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Forgotten, but historically important

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(Continued from last week)

The other area where disturbances occurred on the first day of the riots was Cane Garden, where attention was focused on the homes of Henry Hayward, Frank Child, Gordon Gunn, Bunyon, OW Forde and Bell. It is not clear how many persons lived at Cane Garden then, for the1931 Census still listed it as an estate and had it grouped with the Sion Hill estate and Village, Arnos Vale estate and houses around Sion Lodge. The population of those areas totalled a little over 900.{{more}} The home that received the greatest damage was that of Henry Hayward, whose telephone was smashed and glass and furniture broken. Hayward’s foolish attempt to offer $5 to the group of rioters, estimated at 30, put his life at risk, as threats were made against him. I referred to his offer as foolish, because this was not a robbery; it was a case of people playing out their anger at the establishment. OW Forde, who owned the Argyle estate, had his house protected by workers from that estate. Mr Bell the manager of the Cable Office, also suffered damage at his home. The families of Frank Child and Gordon Gunn had moved into town once they were aware of what was happening.

A patrol of volunteers and special constables went to Cane Garden at about 5:30 p.m. They were attacked by the group of rioters, who were armed with sticks and cutlasses. They arrived in time to prevent attacks on the homes of Bunyon, Child and Gunn. In the encounter between rioters and patrol, Martin Durham, the reputed leader of the group, was shot in his leg. This seemed to have put a halt to their activities, as they began to move down the hill.

At Georgetown, with no telephone communication, some of the telephone lines having been cut, the populace was aware of the earlier rioting in Kingstown only when the bus arrived at about 5 p.m. from Kingstown. The police stationed there, Constable Lucas Layne and Corporal Bailey became suspicious when one of the passengers alighting from the bus was an individual who should have been in gaol in Kingstown. As crowds gathered, the police, in an effort to stave off any disturbance, read the Riot Act and got them to disperse. A few hours later a few men were seen on the streets with sticks and cutlasses. Information reached the police later that Frank Child, manager of the Grand Sable estate had been knocked down. The police decided to focus their attention on the town, but sent a District Constable to investigate. He was stopped before reaching the Grand Sable estate, beaten and thrown into a neighbouring arrowroot field. The Medical Officer, Dr Garraway, was also prevented from attending to Child’s wound.

A large crowd gathered at the Mt Bentick shop and only dispersed when they were informed by the police that the Riot Act had been read. Meanwhile, crowds moved into the town at about 8 p.m., attacked the Police Station, Post Office, church and home of merchant Ottway. The police were able to get the crowd under control by 8:30, but disturbances resumed at about 10 p.m. when persons from the Byera and Grand Sable areas arrived and began to damage street lamps and shops.

News did not reach Kingstown about the situation in Georgetown, but a decision was taken to send a patrol of police and volunteers to investigate what was happening on the windward side of the island. The patrol left Kingstown at about 1:55 a.m. They were informed of two slight disturbances at Biabou and at Park Hill, where two arrests were made. It was not until they got to Sans Souci that they were able to see evidence of disturbances taking part in that area of the country. At the gap leading to the Sans Souci house, telephone wires were cut and thrown on the ground. When they awoke the manager, Dublin, he was unaware of any disturbance. At Byera as they approached the bridge, telephone lines and poles were grounded. They moved to Georgetown, but were forced to move more obstructions. At Grand Sable, they met Child whose head had only recently been bandaged for the wound received at 7:30. While moving to Georgetown they had to remove more telephone poles and wires from the street. Georgetown was asleep by then, so they proceeded to Orange Hill, where they were informed that there were no disturbances. At the Mt. Bentick estate, the report was that there had been no serious problems, but workers who had turned up for work appeared to have what were described as ’ugly’ faces. They dispersed when they were told that they had either to go to work or home. At the estate shop another crowd had gathered. Based on information received from the police at Georgetown, one person was arrested and they were warned about assembling in groups, since the Riot Act had been read. The volunteer squad marched with fixed bayonets back to the Georgetown Police station, and then on to Grand Sable, where they made two arrests.

Their biggest problem was at Byera, where they met a large and angry crowd with stones, sticks and cutlasses, who were prepared to challenge them and kept them there for sometime. One from among the crowd was shot in his leg and another arrested. As they moved away to Kingstown, they were met with more stones thrown from a neighbouring hill. Damage was sustained to the bus in which the patrol was travelling, but their gun fire had the effect of driving the crowd away. They moved back to Kingstown without meeting any further disturbances or obstacles on the road.  (To be continued)     

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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