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On the Plantations: Housing

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By Ravi Dev

Directly after being delivered to their assigned plantation, the workers would be addressed by an Overseer  whose words would be translated by a “sirdar” or “driver”. The men would be divided to join “work gangs” in which the Overseer felt they would produce the most labour – cane cutting for the strongest; then shovel men and cane planters. The weakest would join the women in the weeding gangs while the children went into Creole gangs that supplied fertilisers to the roots of the cane plants. There were numerous miscellaneous tasks that would be later assigned such as cleaning canals; leading mules (mule-boys), gardeners and maids for the managers and overseers, etc. There was supposed to be a “seasoning” period for new immigrants, but this was rarely followed.
The immigrants would then be taken to the “free homes’ they were promised. In the beginning, these were the “logies” or “barracks” that had been vacated by the freed Africans in the “Nigger Yards”.

A raised logie at Enmore 1935

Every plantation had one of these closest to the sugar factory and retained the name until the logies were all removed in the 1950s and 1960s. Each logie had either five or ten rooms, each 10’ X 15’ fronted by a 6’ wide undivided gallery that ran the length of the peaked building. “Firesides” or “chulhas” would be constructed in front of each room to which a family or 3 bachelors would be assigned. The gallery’s floor was packed earth, but the rooms were on raised wooden floors one-foot high.
As more Indentureds were imported, they outgrew the Nigger Yards and new logies were built to accommodate them around the sugar factory.  Over open drains, latrines were built for the faecal matter to float to the drainage side-line canal. On most estates, the immigrants defecated in the cane field or scrub. New logies were raised 3’ off the ground and eventually there were some 2-family cottages built in the 1920s and 30s.

Logies on the ground

One official report of 1914 – three years before the abolition of indentureship described the living conditions as follows:
“The defects noted at Estates visited by us were leaky roofs, drains which did not run off water, inadequate arrangements for collecting and storing water, insufficient ventilation, absence of latrines, and the existence of vegetation in the vicinity of the buildings. The only general defect was the want of latrines…Surface drains which are mere channels cut in the soil will seldom be satisfactory. Even with zealous supervision they tend to become a chain of small stagnant pooIs.

The post On the Plantations: Housing appeared first on Guyana Times.

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