Waugh and Jesuits in Guyana

The Jesuits have published material from their archives relating to Waugh’s trip to British Guiana in 1932-33. Waugh visited the Jesuits twice at their mission station of St Ignatius in the central Rupununi region of south-west Guyana on his way to and from Boa Vista in Brazil. His visits are described in his travel book Ninety-Two Days published in 1934. What the Jesuits have published is a summary of Waugh’s passages about his visit as well as previously unpublished descriptions of the visits noted by the priests at their mission.

… Fr Mather’s 1933 diary (our ref: SJ/38/2/6) gives a few clues. In typically laconic style, Mather noted the arrival of ‘Mr Waugh’ in late January. During a week-long stay Waugh seems to have spent his time following and observing Fr Mather at work, and taking photographs. After Waugh had departed for Boa Vista, Mather made an interesting observation about an incident which is not recorded in any earlier entries: ‘Mended leg (made a new one) of longue-chair which had snapped under Mr Waugh.’

Waugh returned to St Ignatius on 22 February 1933; he ‘rode up on his weary horse’ according to Mather. In Ninety-Two Days it is apparent how very close Waugh came to becoming utterly lost when he mistook one mountain range for another. During Waugh’s second stay, many more photographs were taken of Rupununi life and Fr Mather gave the novelist a good haircut. It was during this second stay that Waugh began reading Fr Mather’s collection of Charles Dickens, and in so doing, temporarily re-discovered the joy of reading for pleasure.

Fr Mather made more arrangements for Waugh’s onward journey (and more walking sticks). On 5 March 1933 he wrote, in perhaps the most expressive diary entry in this period, of Waugh’s final departure: ‘Mr Waugh v. appreciative of his sojourn. Mutual regards & good wishes at his parting.’ Waugh joined Fr Keary for part of his return journey to Georgetown. From Georgetown he sailed, via Trinidad, back to England and resumed his literary career.

The article is posted on the website Jesuits.org.uk.  It also includes a narrative by archivist Sally Kent of the history of the mission which was founded by British Jesuits in 1909 and a brief account of the lives of the two priests Waugh met there.


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