100th Birth Anniversary of Valerie Rodway

100th Birth Anniversary of Valerie Rodway
First Day Release of Commemorative Stamp
May 16, 2019
Auditorium, Guyana National Library


I have always known that Guyana’s women are special. Our nation’s history is peppered with some very remarkable achievements of some little women who have done great things throughout their lives. We will continue to remember them, and celebrate them and their work that have brought us to where we are today.

We lost one of these big-little women less than a week ago. Ms. Magda Pollard has done so much in her lifetime that we can only celebrate the huge strides she has taken. She brings back to memory other stalwart Guyanese women like Lynette Dolphin who also left her mark on our musical landscape. We remember the years when the Dolphin sisters dominated our education system which, as you ALL know, was of the highest caliber in this part of the world, and Guyanese children are still among the best educated in the Caribbean.

But today is about Valerie Rodway – a Teacher, a Composer of music, a Guyanese who never got tired of the beauty of her country. Everything was a thing of beauty to her, and every sound had a musical note. She wrote about it, put music to it, and in the 1960’s helped to bring about the period in Guyana’s history when national songs were sung everybody.

Valerie Rodway spent a lot of time playing Jazz with her friends, and writing MUSIC for the poems that she read. Some were written by Guyana’s finest poets like:

  • Martin Carter
  • Harper Smith
  • Vere T. Daly and
  • A.J. Seymour

A friend of ours, Dr. Vibert Cambridge, wrote a short biography of Aunt Val’s accomplishments, and I strongly recommend that you read it. It captures her essence and paints a good picture of the person she was. You will find it online at: guyanesegirlsrock.com and the article is titled: Women in History.

Allow me to paraphrase a small section:
Her music gave the words of our poets a special kind of majesty. She probably selected poems that encouraged and nurtured positive values, service to the nation, respect for our heritage, and the creation of a caring society. Her compositions also celebrated Guyana’s hinterland – the rivers, the waterfalls, the flora, the fauna and our first peoples.

With compositions like “Make Music, Children”, “River Idyll”, and “Water Music” – the words for that one were written by A. J. Seymour, she took us up rivers and down waterfalls deep into Guyana’s rainforest.

He mentioned her sister’s childhood memory of Valerie wandering away from the family’s home to visit the neighbour and “tinkle the piano keys”. When that was not possible, she made music with the Venetian blinds in her home…

Aunt Valerie was a special person, a trained music teacher, a composer of jazzy, uplifting music; classical and patriotic music. She is best known for composing many of our national songs, two of which we were just treated to by 2 outstanding musicians of today – Mrs. Marilyn Dewar and Russell Lancaster.

I’d like to close as I began … Valerie Rodway’s life as a teacher, performer and composer stands out as an example of what we have always said – that Guyanese women have chalked up some remarkable achievements through the years which paved the paths we walk today. Those achievements opened the doors for us; they enable us to go out there, hold our young girls by the hand, and make sure they understand that they can do ANYthing they want to do.

Our women have taught us those things … and those stalwarts still living are continuing the lessons. We only have to sit up and pay attention.

Thank you.

Hon. Catherine Hughes