By William Ysaguirre
Belizeans honored their national heroes: Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson, its first Premier and Prime Minister, George Cadle Price, and its greatest benefactor: Baron Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss, during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Baron Bliss Lighthouse in Belize City on Monday, March 9.
The Belize Defense Force mounted a Guard of Honor, and detachments from the Police Department, the Belize National Coast Guard, Boys Scouts, Girl Guides Police Youth Corps, BDF Cadet Corps and other uniformed services stood at attention, while the Governor General, Sir Colville Young laid a wreath on Baron Bliss’ tomb. Executive Director, Diane Haylock of the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) deputized for Prime Minister Dean Barrow in placing wreaths before large portraits of both Goldson and Price.
Attorney, Florence Goldson read a memorial tribute to her father, from his early education at St. Mary’s Primary School, to his diligence in night school to pass the Cambridge Certificate Examinations, to his work as a journalist for the Belize Billboard, which led him to champion the nationalist movement in the 1940’s.
Goldson helped organize the General Workers’ Union in 1949 and later became its General Secretary. He also helped found the Peoples Committee, which became the People’s United Party in 1950.
He and Leigh Richardson were jailed for one year, with hard labor, after they were convicted of “seditious intention”, a move the British thought would quell the dissent published in the Billboard.
But Goldson continued to write for the Billboard, on toilet tissue, which was subsequently smuggled out of his prison cell.
Always looking out for his fellow men, Goldson occupied his time in prison teaching many of his fellow inmates to read and write. He was elected to the British Honduras Legislative Assembly in 1954 with responsibility for labor, housing and planning, health, education and social welfare, and under this responsibility, he coordinated the rebuilding of Corozal Town after its destruction by hurricane Janet.
After he resigned from the PUP in 1956, Goldson was for many years: 1961-1974, the only Opposition member in the Legislative Assembly after he was elected in 1965 as the member for the Albert division.
He remained in Opposition until the first United Democratic Party victory in the general elections of 1984. He then served as the UDP Minister of Social Services, and during his tenure, he established the Family Court, the Department of Women’s Affairs, the Belize City Urban Department, the District Councils, and the Disabilities Service Division.
Though he resigned from the UDP in 1991 when he opposed the passage of the Maritime Areas Act, he ran on the UDP/NABR ticket in 1993 and won his seat again in the Albert Division.
The Stanley Field was renamed the Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport in his honor in 1989. He received the Order of Belize in 2001 and died that same year after a long illness.
He was post-humously awarded Belize’s highest accolade: the Order of National Hero in 2008. The Northern Highway was also renamed in his honor on September 21, 2012. Florence closed by recalling her father’s battle cry: “The time to save your country is before you lose it!”
Dr. John Waight F.R.C.S. read the tribute to his uncle, the Rt. Hon. George Price: from his early survival of the disastrous 1931 hurricane when he was a student at St. John’s College at Loyola Park, to his religious studies for the priesthood at a seminary in Mississippi, and his subsequent return to secular life and entrance into politics in 1944.
He joined Goldson in founding the People’s United Party, which he served as its first party secretary and he became the party leader in 1956, serving as leader until 1996. Price’s rise in the political arena was stellar, winning a Town Board seat six times, and he was elected mayor twice. He was elected to the Legislative Council in 1954 to 1961, serving as First Minister. He then served as Premier until 1981, and after Independence, as Belize’s first Prime Minister, from 1981-84. He was again elected Prime Minister 1989-1993 and served as Senior Minister Emeritus from 1998 to 2003.
During his tenure as Belize’s premier statesman, Belize achieved universal suffrage in 1954 and internal self-government in 1964. He cultivated diplomatic ties with CARICOM, the Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned Movement and other Latin American nations, until their support over-rode and out-weighed the obstacle of the unfounded Guatemalan claim to Belizean independence.
Price’s leadership was recognized by many awards from the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, the Order of Belize, the Order of CARICOM, Cuba’s Jose Marti award, Mexico’s Azteca Eagle award and Venezuela’s Simon Bolivar award.
Basil Coleman read the tribute to Baron Bliss, from his birth as Henry Edward Barretts in Marlow, Buckingham County in England, his amassing of his vast fortune through his work as an engineer and subsequent investment in stocks and bonds and his acquisition of the title, 4th Baron Bliss of the Kingdom of Portugal. Confined to a wheelchair at age 42 by paralysis in 1911, the Baron’s love of fishing brought him to Belize aboard his yatch, the “Sea King II” in January 1926. When his health began to fail a few weeks later, he drafted a will, leaving his entire fortune to Belize, which he signed on February 17, one day after his 57th birthday. Three weeks later, he died on March 9, never having set foot on Belizean soil. He remains Belize’s most generous benefactor, with his money used to establish a trust that helped build the Bliss Institute, the Nursing School, and many other important institutions in Belize.