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Matthew French Young was born in Mabaruma Hill in the North West District of British Guiana in 1905, the son of a Scotsman who settled there in the 1880s, and planted citrus, ground provision and rubber trees.
Matthew Young began his career as an assistant on a diamond prospecting survey in 1925, and for the next fifty years spent a life mainly in the Guyanese interior, with interludes running his own estate, working as an overseer on a sugar estate, working as a motor mechanic and an ordinary seaman. He was a hunter, a guide on zoological expeditions, a gold and diamond prospector, and, most significantly for Guyana, a surveyor and road-builder, creating links into the interior.
Although he officially retired from public service in 1964, he was summoned out of retirement to run camps in the interior in the 1970s on behalf of the PNC government, and continued road-building and surveying work right up to 1980 when he was seventy-five years old. One of his most difficult assignments was work on the clearing up after the Jonestown massacre of 1978. In his later years he took up painting and recorded many scenes of the interior. He finally retired in 1980 and in that year left Guyana to join other members of his family in Canada.
In Canada he wrote his memoirs, published by Peepal Tree as Guyana: the Lost Eldorado, My Fifty Years in the Guyanese Wilds (1998), which gives a vivid picture of a resourceful, rumbustious man with a sharp eye for nature, and a profound respect for the culture, knowledge and skills of the Amerindians of the interior.
Matthew French Young died in 1996.
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