By William Ysaguirre
Belize’s national hero Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson (1923 – 2001), whose lifetime of service – over 60 years – helped shape Belizean democracy and independence, has been honored with one more tribute, having his home in Belmopan turned into a museum.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow joined Governor General Sir Colville Young and Executive Director Diane Haylock of the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) and other dignitaries in opening Goldson House to the public as a museum, on Monday, September 28.
The Institute of Social and Cultural Research prepared the many displays inside the home, which chronicle Goldson’s life and times through photographs of him with his wife and children, certificates and other documents – such as when he was called to the Bar in London, from his early days working for the British Honduras Civil Service to his career as a journalist and lawyer and his career in politics.
The many charts chronicle his political career and the many parties he formed: first – the Peoples United Party with George Price; then the National Party, the Honduras Independence Party, then the National Independence Party (NIP), the United Democratic Party (UDP) and later breaking off to form the National Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR).
There is also an audio-visual room with a large flat-screen television, where visitors may view many recorded interviews and statements by the late great leader.
Goldson was a very principeled man, a man of courage who stuck to his beliefs even in the face of prosecution by the British, who imprisoned him and Leigh Richardson for sedition.
Goldson stuck to his guns no matter what, and he continued to write for the Belize Billboard from his jail cell, his articles written on toilet paper were smuggled out and published.
He served eight months of the one-year sentence and was hailed as a national hero upon his release.
He was elected to the Legislative Council in 1956, where he did much for Belize’s social development. He was also the first Opposition leader of the NIP in the first Legislative Assembly elected in 1965, after Belize achieved internal self-government in 1964.
Goldson is also remembered for his work in rebuilding Corozal Town after it was destroyed by Hurricane Janet in 1956. This reconstruction also brought about major social reforms; as 90 per cent of the town’s residents had been renting from the former owner of the land, William Schofield.
Goldson’s plan for the redesign of the town also allowed for homeowners to gain title and ownership of their land, either through direct purchase, by payment on an installment plan or by paying an annual rental fee.
Goldson also fought for Belize’s territorial integrity against the threat of Guatemala’s unfounded claim, and was the first Belizean leader to address the United Nations on this issue, in an hour-long speech in 1967.
He was instrumental in leading the Belizean electorate’s rejection of the 17 Webster’s proposals in 1968, and his firm beliefs led him to lead a faction away from the UDP to form the NABR, when he disagreed with the party leadership on the Maritime Areas Bill, which he felt did not adequately secure Belizeans’ right to Belize’s territorial seas.
Goldson lost his sight to glaucoma in 1978, but not even the loss of his sight could deter him from continuing to serve his people.
He was re-elected to the House of Representatives in 1979, and again in 1984 in the UDP’s first victory at the polls and he served as Minister of Social Services. He had Labor added to his portfolio in 1986. He was re-elected to office in 1993, and again served as a Minister in Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel’s UDP administration from 1993-1998.