Georgetown, Guyana – (March 17, 2016) President David Granger, today, paid tribute to Mr. James McFarlane Corry, a son of the soil, who was born in 1850 and is regarded as the ‘Father of Local Government in British Guiana’. The Local Government Champion was remembered at a commemoration service and wreath laying ceremony, which was held at the James McFarlane Corry Monument located at Old Road, Den Amstel, West Coast Demerara.
The contributions made by Mr. Corry, while forgotten by many, have significantly shaped the system of governance at the local level in Guyana.
“James McFarlane Corry’s service has been little recognised and little valued over the years and if we went back over his life and his legacy, we will learn a lot about local government and communities,” President Granger said.
The commemoration event is particularly timely, as it is the eve of the long-awaited Local Government Elections (LGEs). President Granger pledged to ensure that the monument erected in Mr. Corry’s honour becomes a part of The National Trust of Guyana.
These little ladies had a special message for President David Granger
President Granger said, “James Mc Farlane Corry is the acknowledged and celebrated ‘Father of Local Government in British Guiana.’ He is remembered for his sedulous work in Den Amstel and in the villages of Guyana and for his visionary leadership in the establishment of a chain of Cooperative Credit banks.”
Mr. Corry was elected as the third Chairman of Den Amstel Village in 1895 and served until 1922. He also founded the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) branch in Den Amstel in 1888. As a working professional, he became a magistrate’s clerk in 1881, was appointed as a stipendiary Magistrate in 1911 and also served as a Justice of the Peace.
The son of a Congregational Minister, Mr. Corry was an avid church-goer, who worshipped at the Congregational Church.
Despite the efforts of the plantocracy to keep villages under their control, he started a countrywide Village Chairmen’s Conference, for which he was elected chairman in 1904. Mr. Corry served for 20 years until his death in 1924.
Paying respects: President David Granger lays a wreath at the monument in honour of James McFarlane Corry
Referencing Norman Cameron’s book The Evolution of the Negro in which he wrote of Mr. Corry’s tenure as Chairman of the Village Conference, President Granger said that in his annual addresses Mr. Corry “preserved his views on local government, the serious attitude which he took of the share of government entrusted to the villagers, his passionate appeals to his fellow Chairmen and Councillors for co-operation and to Government for fair-play and a recognition of their services”.
In other words, the President said, “Corry recognised 112 years ago that local government was a part of the governmental system, it was the first tier of government and that was the tier that was entrusted to the villagers.”
Mr. Corry’s visionary leadership was also demonstrated when he started the first local Co-operative Credit Bank to provide small loans at concessionary rates to farmers.
The Den Amstel Primary School Choir doing a rendition of ‘My Guyana El Dorado’
“The Co-operative Credit Bank did a lot of good work in saving the small farmers from loan sharks and assorted money-lenders. The Co-operative Credit Bank assisted them to overcome the vagaries of weather in Guyana, droughts and floods…,” the President said.
Mr. Corry’s efforts led to the improvement of the lives of proprietors with the provision of house lots and farm lands and the improvement of village conditions in general. So much so, that during the period 1848-1902, freed slaves became owners of 214 villages; 96 were in Berbice, 66 in Demerara and 52 in Essequibo.
The President said that Mr. Corry, who died in 1924, “bequeathed to us a rich legacy of leadership in rural communities; a rich legacy of stewardship, especially through the Congregational Church; a legacy of organisational ability, that without cell phones and transport, he was able to bring village leaders from Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice together for that Village Chairmen’s Conference every year”.
Chairman of the Hague/Blankenburg Neighbourhood Democratic Council, Mr. George Nedd expressed similar sentiments. He referred to Mr. Corry as an ‘unsung hero’, whose achievements have not been understood and is underrated even in his own community of Den Amstel.