National Trust of Guyana

Rose Hall Martyrs’ Memorial

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Location: Canje, Berbice 

Classification: Commemorative Monument 

Period/ Year Built: 2014 

Historical Background / Description: 

The Rose Hall Martyrs’ Memorial is located in Canje, Berbice, within the vicinity of the Rose Hall Sugar Estate. The monument was built as a memorial for the 15 indentured-servants who died during the 1913 strike action that occurred on the Rose Hall Estate. 

During the early 20th century, the Rose Hall Sugar Estate would usually designate two-four days as holiday at the end of each grinding season. In latter part of 1912, the crop output was regarded as satisfactory and the estate manager, Mr. Smith granted the labourers four days of holiday on January 27, 1913. The holiday was cancelled the next day with a promise to have it provided later in the year. This move angered the labourers who were already upset with other demands being made on them. The indentured servants protested the retraction of the holiday by not reporting to work the next day. The manager then filed a formal complaint at the immigration office, which came at a monetary cost. Mr. Smith gave the labourers the option to have the formal complaint dropped if they bore the legal fees associated with it. The labourers agreed and asked for the fees to be paid in instalments. The estate’s management later refused this gesture and took the complaint to court. 

On February 18, 1913, at the Reliance Court, hundreds of labourers joined their fellow peers as they were charged with orchestrating the protest action. On March 13, 1913, the day of the trial, the labourers refused to work and went to the court hearing instead. The assistant manager then requested warrants of arrest for the labourers’ leaders. The police were sent to execute those warrants and the labourers resisted. The Riot Act was read before the police opened fire killing 14 men, 1 woman and 56 persons injured. A Police Corporal named Mr. James Ramsay also lost his life during this incident. 

The memorial was built in honour of: Badri, Gobindei, Lalji, Bholay, Hulas, Motey Khan, Sarjoo, Durga, Jugai, Nibur, Sohan, Gafur, Juggoo, Roopan and the lone woman, Sadulla. The monument is located on the site believed to be the final resting place of the martyrs. It was built by the Government of Guyana and unveiled on March 13, 2013, by President Donald Ramotar. It was rehabilitated in 2015 by Mr. Mohamed Akeel, a citizen of the Rose Hall community. The monument consists of 16 pillars, 15 of which have the names of the labourers inscribed on them while the 16th pays homage to the indentured servants.