By Mohamed Khan
THERE were three estates on Tiger Island, also known as Hamburg. Those three estates were Sopienburg, Hamburg and Hoff-Van–Holland. There were, in the past, little estates known as Hamburg.Between the original Hamburg and Hoff-van-Holland, there lies a strip of provision land named ‘Gudio’. It belonged to another proprietor.
Hoff-van-Holland in now used as a grazing ground for cattle on the island.
“Wee” Watty Russell, in the late 1900s, owned and managed Sophienburg estate. His production was as follows: sugar crop of 92 tons sugar; 17 puncheons of proof rum, and 98 caskets of molasses. Watty’s estate, house and workplace were pleasantly situated on the southern end of the island, with a fine sea beach of glittering white sand running around and forming the border of Tiger Island. The sand which lies around the windward side formed a road for a splendid trail all the way to Hoff-van-Holland.
Watty’s morning routine began with the 6 O’clock coffee. Thereafter, he would stroll, in a very light costume, to the stelling, where he would plunge into the black water of the Essequibo river to give himself zest for the day’s work. Wee Watty had immense size and was powerfully built. He would take a concoction of fine, rich milk directly from his cow into a glass already charged with a small dram of wholesome old rum and a spoonful of sugar. This beverage was far superior to the medicinal ‘Yankee Cocktail’ of the present day.
His stock had to be examined: fowls of rare breed with a thriving colony of chicks in all ages. His duck pen had a variety of the most splendid birds: Muscovies, black and white in all their purity; English Mallards were in abundance; and, above all, a cross-breed of Muscovy and Mallard — a squab looking bird with the choicest pieces of duck meat.
A small quantity of maize was given to the sheep before they left the pen. In front of the pen door, he would lay out a sprinkling of tempered lime, which was used to prevent foot-rot, a disease which was very prevalent in the moist soils. In a separate pen was his fine Southdown ram. Only his young and healthy ewes were used for breeding, the old ones were sold off to butchers.
Watty was great at sheep management. Not far from the sheep pen, there were untidy logies where some labourers made their beds with cane trash. The cow pen was under some fine shady trees on the beach, the cattle were carefully scanned to see all was at hand, they ate the guavas which had fallen during the night.
The untimely death of ‘Wee’ Watty Russell threw Sophienburg into the market, and it was sold for a trifle to Mr G.P.Watson, a Georgetown merchant who had sometime previously purchased the sequestrated estate, Hamburg. The whole of Tiger Island then consisted of one estate, except the strip of land known as Gudio.
During Mr Watson’s lifetime, the estate was a muscovado one. In 1842, the acreage cultivated under cane on this island was 584 acres, and 197 acres were uncultivated. There was a population of 159 creoles, mostly of African descent; 11 ‘others’ and 541 immigrants, and the estate produced 990 tons of sugar.
The Island of Hamburg in the Essequibo River, during Wee Watty Russell’s time, measured in excess of 24 square miles; erosion has now reduced it to about 16 square miles. In the foreshore of Tiger Island, you can see washed out cane beds, cemetery, and an old koker structure, even on the beach. Erosion is not a new phenomenon, and providing the cycle is in retreat, the new generation on Hamburg Island has to be on guard to avoid being at the mercy of the sea.