• Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq.

When did the first ship leave India for Guyana?



On January 13, 1838, the Whitby left India for Guyana with the first set of Indian indentured servants.

After slavery was abolished, the British planters sought workers to replace the enslaved Africans. John Gladstone, a West-Demerara sugar plantation owner, sought permission from the British to import Indians to work for a period of 5 years under the indentured servitude system. The British granted his request.

Gladstone and other sugar plantation owners then arranged to import 414 Indians to Guyana. The Indians originated from Chota Nagpur, Burdwan, and Bancoorah (near Calcutta). Those from Chota Nagpur were referred to as “hill coolies.” “Coolie” was a corruption of the tamil word “kuli,” which meant laborer.

The British plantation owners chartered two ships to transport the first set of Indians to Guyana.

First, the Whitby set sail on January 13, 1838. Of the 249 indentured (233 men, 5 women, and 6 children) on this ship, five passed away. They voyaged 112 days and arrived in Guyana on May 5, 1838.

Second, the Hesperus left Calcutta on January 29, 1838 and also arrived in Guyana on the night of May 5, 1838. Of the 165 passengers, 13 died, leaving 135 men, 6 women, and 11 children.

For the next 79 years, nearly 239,000 Indians journeyed to Guyana to work as indentured servants. Similarly, nearly 148,000 Indians went to Trinidad as indentured servants. The majority of these workers would never return to India.

The Indian indentured servants who emigrated to the Caribbean, the formerly enslaved Africans, and the other minority Caribbean populations, would go on to form a distinctly unique culture.

Thankful for all Guyanese and Trinidadian ancestors from India. And the ancestors from Africa from which we all derived– but that’s a (surprisingly under-shared) story for a different day.

To read more about the history of Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago, go to:







Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq. is a trial-winning trademark and contracts attorney. She primarily helps growing businesses with trademarks, contracts, and name clearance searches.

She writes articles on the importance of trademarks, trademark law updates, and also West Indian history (with an emphasis on India, Trinidad, Guyana, and the United States).

MDGR Law, P.A.

PO Box 101794

Fort Lauderdale, FL 33310-1794

(754) 800-4481



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