Today we learned that Sir Barry Bowen, Belizean billionaire, died in
plane crash in Belize. He's known for Belikin Beer, Coca-Cola, and the
community around Chan Chich Lodge and Gallon Jug Estate in Orange Walk
(which includes a school for local kids). And that's all the tip of the
The late Emory King sent me the following historical note a few years
ago... And I was fascinated by the story of Mary Hickey, apparently one
of Sir Barry's ancestors.
Once Upon a Time
by Emory King
The People of Belize 1798
If you drive from Georgeville up to the edge of the Mountain Pine Ridge one of the properties you will have passed through is 5,000 acres of land named Mary Hickey.
It was established for Mary Hickey in 1791 when she was still a minor by Edmond Meighan. (In those days you had to be 21 years old to be legally an adult.) It is possible Mary was pregnant for Meighan at that time.
She hardly needed the land then as she was the richest girl in the Settlement of Belize. Her father, Captain Francis Hickey had died in 1788 leaving her money and land and slaves and cattle. She had land on St. George's Caye and at Spanish Creek and houses in Belize Town.
Her father's will ordered the Executor to send Mary to Bermuda to be educated. She did not go and until her death in 1820 she could not read, write or sign her name.
Few women in the Belize Settlement could sign their names either. Educating women was not a popular idea at that time.
Apparently she did not get along with Edmond Meighan. There is no evidence they lived together, although she named the baby Francis Hickey Meighan.
In 1799 she had a baby by Duncan Grant, the Quartermaster of the 6th West India Regiment. Grant's wife had died the year before. They named the baby Elizabeth for her and Mary for her mother.
Supposedly when the 6th West Indian Regiment left Belize Duncan Grant left with it.
Mary carried on life in Belize alone until, in the early 1805, she met Dr. Manfield William Bowen who had lately come from England to attend to the affairs of his uncle Thomas Bowen.
Finally Mary had found the love of her life. She had six children for Dr. Bowen, the last in 1818. Mary was rich and powerful and with Dr. Bowen had made a significant mark in Belize.
On her tombstone Dr. Bowen wrote "in memory of his affectionate and beloved companion during a happy union of fifteen years".
The family name of Bowen has survived in Belize to this day.