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The 81st Anniversary of the 1935 Riots (Pt 2)


The Byera-Georgetown area was next affected. First, a few brief remarks about Sion Hill, the scene of activity, even two months after the riots, when a policeman was stoned there. ‘Baha’ Lawrence, who was 21 years old, worked as a chauffeur at ‘Don’ McDonald’s Hired Car Stand. McDonald attempted to get to Villa to take two sisters, Nanton and Smith, who wanted to get back to Kingstown where they lived, near to ‘WJ Abbott’s’ building. He was turned back by a crowd at Sion Hill.{{more}} Sometime later, Punnett of the Diamond estate wanted to get to his estate from Kingstown. Baha was given that task. He covered Punnett in the back of the car and succeeded in getting through the crowd at Sion Hill. He was asked by McDonald to bring back the two sisters from Villa. They were hidden and covered in the back, but the crowd at Sion Hill, sensing that there were people in the car, rushed it, but not before ‘Baha’ accelerated and evaded them. Sion Hill was one of the areas that police searched after the riots for stolen goods and for persons connected with the riots.

Byera – Georgetown

The people of Georgetown knew about the riots at about 5:30 on the Monday afternoon when the bus arrived with the news. One of the passengers was a man from Caratal whom the police recognized as one who should have been in prison in Kingstown. It was not until about 7:30 that trouble began with the arrival of about seven men with sticks and cutlasses. The police, not wanting to take any chances, had already read the Riot Act and proceeded to disarm and arrest them. Half an hour later five women reported that Frank Child, manager of the Grand Sable estate, had been knocked down by the workers. The two policemen stationed in Georgetown decided that the protection of Georgetown was their top priority. District constable Charlie James was sent to investigate. At ‘Cholera,’ he was stopped, beaten and pushed into an arrowroot field. Constable Lucas Layne, who reported the story to me, said that he went to the Mt. Bentinck estate to investigate the situation there. He found a crowd gathered at the estate shop, informed them that the Riot Act was read and urged them to disperse, which most of them did, although reluctantly.

On his way to the police station, he met crowds at the bridge near to Henry Coombs’ shop. He was greeted with the news that there had been rioting in Georgetown, and that the police station, church, post office and home of merchant Otway had been damaged. It was not until about 1:55 a.m. that a police patrol was sent to Georgetown to investigate what was happening in that part of the country, because there was no telephone communication north of Stubbs. It was only when the patrol got to Sans Souci they realized that there might be trouble ahead. The telephone lines leading to the manager’s house were cut, although he was unaware of that. At Byera, telephone poles, lines and trunks of coconut trees were thrown across the road. At Grand Sable, they called on Child, whose head was bandaged. He informed them that he was struck on the head at about 7:30, but was unable to get medical attention until a few minutes before they arrived because the District Medical Officer was stopped from getting to him. At Georgetown, there were two telephone wires across the street. Things were then relatively quiet and after some discussion with the police, they proceeded to Orange Hill estate, where calmed prevailed. On arrival at the Mt. Bentinck estate at about 6:30, they were informed that there was no serious disorder, but an angry crowd had turned out to work and many had assembled at the estate shop. They were all warned that the Riot Act had been read and they either had to proceed to work or to their homes. The squad paraded from the Mt. Bentinck shop to the police station with fixed bayonets, trying to convey the seriousness of the situation. They took some of the prisoners who had been arrested earlier and proceeded back to town, but met serious challenges at Byera where, as the Police Report indicated, “there was a large, ugly and boisterous crowd armed with stones, sticks and cutlasses”. It was some time before they brought things under control and did so only after one man was shot. That was not the end of their troubles because at ‘Mt. William bluff’ they were stoned and the top of their bus was damaged. They responded to the stoning by firing rifle shots which seemed to have calmed the situation.

Among the persons arrested was Lem Williams of Byera. He was a chauffeur for Claude Hadley of Mt. William estate. Williams expected Hadley to bail him. He did not, but Williams was even more shocked when Hadley refused to reemploy him until he was cleared at the trials. On December 16, Williams, armed with a hatchet, went to Hadley’s pantry and as Hadley entered, he cracked his skull and then drank arsenic which he had bought. He died shortly after, while Hadley lasted for another two days. (Next, the Campden Park riots and aftermath)

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.