Jul 09, 2013 News
Some 49 years ago, on July 6th, 1964, on a sunny day, Son Chapman, a river launch that plied the Demerara River, exploded and sank, killing 43 passengers. There were reportedly 33 survivors.
Now, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the incident which has been described as the single largest loss of life at any one time in Guyana, the town of Linden is getting ready to build a permanent memorial.
According to the Opposition a Partnership for National Unity (APNU) yesterday, a site has been selected for the permanent memorial to the victims of the Son Chapman tragedy.
The monument will be built on the West Bank of the Demerara River between Stewart Path and Bruce Path, Christianburg, Wismar.
Making the announcement at a solemn ceremony on the 49th Anniversary of what many consider the most gruesome act of political violence in our nation’s history, Regional Chairman, Sharma Solomon on Saturday said the monument will be erected and ready for the 50th Anniversary of the tragedy next year.
Solomon, in asking those gathered to reflect on the terrible events of July 6, 1964, said the tragedy must be used as a source of strength. He urged that fear must not be allowed to conquer hope and called on Guyanese to not forget the incident but to remember and use it as a dwell on what went wrong as a nation.
Guest speaker, Opposition Leader Brigadier (ret’d) David Granger, MP, gave a historical analysis and recalled some of the events that led-up to the bombing of the passenger launch.
The Demerara River was liquid history of sacrifice of blood. It tells the story of Guyanese with the remembrance service and the laying of wreaths not an empty ritual, but a recommitment that such an atrocity should not happen again. He said: “Don’t let hate consume your energy, let this river (the Demerara) not be a river of hate but a channel of commerce; a river of prosperity for the people of Linden and Region 10. Let the pain of the past propel us to peace and prosperity in the future.”
At the ceremony, floral tributes were placed in the river by Granger, Sharma Solomon, Horace James of Linmine Secretariat, Joe Chapman – Son of the owner of the Son Chapman, a representative of the National Congress of Women (NCW) and the Guyana Youth and Student Movement (GYSM).
The ceremony was held on Saturday at the new site for the Son Chapman Memorial monument at Wismar Waterfront between Stewart Path and Bruce Path, Christianburg.
On that July day, 1964, an explosion blew apart the Sun Chapman launch as it sailed up the Demerara river from Georgetown to Mackenzie. Forty-three people died either due to the explosion or drowned when the launch sank. Most of the thirty-three survivors, including the entire crew, were those fortunate to be on the deck or bow when the boat exploded.
The launch exploded shortly after leaving Horadia, about sixteen miles from Mackenzie. By July 8, the bodies recovered from the river and taken to the Mackenzie Hospital morgue to be buried numbered 32. Some badly decomposed bodies were also buried at Horadia.
Most of the victims were Lindeners traveling home from Georgetown along the Demerara River. Back then, the river was commonly used for this journey before the Linden-Soesdyke highway was constructed in 1968. The explosion was caused by a bomb, but the persons responsible and the type of explosives used remain unknown.
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