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Vincent Roth

Vincent Roth was born in Australia in 1889, put into a convent at the age of ten months on the death of his mother and brought up by relatives in France and Scotland until he was reunited with his father and stepmother in Australia at the age of twelve. After completing his schooling in Tasmania he joined his father, Dr Walter Roth, who had taken up the post of Government Medical Officer in the North West District of British Guiana in 1907. Walter Roth, who had been an Aborigines district officer in Australia, did important ethnographical work in Guyana.

After a brief spell as a newspaper reporter, Vincent Roth joined the Lands and Mines Department, for which he worked as a surveyor and Warden/Magistrate for the next twenty-five years, until a second bout of blackwater fever forced his retirement from the bush. From 1936 to 1964, Vincent Roth made his most important contributions to the life of Guyana, rebuilding the Museum destroyed by fire in 1945, founding a zoo in the Botanical Gardens and writing several books and publishing a series of important historical reprints which brought aspects of Guyana’s natural world and its past to a wider audience. His own publications include: Tales from the Trails (1960). He was a nominated member of the Legislative Council and had a visionary blueprint for the possibilities of the development of the Guyanese interior.

In 1964 he left Guyana for Barbados, where he began to write his memoirs. A year later he joined his daughter and her family in England. He died in 1967, without completing his memoirs. Much later, his son-in-law, Michael Bennett, who had worked as an engineer in Guyana, edited Roth’s voluminous diaries, which he had kept almost daily from his boyhood in Australia, complete with sketches and later water colours. These journals are published by Peepal Tree in two volumes as Vincent Roth, A Life in Guyana: Volume 1: A Young Man’s Journey 1889-1922; Volume 2: The Later Years: 1922-1936. These give a vital picture of the world of the porkknockers, the ‘women of the fields’, Amerindian life, colonial officialdom and the natural world.

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