Alexander Alexander – by Peter Halder

Alexander Alexander

by Peter Halder

    Today, many poor, destitute and homeless persons in Georgetown sleep at nights on cardboards on the concrete pavements adjacent to stores.

    It is not the first time that it has happened. It occurred many years ago. And one man, a Scotsman, dedicated his life, at that time to making life easier for them. His name was most peculiar. It was Alexander Alexander.

    Alexander Alexander was born in Scotland. Fed up with life there, he decided to seek his fortune and future in one of the many British colonies. He chose British Guiana.  

    In the 1800s, there were many opportunities for good jobs on sugar estates and in public administration. Sugar was the main industry and economic activity in British Guiana.

    Alexander Alexander obtained a good job as the Manager of a factory at a sugar-cane plantation at Aurora, Essequibo. Although he held a senior position, for one reason or another he was not very happy. After five years, he took his long vacation leave and returned to Scotland. While there, he became infatuated with and decided to join the Salvation Army, a charitable organization devoted to helping the poor, destitute and needy in the London slums.

    He returned to British Guiana and resumed his job at Aurora. It was a shock but delight to everyone to see him on the job wearing his blue Salvation Army uniform. He resigned in 1896 to dedicate his life and energies to helping the poor, the destitute and the homeless.

    During the time he had worked on the sugar estate, he developed a special concern for immigrants from India. The first of indentured immigrants arrived in British Guiana on 5 May 1838. Alexander had become acquainted with many Indians who were having a difficult life. First of all, work was not available for everyone, and when it was not, they went to Georgetown in search of employment, slept on pavements and cooked there as well.

    Alexander, decided to do something about it.

    With what money he had, he opened the first Soup Kitchen in Kingston to provide meals. Each meal cost a penny. Meals were substantial and included roti and dhal. Coffee was also available and sold for a cent a pint. It was also sold on carts which traveled around the city daily. Some 90 gallons of coffee were sold daily. He subsequently opened a night shelter for the homeless to sleep at a cost of a penny a night.

    The pavement people were at first suspicious and had to be practically forced to make full use of the services Alexander provided.

    The Scotsman became a changed man as well. He gave up his European clothes, began wearing a dhoti and walked around bare feet. He changed his name to Ghurib Das (servant of the poor) and  earned the nickname “Coolie” Alexander. He also became a vegetarian.

    In due time. Soup Kitchens and Shelters were also set up on America Street and on Broad Street. It is believed that Alexander later donated all to the Salvation Army which by then was firmly established in Georgetown. He also leased the Sugar Estate Manager’s house at La Penitence and set up a Home and a School.

    The Salvation Army was at time divided into two Divisions – a West Indian Division and an East Indian Division. Captain Teckleperry headed the former.     Alexander Alexander, aka Ghurib Das or “Coolie” Alexander, was in charge of the latter.

    The man from Scotland made a significant contribution to the plight of many Indians, who had migrated to British Guiana or were family members of indentured Indians.

(Source: Silvertorch)

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  • de castro  On July 21, 2013 at 8:24 am

    Wow wow WOW !
    More more please…wonderfully enlightened reading…
    History teaches fools …we can but learn from it by not repeating the same mistakes…..Guyana history is a subject that would fill volumes…but
    with the availability of today’s technology it is not only accessible to
    Guyanese children but anyone who wishes to access it via internet…
    Our world is changing hopefully for a more “literate” “tolerant”
    “informed” one…..
    Forever the eternal optimist.

    Thanks Peter and Cyril we are “educating” our next generations
    We never stop learning…


  • Norman Datt  On July 21, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Its a pity we don’t have a pic. of this true humanitarian and I ‘ll a poem dedicated to Mr Alexander Alexander.

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On July 21, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Virtue dwells within the hearts of men of all races and cultures. Blessed be the descendants of Alexander Alexander!

  • Peter Halder  On July 22, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    Thanks all for your kind comments.

  • Cliff Thomas  On July 23, 2013 at 12:17 am

    You will hardly find any one today like Mr Alexander Alexander. Probably we can ask Mr Bill Gates to give some of his millions to Guyana build the Amalia Hydro.

  • Peter Halder  On July 26, 2013 at 6:43 pm


  • Lloyd Rowsell  On July 31, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Thank you AnnMarie Gometh

  • Lloyd Rowsell  On July 31, 2013 at 2:55 pm


  • Lloyd Rowsell  On July 31, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    1887- “2012 was the year of Jubilee for The Salvation Army in the Caribbean. We celebrated 125 years of service and ministry to the wonderful people of this beautiful region. What a great Congress celebration we had in Kingston, Jamaica led by our beloved General, General Linda Bond. What a fellowship we have had and what great blessings we had received!”

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