Once Upon a Time

by Emory King

Colonel James Pitt Lawrie

The first thing you have to understand about Colonel James Pitt Lawrie is that he did not like Belize. In spite of the fact two of grandfathers signed our first Constitution, Burnaby's Code, in 1765, Colonel Lawrie was brought up in the Mosquito Shore.

His grandfather John Lawrie had married one of Bartholomew Alexander Pitt's daughters. He was then appointed Superintendent at the Mosquito Shore. James grew up at the Shore as a privileged youngster and expected to live well.

He first began to suspect that the Settlement at Belize might be a serious competitor to the Shore in 1776 when their first Anglican Priest, Robert Shaw, decamped for St. George's Caye. He left, seeking a cure for his illness, and stayed when the Baymen offered him more money.

In due course young Lawrie was appointed Superintendent at the Shore. His fear of Belize increased and when he got the opportunity he always wrote reports critical of Belize.

In 1779 he deliberately failed to warn the Baymen that Spain had again declared war on Britain. The result was that the Spanish captured St. George's Caye and marched over 200 men, women and children away to jails. The Belize Settlement virtually ceased to exist which suited Lawrie to a tee.

Unfortunately for him, the Baymen returned to Belize when the war was over. Then, to rub salt in his wound, the British signed a treaty with Spain in which they agreed to evacuate all British Subjects from the Shore.

Colonel Lawrie applied to become Superintendent at Belize. He also took the orphan, Luttrel Tempest, heir to the Mosquito Shore Kingdom with him and sailed to England to ask for education for the child and to renew his request to be appointed Superintendent at Belize.

The British Government took the child, but told Colonel Lawrie they did not need his services, "at this time."

He came back to Belize in hopes of getting some high office here. He did not. So, he took a number of logwood works along the Rio Hondo, built a big home, surveyed lots and announced that "Lawrie's New Town" was ready to accept buyers. No one bought.

In 1797 when the question of Evacuation of Belize was hot because of an imminent invasion by the Spanish Lawrie became one of the leaders of movement to leave Belize, presumably to go back to the Mosquito Shore. He was up against Marshall Bennett and Thomas Paslow who led to Defense Movement.

The Evacuation motion was defeated on June 1st, 1797 and Colonel Lawrie stomped off to his Rio Hondo Works and sulked for months.

He returned to Belize when it was apparent the Spanish would really attack. He spent much of his time criticizing the Belize Government's defense plans. No one listened.

I don't know when he died but he left children begotten with Catherine Hume. a former slave. His descendents have played important parts in the history of Belize ever since.