Guyana Then And Now

Watooka House

I think John has finished uploading all his videos from the Grimshaw 2009 visit to Watooka, Guyana.

I have added some of Pauline’s photos to the first two in the list, while the last bunch appear to be straight out of the camera.

They are all in HD, so click the full screen button for viewing.

Watooka House from the Traffic Circle
Video John Grimshaw
Photos Pauline Grimshaw
Music Mary Kadderly

Watooka Pool
Video John Grimshaw
Photos Pauline Grimshaw
Music Wes Houle

Watooka House Gardens and Remains of Dorabeci

Landing
Video John Grimshaw

Watooka House from Track Control Tower
Video John Grimshaw

Watooka Riverside Drive
Video John Grimshaw

_____________________________________________________

Watooka Guest House, MacKenzie, Guyana

Watooka Guest House 2007 (photo skoodlwump on Flickr)

Gerry King has kindly consented to me posting a letter of his that he wrote “in response to hearing that the foreign owners (Chinese) of the bauxite company were planning to sell Watooka House”. He adds many Watooka House details that are new to me.

If the property was in the National Trust or if it was declared a National Historic Building the Chinese would have no say. The Guyana government should definitely protect and preserve this property. Apart from its architectural value it had a key role in the sociology of the area and, by extension, the country.

Some sociological aspects:

Watooka House is really one building with two sections serving two different roles. The better known part of the building is the Watooka Club on the south side but less known Watooka Guest House is on the north side.

Watooka Club, as most people know, was the social and after work club for the professional staff of the bauxite company, while the Supervisors Club in the village (Cockatara, central Mackenzie) served the supervisors and the Mackenzie Sports Club served others.

The Watooka Guest House was probably the most exclusive guest house, inn or hotel in the old Guyana. Indeed, monarchs, heads of state and other dignitaries stayed there but what I remember most as a boy growing up in the area was that J.G. Campbell, the Chairman of the company, stayed there when he visited from Georgetown. J. N. Fraser was the local head at that time.

Guest of moderate importance stayed at the Mackenzie Hotel, hear the hospital and general visitors stayed at the Mackenzie Inn in Cockatara (named after the creek that is in front of the north plant gate).

I have been inside the Watooka Club but never seen the insides of the Guest House. My mother did! She was a maid there. We literally lived on the other side of the tracks, the railroad tracks.

Watooka Guest House, MacKenzie, Guyana

Watooka Guest House 2007 (photo skoodlwump on Flickr)

Many of you might recall that the bauxite railroad head office was (is??) across from Watooka House. This is where there was the most tracks. In the late 50’s and early 60’s there were rows of servant quarters behind the tracks and backing on to what is now Fairs Rust. We lived there next to the Embrack girls (MHS). Much later on I had the privilege of living on the “good” side of the tracks in Watooka as a “staff mun”.

Mr. Hitchcock was the manager of the Guest House in those days. I heard a lot about the reverence and anxiety when there was a guest there.

I did not realize it at the time but Watooka was a gated golf community similar to the ones here in North America.

I currently live in Florida and the gated golf communities here have a golf course (of course), Watooka had that; a concierge (manned gate), Watooka had that; a club house, Watooka had that; a shared swimming pool, Watooka had that.

However, there is one amenity that Watooka had that I have not seen here yet within the confines of the gated community…..a cinema. Watooka also had an elementary school which not all gated communities here have. Also, half of Watooka was water front property (the Demerara). This is not all that common here. Individual homes also had servant quarters downstairs.

Watooka Guest House, MacKenzie, Guyana

Watooka Guest House 2007 (photo skoodlwump on Flickr)

I guess that the Canadians created a piece of North America in Mackenzie. Do you remember that Watooka is lined with pine (Christmas) trees, a temperate/cold climate plant?

Watooka House was at the front of Watooka. In the old days, coming from the direction of the hospital, there was a creek (Watooka Creek) just before you got to Watooka House. That creek was like a moat. A constable (company security guard) stood there and turned you back from entering the area if you were not a resident or servant. Since most of the people beyond the gate were white, we thought that it was because of the colour of our skin but when you think about it, non-white people had no reason for being in there except if they were service people and, of course, service people would be of a working age. As such, non-white kids were automatically rejected.

Enough reminiscing! The fact remains that Watooka House is of architectural and sociological significance and should definitely be kept in government hands.

Please forward this e-mail and other like ones to all that you think might care about Watooka House. Eventually they might reach someone who has the power to save the property.

Mr. Prime Minister, Sam Hinds, what about you? You lived in the area for a significant time.

_________________________________________

Featured Comment:

from Keith Gordon 2009-10-02 on page Mackenzie Today
Hi guys just thought that I should let you know that Watooka House is not owned by the Chinese owners of the bauxite company. It is still owned by the state and managed by Linmine Secretariat (Horace James, former CEO Linmine).

50 Comments »

  1. I believe that the Linden Bauxite Company is owned by RUSAL, a Russian company. The company is in financial straits and about to lay off workers. I have written on the Watooka House matter, with the advice to make it a National Historic Building, to a group in GY urging action be taken.
    Peter

    Comment by Peter Halder — November 20, 2009 @ 7:22 pm | Reply

  2. hi Peter — How are you? I have been trying to contact you for the longest while. Hope you get this email for us to keep in touch.

    Comment by harold sahadeo — November 21, 2009 @ 8:27 pm | Reply

  3. Hi Gill (Hiscocks) – Glad that the cook books are in safe hands. Now if we could find the Watooka House guest book that has gone missing apparently … interesting the spelling of your maiden name on another blog! My best to David, Pip and your Mum.

    Comment by Pat Cusack nee Hunte — November 23, 2009 @ 10:16 am | Reply

    • Trying to reach Gill, David or Pip Hiscocks. My name is Lynn LaBorde Eastman. Lynn.eastman@yahoo.com is my email. Thank you.

      Comment by Lynn LaBorde Eastman — September 11, 2012 @ 7:16 pm | Reply

      • Lynn, we used to live next door to you, My father was Dr. Davies-Webb, he passed away in 1982. I had an older sister Susan who was friends with your brother Dickie, who we all had mad crushes on! Have you had any luck finding Pip, we used to be best friends along with Robby Rosa, the Bogato boys, the Hamiltons, the Quinns and Robert Johnson. My email is judidw@hotmail.com if I ring a little bell inside anyones head.

        Comment by judidw — October 22, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

    • Hello I’m super curious about the watooka cook books is there copies or pictures for purchase?

      Comment by ketina — February 25, 2016 @ 3:57 am | Reply

    • Super interested in the cook book is there any copies to buy ? Thanks

      Comment by ketina — February 25, 2016 @ 4:18 am | Reply

  4. Hi Harold,
    Nice hearing from you after so many, many years. My e-mail address is peterhalder@hotmail.com
    Peter

    Comment by Peter Halder — November 28, 2009 @ 9:45 pm | Reply

  5. I am a Canadian who lived in Mackenzie in the really early 60’s. Met so many lovely Guyanese- some being Phillapa (sp) LaBorde and her sister and fell in love with their brother – Dickie and their father was a police chief – had a good friend named Judy Cass. I am now 66 and looking for friends who might not even remember me. I now live in Trinidad and most of the good memories of my entire life stem from living in Mackenzie.

    Comment by Jane Macdonald — August 2, 2010 @ 5:59 am | Reply

    • Hi Jane. Just sent you an e-mail and now see that you are in Trinidad!!! My place of birth. What the h e and two sticks are you doing there?
      Just spoke to Skippy Cass who doesn’t use Skippy by the way, but Raymond, and he said he would be talking to Judy who’s travelling at the moment. He will see if he can get a phone number for her and will call me back.
      Hope you can connect with her again.

      Comment by Pat Hunte-Cusack — August 2, 2010 @ 4:03 pm | Reply

    • Please note, Dick LaBorde was never Police Chief. He was a Supt. or a Senior Supt.

      Comment by Harold Joseph — March 21, 2011 @ 2:07 pm | Reply

      • You are right, Harold. Dick LaBorde gave me driving lessons and I’ll never forget getting my licence after having to make a three-point turn on a hill in Noigedacht (spelling might not be accurate!)

        Comment by Pat Hunte-Cusack — March 31, 2011 @ 6:54 pm

      • Interesting to know that you knew my uncle Dick La Borde. He was Senior Superintendent of Police – left Guyana for England years after his retirement and subsequently passed away.

        Comment by Andree LaBorde-Alexander — December 2, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

      • Trying to track down family members from Guyana. I am the daughter of John LaBorde, son of Holly LaBorde who was sister to Dick and Bruce LaBorde. Please contact me at Lynn.eastman@yahoo.com. Thanks, Lynn LaBorde Eastman

        Comment by Lynn LaBorde Eastman — September 11, 2012 @ 7:23 pm

    • Hello Jane,

      I was in Trinida in December and tried to find you without sucess.

      How are you? Look forward to hearing from you. My email adress is cehenery@rogers.com

      Comment by Charlie Henery — March 23, 2011 @ 3:52 am | Reply

      • Hi Charlie, I was till in Trinidad in December but moved to Tobago in January. Too bad we couldn’t have gotten together. How is life in the cold north?

        My email address is lisumac@yahoo.com

        Comment by Jane Macdonald — April 1, 2011 @ 7:51 pm

    • Hallo Jane Macdonald! I left a reply to your comment on Mckenzie and the whereabouts of Philippa, Toni and Dickie LaBorde in the comment number 15. of the comments list. Get in touch! Peggy LaBorde

      Comment by Peggy LaBorde — August 23, 2011 @ 7:12 pm | Reply

  6. fascinating… as a small child in the mid-50’s I lived in a house directly across the creek from this club, and I have tried for years to find out more about it. There were two swimming pools (i think – I was four!), a pair of cannon on the lawn, Easter egg hunts, an enormous cat. At Christmas our tree was a leafed sapling liberally coated with smelly silver paint.
    I’m trying to write about the alcan-brat life – Frank Harding

    Comment by audaxrex — February 7, 2011 @ 2:02 pm | Reply

    • Frank,
      I don’t remember you, but I too lived in MacKenzie in the residential section (I dimly recall Watooka). Here is what I remember about the Watooka House:
      1. we called it the club, I don’t ever remember any other name
      2. I’ve swum in the big pool in front many times (memory hazy, I lived there 3-7 yrs old)
      3. My dad (Allan ‘Pat’ Dicks) was the mill superintendant for Alcan
      4. Our house was north of the club house, on the other side of the street from the school/movie theater, on a corner
      5. There were 50 families who collectively made up the entire ‘white’ community
      6. There was 1/4 mile of paved road
      7. The only rr tracks I recall were across the river, and we often went there via native canoe or ferry, then down the tracks on a hand-cranked flatbed RR ‘car’ to a cabin on the river outfitted with bunkbeds and a porch that overlooked water – we’d lie on the porch at night with flashlights and look at the lit up eyes of caiman lying on sandbars
      8. Our house was ‘on stilts’ as was every house there
      9. We had a lot of servants – one name I remember was “Persod” – our gardener

      Any of this ringing bells for anyone?

      Comment by Karen Dicks — February 19, 2011 @ 4:28 pm | Reply

      • Loud and clear just like yesterday! We arrived in Mackenzie in 1959 from Georgetown on the ‘Polaris’ and stayed until 1966 when we returned to the UK. Those years were the happiest years of my childhood. Our cook was Ada, maid Myrtle and house boy Paul. My father was Dr. Davies-Webb.

        Comment by judidw — October 22, 2012 @ 3:55 pm

  7. Where is Watooka on the map? Is it in Linden?

    Thank you.

    Comment by Thomas F. Heffernan — February 22, 2011 @ 3:30 pm | Reply

    • Watooka is in Linden just upriver from the Bauxite plant.

      Comment by Admin — February 22, 2011 @ 4:19 pm | Reply

  8. Despite my pleas in an Emeritus article ( Alcan Retiree magazine) of June 2009, we are still looking for the “LOST” sic original of the Watooka Guest House Book signed by HRH Prince Phillip and many other dignatories. With modern technology we are prepared to pay for a photo copy which will be equal to the original, if done on good paper.anyone listening, reading, or knowning where that document is lying in-between cobwebs and other useless items; please feel free to contact me;
    Clarence London, March 17, 2011

    Comment by Clarence London — March 17, 2011 @ 4:53 pm | Reply

    • GOOD LUCK CLARENCE!!!
      It must be somewhere!
      Pat

      Comment by Pat Hunte-Cusack — March 31, 2011 @ 6:57 pm | Reply

  9. I guess that the Canadians created a piece of North America in Mackenzie. Do you remember that Watooka is lined with pine (Christmas) trees, a temperate/cold climate plant?

    For the record, I lived in Mackenzie from 1960 to 1967 and raised two children who were born at the local hospital. The trees mentioned above that lined Casuarina Drive were not Canadian evergreens, but, Casuarina trees and native of Australia and the Pacific Islands. Obviously, they were more tolerant of the sandy soil and higher temperatures. Many of you writing your comments i.e. Pat Hunte, Karen Dicks and Judy Cass were young girls at the time I worked in the Alumina plant. It is great to see you all still have memories of this wonderful experience we have all been privaleged to have had.
    God Bless Guyana,

    Comment by John Watt — March 18, 2011 @ 11:55 pm | Reply

  10. I spent five years in Mackenzie in the mid sixties and still consider them some of the best years of my life. The people were friendly and a pleasure to work with and we also had the best rugby team in Guyana. I thank Winston Figuiera for keeping me in touch. Derek O’Neil

    Comment by Derek O'neil — March 26, 2011 @ 10:57 am | Reply

  11. Hi Derek,
    Fancy you finding us again!
    Where are you now?
    After ages in Montreal, I’m now in Ontario on Lake Erie with all the dead fish … (Another chapter in my life!)
    e-mail: bcusack@talkwireless.ca
    Remember our Hippie Halloween at the Club with Heather Bromow and Alistair Beck? I think we even won for best group …
    Best wishes,
    Pat

    Comment by Pat Hunte-Cusack — March 31, 2011 @ 6:48 pm | Reply

  12. My sister Virginia and I (Elizabeth and Virginia Echols) lived in British Guiana from December 1943 to June 1958. Many of the early years were spent in Mackenzie, where we lived in the managing director’s (H. V. Echols and Kathleen Echols) house directly across from the pool at Watooka House. Ginny and I have many happy memories of our time in BG. In fact Ginny was born in Mackenzie in January 1944. She now lives in South Carolina and I’m in Los Angeles. When we moved to Georgetown we were so happy when we were able to return to Mackenzie on the Dorabeci for a few days – and we always stayed at Watooka House which we love! What happy memories of a wonderful, carefree childhood in BG!

    Comment by Elizabeth (Echols) Edmondson — April 6, 2011 @ 10:52 pm | Reply

    • Hi Elizabeth. I see that Virginia and I were born in the same month and year. Me in Port of Spain. I didn’t know she was a “mudhead” like my brother. My birth date is the 16th.
      Many happy memories of knowing your family there. Thanks for writing in. Hi to Virginia too – I still have the wedding photo she sent me many moons ago. I’m happily retired now in Ontario.
      Best wishes,
      Pat

      Comment by Pat Hunte-Cusack — April 7, 2011 @ 6:30 pm | Reply

      • …my brother Eric, born a twin in Mackenzie Hospital in 1956 (Peter, the other twin, died of pneumonia after a few days of life) was always referred to by my parents as a ‘mud puppy’.
        -Frank Harding

        Comment by Frank Harding — January 25, 2013 @ 5:32 pm

  13. p.s. I believe it was the Manager’s house across from the pool and Watooka House. (In those days there no fences whatsoever around any of the houses.) The Managing Directors lived and worked in Georgetown, but visited Mackenzie from time to time.

    Comment by Pat Hunte-Cusack — April 7, 2011 @ 7:52 pm | Reply

    • The Frasers lived across from the Club and Jim Campbell had an apartment on the top floor of the Club. The Frasers retired to Nova Scotia and the Campbells to Montreal, their daughter Louise and I went to school together in the UK as well.

      Comment by judidw — October 22, 2012 @ 4:00 pm | Reply

      • Pat you were good friends with my sister Susan, she is still alive and kicking in Nova Scotia. Her email is granyfronhell@gmail.com she is also on FB as Susan Carolyn Mill. I will give her the link to this page and you can get in contact if you would like. xx

        Comment by judidw — October 22, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

      • should be grannyfromhell@gmail.com

        Comment by judidw — October 22, 2012 @ 4:05 pm

      • Dear judidw – I was browsing here tonight and came across your message about your sister Susan. When you wrote your blog I was touring Guyana with a group of ex-Mackenzie-ites. Glad to hear that Susan is “still alive and kicking”! I remember your brother Jeremy also. I see that Susan is now a “granny from hell”!
        Too bad that Clarence London has passed away. We found the original Watooka Guest Book and the manager promised to take good care of it. Mission accomplished!

        Comment by Pat Hunte-Cusack — November 16, 2012 @ 1:01 am

      • Hi Judi – was just browsing here today and came across this message. For the sake of accuracy, don’t think that the Campbells retired in Montreal, rather London, England? Where in the U.K. were you at school with Louise? Last I saw her was before she was married and she popped into Alcan’s office to see a colleague of mine, Carm Conley who sadly is now deceased. I’ve been in touch with your sister, Susan who gave me news of Jeremy too.

        Comment by Pat Hunte-Cusack — January 26, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

  14. Hallo Jane McDonald! You wrote of friends you met in Mckenzie. Philippa LaBorde ( now Sutthers) is living in Nottingham. Toni, her sister ( now Dowle) is living in Canterbury and the brother you fell in love with Dickie … lives in Wiltshire. I remember just little bits of Mckenzie as I was 3 years old then! You can get in touch with my sisters and brother if you write a comme.nt here.I’ll check up on your answer and then give you adresses. Peggy

    Comment by Peggy LaBorde — August 23, 2011 @ 7:09 pm | Reply

    • Hi Peggy,

      Pat Hunte Cusack told me of your post to this site. I was only 16 at the time that I met your brother and sisters….have pics of your sisters.

      Thanks for your reply.

      Jane Macdonald

      Comment by Jane Macdonald — August 24, 2011 @ 1:31 pm | Reply

      • Hi Peggy – heard from “Dickie” Raymond. Am in touch but need to email him more often. Thanks so much

        Comment by Jane Macdonald — March 26, 2015 @ 4:07 am

    • Hi, Peggy
      could it be, that you are a daughter of Dick LaBorde and a sister of Hilda?
      If so, we have met in Georgetown
      1969-1975 when I was a member of the then German Embassy there.
      Would like to get in touch!!!

      Comment by Karl Gertz — February 10, 2012 @ 6:41 pm | Reply

      • Hallo Karl!
        WOW!! Schön von dir zu hören!!
        Ich bin die Tochter von Dick La Borde. Durch Hilda, haben wir uns kennengelernt! Bitte kontaktiere mich per email: peggy.laborde7@googlemail.com
        Liebe Grüße
        Peggy

        Comment by Peggy La Borde — September 28, 2012 @ 3:17 am

    • Hey Peggy,
      I was “trollin” around the Web looking for you et voila!! 🙂 It’s me … Liz … we use to play the guitar together a loooooooooong time ago and the last time I saw you I was a mere 28 yrs. – a looooooooong time ago – Cabbage Kids were popular – Boris Becker won Wimbledon that year (I think) – HAHA!! Do you remember me???? 😉 If you do… Email lizchin00@gmail.com – That’s lizchin(zero)(zero) not oo ok? Fingers crossed you “see” this post… 🙂
      Liz

      Comment by Liz Chin — May 12, 2012 @ 3:15 am | Reply

    • Hi, I’m your cousin Lynn, John LaBorde’s daughter, Holly’s son. Please contact me at Lynn.eastman@yahoo.com.

      Comment by Lynn LaBorde Eastman — September 11, 2012 @ 7:18 pm | Reply

      • Hi Lynn! I last spoke to Johnny , when he called my Dad for his 90th Birthday 5 years ago in England! As you know Dad passed away shortly after.
        Do contact me:
        peggy.laborde7@googlemail.com

        Comment by Peggy La Borde — September 28, 2012 @ 3:24 am

  15. Hi Lynn,
    Quite by chance I came across this message. I’m Andree La Borde Alexander – only daughter of Bruce La Borde (Aunt Holly’s Brother). I live in Paramaribo Suriname.

    Comment by Andree LaBorde-Alexander — September 12, 2012 @ 4:05 pm | Reply

  16. hi there Pat, susan D-W here. i am now mother of 3 daughters, grand ma of 2 and greatgrand of 2. how the years have rolled by. i remember your budgies under the house and dads poodle refusing to talk to your dad because he had had a drink!! do you remember the mutual aid society and the whist games? i also remember driving to the RH Carr to pick up something for dad alone with L plates on the car and meeting dickie laborde’s uncle at the club and him asking me that if he must suffer the hallucination of an unaccompanied learner driver, could it please not happen outside the police station.!! i miss those days. i dont think i have been realy warm since. hoping to hear from you, susan mill.

    Comment by susan mill — October 23, 2012 @ 10:25 pm | Reply

    • Well, I never! I just sent a message to your sister. Had a day at “Linden” last month as part of an extensive 10-day tour with the Whicher family and Jane Macdonald. The place was unrecognizable. 110 Riverside Drive is in quite good shape. Budgie cage and lily pond gone. My father’s concrete
      flower beds still there. I remember your poodles, which I think we dog-sat once, your parents and Jeremy, but not your sister I’m afraid. Imagine you being in NS. I think the last time I saw you was in London, England when your parents had a place there and had a boarder for which your mother apologized! I’ve been here in Canada since 1967 and always manage to get somewhere warm!!! I’m stepmother to a brood of children, grands and great-grands. I live near Niagara Falls. Best wishes! Pat

      Comment by Pat Hunte-Cusack — November 16, 2012 @ 1:12 am | Reply

      • Susan and Judith! Yes, I remember now … you had one grey poodle named Mandy? How is Jeremy?
        Pat

        Comment by Pat Hunte-Cusack — November 16, 2012 @ 9:14 pm


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