September 26, 2016

The Bourda Cemetery needs urgent work

Dear Editor,

Though I cannot be considered a taphonomist by any stretch of the imagination, I have always had an abiding interest in the Bourda Cemetery which is an eighteenth-century graveyard formerly known as “Bourda’s Walk”, and which is the oldest cemetery in Georgetown, the only surviving plantation cemetery in the city, and therefore a facility that must be considered a national landmark and treated accordingly.

I would wish to give some applause to City Hall for weeding and clearing this cemetery and for painting the fence. That cemetery was in a deplorable state for many years which is a statement of what the surrounding community values.

However this is merely the beginning and therefore it’s my hope the Council does not think that weeding and painting the fence was all that was necessary at this graveyard and therefore it is mission accomplished.

Cemeteries all over the world lure visitors with a combination of natural beauty, ornate tombstones and crypts, notable residents, and vivid history. Bourda should be no different.

Many prominent people from Guyana’s colonial era are buried in Bourda cemetery, including William Booker, John Croal (the first Mayor of Georgetown), John Patoir and Peter Rose.

However the current condition of the tombs there can only be described as shocking and appalling. Most if not all are desecrated to the point that they are broken into pieces whilst some are a mere pile of loose bricks.

This is due to the gratuitous and purposeless destruction by vandals over the years aided by the humid tropical climate and an army of variegated insects.

To add insult to injury, there have been several attempts to obliterate this facility over the years, including proposals to embark on the construction of a road through this cemetery, the use of the site for housing vendors, for building a shopping mall there and even a garden.

Hopefully this municipal administration does not get any ideas of converting it into another money making venture as they seem less concerned about heritage and more about making a dollar.

Notwithstanding the aforementioned however, there is an injunction in place that was granted by the court, and the other fact is that the Mayor and City Council does not own this particular burial ground, but under the statutes it only has custodial responsibilities in relation to it.

In the interest of preserving the capital’s patrimony nevertheless I would like to suggest that the Council does two things. One immediately hold public consultations and discussions to glean from the citizens their views on how the facility should be preserved moving forward, and two commence rehabilitating the space in a way which retains its original purpose, and at the same time provides a pleasant environment and historical information  for citizens, children and tourists alike.

Sincerely,

Riley Matthews

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