Friday, 26 June 2015

Hill Coolies in British Guiana

Whilst working on the House of Lords paper I found the following

“Correspondence on the condition of the Hill Coolies in British Guiana.”
It is amazing that so much detail can be found in the House of Lords Papers.  When looking through this report I found very detailed tables about the situation of the Hill Coolies with headings such as name, where from, sex, height, age, on which estate located, name of proprietor of estate, employment, monthly wage, weekly rations, clothing kind and quality, colour, health and remarks.
The health information was either very brief e.g.  good health, sickly, not very healthy, dead, but occasionally more information was given such as “health good and would continue so was it not for their great propensity for strong liquors” or “sickly from the first” and even “very bad, is recovering”.

Examples from the remarks column are
“ The behaviour of the majority good; the minority of which there is a very large one, are lazy, disobedient, insolent and worthless.  Those marked with a * are suffering from the excessive use of ardent drinks, from which they cannot be kept, as they will sell the very clothes off their backs to procure it” or no favourable report can be given.
The report continues with all the correspondence which includes dispatches, letters and reports.
The following is taken from a dispatch from Governor Light to Lord Glenelg on the 11th January 1839.
“…The coolies on Mr Gladstone’s property are a fine healthy body of men ; they are beginning to marry  or cohabit with the Negresses, and to take pride in their dress; the few words of English they know, added to signs common to all, prove that “sahib” was good to them.  The magnificent features of the men, their well-shaped, through slender limbs promise well for mixture of the Negress with the Indian.  Palm oil and ghee the first for the bodies, the second for their meals, are not always to be obtained; their employers endeavour to content with some substitute.”

You can find this wealth of information in the House of Lords paper 202, 1839 in vol. VII .