Jan 24, 2016 News
“I always prefer field work to working in the Office. I loved and still do love, going into the fields, talking to people, finding out what their problems were and then using this information to determine how best I, as a Councillor, could help them or help to determine the direction the NDC should take in alleviating these problems; in improving their quality of life.”
By Staff Writer
Back in the early 1970s Prince Albert Pompey, a young man living at Highdam, Mahaicony, now in Region 5 (Mahaica/Berbice), saw the need for improvements in the quality of life of residents in his community.
Things were not too good.
For instance, there was a primary drainage canal, the Bellamy Canal which ran parallel to the Atlantic Ocean and served as primary drainage canal for the lands in West Mahaicony, but there were no secondary canals in the area to drain into this primary channel.
In those days, in fact, the only secondary drainage for the villages were cow tracks made by these animals grazing in the pasture. Flooding during heavy rains was accepted as inevitable. There was no electricity; no potable water system; no telephones.
REMOVING BARRIERS TO DEVELOPMENT
Pompey wanted to see change; to see development. He became imbued with the desire to see improvements in the quality of life of residents in his village and in West Mahaicony. He decided to become involved in Local Government as a means of removing the barriers to development.
He joined the Local Authority of West Mahaicony in 1970; served nine years as Vice Chairman up to 1979; served fifteen years as Chairman up to 1994 and since then an additional twenty-one years as a Councillor…and counting.
Last week, when Kaieteur News caught up with this ‘Special Person’, he was still involved, still participating in Council meetings; still playing a vital leadership role in creating vision, direction and values at the level of the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC); still managing to balance these roles with that of an activist of the political party of his choice which he joined in 1955.
Last year, on the occasion of the 49th Anniversary of the Independence of Guyana, Mr. Pompey, Councillor of Woodlands/Farm Neighbourhood Democratic Council was awarded the national honour of the Golden Arrow of Achievement for long, dedicated and outstanding service in the field of local government and in politics.
Thirty years ago he was appointed Commissioner of Oaths and Affidavits and Justice of Peace.
ALWAYS WILLING TO HELP
Pompey, now in his eighties, is always available; always willing to help members of his community and even those outside of it. People freely approach him to get documents signed and to get other forms of assistance which a
COA or a JP can provide.
Sometimes they ask it as a favour saying that they don’t have the money at hand, and in many instances he does whatever is required free of charge.
“Money is not all,” he emphasised. “Sometimes people come to me. They don’t have the money to pay for the work they need done, but I help them anyway.”
Pompey said that some time ago he was considering resigning from the post of Councillor, but fellow Councillors urged him to stay on.
“They said that I had the experience and the knowledge and I will be of assistance to them so I am still active; still helping out in any way I can.”
The 84-year-old is also an Elder of the Kingdom Advanced Ministry Church in Farm, Mahaicony. His advice to young and old for a stress-free and productive life is “Find a Church to go! Accept Jesus Christ as your saviour.”
Prince Albert Pompey was the elder of two children born to Adolphus and Rebecca Pompey of Ann’s Grove village on the East Coast of Demerara on October 2nd,1931.
Adolphus Pompey was like many other men in Ann’s Grove, a diamond seeker. Prince Pompey’s mother, a housewife, died when he was only two years old. He grew up with his grandparents and an aunt.
Prince attended the Ann’s Grove Primary Roman Catholic School and graduated with a Preliminary Certificate at the age of fourteen. He then moved to Highdam, Mahaicony (the correct name of which is Rebecca’s Lust) where his grandparents and aunt lived.
There were thirteen children in the home. He was the eldest and they called him Big Brother.
As a child he enjoyed the rural existence: catching fish swimming in the trenches aback of the village; picking mangoes and guavas from the many trees in the backdam.
“Those days were the days before the Bellamy Canal and the ocean used to come in and leave the fish in shallow trenches when it receded. People never had to buy fish.”
THE USEFULNESS OF HARD WORK
After leaving school, he worked with his aunt and grandparents on the family farm, helping to rear the pigs and cows. He said that he learnt the usefulness of hard work from his grandfather, the late Thomas Hamilton.
“He taught me how to farm. He also taught me about honesty, he used to say ‘when a man works for something and he achieves it by honest labour, he will get to keep it and be able to pass it on to his next generation. Whatever he gets through dishonest means will never last long.’”
“I was his first grandchild, but I understood about discipline and good behaviour from him early in life. He used to discipline me with his eyes. Anytime he passed by and saw me with company he did not approve of, or doing something that he did not like, he would roll up his eyes and give me that look. When he did so, I knew it was time to move or stop doing what I was doing right away. He never had cause to flog me.”
They sold the pork they produced to the then Guyana Marketing Corporation.
His aunt ground cassava and made cassava bread, cassava starch and casareep, and sold these items all along the coast up to Rosignol.
“When the cassava bread, cassava starch and cassareep was ready, many times I helped her to load the sacks onto the train. I went along with her as she sold these things when the train made a stop at the various stations. Life at Highdam was good”.
A STINT IN THE DIAMOND FIELDS
Pompey subsequently began a stint in the diamond fields in his late twenties. He worked in location such as the Potaro, Kurupung and Eping.
It was hard work but thanks to his grandfather he had been physically prepared for it.
In 1966 he married Elmer Leila Rutherford, a young lady in the village who was self-employed as a seamstress.
The union bore two sons Prince Albert Pompey Jr and Joseph, both of whom live at Highdam.
Elmer, he reflects, was the love of his life. She died in 1999. “Sixth of August 1999,” he recounted. He never remarried.
He became involved in local government work with the encouragement of then prominent West Mahaicony residents Vincent Britton and Huldah Walcott.
“I served with Vincent as Vice Chairman. He was the Chairman then.”
“I also worked alongside Huldah. She told me about service to my community and my country through local government and making a contribution and so on. I never forgot her words.”
Both of his mentors incidentally are still alive, they currently reside in the United States.
He recalled that in those early 1970s there were only four villages in West Mahaicony. Now there are sixty-six.
He worked alongside surveyors who had been sent into the area to demarcate the boundaries of these villages.
“I was a sort of a voluntary unskilled assistant for about three months until the boundaries of these villages had been established.”
He also recalled the many hours of voluntary work by himself and villagers in building a network of secondary canals to drain the lands in West Mahaicony into the Bellamy canal and into the Atlantic.
The Bellamy had been constructed in the late 1950s, but there were no secondary canals to drain excess rain water from the villages into the canal.
“In the early days this work was done by villagers using shovels. Everyone would commit to digging a few rods, maybe five or six rods or so at a time.”
“This was hard work. But most times it was fun because we found means of entertaining ourselves – some would crack jokes and everybody would take a break; have a hearty laugh and then recommencing the painstaking digging. Some would sing queh queh songs to the rhythm of the striking shovels as they dug into the soil to create the drainage and irrigation channels in West Mahaicony, some of which still exist,” Pompey fondly recounted.
“A bit later on the work was done by Hymac excavators. But before it was done by shovel and pure stamina and muscle, by men who worked their farmlands and reared cattle and then volunteered after this to mark off and dig drainage and irrigation canals for the benefit of their West Mahaicony communities.”
In the meantime, he continued to balance the tasks of giving leadership to his NDC and activist support for the political party of his choice, the People’s National Congress.
“I always prefer field work to working in the Office. I loved and still do love going into the fields, talking to people, finding out what their problems were and then using this information to determine how best I, as a Councillor, could help them or help to determine the direction the NDC should take in alleviating these problems; in improving their quality of life.”
“For me this is what local government work is all about…helping people regardless of their political allegiance, race or religion.”
He continued to reminisce, “It was tough at times. People tell you things; made you feel sometimes that bad name will be the only outcome of all this voluntary work. But then I decided to ignore the negatives and to focus instead on my desire to serve the people around me in my capacity as Councillor.”
He said that prior to 1980, before the reorganisation of the local Government system, the councils hardly had any say in the way their communities could be developed.
“This was the system set up by colonials, whose aim was to have the villages completely dependent on the central government.”
It used to be so at one time when you had to write somebody and then they would take long to reply, and then the process of improving the quality of life in the village or villages would grind to a halt and frustration would step in.”
With the re-organisation, the system became better structured to give councils greater autonomy in the work of managing and developing their communities.
“Soon it will be even better, where the Councils can raise their funds and decide what to do with these funds without having to get the approval of anybody outside of the Council. Now when the Council make a decision they don’t have to write to anybody to get approval.”
“Local Government activities must aim at improving people’s living, cultural and environmental standards. I am happy to be around to see the evolution of the local government system to where it is now, and hopefully where it will soon be operating at a higher level of autonomy for the benefit of people in the rural areas. I thank God for allowing me to be around to see this change.”
And what of the future for Prince Albert Pompey A.A?
“I am blessed to have achieved national recognition for my efforts. I will be here continuing to serve as a Councillor; giving advice on policies and programs; helping people for as long as I have health and strength.”
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