….plans to use part proceeds to assist children in the Town
By Enid Joaquin
Guyanese Canadian Steve Connelley, whose first book ‘Children of Watooka’, was released in 2016 during Guyana’s 50th anniversary celebrations and the bauxite centennial, has now written and published the sequel, titled ‘Journey Back to Watooka’.
Like its predecessor, the new book captures the unique way of life in the expatriate village and by extension Mackenzie, as Linden was known in the early days.
Connolly was born in 1943 in Mackenzie to Canadian parents. The first ten years of his life were spent in the former expatriate community of Watooka, which provided rich fodder for both of his books.
Apart from his childhood experiences and adventures growing up in Watooka, Connelly also captures the history surrounding that period when the Demerara Bauxite Company (Demba) was the economic mainstay of Mackenzie, and by extension Guyana.
Connelly said that he returned to Guyana in 2016, the first time in 63 years, when his first book Children of Watooka was published. He has returned four times since.
With the present book launch, Connelley said that he plans to use some of the proceeds from the sale of the new book to assist children in Linden, even though he does not make a profit on the books.
“My wife and I, we are not rich, but we choose to do this rather than say getting a new car, because of the great feeling it gives us to give pleasure through the sharing of memories. These books cost me way more than I make out of their sale, but I derive tremendous satisfaction and fun writing them,” Connelly stated.
Connelly describes the response to his first book as “absolutely incredible”, noting that it has been sold in England, the United States, Canada and of course Guyana.
Pointing out that there are far more Guyanese “outside than inside”, he said that many have “greatly” enjoyed the book to relive memories while acquiring new knowledge and experiences.
Connelly confessed that in order to write the two books, he had to read about two hundred books to further enrich his knowledge, which he said was not hard research as he thoroughly enjoyed doing that.
“I’m grateful to my parents that I was born in this country; my father who was a senior Bauxite engineer built the St. Joseph the Worker Church. His friend Gordon built the Christ the King Anglican Church,” he explained.
He details the contributions bauxite mining made to the war through the supply of aluminum, used to build aircraft used in the Second World War.
Connelly highlighted instances where the ships used to transport the precious ore were torpedoed by German submarines, which lay in wait for them.
He said that his father and other bauxite employees worked overtime to meet the demand for aluminum, but that many of the ships were sunk by the submarines and many lives were lost.
“One out of every three ship would have sunk in 1942; there were submarines out there like sharks, then the United States went after them in 1943 and about a year later things improved greatly”.
Connelly in reflecting on Guyana today said that the country lost much of its human resources due to the massive exodus of the middle class during the sixties, seventies and eighties, which badly hurt the ability of the country to move forward.
“No matter who the leaders were, when you lose your middle class, you can’t move forward,” he stated.
Connelly said that this massive brain drain was due to the fact that the country was not being properly governed and thus people lost hope and migrated.
“So the middle class was effectively destroyed….they thought ,well we have no hope (here)and so they left the country….that and racial discrimination is responsible for this country not being as developed as it should be,” the author noted.
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