Every year around this time, we are faced with the same old questions
which lead to the same old tired arguments. Was the Battle of St.
George’s Caye real or is it just a myth? Was it a case of
‘derring-do’ or was it just documented lies agreed upon? Is it
realistic to believe that slave would have fought “shoulder to
shoulder” with master or would they have taken the opportunity to
This matter has been debated ad nauseam and at the end of the day, we
seem no closer to the truth than the day when the questions were first
asked. We do know that a hundred years after the fact, a determined
patriot by the name of Simon Lamb succeeded in convincing Belizeans
that there was enough evidence to warrant a yearly commemoration of
the event. As a child, I grew up marching every September 10th, at
first only for “lemonade and a piece of cake” but later in the belief
that our forefathers had indeed “fought a glorious fight”.
Simon Lamb himself died in 1913 but I can still remember each year,
watching a man playing Simon Lamb with a long sword that would draw a
line in the sand and dare the Spaniards to cross. I’m not sure when
the tradition stopped but each year on the Tenth of September, a
wreath used to be lain on the grave of Simon Lamb. When last I
enquired, no one was even able to find the spot where grave was. What
Until the time of my departure from Belize in 1972, the Tenth of
September was still being celebrated with much vigor and gusto. Since
the late fifties when the political two-party system was established,
simultaneous parades were held throughout the city. Leading up to the
official day, many contests and ceremonies were staged with events
like the “Battle of the Bands”, “Queen of the Bay” and many others
being held nightly at the Memorial Park. It was time of much
By the time I returned to Belize two decades later, I discovered that
party politics and petty ideology had long since killed the “Spirit of
Simon Lamb”. Simulacrum had replaced shivaree and a once hearty and
vibrant celebration had been replaced by pompous officials and
political delegates seeming to simply be going through a motion.
Political tribalism had become the order of the day with
neo-celebrants embracing Independence and loyal pseudo patriots
clinging to the Tenth. “That deh time neva stand like a befo time”.
Each year, I observe this sad phenomenon with chimerical longing for
good old days gone by.
Of course, there is no turning back the clock and we are where we are.
While I remain convinced, after doing some research, that the events
of September 10th, 1798 was real and worthy to be commemorated, there
might be one area in which even Simon Lamb might have missed the boat.
While the circumstances surrounding the battle, skirmish or to
whatever degree the confrontation was, does proffer room for doubt,
there is one event indubitably documented that gives greater reason
for public pride and patriotic stirrings.
There is no doubt that Belizeans are as creative, athletic,
professional and proficient as the citizens of any other state or
nation on this planet. Only rarely do we break out and excel however,
and quite often that comes only from those who have been exposed to
foreign environs and influences; case in point, Marion Jones and Artie
Petters. The best we have done in international competition was in
1998 and in Mexico with our basketball teams. Even then, it took a
majority of foreign groomed or even foreign born participants to push
us up to the top. Our people lack confidence and self esteem. I have
a theory. It is my belief that the major cause of our
under-achievements is that we do not have enough to make us feel good
about ourselves. As a nation, we have no major accomplishments to our
credit; we have won no major battles or overcome any major obstacle;
or have we?
I have always felt that the Battle of St. George’s Caye was a
significant story to tell; if only to enhance and influence the ego of
our people. We needed desperately to inculcate this into the psyche
or our consciousness; even if it requires augmenting and embellishing
existing facts. Our people need heroes and victories to nudge them on
The event that Simon Lamb missed, (and that Assad Shoman in his
otherwise excellent and extensive narrative of our history failed to
even mention), were the proceedings of a town meeting that was held in
the then colony way back on June 1st of 1797. This saga I believe to
be epic and matching the mark of courage and resolve found in the
history annals of any country on this planet. When the meeting had
ended, a small but giant-hearted group of true patriots had decided to
defy all odds and stand to fight and defend what was to become our
homeland. We owe them much and to dismiss and discard this tale of
momentous courage is to do disservice not only to those heroes but a
grave injustice even to ourselves.
In 2009 and shortly before his death, Dr. Neil Garbutt funded and
spearheaded a tribute to the heroes of that historic vote and a
monument was erected in the village of Flower’s Bank in their honor.
The names of William Flowers, Caesar Flowers, Joseph Toney, Adam
Flowers, William Scott, William Pinder, George Grant, James Hercules,
William Crofts, David Dawson, John Dawson and Joseph Smith, freed
slaves whose timely intervention broke a 51-51 deadlock that resulted
in the decision to stay as opposed to evacuate, remains forever etched
on not only that monument that is dedicated to their memory but on the
very essentials of Belize’s existence as a nation state. This is the
type of courage that lends impetus to the achievement of great things.
What a waste Belize, what a waste!
G. Michael Reid
Citizen of the world