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Vincent Roth, A Life in Guyana, Volume 1: A Young Man's Journey, 1889-1923

As an eighteen year old, Vincent Roth arrived in British Guiana in 1907 to join his father, who was a Government Medical Officer and Magistrate...


Vincent Roth
Travel & Description
Date published
14 Mar 2004

By the time he left for Barbados in 1964, Roth had spent thirty years in the interior working as a surveyor and magistrate until blackwater fever nearly killed him. Thereafter he contributed immensely to the development of Guyana as a journalist, naturalist, historian, rebuilder of the national museum and founder of the zoo in the Botanical Gardens.

From an early age Vincent Roth kept a detailed, account of his experiences, often illustrated with sketches and later by watercolours, and it was from these hand-written journals that his son-in-law, Michael Bennett, edited this book.

This first volume covers his early years as a child abandoned to relatives in France, Scotland and London, his reuniting at the age of twelve with his father and step-mother in Australia, his arrival in British Guiana and the first fifteen years of his work in the interior. Blessed with insatiable curiosity, a capacious and exacting memory, Vincent Roth writes vividly of surveying expeditions up the Demerara River, in the North West District, to Arakaka, Morawhanna and Moruca. There are gripping descriptions of the hazards of river travel, hauling up waterfalls and shooting rapids, and the outsize characters of the river captains such as Captain Blood, and their skill and daring. There are fascinating accounts of the peoples of the interior, the Amerindians, the porkknockers, balata bleeders, gold miners, coffee growers and smugglers. Read Roth and you’ll know how to pan for gold and diamonds! Deadly snakes, tiger-cats, sloths, water-dogs, hairy bird-eating spiders, rampaging wild hogs and birds of all descriptions provide Roth with moments of wonder, alarm, food - and (as a enthusiastic taxidermist) specimens to stuff.
In this volume Roth grows from callow youth to energetic and opinionated manhood, constantly getting under the skin of petty-minded colonial officials - and developing a deep, though sometimes exasperated, love for Guyana.

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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.

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