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Fishing with one of Belize's greatest seamen, Edwin Miller, Part 1

Written by Nick Pollard for the Belize National Historical Society

I wrote a story of a fishing expedition outside our Barrier Reef for my manuscript; the expedition would not have been possible without one of Belize's greatest seamen, Edwin Miller. But who was Edwin Miller in the late 1970s? He was a brawny, salt-aged 79 year old seaman with big arms still carved out in veins and muscles. Edwin apparently had two brothers Jack Miller and Walter. These men were probably born at the turn of the 20th Century. If anyone knows how I can contact family members kindly share the information with me.

I lived in Trinidad for two years, 1964 to 1966. While at St Joseph High School, the principal, a French Priest, Father Devertille (?) who had showed great interest in my education development and sports invited me to go snorkeling. I am not sure if the name is spelled correctly but I remember it as Cucurit, a coastline hilly area. We would snorkel with a knife and dig off the oysters from the underwater rocks. This was the beginning of my fervent interest in snorkeling and diving. Back at school I had two friends who were exciting adventurers - all of us at age 15 to 17. These guys made their own spear guns out of wood, surgical rubber, galvanized pipe and galvanized rods. When it was rigged together it worked! We would go on weekends to the hydro plant in St Joseph which was way up on a hill. Snorkelng in the river was not dangerous but I sensed that many passersby did not like the idea of us spearing the fish. They were rather small so I did not continue with that venture. My family returned to Belize in 1966; it wasn't until 1972 that I actually became very active in scuba diving at Glover's Reef and spearfishing with my Champion Arbalete spear gun. As the years went by I became a professional spear fisher exploring with the Australian Bazooka gun and adapting light stainless steel rods for higher velocity. Having given you some background, I can now share with you one of my fishing expeditions.

The Fishing Expedition on the 'Corretta' fishing vessel:

We had a great time on the eastern reef of Turnoff Atoll; I was sad to leave some of the best diving I had outside Soldier Caye . I think we stayed in that area for at least two days. Captain Edwin Miller fixed us some good fry fish; one morning we had hog fish gills in coconut oil with fry jack. The fish is called a hog snapper because the gill has grizzle that tastes like pigtail or nicer. We also had 'chicken of the sea' and 'old wife'�all excellent fish! Edwin told us great stories; he lived out at Half Moon Caye for a few years. He remembered he could close his eyes and throw his harpoon and never miss, reason being there were so many fish in the sea! There was no ice in the 1930s and 40s so the fishermen salted and corned fish. Back in the 1800s and early 1900s, the fishermen sold a lot of their catch in Honduras during the Lenten season. That tradition of not eating meat on Fridays during Lent was a Christian tradition.

Captain Miller had his eyes on Lighthouse Reef Atoll; I was preoccupied because we didn't have an outboard motor but knew that our captain was a great navigator. Marcel, Derrick and Victor were all excited and willing to go across the blue water. The day was a perfect day for fishing and sailing so we got the sailboat ready, tied down the dorey and we set sail from Turneffe. We sailed and sailed until the young boys went below the bow to rest; I stayed on the bow to give support to our captain. Soon it was dark and only the light from the stars and moon was shining on us. It was so dark we couldn't see a shadow of the islands. For a minute I thought I was Columbus sailing the great Azores and only salty waves splashing on my burnt cheeks. Then we saw the light from the Lighthouse. The light from Half Moon Caye was different from Sand Bore Caye so our captain lined up for a channel he knew just outside Half Moon Caye. Soon we got closer and closer until a dam scary bump occurred. I grabbed the mast and held on. The boys ran up on deck just in time to hear our captain shout, "Oh God, Oh God! I bent over the bow and confirmed that the bow was on top of a huge brain coral. I told Edwin Miller that we were okay; the boys checked the bow below and there was no leak. I was certain we could get the bow off the coral head. We opened the jib and let it fill with the wind�the bow moved slowly�slowly and we were off the brain coral. Our captain was full of anxiety and wanted us to use the two poles we took with us to push the sailboat out so he could try to get back into the channel. Damn it, I didn't see any channel so I knew it was time for me to mutiny. In a commanding voice, I shouted at our captain and said, "We are not moving from here; we will drop anchor and wait for daylight." Reluctantly he agreed. We all stayed up and talked rass and waited for daylight. Then I saw them�huge shipwrecks on top of the reef; we had drifted with the ocean currents all the way North to Sand Bore Caye. One of the islands that make up the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, North East of Belize City.

When we planned the fishing expedition, we should have had meetings and organized properly and studied the nautical maps of our islands and atolls. We didn't�in fact I didn't have a clue that somewhere out there, there was an island on Lighthouse Reef Atoll called Sand bore Caye. We should have marked down the flashes of the Lighthouse on Half Moon Caye as well. What happened to us that night could have been perilous. I searched the Internet recently and this is what I found in Wikipedia:

"Sandbore Caye Lighthouse is a lighthouse located at the north end of the Lighthouse Reef at 74 kilometres (46 mi) from Belize City, Belize. The station on Sandbore Caye was established in 1886 building the first lighthouse formed by a skeletal tower 20 metres (66 ft) high replaced in 1931 with a similar one higher. The current light has a skeletal square frustum tower with balcony and a focal height of 25 metres (82 ft); it emits a white flash every 10 seconds.

We all woke up lazy that morning and 'Capt' made us coffee and breakfast. The scare left us all drained. However I decided to go scouting with my spear gun. We were in deep water - maybe 100 feet but crystal clear. I didn't go far; instead I knew it would be better to find an area less than 50 feet deep. My diving was good at 40 to 50 feet. On the way back to the boat, two huge Short Fin Mako sharks passed below me as though they were out for a slow cruise. I had had very close encounters with sharks when I used to dive with Tom and John in the early 1970s. There were occasions when I had a big grouper on my spear gun line and the shark came for it. All I could (the wise thing to do) do was to lower the spear with the fish and hold on to my gun.

It was interesting to watch as it grabbed the fish and jerked it apart, took a half and returned for the other half then turned sideways and looked at me and said 'thanks!"�.and they were usually gone in a few minutes. I can only remember one incident when a big bull shark refused to leave us alone and it kept circling Tom, John and I so we closed in back to back and waited until Tom armed his Nemrod Air gun with the shark cannon; he had no option but to take it out. I was soon back on the sailboat and our captain decided to take us on the windward side of the island where the water on the drop-off was blue. From the way Edwin Miller steered the boat to that specific location, my instinct told me he had been there a long time ago. He wanted to relive his past. He sat on the stern and took out a roll of thick green mono filament line. It looked like an antique that was rigged 50 years ago. He secured it with a sinker that must have weighed at least a pound. Then he prepared it with at least a dozen hooks, one every 3 feet apart. We had caught some small grunt which he cut and baited the hooks. I sat right next to Edwin Miller to learn his secret. Fishermen don't usually share their secrets - especially their secret fishing grounds.

Another side of Edwin Miller I had been noticing is that he doesn't say much. He began to lower the line very slowly and smooth. There was not a single knot in his line. It kept going for a few minutes until it reached the bottom. I asked Edwin, "how deep is it down there?" He said, "About 50 fathoms - 300 feet!." I could see he didn't want me to disturb him - only to observe. It was then that I noticed how his finger holding the line gently pulled on the line and let it set. And then the same rhythm once more and a few more times. He then began to pull the line slowly and let the line swirl neatly on the stern. This motion continued until the line was about 100 feet down. 50 fathoms is actually 300 feet! As the line came closer the weight on the line required two of us to bring it up. And then it came up; there were six huge silk snappers, each about 25 lbs and more. He had brought them up slowly from the deep so as not to explode their stomachs. That was an amazing feat. I was flabbergasted. Edwin Miller had found one of his secret fishing grounds which I doubt anyone else will ever find. He was happy and smiled. I was excited for him. Here was an old man, 79 years old, captain of a sailboat way out on the edge of the blue water with only Jamaica on the other side, exploring his secret fishing hole. Using very sharp knives we gutted them and put them in the ice well. All the fish we caught were gutted clean, no blood - not scaled and the insides stuffed with ice. We then dug up the ice n the well and lowered the fish and covered them up with ice. This was a neat process so we always had ice on the top to prepare more of our catch. We checked our rations and realized that we were running low. It was time to start heading back home.

It wasn't long before the sailboat was ready and we pulled anchor. We were on our way back to Turneffe. As we sailed across the blue water, I sat right next to my Captain for I was now a sailor and fisherman. It was like he had something on his mind and suddenly blurted it out. "Bato Pollard related to you?" he asked. I said, "Yes, he is my Uncle." He smiled; "Well, I taught him to sail right where you are sitting many years ago." That was very emotional for me for indeed my Uncle Bato left home circa the late 1930s - early 40s and went to work on the sea. My Uncle Bato (Liberato) was a great sea man and a good friend who continued to love the sea and swam with my brother Michael in the 1960s out at the Barracks. I felt proud to have shared my Uncle's spot with one of Belize's greatest sea captains.

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Fishing with one of Belize's greatest seamen, Edwin Miller, Part 2
The End of my Fishing Expedition

The Storm

Fishing at Sand Bore Caye was great; I didn't have to spend much time in the deep water spearfishing because, after scouting the area, I saw that lots of big fish were around�grouper, snapper, ocean jacks, barracuda and more. So we rigged a few lines and did some drop fishing. It worked; so we had a few big ones packed in the ice well. Our rations were very low as we had been at sea for some ten days; we were ready to prepare the Coretta for the journey back home.

It was a beautiful day - sunny and a moderate Southeasterly wind was blowing. For some unknown reason, we didn't put the dory on board the Coretta but towed it on a long rope. What a ride! Sail and jib were out with full wind - I could see how wind pressure made the mast screech like it would snap. We sailed through the blue water at 15 to 20 knots - no exaggeration. It wasn't long before Soldier Caye on the Eastern Reef of Turneffe Atoll came into sight. Our Captain Edwin Miller was alert and I watched him size up the entrance to the Grand Bogue. The Grand Bogue is a huge lagoon inside Turneffe. One had to be a good sailor to maneuver in and out of that Bogue.

It wasn't long before we were back on the Western side of Turneffe Atoll, before mid-day so we continued and sailed toward English Caye. We were not more than four miles from English Caye channel when the storm struck. I had experienced those squalls before and knew they could be dangerous in areas where there were coral reefs. The sea became very rough and the waves were huge. The rain and wind took away our visibility and we lost sight of English Caye. Immediately we lowered the jib as the bow was dipping too deep in the waves. I was very concerned and urged Captain Edwin Miller to turn back and wait for the storm to pass. He said he could not do that as it might cause the Coretta to capsize. My Captain Edwin Miller remained calm; he had lined up the channel and knew exactly where he would go. We were all worried about the dorey that was rolling in the sea. The rope was so tense there was no way we could pull it in! We would have to ride out the storm on the sailboat with the waves and we had no life vests!

What a sea worthy boat Coretta was; it braced the storm and road the boiling waves and winds. Soon I could see jagged reefs but there were signs of the channel. Thank God the Coretta took us through the channel safely! Captain Edwin's judgment was very accurate, But it did cross my mind if he had made a wrong judgment, we would have hit the reefs and busted that sailboat into pieces. Who knows, we probably would have drifted down to Robinson Point and disappeared into Honduran waters never to be seen again. When we came out of the channel the storm passed and the wind died. There was no wind - more like what I had experienced as a Southwesterly wind. We had no wind and no outboard engine. We had no choice but to paddle and paddle hard to avoid the Coretta drifting down South to Rendezvous Caye or Spanish Caye.

That was a bad storm; as the sailboat rode the 15 to 20 feet waves I could actually look down at the waves opening up and swallowing the Coretta. Outside the reef the waves would depend on the winds you experienced. In our case Capt had lined up the Coretta in the English Caye Channel where the waves would be huge going in.

Before we reached Stake Bank, the wind came back mildly so we were able to limp into the harbour and make our way to Foreshore just South of the Bellevue Hotel. We tied off the Coretta. For the first time I looked at my fishing mates and realized we were badly burnt. We had become seasoned fishermen. My colleagues had difficulty walking; they were dizzy as if still out at sea. After securing the Coretta, we all went home to our families. I had lost a few pounds and all my fat was gone; now I was brawny and my muscles were like rope. Edwin Miller and the owner took care of the fish which were sold to the National Fishermen Cooperative. Our fishing expedition was over. I would run into Edwin Miller a few more times until he left to do some work out at Half Moon Caye. I had earned his respect and that I truly valued. No doubt, Edwin Miller was a great sea captain - a true fallen leaf.... I will always remember him.

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Gilbert Lomont started to build his diving resort on Long Caye, Glover's Reef Atoll sometime in the late sixties. He had planned to bring down a yacht from Florida. When he finally did he and his engineer from Dangriga, - one of the best diesel engineers in Belize, tried to fix an engine problem while the yacht was caught in turbulent seas off the coast of Havana, Cuba; a Cuban destroyer according to Gilbert Lomont hi-jacked his yacht, the Asiatic and towed it at high speed into Havana swamping it with the waves and causing it to go down. It was a deliberate sinking of the cabin cruiser. The incident of the Cuban Navy sinking the Asiatic was carried in our local newspapers. I believe it happened in 1971.

Gilbert Lomont and his engineer were placed in a Cuban prison and interrogated. After being in prison for twelve days, Lomont being a French Citizen, was allowed to fly back to Belize while his diesel engineer Cecil Jones Garcia was put on board a flight to Mexico City and from there he travelled by bus back to his home, Dangriga in Stann Creek District.

Lomont Enterprises had reservations for several dive groups from December all the way through to the Summer months. Gill and I had to look at our options seriously. We had the cargo vessel, the Hammet which was owned by Buzz Bradley of the National Fishermen Cooperative but, when it had to make a cargo trip to Honduras, we had to find another boat. There was Vern Neily of Caye Caulker who owned the large river boat, the Mermaid that did scheduled runs between Belize City and Caye Caulker but Neil told us that his boat was not safe to go to Glover's Reef.

We were up shit creek; the only other possibility was to fly customers to Dangriga and put them on board Gill's sailboat, the Pelican. The Pelican was a fast sailboat, very seaworthy but foreigners would not feel safe in a small boat way out there on the blue. Finally we found another option, to hire Collet Maheia's cargo vessel, the Carla M. Collet reminds me of the great Taipan, book by James Clavell. Collet had great vision for cargo vessels as he moved sand and other construction material.... with his brother, Banjo Bill! The Carla M was a large vessel designed to carry tons of material. It had sails and a small Armstrong & Sidely diesel engine. The reduction gears allowed for Carla M to run with a heavy duty oversize propeller. I remember when we loaded the Carla M on its first voyage to Glovers Reef. The Captain, a very nice Creole man known to all as Capt felt confident that he and his sailors would be fine. One day I asked him if he had a compass, he said, " my compass is the stars!". During the day for navigation he used absolutely no navigation charts nor compass. He was a seaman who used only his knowledge to travel down South or up North. So many Belizean seamen knew the Caribbean Sea like the back of their hands. Sailing beyond a reef channel requires the skills learned from other veterans. They used their skills of manual navigation only to cross over to Turneffe or to Lighthouse Atoll and Glover's. Carla M would leave the City after mid day and travel through the night arriving at Long Caye in the early hours of the morning. We continued to use the Hammet, occasionally the Pelican out of Dangriga and the cargo vessel, the Carla M.

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Some time in 1974 Gilbert Lomont brought his 65 foot yacht the Laughing Bird through the Gulf to Belize. It was his second attempt having lost his first yacht the Asiatic to the Cubans in 1971. The yacht you see above is NOT the Laughing Bird but I selected it from various pictures displayed on the internet as it looks a lot like the Laughing Bird. The beauty of the yacht was not only the size and shape but its two GM 671 Marine Diesel Engines that provided moderate speed for a loaded vessel. I have one more story to share about the Laughing Bird in due time. Back in the early 70s pioneers of Tourism like Gilbert and Marsha Lomont realized that they would be isolated and they had to be prepared for very adverse conditions.

I believe it was 1974 when the Lomonts were planning a long vacation to France. They were cleaning up all the cabins and servicing all the diving equipment for storage. Late one night about four sea pirates made their way on the resort. They were brave because Long Caye was far away from the nearest fishing camp. They broke locks and stole diving gear and sneaked away into the night shadows. When morning came the Garifuna workers noticed that there was a break in and equipment was missing. Gill was angry and got his crew ready with urgency and set chase in the Laughing Bird. He opened up those two GM 671 Diesel engines and went in pursuit. He caught up with the sail boat and the pirates and ordered them to hand over all the stolen items or he would sink the boat. The pirates knew they were in deep water and there was no island in sight to swim to. Just so they knew he was armed he fired a shot into the air. It wasn't long before he recovered all the stolen items, turned around and headed back to Glover's Reef. There comes a time when we do have to take the law into our own hands.

Finally the day came for the Lomonts to leave on their long vacation. I would continue to work at the office writing letters to travel agencies and answering letters from people and groups who wished to visit. I enjoyed doing this - remember I was a 65 word a minute typist and I received a fifteen percent commission on each person, regardless if they were in groups. I also worked closely with Belize Global Travel Services who supported Lomont Enterprises by securing group packages on TACA Airlines. One afternoon I was at my office typing away when I heard a knock on the door. I got up unconcerned and went to open the door. Lo and behold, there was Don Carlos Trujillo of COMSA. I was very happy to see him and we embraced. So he told me he was sent there to find a diver for an urgent job. I asked him why he needed a diver; he said that the petroleum tanker that brings fuel from Venezuela for ESSO Belize had run over the Blackwell steel pipes and were not aware when they hooked up to the submarine Hewitt Robins' hose to the coupling that was on the buoy. The tanker had just started pumping gasoline when the product shot up like a geyser and the pump was hurriedly shut down. I accepted to do the dive for my Ex-Boss; within the hour I had my gear, tanks, mask, snorkel and regulator and off we went to the Belize City Swing Bridge where a tug boat was waiting to take us to the site.

We arrived at the location within 30 minutes and soon I was ready and into the sea. Something was wrong; the water was contaminated with gasoline and burning my skin. It was unbearable so I surfaced and got back on the tug. I told Don Carlos that we would have to wait until early morning. He asked what time and before I could speak, he said, "Can you do it at 6:00 a.m.?" I agreed and I was picked up at 5:00 a.m. and off we went. Many Belizeans were not aware of the incident but by morning there was a shortage of gasoline at the pumps in Belize City. I was back in the sea at 6:00 a.m. the following morning, went down and found the pipe which had been bent like an "S". I had with me an inflatable marker which I secured to the pipe and let it go to the surface. My job was done. That same morning, a barge with a crane was organized and sent to the location with welders. The crane lifted the pipe line to the surface and the welders cut and repaired the Blackwell steel pipe line. By late afternoon the tanker began pumping gasoline to the storage tanks. I was paid $300 Belize Dollars to do that dive.

Later Don Carlos asked me how much ESSO paid and I told him. He laughed and realized I was new in the game. He looked at me with admiration and he knew that while I was no longer with him I had inherited his guts to get things done. Like his little sign said, "If it is difficult we do it immediately, if it is impossible it takes a little longer." I would meet Don Carlos in the late 1980s for the last time on King Street near my office at Crystal Bottling Works. He had been staying at the Bellevue Hotel and would walk to his COMSA Office on South Street.

Notes: COMSA was Compania Mecanica Sociedad Anonima; I was employed with them in Belize and other Central America countries. They manufactured steel tanks. If you drive out to Caesar Ridge Road where PUMA is you will see large steel tanks. We built those in the early 70s.

What is not well known in Belize is that in the 1970s Venezuela was subsidizing oil exports to Belize. Importers would pay $6 per barrel-roughly 50% of the market price and the remainder in local dollars to be invested in a development bank. The interest in those days was set at 8%, lower than the rates at the time.

Albert Don Carlos was a great pioneer manufacturer of steel tanks and the installation of Blackwell steel pipes.

The Laughing Bird had a wheelhouse down below but the one Gill used most was on the upper deck just like the one in the picture.

Lomont also had a sail boat named Christmas Bird at Glovers Reef.

Chat on this subject....

Bel Itza: Gilbert Lomont and Ralph Jackson had issues over the possession of the Caye... I think he was arrested when they tried to serve the writ on him but later sued for false arrest and won.
Glovers Atoll Resort, How It was Stolen By Three Greedy Women

By the way Gill's story says he bought North East Caye - not Long Caye which he shared with Ralph Jackson. the dispute with Jackson was over Long Caye . Gilbert disputed the title that Jackson had and did not pay rent. Perhaps that is why he moved his operation from Long Caye to North East

In this picture you can see the Glover's island in question Long Caye and adjacent to it a small Caye North East.

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Melinda Susan Wilken
Madeleine Lomont, Laura Thompson (The Wet Lizard) and I canoed in the 2004 La Ruta Maya. Madelaine knew her water, an island gal indeed, we had a blast and placed second in the female category.

Matt Mask
Thats how we came to Belize in 1991, on two boats from Canada to Belize, the 55 foot Hateras named Challenge and a 85 foot Huccins Fairforn Flyer (former military PT boat) named Island Trader, the Hateras had twin screw Detroit 6-71 screamers and the Huccins had a pair of very large D 333 Marine Cats. My father was taken into custody by the Cubans and was let go the next morning, before then an engineer came and asked questions about the two vessels. About an half and hour after being released from the Cuban authorities, a chase vessel was set out after them, but my dad had lied about the power the motors had and that one boat was only running on one motor, in which event the Cubans sent a slower chase boat being that both Island Trader and Challenge were both planeing hulls they managed to evade the Cubans, the way the Cubans work they will bring you into custody and inspect what you have if you have something of interest to them they will set you free and send pirates after you to get there fix of your stuff. Shortly after we ran aground off the shore of Mexico miraculously crossing the reef through a small channel at night unknowingly thankfuly the other Challenge didn't follow, he radioed in about our course change.

Both boats made it to Belize, but Island Trader was to run again upon entry to Belize, the pilot and my dad had an argument whether to turn before or after the marker. Well the pilot turned before and ran aground damaging both props, the boat later sunk in front of Fort George in 1990 or 91 not sure the years. The dockmaster at Ft George put us over a broken post that a tug boat broke off during a hurricane, when the tide went down the post punctured the bottom and when she went down by the docks nothing in the country could get it up in one piece, that was the end of the line for Island Trader. My dad took the wood from the boat and built a dockyard on the end of Regent St. west.

We lived in the other boat Challenge at Moho Caye for awhile, also Heusners Marina and Vista del Mar before the boat was scrapped and laid to rest in the Drowned Cayes.

My dad also used the Sarteneja sailboats to haul veggies to the southern towns from city market back in the day. He used the old banana pier down south to dock and sell veggies.

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[Linked Image]

Familiar with this place? Mr Jones Dockyard. Notice Challenge, at one time big boats used Haulover Creek constantly.

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Last edited by Marty; 02/09/21 11:49 AM.
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No tempest gave the shock;
She sprang no fatal leak;
She ran upon no rock;
A Poem on "The Loss of the Royal George" in 1782
By William Cowper
Recited by me in Standard 3 at Holy Redeemer School

By the Summer of 1976 it was no longer a good idea for me to continue my employment with Gilbert and Marsha Jo Lomont, Marsha being the problem. I had built Lomont Enterprises Ltd into a very profitable diving operation and we had won the confidence of many dive shops in the USA and Canada. Oh yes, we even got small groups out of Italy. One of the Italian divers had sold me his Bazooka spear gun which was Australian made - truly a great spear gun. The environment on Long Caye had become very hostile so it wasn't long before Bob Even, his wife Jeanne and their son Lance packed up and took their 30 foot in board out board motor vessel, the Yellow Jacket North to Caye Caulker. Richard Prymus who had sailed his sailboat from the Florida Cayes also left and stayed in Belize City for while before moving to Chetumal.

I don't remember if it was in 1976 or 1977; but it was one early morning I received a phone call from Bob Even asking me if I knew whether Lomont's Yacht, the Laughing Bird had been in an accident. I told him no, that as far as I knew I hadn't heard a word. Bob said very sadly, because we all loved the Laughing Bird, "Nick, pieces of Laughing Bird have been sighted off Caye Caulker." I was speechless....shocked...I couldn't believe it! I thanked Bob for telling me and immediately called a friend in Dangriga whom I knew would know. The story I got was that Gill had a small group of divers to take out and decided to use the Laughing Bird which he did on other occasions. The coral heads where we dived protrude on the top of the water and would give the impression of being in shallow waters. But these were coral heads as big as small underwater hills where the water could be over 40 feet and deeper. His crew had secured the anchor and they went ahead with the dive. About an hour later a storm came and they tried to lift the anchor to no avail. It would not budge! The stern slammed into a coral head and it ripped the wood sidings like paper. Using a skiff with an outboard engine that he towed behind the Laughing Bird, he managed to get the divers back to Long Caye. The report I got was that the ocean storm ripped the Laughing Bird to pieces and it went down into the deep water. In less than an hour the Laughing Bird was gone!

In an earlier story I told you about the Carla M which I believe was built by Belize's renowned shipwright Arthur Hoare on his boat ways on North Front Street. I had also mentioned that the Carla M. had an Armstrong & Sidley Diesel engine with an over sized propeller. Eventually Gilbert Lomont purchased the Carla M. from Collet Maheia; he was able to remove the two propellers from the Laughing Bird wreck and replaced the over sized on the Carla M. That would have made the sail vessel run faster since Gill did not need to load construction material. I don't have a clue as to when it occurred but the Carla M. became the Xmas Bird. I had never been on board the Xmas Bird but had an opportunity to see it set sail with both sails and engine.

Xmas Bird had been welcomed into the Glover's Reef Atoll World of Diving.

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My managerial relationship with Gill Lomont was excellent; his wife Marsha and I were not so good but we got the job done. Marsha was a very uneasy wife, she loved to yell at her husband and raise her temper with me. She would come to Gill when we are discussing a job matter and yell until smoke came through her nose! After she left Gill said to me in his slow deep voice, " Just let it blow through one ear and out the other."

One day in the summer of 1973 I was at the resort on Long Caye and Gill offered to teach me how to scuba. I was already a deep water free diver so I didn't see a problem. We went outside the Atoll's coral reef and he took me to a Shangri-La dive spot out of this world! It was like the side of a mountain dropping to 40 feet and then another drop to some 200 ft. and there after to nothingness. It was a beautiful day and visibility was incredibly good! The instructions were simple since I was not an amateur, strap on the tank, check the mouth piece and make sure my mask is fine. We jumped into the sea back way so the tank hit the water first - no weights as I was not going beyond the first drop. I did my routine check and readied myself for the dive. Gill ask me to stay close to him which I did and down we went off the spectacular drop off.

My instruction was to take a gulp of the pressurized air from the tank and take it off , leave it on the sand when I reach the bottom. I did that then proceeded to ascend slowly letting out pressurized air from my lungs. The danger is to panic and not let out the pressurized air which could damage the lungs even at 40 feet! Gill stayed at the surface and I dived back down, put on my tank, inserted my mouth piece exhaled into the mouth piece and inhaled from the tank slowly and calmly - relaxed. I quickly strapped my tank on my back, then I ascended.

While the scuba offered excellent sight seeing I still preferred my free diving to spear fishing. Soon I was packed and ready for Lambey, the captain of the Pelican sail boat to take me to Dangriga. The Pelican was a dream to sail on - fast as ever! Our trip to Dangriga was a little over an hour and soon I was on a plane back to the city. I was now a good free diver and a scuba amateur trained by the French diver Gilbert Lomont.

As an Aside: Back in 1973 Scuba Diving was known to only a few as there were no active dive shops back then. Lomont had bookings from 1971 and groups going forward; We had a group out of Miami Dave Cooper ...Temple Buel College from Denver....Ohio n others from Canada. By 74 we were usually full, except for the Summer. Who made the resort popular were Pierre Trudeau who stayed there in 71 and Smithsonian Institute.

The Lomonts screwed up when they lost me; I was making them big money to turn over n US currency to stash away. I was so hurt when the Laughing Bird went down.

I think it is safe to say that Caye Caulker had many back packers who made their way to Turneffe on Vern Neily's flat bottom vessel the Mermaid. Those were Caye Caulker's core clientele in those days. Neil made loads of money, don't know if he was able to sell the Mermaid but he took his stash and never looked back. That Mermaid ran 3 trips per week and was always full! I tried to hire it one weekend and Vern told me couldn't....too busy.

Francis Paul Ripp
That was a hard job and the Lomonts were not easy to deal with. They were not as organized after you left and some dive business started going to San Pedro.

Harold Usher
Nick Pollard I remember when my beloved Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was there at Glovers Reef! Nobody in Canada knew where he was or with whom? lol! His son is now our Prime Minister!

Nick Pollard
Hey hey so he sneaked away for a great dive; and guess who was his companion? Life has its time when changes occur either for the better or worse. They made the bad call. The Govt Yacht Patrice took him and Lindy Rogers...absolutely no scandal unless it was in Canada

Alvaro Alamina
Nick Pollard in 1969 Ray Auxillou Diane Auxillou-Paitsell was already organizing scuba divers coming from Michigan from his lodge (the very first hotel) on Caye Caulker. His operation and Gil's were the first commercial scuba operations in the country in those days. He used his live-aboard boat, the Atoll Queen to do his dives in Turneffe. Nealey sold the Mermaid and relocated to Miami where he worked for years with the Post Office sorting mail. Quite a paradigm shift from his occupation in Belize.

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,392
Marty Offline OP
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I've decided to switch gears and share some of my experiences in my Dad's (Nicholas Pollard Sr.) political environment. The information is directly from my manuscript. As I move along my stories will warm up.

After Johanna came on August 14th, 1958, Mom had to rest and take care of her children who were all below twelve years old. Betty was eleven, Nick Jr was ten, Therese nine, Michael eight, Maria five, Victor three and Johanna going to be one year old. Mom already had seven of her own children and two adopted, Joey and mom's niece Julie.

So dad hired a maid; she was Miss Wright. Miss Wright worked very hard washing clothes on the scrub board as we didn't have a washing machine. I used to help her to boil the white clothes in 'blue', a bar that made the clothes shiny. And we had a large square tin can about a size that would hold 40 pounds of pig's lard; the lid was removed and we also used the can to prepare liquid starch for starching pants.

[Linked Image]We didn't own an electric iron; what we had was one of those dangerous gasoline irons that was filled with gasoline. It had a bronze ball at the top and a pump to pump air into the ball. The gas would be pressurized and released into the burner and then lit. Once it was lit there was a valve to regulate the flame so it was hot enough to work with. We were lucky not to have had any fires. Surprisingly the gas in the bulb lasted very long.

You can imagine how hard Miss Wright worked but she just couldn't cook the food to dad's taste. He complained a lot. Dad liked his Sunday dessert; sometimes he fixed diced papaya in lime juice and other times it was slices of Hayden Mango soaked in evaporated 'PET' milk. That was one of my favourites. But he also liked his rice pudding. Rice pudding had to be soft and moist. One Sunday, Miss Wright made the rice pudding; it came out so hard, dad called it a 'bomb' and he started to become paranoid. He opted to believe that she was on the PUP payroll and her intention was to poison him. It wasn't long before Dad got rid of Miss Wright and there were no more house servants.

My father ran for office only once when he contested the 1961 GE and lost to a man Fred Wesby by a few votes. Following that defeat he stuck to trade union business. He was one of the founders of the Nationalist Movement which began as a Christian Social Action Movement headed by then Jesuit Superior Father O'Donell. The group was trained in Social Justice using the Papal Encyclical The Rerum Novarum written by Pope Leo X111 in 1893. The Nationalist Movement was not a Party until the Devaluation took place on Dec 31, 1949. The National Party was already in existence headed by Harrison Courtenay who left and it was taken over by Herbert Fuller. The NIP formed out of the HIP. What was formed after the Devaluation was the Peoples Committee; the PUP was formed 9 months later on Sept 29, 1950. When the Peoples Committee was formed on Jan 1st, 1950, it was only a small group of men; they needed strength...force so they challenged Clifford Betsen for his BHGWU which was over 6,000 strong in April, 1950. The Peoples Committee won the union Annual election and used it to form the PUP on Sept 29th 1950.

My mother Elizabeth Eleanor Pollard de Hoffmann was an extraordinary Mother.

Housekeeping wages back then were about $8 a week. My Mom was a typist/shorthand n a graduate of SCA; she earned $10 weekly at the PUP/Bze Times Office. Wages were low, even up to 1968 when I earned $18 weekly at the Gen Post Office.

Harold Usher
You described the ironing and the boiling of the clothes. I can relate to these very well, especially the lard pan. We used the same lard pan to boil the clothes and the CRAB - different times. Hahaha. We only had to BOIL crab once, in August. The Crab only ran for three days, after that they were no good. We boil the clothes at least onec per week - out in the middle of the yard!

Rosenda McCulloch
The iron had to be recharged/pumped every now and then to keep the hissing and heat steady. When I was about 17, the ironing board tilted with my over zealous pumping. . . I still carry the brand on my lower arm that resulted from it resting on the side of the overturned iron!

Aldrian Williams
i remember everything you just described and as i read it was like watching a series from childhood days the lard pan with a stick nailed in the top used as a bucket the iron my grandma and mom used to use one exploded in my mom's face back in 59 blinded her for 6 months the Dr wasn't sure she would regain her sight but she did.

Eugene Trench
I remember the lard pan it was a rectangular shape and yes remembering boiling white clothes. Anyone remembered those Garifuna women who use to sell Cassava starch , they use to balance the starch on a their head which was in a bowl, they had a tin measuring quart container. Remember the clothes use to sprinkle with starch and water wrap up to be iron later. No spray starch of today could have match those, the crease in pants was really sharp.

Nick Pollard:
Yes n sharp between our legs chafing our balls!

Rosenda McCulloch
Lots of people (especially in villages) used those fire heated irons long after there was even the electric one. I even have a vague memory of seeing a Belize City tailor using one that I think was called a "coalpot". That one opened and was filled with burning coals. How times have changed!

Rita Cadle
The iron that was heated on the fire hart.was called ,Sad iron and there was another one that we call coal iron you burn the rose wood because it gave solid fire coal it last longer in the iron so we open up and put the coal inside once the iron gets hot then you start iron latter came the gasoline iron then the electric iron we have come along.

Harold Usher
My mother ironed our clothes with a gasoline iron in the 1940's into the 1960's. I used to buy the gasoline from Mr. Laddie Mortar at the corner of North Front Street and Victoria Street! We used to take the Iron to Mr. Trapp on Handyside Street when it needed maintenance! Brodie's also had a Maintenance Section just for the Gasoline Iron. Horace Michael used to operate it!

Joyce Gentle
The first time I tried to light my mother's iron by myself, I got frighten & ended dumping it in a drum of water after it blazed up...I hadn't learned to adjust the gasoline level to control the flame. I was especially scared because our home had mysteriously burned down a few months before.

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,392
Marty Offline OP
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This morning I met one of BEC Football Club of the 60s players; I was glad to see he still looked strong. SJC's selection for whom I played met Belize Technical College for the high school finals at the BEC Football Field in 1968. BEC boasted the best field back in the sixties just adjacent to the present Belize Estate Compound. It was prime property; rumours had it that BEC traded with Government for taxes. You see in Belize taxes have more priority than the welfare of football players. Government wanted it to cut out lots which were given to close allies. But we had a nice chat me and my BEC player of the 60s; I knew that 'Big Mole' Alvarez had passed away but I was glad the brother came to visit me at B&B before I retired. His younger brother the BEC defence player who nobody could pass until I tried and almost got my lungs knocked out has passed away. I don't know when 'lee' Mole Alvarez died but I met him a few years ago when he had migrated into Maskall to do farming. Another great player of the Alvarez clan is gone now. There are still a few of the BEC players who worked in the lathe shop and other departments and I salute them.

I believe most of BEC players joined forces with Big Mole Alvarez in 1967 to become George August's Independence Green Diamonds. I know; I joined them in 1968. Both Pice and Ching played football with us at St Ignatius with the 'tube n case' ball circa 59 and 60.

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,392
Marty Offline OP
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I would like to remind members that I am copying and pasting excerpts from my manuscript, "The Jaws of Politics". Some of what I write may make you uneasy but such is the Jaws. Growing up under a trade unionist and politician in the 50s and 60s was full of hardships which made me strong and militant. I do still hope that you enjoy. God Bless!

I had not seen Granny Stella - guess she was ageing and becoming weak. It was my other grandmother Mimi that started to come to our house on North Front Street. Mimi was younger and stronger and mom was her beloved first child. I don't know when Mimi hooked up with Federick Moritz Hoffmann but it was in Stann Creek. Mom was born on December 22nd, 1924 so it had to have been in the early 1920s that those two hooked up. But Mimi was not only helping mom take care of the house, she was worried about mom's health condition. The war that dad had entered single handedly on the public rostrum, at home writing until late, always traveling to the districts and running off print material to give out to union members were taking its toll on mom, and dad was no longer the same loving husband or dad. He had become bitter and all alone. He was fighting a man who the people loved regardless of the money he was definitely getting for years from Guatemala for his intended affiliation of Belize to the Central American country of Guatemala and its Central American Market. George Price had a very close friend known as Anthony (Tony) Meighan. They were inseparable. One night after a public meeting in 1959, Dad, his brothers Justo and Bato had gone to the 'Hi-Lo Club owned by Dimas which was at the corner of North Front and Pickstock Streets and also on the bank of the Belize River. Hi-Lo Club would have been about 100 feet from George Price's house on Pickstock and about 200 feet from our Turton house on North Front Street. At the club, Tony Meighan was hitting on a woman related to the three brothers that night. One of the three knocked him clean off his chair and another kicked him when he fell to the cement floor. Tony's jaw was broken and all three brothers were arrested and charged with dangerous harm. The case went to the Supreme Court. Dad did not get a lawyer but chose to defend himself and his brothers. Dad began to gain recognition for his ability to go up against trained lawyers in court. Surprisingly, Philip Goldson who had had a bitter falling out with my dad over the 1956 Split was selected as the foreman juror; Dad did not object. He probably thought (my opinion) that Philip preferred that he had a better chance of defeating Price in the 1961 General Elections if Pollard remained free to fight Price. My Dad believed that Phillip was tipped off that he had been selected to be the Leader of the Opposition so he chose not to run in the 1961 General Elections. Had he done so and lost he would not have qualified. After reading the case in the National Archives, I concluded that it was the surgeon who repaired Tony Meighan's jaw that saved my dad's ass. The doctor testified that the angle in which Meighan's jaw was broken it could not have been from a kick. The jury brought in a verdict of 'not guilty' for all three brothers.

Perhaps the most significant event of my father's arrest in 1959 was the visit of my grandfather, Juan Pollard de Castro from Trujillo, Honduras. He had abandoned his wife, Stella Gill nee Garbutt, my lovely Grandmother, when his son Nicolas Antonio De La Roca Pollard was only four years old. My Dad was now thirty-five years old. So I met Grandpa Juan at my grandma's home where she lived on Cran Street downstairs of her Aunt Blanche's house. He was a short man, more of a mestizo type in his late sixties and looked old. What happened next I would never forget; he knelt down at granny's door begging her for forgiveness for all the wrong he had done. Being only ten years old, I was astonished and I froze where I was standing so I could not overhear what granny said to him. That was the first and last time I would see that man. How ironical that it was also the first and last time I met my grandfather Frederick Moritz Hoffmann, Jr. at our house on North Front Street. He had come to check on my Mom and was urging her to leave Belize and go live in Tela, Honduras where he was a foreman in the Banana Industry.

Justo was an extraordinary man whose freedom in our society was cut short due to a sad mistake.

Neddy Urbina
I remember Dimas bar very clearly.I use to live for some time with my uncle at the corner of North Front street and Pickstock street.The bar was dark and I remember the jukebox blazing.The river side area had a mesh cover sorrounding the tables and chairs .

Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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The time had come for me to say goodbye to all my co-workers at COMSA; it was heart breaking. Soon Johnny and I were buying up supplies and accessories we would need if we broke down. Johnny Harbord is the youngest son of a successful engineer/machinist in San Salvador Richard Harbord. We had become friends over time. After packing up the rear seat, we drove to Sonia at Villa Hermosa to say "Hasta Luego". It was early in the morning sometime in the month of July we pulled out of San Salvador and headed for the border with Guatemala. We made short stops only for food, gasoline and engine check up. By late evening we were on the Pan American Highway with our destination to the exit road to El Peten known then as El Puerto del Diablo. In 1972 it was called by that name because any vehicle that turned off to the 'Gate of Hell' it was clear that nothing was in sight but thick jungle and sand & gravel road.

We found a motel on the Pan American Highway and bed down for the night where the Volkswagen was safe too. At the break of dawn we were on our way to the Puerto del Diablo. Johnny was a good driver and we knew we had to take good care of Sonia's German ride. We had bottled beverages and food for the road and lots of drinking water. As we covered many kilometres of rough terrain we encountered military jeeps and trucks going pass us and coming from El Peten. There had been lots of rain so we drove through huge pools of water. We came to a bridge that was inundated by a river stream and the current was medium strong. We had a rope that we tied unto the front end of the Volkswagen and I waded into the current just to be fortunate to meet not more than 3 feet of water. We were certain we could go through it but a bit scared as we could be swept over the rails and into the turbulent river. We waited and thought things over. Lo and behold a military truck with big tandem wheels that carried soldiers came by and we spoke to the driver and they agreed to go slow so we could follow through the break waters the wheels made. We made it to the other side and I could feel the pressure off both of us.

Johnny had brought cassettes - not CDs in those days.....all Michael Jackson music of the late sixties. It wasn't long before we made it to the huge ferry and boarded to cross over El Rio Izabal. That would be our last crossing and no more treacherous bridges or muddy pieces of roads. We did meet a few but the Volkswagen went over them like a land turtle. The gravel road was much better as we passed signs to Poptun and Las Flores and Tikal. We kept going and the road seemed to never end. At last we saw buildings in the late evening and lights; We arrived at the Melchor Border sometime after six o'clock and went through customs and immigration without any hassle. Then we crossed over to the Santa Elena Border and again no problems. We were good to go but very dusty and tired. I was home at last!

The highway from Benque Viejo to Belize City was nothing to complain about after our road trip through El Puerto del Diablo and El Peten. After some two hours of driving we arrived in Belize City and found our way to New Road where my family was living. It was a horrible house...more like a ghetto. We slept on the floor until late the next morning. We hadn't had a shower for almost two days! After a cold water shower and fresh clothes, I took Johnny out and showed him the city.

We went to the Offices of the Minister responsible for Fisheries and we got an appointment to see Sir Alexander Hunter. Our meeting was cordial and without hesitation he assured us that the Government was not supporting foreign investments in deep sea fishing. Funny we had checked out other possible investments and we learned that there were absolutely no investments in deep sea fishing. Johnny wanted to go visit one of the islands so we rented a small eight foot hull with a 15 H.P. outboard engine and away we went to St. George's Caye. He was overwhelmed with the waves and surf coming across the barrier reef and the crystal clear waters. And then bad luck struck; the engine failed and nothing we did could start it. Johnny was very familiar with outboard engines - if he couldn't get it to start it wouldn't.

Not far away was a yacht anchored. We decided to paddle to the yacht to see if we could get some help. To my surprise my god father for the Catholic Sacrament of Confirmation was with friends having lunch. He greeted us and I introduced Johnny. While we were isolated from each other Louis Sylvestre always greeted me cordially. His close friends called him 'Cuz' and he always had a toothpick sticking out of his mouth. He was a minister of the Peoples United Party. It wasn't long before the Chef came and offered us some food and told us that the Yacht would tow us back to the city. Luis Sylvestre had been with the People's United Party since the split of 1956. I had first seen him under my Grandfather's house in Dangriga that same year when my Dad was working with David McKoy to build a new union, the Southern Christian Union. The house was all wood, not painted and on wooden columns. It was very close to the river where we could see small boats taking mangoes, green plantains and cassava and handled by the Garifuna women. The men were in the Valley working in the Citrus Industry.

I received the Sacrament of Confirmation in 1958 and Cuz was my godfather. My Dad was so busy with his politics and trade union business he forgot to get me a pair of shoes. Finally he tried the local manufacturers, Waldman's Shoe Factory and they were unable to find me a pair of shoes to fit. I was a unique case of high insteps so I needed special footwear. Eventually my Dad bought me a pair of tennis shoes which were too tight. I suffered throughout the insteps were catching fire.

After a few days in Belize City, the time came for Johnny and I to say goodbye. He was driving back to San Salvador alone. The Volkswagen had proven to be a road worthy car. After a few days I learned that Johnny made it back to San Salvador with a broken windshield - not a high price to pay for such a dangerous journey. We would not see each other for a long time as the war broke out in El Salvador and his family left for the USA.

Nick Pollard, Jr


COMSA - Compania Mecanica Sociedad Anonima; I joined them in 1968 when they were the contractors for constructing petroleum tanks at Esso Plant. Johnny's father was a pioneer of the shrimp industry in El Salvador; he urged me to invest in deep sea fishing along with his son. We had great ideas but we were turned down.

Sonia is my friend Johnny's wife, they were not yet married.

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