afternoon and the club itself was full; billiards and bridge were being played, dice thrown at the bar
1 In December, 1956, the British Guiana Government announced that Demba had provisionallly agreed to erect at Mackenzie a processing plant costing approximately £12 million, to produce alumina for export.
for the next round of drinks. I was welcomed with a seidel of Pilsener. Most of the men at the bar were Canadians who had come to Mackenzie from other bauxite areas in the world and they had had little chance to learn anything about the Colony apart from what they saw in Mackenzie. But there were local men among them, and before long one of them was giving me his views on the Colony. For him the trouble was the complete complacency of mind among all Guianese other than the political firebrands. 'What we want is a strong, organized, middleclass party to take over power eventually', he said. 'The middleclass should be the backbone of the Colony, but it isn't. Politics here are usually just a vehicle for personal gain. It's the same with the trade unions. Slick little lawyers organize them to get themselves on and they don't care a damn for the men they're supposed to represent.' He was depressed about the failure of the Constitution but said that the experiment had to be made and it was unfortunate that the Colony was not better ready for it. 'You know,' he said, 'the Guianese are really the gentlest people imaginable, but we do have occasional violent passions and they've produced the P.P.P. I'm afraid they've got more power now than ever they had. At the time of the election they came a bad third in Mackenzie, but now they'd sweep the poll. There's much too much complacency about. We're all saying, "Oh we've got the Black Watch, so let's sit back-nothing can happen." That's wrong. Something's got to happen—and soon.'
I spent the evening at the house of a young Dutchman who had joined the Company a year before. Since the loss of Dutch Indonesia Dutchmen have begun to take jobs in the colonies of other nations, and I frequently came across them in British Guiana. The evening was cosmopolitan; the other guests were a young Canadian couple and an Englishman and his Parisian wife, who had a chic that was charmingly unexpected in a place literally hacked out of surrounding jungle. She had a very metropolitan mind and plied me with questions about films and plays and gossip she had gleaned from weeks-old newspapers. Her husband wore a double-breasted blazer with silver buttons and smoothed his small moustache before telling his amusing anecdotes, which invariably had an African setting, for he was an old African hand who looked upon British Guiana a little haughtily. The Canadian wife, who had been
in Mackenzie less than a month and had suffered from her servants, began to complain of some incident; it was the signal, as it always is in the Colony, for an almost electric vivification of the atmosphere; heads swung from interrupted conversations and all prepared to give an account of the latest outrage suffered at the hands of their servants. When this oral revenge had been spent the Englishman told me that the servants live together in houses some way from the houses where they work. No men were supposed to go to their quarters, but most of the girls had men living with them, two couples sharing a room intended for two girls. At one time police were put on guard, but the policemen themselves took advantage of this propinquity and finally the Company washed its hands of the morals of the servants' quarters. One of the girls had been murdered during the week. She had come to Mackenzie with her Kabukru lover and found herself a job as a servant. While the Kabukru had gone up-river for some weeks she had taken up with a Negro. When the Kabukru came back and found what had happened he quietly plunged his knife into the girl's heart. The Englishman told me that he had met the Negro lover the morning after the crime; he had described all the details of the murder with a broad grin on his face.
The following afternoon another Englishman and his wife— both had been born in the Colony-came to take me for a drive. 'There's only one drive', I was told, ‘because there's only one road-out to the airfield they built during the war.' We sped along the soft sand road which wound through the wan jungle. It had rained during the night and at one point the car stuck in the sand and with some difficulty we pushed it out. At last we reached the airfield, a large area of tarmac built on high land whose white sand slopes stretched down to the winding Demerara. We were in the eastern part of what the geologists of the Colony call the White Sand Series, where bauxite and diamonds are found and agriculture is impossible. 'This', said my host, 'is the only place round here where you can get some speed out of your car', and he headed the car towards the distant horizon at a most alarming speed, turning round as we approached the end of the runway and once more joyfully pressing on the accelerator. His frustrated lust for speed was satisfied after some twenty minutes, and we went for a quiet
walk while great banks of dark-grey rainclouds drifted towards us from the East.
Life at Mackenzie, I felt after two days there, was remote from the life of the coastal belt. Conditions are good, wages high and the only discontent is the discontent that always seems to accompany a rise in a standard of living. I went into several workers' stilted houses, all bright with artificial flowers, vivid curtains and gay pin-ups cut from magazines. All were tidy and well scrubbed, and usually there was the banjo with which the Africans like to pass an evening, singing songs like 'O
Madeline, sweet, sweet Madeline, tell me where you get that belly from' or 'I put my hand on Lulu's breast, Lulu faint away'. In one house the owner, a tall, young, full-blooded Negro had painted on the wall a quotation from Benjamin Franklin: 'I wish to see the discovery of a plan that would induce and oblige Nations to settle their disputes without first cutting one another's throats.' I asked him why he had painted it on the wall and he said, 'Sir, me puts dat dere 'cos me has frien's who should know about dat.'
The Demerara Bauxite Company has certainly spared no effort to create amenities for its staff. They have built churches, hospitals and clinics, schools, a free library, a recreation hall, a cinema. They run a staff magazine—its editor was formerly editor of one of the Georgetown dailies-and sponsor a request programme on Radio Demerara. The standard of living is
probably higher in Mackenzie than anywhere else in British Guiana, and perhaps because of that the settlement may soon have to face a miniature version of the whole Colony's great problem-over-population.
Children were everywhere in Mackenzie and Wismar; the prosperity of the place has encouraged an even higher birthrate than the rest of the Colony. There are 4,000 children at the schools today and soon they will be on the labour market. (The Company built, and maintain, all the primary schools at Mackenzie, as well as the Echols High School.) Demba employs 2,000 men, and there is no source of employment other than in bauxite or the various fringe employments of any community. Within ten years Mackenzie could have a vast number of unemployed; no doubt many of them will return to Georgetown or the Coast to swell the unemployment there. Or will Government by then have cleared the riverain areas and settled them on the land?
From Mackenzie I flew by amphibian aeroplane deeper into the Interior to visit the British Guiana Consolidated Goldfields at Tumatumari, the 'Falls of Death' on the Potaro River, a tributary of the Essequibo. There is gold in the hills of Guiana; the El Dorado of Sir Walter Raleigh was not a delusion. Many Guianese believe that one day reefs of gold comparable to those in South Africa will be found and with this vast natural wealth the problems of the Colony will be solved. Gold in alluvial deposits has been found in many areas and there have been rushes, or 'shouts' as they are called, even in recent years; but by now most of the alluvial pockets have been worked out by lone prospectors and what remains can only be extracted by heavy machinery. The two dredges of B. G. Consolidated (which is backed by the Colonial Development Corporation) extract 85 per cent of the Colony's total gold output of 24,000 ounces (1952). It is interesting to compare these figures with those of other years. In 1884 the output was 250 ounces; by 1894 it had increased to 138,000 ounces and by 1928 had decreased to 6,000 ounces. The arrival of B. G. Consolidated increased the yield to 42,000 ounces in 1938, but since then output has gone down once more.