Sir January De Broke stalks the Land – by Francis Quamina Farrier

Sir January De Broke stalks the Land – by Francis Quamina Farrier

Francis Quamina Farrier

Somewhat of a post-Christmas menace, there is someone who comes along at the start of every year, to try and make life miserable for the Working Class People of Guyana. He is a wealthy businessman known as Sir January De Broke.

And who is this wealthy menace? Just continue to read this, my first Pepperpot Feature for 2018, and you’ll find out, if you don’t already know this individual who has for decades, tries to take away “The Good Life” from us during the first month every year.    

As every working class Guyanese citizen knows, there are many financial challenges on the table as the Christmas Season comes around every year. This post-Christmas feature is intended to throw the spotlight on Sir January De Broke, who is not a fit and proper person to function at such an important way in our society, and to relate some of the ways used against him for Guyanese to enjoy some HOPE and a bit of “The Good Life”, as every New Year unfolds.

When I was a young on-the-rise clerk at the William Fogarty’s Store on Water Street in Georgetown, Staffers enjoyed a wonderful tradition at that Water Street Store, which promoted itself as “Fogarty’s, Your Friendly Store”.  Top Management was primarily Irish-born, and they wisely decided to hold the Company’s annual ‘Christmas’ Fete, on the second Saturday in January. And that was a post-Christmas treat which was welcomed by all the Staffers.

Deserving Fogarty’s workers and subsidiary Company BRIANA, which was located next to the Toolsie Persaud Sawmill at the southern end of Lombard Street in Georgetown, had already received their annual cash bonus, and this January Fete was another bonus of sorts, very early in the New Year. Incidentally, The BRIANA Manufacturing Company, produced a wide variety of male and female garments, all of which were very popular with the Guyanese consumers. The company no longer exists and its location is now an empty open lot.

That January post-Christmas Fete by Fogarty’s Store and its manufacturing subsidiary BRIANA, was held at the Legionares Hall on Pakoo Dam, which has since been renamed, Carifesta Avenue. That event was always a grand affair, with live music and the best in Food and Drinks for staffers. The majority who attended wore varying costumes of their choice. That was encouraged by Management, and prizes were presented to those whose costumes were adjudged The Best Creative ones. It is my pleasure to say that on one occasion my costume won me a prize; I was dressed as a Circus Clown. (You have my permission to laugh).

What I would like to recall about the early independence years of the 1970s, and what was one of the welcome activities, was the mass production of local Bacon and Ham, especially for the Christmas market. The brand carried the appealing name of “Sunbelle”, and was produced by the (old) Guyana Marketing Corporation for the Christmas Season. In order to make sure they had their supply, customers needed to make a booking very early, such as in November.

Records reveal that in 1975, the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) purchased over 11,000 pigs from our local pig rearers. The records further show that in that year, production amounted to almost 310,000 pounds of bacon, 176,000 pounds of ham, and 98,500 pounds of pickled pork. There was also thousands of pounds of fresh pork available for pepperpot and other pork related cuisine. What many Guyanese of the sixty-plus age group would recall, was the price for such products at that time; a shoulder ham went for a pricely $17.50, while a fairly large leg ham was sold for a whopping $25.00.

The Guyana Marketing Corporation of that era, which was located at Sussex and Lombard Streets in Charlestown, Georgetown, also sold strips of pork quite suitable for the Garlic Pork at Christmastime. In my boyhood and young adult home, there was always residue of Bacon, Ham and Garlic Pork well into the first and second weeks of January, which were bought from the Guyana Marketing Corporation Out-let.

I can recall the working class folks of colonial British Guiana, referring to the first month of the year as “Sir January De Broke’; meaning that after all the lavish spending for Christmas, the Working Class folks were broke, and with relative empty pockets during January – Sir January De Broke stalked the Land from Pakaraima Peaks of Power to Corentyne lush sands; a disgusting New Year menace, if you will.

However, what I clearly recall, was the way in which those working class Guyanese of the past, would willing go into the Christmas Season, knowing that they were to some degree, overspending, but never the thought of doing anything criminal to gain the much-needed money. Some, like the Biblical Wise Virgins, would have thrown ‘Box Hand’ and had enough to spend during the Christmas Season, without any January financial back-lash. However, fact of the matter is, the majority of the Working Class were like the Foolish Virgins whose favourite song was more like “A little more oil in my Lamp, keep it burning”. They were out of ‘oil’ in January, and like so many of us today, were looking for the Oil and Gas yet to be extracted from thousands of feet below the Atlantic Ocean, north of our shores.

There was one well-known exception with one particular group of workers; the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD) ferry boats which operated on the Essequibo river between Parika and Adventure. From late November and for the next few weeks, that ferry boat would be running aground exceptionally frequently. It got stuck on sandbanks conveniently, sometimes for two hours awaiting the rise of the tide, so that the Captain and Crew could earn some much-needed overtime pay for their Christmas shopping.

Meanwhile, even in this Guyana’s fifty-plus years of Independence, Sir January De Broke continues to stalk the Land. And as the Guyanese Historian, the late Godfrey Chin would say, “Yoh t’ink it easy?”

Guyana Marketing Corporation Staffer with
Locally produced “Sunbelle Ham” in 1975

A post-Christmas costume fete in January of the 1960s. At right
wearing a party hat and mask, and with neck tie at his waist, is a young
Francis Quamina Farrier.

 

 

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Comments

  • Bernard Ramsay  On January 10, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    Nice reading Francis. Brought back a few memories.b

  • Cynthia  On January 10, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing and for the photographs.

  • Theresa Walsh-Patterson  On January 29, 2018 at 3:59 am

    Hi, my name Is Theresa Patterson and I remember the Christmas season well. But did not have a clue how much ham cost to buy. I continue with the traditional Christmas and now appreciate the cost. I knew Avril your sister and spent lots of time with her and my sister Rosalind getting up to mischief. Very nostalgic piece of writing.

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