Brindley Horatio Benn
Former Minister of Government, one of the key leaders of the Guyanese independence movement and Deputy Prime Minister Brindley Horatio Benn died yesterday at age 86.
Father of current Minister of Transport and Hydraulics Robeson Benn, the Cacique Crown of Honour awardee served in the capacity as Minister of Education, National Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources in the late 1950s and 1960s.
Born in Kitty, Georgetown, on January 24, 1923, Brindley Benn, named after a Methodist Priest, Rev. J.B Brindley, is the second of five boys born to Rosa and Samuel Benn. His humble educational upbringing began at the St. James-the-Less Primary School (now F.E. Pollard) and the Roman Catholic School in Queenstown for a brief period.
After writing the Junior and Senior Cambridge Examination at the Central High School, Brindley Benn sat five subjects.
His journey after school led him to Kwakwani where he gained employment as a clerk with the Bauxite Company where his father served as a senior staff at the Reynolds Mining and Metals Company, and his mother, a caterer and boarder in the community. In 1948 his father Samuel Benn died in Kwakwani where he was buried.
In the 1940s, Brindley Benn returned to Georgetown and began teaching at a high school in Broad Street. He later became the owner of his own school which was located in Evans Street which he operated for about three years.
He went on to teach Latin and French at Richard Ishmael Secondary School.
His religious upbringing as a Methodist led him to become a Choir Master at the St Sidwell’s Anglican Church in 1945, which was popular in the public domain. He served there for about five years.
Influenced by the speeches of the late President Dr Cheddi Jagan about the occurrences in the bauxite industry and colonial rule, Brindley Benn joined the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and became integrally involved in politics. He subsequently founded the Pioneer Youth League, a predecessor to the Progressive Youth Organisation (PYO).
His party campaigning activities led him to New Amsterdam Berbice in 1953. This however led to his detention after the constitution was suspended.
After returning to Georgetown in 1956, Brindley Benn was elected Chairman of the PPP and Member of the Executive Committee. He served as representative of the Essequibo Islands and the Interior.
After the party contested and won the 1957 elections, Brindley Benn was appointed Minister of Community Development and Education. It was during this time that he organised the National History and Culture Week (1961 to 1964) under the theme, One People, One Nation, One Destiny, the slogan that later became Guyana’s independence motto.
Brindley Benn was appointed Minister of Agriculture after the PPP contested and won the 1961 General Elections, and formed the Guyana School of Agriculture in 1963. He also had oversight functions of the implementation of the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary (MMA), Boerasirie Scheme, Tapacuma Scheme and Black Bush Polder.
Unrest in the early 1960s lead to Brindley Benn’s detention by the British and imprisonment at the Sibley Hall, Mazaruni Prison for several months. He was released in 1965.
After his release Brindley Benn formed his own party, the Working People’s Vanguard Party (WPVP), and in the late 1970s he joined with prominent figure Walter Rodney and others to form the Working People’s Alliance (WPA).