Boochoon Samaroo

94 year - Princes Town

Boochoon was a single child whose parents died when he was four years old. He then went to live with his uncle in a carat house. At age seven he stopped going to school and began to work on the sugar estates. At age eleven, Boochoon was paid 15c a day cutting ‘para’ grass from seven in the morning to four in the afternoon.

Boochoon's day would start at five o'clock with some roti and "fry aloo" followed by a three-mile walk, barefoot in the dark through tracks of razor grass, to the estate to meet the foreman. He would carry his sustenance in tin food-carriers. At the end of the day, “the white man come to take names; we would line up to get pay." Most workers were young boys. The boys played cricket at lunch time with cane stalks as bats and green guavas for balls. Foremen were older, maybe in their forties. "The overseer had a horse."

The jobs were many on the sugar plantation: to cut grass, to cut cane and to burn it, to carry dung and to drive the bull cart. Boochoon was 13 years old when he was given the task of carrying the cane to the trucks on his head from the railroad. Later on he was entrusted with the technical job of burning the cane, which was only done at night and so meant longer hours. Most times he would get home at eleven instead of at six. Burning the cane required knowledge of the wind and clearing the furrows so that the ‘burn’ could be controlled. "Breaking bank" was another technical task which required knowledge of spacing the ratoons when planting the young cane.

Boochoon tried other jobs including working on the overseer's private land and tending to his pedigree chickens. "Whole day chipping coconut to feed cock, but I learned how to ride horse and how to care for it." He also worked in the local rum shop with the Chinese businessman who would give him extra goods for his services.

His favourite job, however, was to drive the mule cart to carry water to the estate. His worst job was on the rail road, where one time he and a team of no more than a dozen men had to return a fallen train car onto its track.

At six-teen years of age his uncle arranged his marriage; his wife of ten was named Daisy. The road, of gravel, was swept before the procession with the couple being whisked away in a donkey cart.

Boochoon lives close to the estate where he once worked and, with astounding precision, he recounts the details of his life to his family and persons who pay him a visit. Very much mobile, he remains active with his gardening.