Sep 23, 2021 Letters
I got a call from Dr. Mark Kirton requesting a slight correction over the backdoor incident in my column yesterday. Here is Dr. Kirton’s description of what happened. I know he told me about the incident but it was so long ago (I know Dr. Kirton as a friend 44 years ago) that the memory lets you down in these kinds of situations.
Dr. Kirton’s father worked as a journalist for the Argosy, owned by Mr. Percy Wight. Mr. Wight sent Kirton’s father to do an interview. Mr. John Saint-Felix Dare, at the time either the owner or part owner (Dr. Kirton can’t recall which) of Fogarty’s. Mr. Dare was at the Georgetown Club at the time. The maid ushered the journalist up the backstairs. The journalist refused to accept that treatment and went back to the Argosy to inform Mr. Wight what had occurred.
The journalist was sent back (Dr. Kirton cannot remember if it was the same day or the next) and he was allowed up the front steps. Dr. Kirton said he could recall his father telling him that Mr. Dare was reluctant of having him use the front stairs. Dr. Kirton also told me he could recall his father, in describing the incident to him, telling him this was Guyana at the time where class and colour dominated the society.
In my column yesterday on class and colour, I did not provide the context of the backstairs incident, in other words, I did not provide the relevance. Here it is. When I was a columnist at the Stabroek News, I was not allowed to go to Mr. DeCaires’ office. I believe his office was off-limits to a majority of the staff. For the six years, I wrote for the newspaper, I was told that I should not try to contact Mr. DeCaires. It wasn’t allowed. I can count the time in those six years I spoke to him. It must have been two or three times. The Stabroek News in the early 1990 was the resuscitation of colour and class all over.
The Stabroek News under DeCaires brought back the era of people like John Saint-Felix Dare. Portuguese domination of Guyana ended around 1972. But from 1988 onwards, David DeCaires, Miles Fitzpatrick, Ian McDonald, Joey King owner of the law firm Cameron and Sheppard, and a few other Portuguese persons with some light-complexioned members of the Mulatto class, especially a few in the legal profession, brought it back to Guyana.
Because of space, I cannot cite all the sad incidents but the two I can recall most vividly is one involving poet Ras Michael which I wrote about before. The other involved Moses Nagamootoo around 1991. For the first time I will mention the Nagamootoo incident.
He entered Stabroek News and for some reason (I really don’t know), he did not stop at the front desk and walked up the stairs. Mrs. DeCaires ordered him out and dressed him down as if she wasn’t talking to one of the most popular figures in Guyanese politics who was a serving member of parliament. I will never ever forget that incident.
The one I will never ever forget too is because I almost lost my life. Ras Michael and I were good friends so he asked me to come around where he lived on East Street. He lived in an old, dilapidated three-storied house obviously that was used by the rich in the early 20th century. As I reached the third level, the stairway I was climbing began to shake.
I was afraid and ready to run down back quickly. With all the nonchalance in the world, Ras Michael said to me; “nah dun worry, suh it stay, it na gun fall.” He wanted my opinion of Miles Fitzpatrick. He had solicited a position of a columnist and Fitzpatrick had a chat with him to explain what was expected. Ras wanted to know what I thought of Fitzpatrick. Ras said to me, “Freddie that man think he is a god.”
Indeed he was. There were all gods from the 19th century until the clash with Peter D’Aguiar and Forbes Burnham led to the exodus of the Portuguese and Mullato class. I end with a little story about one of such person in Miami. I was going to have an eye operation in Miami and Father Andrew Morrison wanted me to look up a Portuguese friend. Then he said, “don’t bother, I don’t want him to.” And he stopped. I was close to Father Morrison and I kept pressing him to end the statement. He didn’t. But in not so many words, I got the meaning. The gentleman would not want someone like me in his fancy house.
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