Bauxite, Sugar, and Mud: Memories of Living in Colonial Guyana, 1828–1944.


220 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography
ISBN 978-1-89675-445-7
DDC 988.1'4





Reviewed by J.H. Galloway

J.H. Galloway is a geography professor at the University of Toronto.


This book is a memoir of life in the bauxite-mining town of Mackenzie (now Linden), which is some 40 miles up the Demerara River from Georgetown on the coast, the capital of the then British Guiana, now the Republic of Guyana. The author’s parents, British, moved to Mackenzie in late 1920s and left in 1944. Her father, an accountant, worked for the aluminum company Alcan. The author was born in Mackenzie and left British Guiana at the age of nine. These memoirs are not so much hers but those of her mother, who did indeed write an account of her life there for her family. The author has also drawn on such additional sources as letters, photographs, and a friend’s diary. The result is a book full of the banalities of life in Mackenzie from her mother’s point of view. She is the dominant figure. The author does interject some childhood memories of picnics, dolls, and friends. The father is scarcely part of the record: he is simply there working. There is no indication of what he thought about the local society and the life his family was leading.


The “white” population of Mackenzie—yes, this was a very race-conscious society—consisted of a very few married couples and some bachelors, all living in company housing. The men got up early, worked hard all day, retired to the club for drinks where the wives waited, then went to their respective homes for dinner and an early bed. There was some cricket at weekends and cards. Servants, of African and East Asian origin, looked after the cooking and cleaning. These memoirs tell little about the lives of the servants with scarcely even a mention of the mine workers. And what about the bachelors? Were they content with this dull life, or did they cross the river to the non-European town opposite, which must have offered a wider range of entertainment? Had Mother been more curious and less constrained by conventions this would have been a more interesting book.


Dathan, Patricia Wendy., “Bauxite, Sugar, and Mud: Memories of Living in Colonial Guyana, 1828–1944.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024,