"When news reached LFS Burnham I was the first to be dispatched to Linden to see what was going on."
                 —Hamilton Green, at the 40th anniversary function to mourn the lives lost, July 2004.

"On the day of the tragedy, my mother was visiting her mother living at Soesdyke, and was scheduled to return to McKenzie via the Son Chapman. When we got the tragic news, we hoped for the best but expected the worst. While waiting for word on her whereabouts, tragedy began unfolding in the community with reports circulating of Indians being beaten and their properties being burnt. Still etched in my memory forty years later is the burning of a building (might have been Lalta Paul's) at Wismar. That, to me, became symbolic of the racial disturbance in McKenzie. By nightfall, there was a dusk-to-dawn curfew with British soldiers and 'volunteers' parading the streets of Wismar and McKenzie and ordering residents indoors...

"In the dead silence of the night, we heard loud noises of people shouting and banging on doors a few houses away. Then we heard chilling screams. The next day, we learned that an Indian who lived in the 'four-range houses' next to us on Cedar Street was killed. "
              —Emile Mervin, letter to Stabreoek News, July 14, 2004.

A bitter day at Linden
Monday, July 26th 2004

Dear Editor,

It was July 13, 1964, I had just left Christianburg government school and was heading for home at Lee Ting alley, when I observed an unusual amount of people standing on both banks of the Demerara river in the vicinity of Linden. What I was told as the reason why those people were standing there made me begin to cry immediately knowing that my mother travelled every Monday on the Son Chapman.

I was not so fortunate as Emile Mervin (who I know) whose mother nearly died on the Son Chapman (14/07/2004). The memory of that tragedy brought back woeful, frightening and unforgettable feelings, events and terror which took place on that fateful day. My mother was a huckster who travelled to Georgetown every Sunday evening to purchase commodities and returned the following day with the Son Chapman.

Unfortunately on July 13, 1964 she did not make it back to Wismar where she lived and sold her commodities from a stall erected at the side of Burnham Drive in the vicinity of Poker's Sand road. She was the woman whose father pleaded with her not to travel with the Son Chapman on that particular day because he had heard rumours of a bomb being placed on the launch. Maybe it was because she had left nine children including an eighteen months old baby at home that she insisted in travelling with the launch. She did not make it to Linden alive.

I was fifteen years old and was preparing to write the College of Preceptors Examination. Forty years later I can still picture the chaotic scene with screaming, crying and some people even swearing and cursing on that bitter memorable day at Linden. Mother has gone and may her soul rest in peace.

Yours faithfully,

Donald Gentle
(Letter in Stabreok News)

"I remember that day clearly when the news got to Linden, I was at the Christianburg school and by that time bodies had floated as far as the Christianburg cemetery."
     -PNC Leader, Robert Corbin, speaking of when he was a child at Christianburg, Wismar.

"I have received information that dynamite is being stolen from Mackenzie and is being sent to the PNC in Georgetown by a launch owned by someone called Chapman or by a private truck. I understand, also, that certain police constables or officers help in transporting it to Georgetown.

I understand that a set of four boxes came down on Monday, 1st July 1963 by Chapman's launch. Please take necessary action."
      -Cheddi Jagan, see Cheddi Jagan: Selected Correspondences 1953-1965, edited by Professor David Dabydeen

Above: Owner of Son Chapman, Norman Chapman, lays wreath in tribute to the 43 victims of the tragedy, 2004.
Who Sank the Son Chapman, Really?
by Rakesh Rampertab



The Son Chapman was a vessel that sank just after 4 pm at Hurudaia, which is up the Demerara River (about 16 miles from Linden) on July 6, 1964, due to explosions. Forty-three people, all Negroes, died. As with much of Guyanese history, this story is another mystery. According to the PNC, the launch was bombed by PPP agents in retaliation of the Wismar massacre that took place on May 25-26 of 1964. This, apparently, started after a Black couple was murdered in Buxton, apparently by PPP Indian supporters. However, the PPP has denied sending any agents on to the Son Chapman. Further, the PNC has never promoted this view nor attempted to prove it under their 28 years in government.

This alone points, almost logiclally, that someone other than the PPP were responsible. It is very interesting, the position taken by ex-PNC frontman (at that time General Secretary of the PNC), now Mayor of Georgetown, Mr. Hamilton Green. In June 2003, he claimed that Son Chapman explosion occurred before the Wismar massacre. But, despite him being a well-read individual on Guyanese history, this could not be because the lauch sunk after the Wismar tragedy. Of course, Indians who had returned to Wismar despite what had happened two months before, were attacked again.

But, more interest is the letter below (by A. Nedd) which appeared in the Chronicle on June 6, 2003, refuting Green's claims (appeared a few days earlier in same paper) on the Son Chapman. Acording to Mr. Nedd, who had links to the PNC activists at that time and who seems to have been one himself, it was the PNC who caused the explosion since it was the PNC who were transporting detonators up to Wismar for use by PNC operative. Mr. Green did not respond to this letter, an unusual detour from a debate for the mayor. As someone who was in charge of much of the political violence that emanated from the PNC during the sixties, Mr. Green should begin to speak about what really happened or, what he really knows about the PNC role in the entire Son Chapman history. The Guyanese people, especially the people of Linden, the relatives of the those murdered, need to know the truth.

It is also suspecious, this claim of Green, given the rumor that was circulating in Wismar about explosives being placed on the launch; something which is touched upon by the son of one of the victims (see letter by Donald Gentle); "She was the woman whose father pleaded with her not to travel with the Son Chapman on that particular day because he had heard rumours of a bomb being placed on the launch." And to this, one can add the excerpts from Dr. Cheddi Jagan on the subject, writing to the Minister of Home Affairs:

































I Hold the PNC Resposnible for Sun Chapman Demise

In a recent article (GC, June 4th , 2003) Mayor Hamilton Green stated that the “Sun Chapman”, a river launch owned and operated by Norman Yacoob Chapman, was blown out of the water at Hurudaia, near Wismar, on July 6, 1964, and that this incident led to the Pogrom against Indo-Guyanese living in Wismar.

What Mayor Green failed to state, and I know that he knows the true Story as he was intimately associated with the UF-PNC’s campaign of destabilization in 1962, 1963 and 1964, was that the explosion was caused by the accidental explosion of a number of detonators that were carelessly stored near the heated engine room of the “Sun Chapman”. These detonators, as the good Mayor must undoubtedly remember, were bound for PNC operatives in the Mackenzie-Wismar-Christianburg area for use in X-13 operations against perceived PPP supporters.

I know all of this because while I was employed at DEMBA in Mackenzie I had many close relatives who were active PNC members and operatives in the area and, as a result of intelligence supplied by them, I knew that the detonators were coming down on the “Sun Chapman”. Following the incident it was reported to Dr. Jagan that the explosion of the “Sun Chapman” was caused by accidental detonation rather than by any act of sabotage.

To this day I hold the PNC responsible for the deaths of those
Afro-Guyanese aboard the “Sun Chapman”.

Yours sincerely,
A. Nedd
Alberta, Canada
JUNE 6, 2003




February 28, 2005
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