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A response to Jomo – My take on the 1935 riots

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l Continued from last week

This is my third article on the 1935 riots, which started as a response to Jomo. I wanted to make a few points then, but have extended the scope of my response to deal with some other issues pertaining to what happened in Georgetown and Campden Park on October 21st and 22nd.{{more}}

I had originally intended to do a series of articles on the 1935 riots for the 78th anniversary in October and might still do so, but I will continue and do my last one this next week.

Police Constable Lucas Layne stated that the Georgetown bus arrived from Kingstown at 5 p.m. He recognised one of two prisoners from Georgetown who should have been in gaol. He was then told that there were riots in Kingstown and that the prisoners had been released. A number of persons gathered around to get the news. It is interesting that not even the police knew about the riots, since they were not in communication with Kingstown because of the cutting of telephone lines.

At about 6:45-7 o’clock a few men, about six or seven were seen coming up the road with sticks and cutlasses. According to Constable Layne, after becoming aware that crowds were gathering on the streets, Police Corporal Bailey read the Riot Act. At 8 p.m., they were informed by two women that Child, the manager of the Grand Sable estate had been knocked down. They found out, later, that Dr Garraway, the District Medical Officer in the area, was on his way to treat Child’s wound, when he was stopped by a crowd at Cholera. Lem Williams, from Byera, who was later arrested in Byera, switched off his car and told him to turn back.
(Williams was a driver for estate owner Hadley and, shortly after the riots, killed Mr Hadley and then took his own life.) Layne said that he told the two women who had earlier reported the incident that Child was only one man and they had a number of other things to deal with. Later, they were able to get a rural constable to go and investigate. The patrol from Kingstown which had arrived in Georgetown sometime at around 4:30 a.m. had passed at Grand Sable where they met Child with his head bandaged. He informed them that it was only shortly before their arrival that he was able to get his wound attended to, a wound which he had received at about 7:30 p.m.

On arrival at the Georgetown Police Station, the patrol was given an update on the situation in that area. Bailey “reported that he had had a busy time for the whole night; he also reported that large disorderly bands carried sticks, stones and iron bars and smashed the doors and windows of certain shops and private houses. The Police station had also been attacked; he also reported that he had made arrests. He gave us certain information which we subsequently acted upon.”

Mr Barnard at Orange Hill indicated that all was quiet there. On arrival at the Mt Bentinck estate about 6.30 a.m., the manager Mr John, reported that there was no serious disorder. They observed, however, that the crowd that had assembled for work in the estate yard “wore an ugly face, and I informed them that they had to go either to their work or to their homes. They reluctantly dispersed.”

At the estate shop at Mt Bentinck, they met an individual identified as Charles Ballantyne and quite a number of other people. Based on information they had received, Ballantyne was arrested. They warned the crowd that the Riot Act had already been read and that a State of Emergency existed, so that they must go about their affairs in an orderly manner.

The Windward patrol took with them the persons who had been arrested and at Grand Sable, they made two other arrests. Most of their trouble came from Byera and it would appear, something confirmed by Constable Layne, that some of the persons who were behind the trouble in Georgetown had actually come in from Byera. The report stated: “At Byera there was a large, ugly and boisterous crowd armed with stones, sticks and cutlasses.” It was there that they met their greatest challenge. “The patrol was held up here for quite a long time and had to endure a great deal of provocation. But for the great restraint exercised, the casualties here would have been heavy.”

It was at that time that Lem Williams was arrested and another man shot in his leg, following which the crowd dispersed. They were, shortly after this, greeted with a barrage of stones from “the top of the over-hanging Mt. William bluff. The top of the bus was slightly damaged. The attack of these stones was returned by rifle fire…but the result is unknown.” Their journey back to Kingstown went smoothly.

One thing that appears quite clear about the 1935 riots is that people had their different grievances and what had happened in Kingstown gave them an opportunity to air them. They were all caught up with what was happening and began to vent their anger.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.