Baron Bliss' yacht tender "Sea King" which was restored, on display on the grounds of the House of Culture. Photo by Margie Quan.
Rev. Cleghorn at the Inauguration of Baron Bliss grave, The lighthouse is 3/4 to left barely visible. The light is on the pole next to the grave, it was the lantern back then.
Baron Bliss and his boat "The Sea King"
"Baron Bliss" - Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss The Fourth Baron Bliss of the Kingdom of Portugal.
The 9th of March used to be known as Baron Bliss Day, now known as Heroes & Benefactors Day, a public and bank holiday, and was set aside to commemorate the memory of Belize's biggest financial benefactor. Baron Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss, JP was born in the Buckingham County of England on the 16th of February, 1869. The day is celebrated as a public and bank holiday, and a harbor regatta is held in remembrance of a man who loved the sea and who left Belize over a million dollars for its use. Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss was an Englishman born in England.
The Sea King dropped anchor in the harbor of Belize on January 14th, 1926. While in Belize, Baron Bliss took every opportunity to sample the fishing of the nearby waters. Every morning the crew of “Sea King” lowered him in his chair to the small boat, also named the “Sea King”, and friendly local fishermen took him out to the cayes and barrier reef, where he seemed very happy and contented, and pleased with the helpfulness and friendliness of the local fishermen. This must have seemed to him all he wanted to make him happy and lively.
In his will, Baron Bliss expressed his wish to be buried by a lighthouse hence the establishment of The Baron Bliss Lighthouse in Belize City. Also in the Baron’s will was the stipulation that 100 Pounds Sterling should be used each year for a regatta. He was buried in the garden across the street (what was the Animal Park) until the memorial grave was complete. In 1932 the government was asked to compensate the Engineer of Trinity House who created the plans "should they be adopted at some future date"
Photograph courtesy NICH
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Belize Celebrates National Heroes and Benefactors Day
National Heroes and Benefactors Day (previously known as Baron Bliss Day) is a public and bank holiday in Belize celebrated on March 9. This year, the holiday will be on Monday March 7.
This day was dedicated to Baron Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss, who willed a large sum of money to Belize. Baron Bliss was born in 1869 in England. At the age of 42, he became paralyzed from the waist down, but continued to live an active life spending several years in the Caribbean before settling down in British Honduras where he spent the rest of his life, living on his yacht. He died on March 9, 1926 and was buried in Belize City and a lighthouse was built in his memory. According to his will, most of his fortune was placed in a trust fund for the benefit of the citizens of British Honduras. He left specific instructions on how to spend the money, one project being the Bliss Centre for the Performing Arts.
The anniversary of his death was declared a national holiday. It was originally named Baron Bliss Day, but in 2008 the name was changed to National Heroes and Benefactors Day. Some other Belizean Heroes and Benefactors that we celebrate on this day include:
Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss, 4th Baron Bliss, commonly known as Baron Bliss (16 February 1869 – 9 March 1926), was a British-born traveller who willed nearly two million Belize dollars to a trust fund for the benefit of the citizens of what was then the colony of British Honduras, now Belize.
He was born Henry Edward Ernest Victor de Barreto and lived in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, England, as a youth. He was an engineer by trade and on the death of his father in 1890, inherited the title 4th Baron de Barreto of the Kingdom of Portugal. (His father had inherited lands in Spain and Portugal from an uncle, Colonel Carlo Antonio Barreto, on the condition that he change his name). However during the First World War he reverted to his family name of Bliss, and was known afterwards as Baron Bliss. He was apparently successful in his career, but it is not known how he obtained his fortune, whether due to business acumen or inheritance, or a combination thereof.
Bliss became paralysed from the waist down in 1911 at the age of 42, likely due to polio, and was confined to a wheelchair. Despite this, he remained active. He was apparently an avid sailor, but had his yacht confiscated for war purposes during the First World War. When the war ended, he was wealthy enough to retire to a lifetime of fishing and leisure, so to that end he ordered a new 120 ft twin screw yacht from the famous Scottish yacht designer Alfred Mylne, which he christened Sea King II. In 1920, he sailed the yacht to the Bahamas, where he stayed for five years. Meanwhile, his wife Baroness Ethel Alice Bliss stayed in England, living off a portion of his fortune. The couple had no children
Although he had some property there, he eventually grew tired of Bahamanian society and decided to move on. Leaving the Bahamas behind, he sailed to Trinidad and was there for a short while when he came down with a serious bout of food poisoning. Deciding to accept a previous invitation from his friend Willoughby Bullock, who was then Attorney General of British Honduras, he sailed westward, stopping briefly in Jamaica likely for medical attention, and arriving in the Belize City harbour on 14 January 1926.
Bliss's health appeared to improve over the next few weeks, and he spent much of this time sailing around the area in his launch, exploring the coastline and fishing. However, just days before his 57th birthday, his health took a turn for the worse, and doctors advised him that he was terminally ill. It was at this time that he decided he would leave the bulk of his fortune to the country, and signed a new draft of his will, dated 17 February. Several weeks later, he died on his yacht, never having landed on the Belize mainland. He was buried in Belize City, in what is now known as Bliss Park. This was a temporary arrangement, and he was later interred in a granite tomb near the sea, with a lighthouse nearby, built with funds from his estate.
The burial instructions were explicitly stated in the will.
The Bliss bequest
At the time of his death, Bliss's fortune was worth nearly £1 million (about BZ$1.8 million). About $480,000 was claimed by the United Kingdom in inheritance taxes. His will gave specific instructions on how the money was to be used to the benefit of the citizens of British Honduras. Aside from small lifetime annuities to his wife and relatives in England and to his personal staff, the remainder of the funds was placed in a trust, executed by the Governor, the Colonial Secretary, and the Attorney General.
The original monies were to be invested in British stocks and securities, and only the interest earned could be spent, and even that could not be spent on churches, dance halls or schools, except agricultural and vocational ones. One-hundred pounds sterling was to be set aside annually for a regatta, which has since been held every year on Baron Bliss Day. A peculiar condition attached to the money was that no American may be a trustee or an employee of a trustee. No explanation was given.
Over the years, the trust has provided more than $2 million to fund projects, including the Bliss Institute, Bliss School of Nursing, and other capital projects across the country. As of 2011, the fund was still worth roughly $1.5 million.
Soon after his death, the government declared 9 March to be Baron Bliss Day, a national public holiday. In November 2008 this was renamed to National Heroes and Benefactors Day, and is now observed the Monday closest to 9 March, unless it falls on a Saturday.
The Weekend is full of cultural traditions and festivities, with the main commemorative event being the wreath laying ceremony at the Baron Bliss Grave. Other highlights of the weekend include the annual harbor regatta which is a sporting event consisting of sailboat races. The Baron requested that funds be put aside specifically so that this tradition could be kept up every year. Another event is the annual Kite festival, where families, children, young and old, get together to create and build fun kites in all shapes sizes and colors to decorate the sky!
The annual Ruta Maya Challenge is also traditionally held on this weekend, and it consists of a four day canoe race, the longest of its kind in Central America.
A Time of Bliss
By G. Michael Reid
In the same way that Memorial Day opens the summer season for our neighbours up north, Benefactor’s Day heralds the arrival of our dry season. This holiday was initially given in honour of Belize’s biggest benefactor Baron Bliss and I thought it appropriate, timely and educational to republish this piece that I did several years ago.
Baron Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss, JP was born in the Buckingham County of England on the 16th of February, 1869. His real surname was actually Barretts but was changed to Bliss just about the time that he acquired the title of fourth Baron of the former Kingdom of Portugal. That title was acquired through lineal descent from one Sir John Moore, who was a hero in the wars of that domain.
In 1911 and at the prime age of 42, Baron Bliss was struck by paralysis and was for the remainder of his days, confined to a hand propelled wheelchair. By the time of his medical misfortune, Baron Bliss had amassed considerable wealth; enough to realize his dream of retiring to a life of seafaring and fishing. After replacing his first boat, which was commandeered for use during World War 1, Baron Bliss said goodbye to his native England and shoved off, making it clear that he never intended to return. As far as we know, Baron Bliss had no children but was married to Baroness Ethel Alice Bliss, with whom he settled a covenant before leaving and for whom he made a modest provision in his will. According to the Baron, his married life had been a happy one but records suggest otherwise. There is no record of the Baroness making any attempt to contact Bliss or of attending his funeral. She died in England in 1945.
After leaving England, Baron Bliss made his first stop in the Bahamas where he acquired some property seemingly indicating that he contemplated staying there. After some five years, however, he grew to dislike the place and in 1925 shifted rudder for the other end of the Caribbean. His next stop was Trinidad but after contracting food poisoning just a short time after arriving, he seemingly concluded that neither was that the place for him. At that time he decided to heed the invitation of an old friend Willoughby Bullock, who was then Attorney General of Belize. After a brief stop in Jamaica, most likely for medical attention, the Sea King arrived and dropped anchor in the harbour of Belize on January 14th, 1926. It was love at first sight and the Baron’s heart was finally at ease.
Although he never set foot on land and was dead less than two months after arriving, Baron Bliss was so impressed with the beauty and hospitality that greeted him in Belize that he decided to leave us the bulk of his fortune. At the time of his death, the Baron’s total bequest was valued at a million, eight hundred and fifty thousand dollars; quite a tidy sum in those days. Before we had quite done counting however, England dropped a bombshell. Although it is specifically stated in the first line of his will that Baron Bliss considered himself domicile in Belize, and while he even wrote a letter to his brother to that effect, the British government decided to contest the matter in court. On March 11th, 1929, a decision was handed down by a Mr. Justice Rowlatt of the King’s Bench which read, “I must find that it is not made out that this gentleman acquired a British Honduras domicile.”
As a result, at least a quarter of the original amount given to us by Baron Bliss was taken out for British taxes and though outraged at the decision, it was not likely that many in Belize could have been surprised. The matter after all, was argued in England, before an English judge and with English lawyers representing both sides; how else could we have expected that to go?
Now the will left to us by Baron Bliss is a meticulously worded document which is quite specific in its do’s and don’ts. Only the interest is to be spent and no loans can be raised where the money is used as security. An interesting stipulation, and one quite specific in its noting, is that no American citizen was to be a trustee of the fund or even an employee of any trustee. No actual reason was given for this. The money is not to be used for churches, dance halls or schools; except agricultural or vocational. This seems to leave the door wide open for funding to projects like CET or ITVET. The money can also be used for canals and light supply and it would seem that many a lightless village could be considered here.
The Baron’s will is quite specific and even stingy in the things for which the money can be used. Neither provision for sports or education are allowed and the Baron was quite clear in stating that there are some things which he believed that government should be responsible for. He was clear that none of his money should be used for any repairs or maintenance of any projects or building from his fund. He was adamant that for such, government should take up the responsibility.
Interestingly enough, since 1985 when Leo Bradley Sr. compiled the information from which I have drawn, no account of disbursements of this fund have been made public. By the time of Mr. Bradley’s research, quite a few projects had been realized with the interest having yielded well over a million dollars. The Bliss Institute, the Bliss School of Nursing and at least one project in every district had materialized, but since that time the purse string seem to have been drawn tight. One wonders if every ninth of March would not be a good time to give the public information on interest accrued and some account of how these monies are being spent, after all, this was a gift to the people of Belize not to politicians. The trustees of the fund, in case you’re wondering are the Governor General, the Attorney General and the Financial Secretary. Keep your eyes open Sir Colville, keep your eyes open. Happy dry season Belize and to the Baron, a heartfelt thank you!
Barron Bliss Revisited
- Baron Bliss was born in England and lived at Quarry Court, Marlow, Buckingham. He married Ethel Alice. Baroness Bliss.
- Baron Bliss inherited the title 4th Baron of the Kingdom of Portugal from an ancestor when Britain and Portugal were allies during the Peninsular War of 1809-1814 and the British sent troops to fight French incursions by Napoleon.
- He was an engineer by profession, but the source of the Baron's wealth is unknown. Upon his death, he was worth one million pounds and may have acquired it by engineering, business, inheritance or all three.
- In 1911 at the age of 42, Baron Bliss was struck with paralysis from the waist down forcing him to use a wheelchair.
- After World War 2 that he procured the famous "SEA KING" 2, a shallow draught design great for cruising the Caribbean. He cruised the Bahamas for five years, visited Trinidad and finally ended up in British Honduras, visiting his friend, the then Attorney General of the colony who suggested that the fishing was great. Baron Bliss left Trinidad in poor health and stopped In Jamaica.
- The Baron arrived In British Honduras on January 9th, 1926, living aboard the SEA KING 2. With the SEA KING 2 anchored off Fort George Point in Belize City harbour.
- The Baron spent almost a month enjoying Belizean waters, breezes and fishing.
- Governor, Sir John Burdon, visited and made the Baron feel welcomed. Mornings would find the Baron being lowered In his chair to a small boat where local fisher-'men took him fishing by the reef and cayes. That small boat was also named the Sea King.
- By February 10th, the Baron's health had deteriorated considerably and he was advised to make preparations for his demise. Baron Bliss called on Governor Burdon and expressed his wish to leave the bulk of his estate for British Honduras. On February 17th, one day after his 57th birthday, the will was executed and signed aboard the "SEA KING 2".
- The will named Governor Burdon, Colonial Secretary, Charles Jones and Attorney General, Willoughby Bullock and their respective successors as executors of his will that would comprise a "BARON BLISS TRUST". The will was witnessed by Captain R. K. I. Masson and Towrye Price.
- The Baron Bliss Trust has been used for many projects in Belize including: The Bliss Institute, The San Ignacio Town Hall, The Benque Viejo Town Hall, The Corozal Town Hall and The Bliss School of Nursing. Money from the fund was also crucial In acquiring land for the construction of Belmopan.
- Baron Bliss died on the 9th of March, 1926.
- As was his wish he is now buried in a tomb beneath the Bliss Lighthouse.
Regarding the will, the interest only can used and has funded: libraries, markets, nursing school, Boom Road, land for the construction of Belmopan and both river and harbour regattas. The GG is the chair of the Trust and the financial secretary Treasurer. Baron Bliss will stipulated that no American national can be a member of the Trust, no dancing except for a play nor alcohol can be sold in any of the facilities.
I remember riding in the Sea King many times. It was use by the customs during the boat races to assist the sail boats that needed assistance. Use to enjoy sitting out there at the old custom building and enjoying the view. My dad retired from the customs in the early 70s
"Baron Bliss And His Bounty To Belize"
Printed by the Government Printry, 1986 Belmopan Belize
In a very important way, this first booklet on the late Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss fulfills a long felt need to provide the Belizean Public with relevant information on the invaluable contribution of the Nation's greatest public benefactor. It comes at the right time when the first Belizean Governor-General also becomes the first Belizean Chairperson of the Trust.
In showing Belizeans what has been accomplished by funds from the Baron's Will the booklet serves not only as an appreciation of Baron Bliss, but as educating our people about what we now enjoy from projects achieved. It also serves as a reminder that vigilance as well as the proper use and care of the facilities (the various historical land marks made available through funds from the Baron Bliss Trust) can enhance the beauty and images of the Belizean future.
Undoubtedly, Belize has benefitted greatly from the genuine friendliness and hospitality of her people. We have also benefitted from our rich Belizean waters which should continue to be a part of our future.
For this important booklet, I thank the Author, the other Trustees and all who contributed.
by Her Excellency the Governor-General of Belize, Dame Minita E. Gordon, G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O.. Hon. LL.D, Ph.D., J.P. Chairperson, Baron Bliss Trust
Early Life of Baron Bliss
Not much is known about the early life of Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss. He was an Englishman, born in England. Before leaving England, he lived at Quarry Court, Marlow, in the County of Buckingham, England. He was an Engineer by profession, and was married to Ethel Alice Baroness Bliss to whom he had left a settlement covenant before travelling abroad, and about whom he stated in his will that "my married life has been a very happy one."
Nothing is known about how Baron Bliss acquired his wealth of almost a million pounds, whether through his profession, business, or inheritance, or all three. At the time of his death he had, besides his properties, a large amount of securities and shares. He must have been community-minded, as he was appointed a Justice of the Peace.
At some time in his adult life, Baron Bliss acquired the title of the 4th Baron Bliss of the Kingdom of Portugal, succeeding to ancestor relatives who held the position before. At this time he changed his surname from Barretts to Bliss. The Peninsular War occurred in Portugal from 1809 to 1814. Britain had always shown. friendship to the Kingdom of Portugal, and at this time sent British troops to fight against the incursions of Napoleon. One recalls the famous poem, "The Burial of Sir John Moore" who died in the Battle of Corunna in Portugal. Most likely an ancestor of Baron Bliss was awarded the title of the 1st Baron of the 'former Kingdom of Portugal; and Baron Bliss succeeded to this title as the 4th Baron.
It is known that Baron Bliss was "a man obviously of active mind and great courage to the last moment; he liked deep sea fishing and he was fond of working on a lathe."
Tragedy struck the Baron when, in 1911, at the age of 42 he was attacked by paralysis, which affected from his waist downwards, consigning this brave man to a wheel chair. But even .at this, the crippled Baron remained active. He acquired a yacht which-was built as a house boat, being towed by another boat. During the First World War (1914-1918) this his boat was commandeered for war purposes. After the war, he acquired his famous yacht "Sea King No. II" which was a shallow draught yacht built to his specifications, for use in tropical waters. He intended to live on this yacht, and to enjoy tropical sea fishing. In 1920 he sent the "Sea King" to the Bahamas and followed it to live on it while fishing, even if crippled.
Baron Bliss stayed in the Bahamas for five years, living on his yacht, even devising a means of pumping fresh water from land straight on to the "Sea King." He never returned to England. He acquired lands and buildings on Hog Island and Man Island in the Baha-mas. Stationed mostly at Nassau, he had a long chance to see the social and administrative life of the islands, which eventually he got to dislike. In the middle of 1925 he went to the other end of the Caribbean to Trinidad, where he again lived in the "Sea King". It is there that he began failing in health from a bout with food poisoning from something he had eaten. While in Trinidad, feeling that the place did not appeal to him, he began thinking of elsewhere to go, where he could enjoy fishing and atmosphere to his liking. He heard of Belize (then British Honduras) mostly through his friend mentioned in his will, Mr. Willoughby Bullock, who was an Attorney General of Belize, and who most likely by letter described the fishing potentialities of the Country, stating "how charming the people were." Baron Bliss read up 'about, and got information on the Country, learning about its shore-line, barrier reef, rivers, etc. He learned that the fishing was good and the climate excellent. Writing to his wife to say he had decided to go to Belize, he left Trinidad a sick man, and had to stop in Jamaica for a few days while his health recovered somewhat. Sending his yacht ahead to Belize which arrived in Belize City Harbour a few days before him, Baron Bliss arrived in Belize on the 14th January, 1926, going aboard the "Sea King".
Life in Belizean Waters
From the arrival of Baron Bliss and the "Sea King" to Belize City Harbour (it anchored just off Fort George Point), Baron Bliss sampled the friendly courtesies and sampled the cool climate and sea breezes of Belize. He was rendered every courtesy and assistance by customs officials. The Governor, scholarly Sir John Alder Burdon, who produced a Brief Sketch on the Country as well as digested archives in three volumes, paid him a courtesy call aboard the "Sea King" and tendered every assistance that would be necessary. The health of ailing Baron Bliss seemed to improve for the next few- weeks; and he took every opportunity to sample the fishing of the nearby waters. Every morning the crew of the "Sea King" lowered him in his chair to the small boat, also named the "Sea King", and friendly Belizean fishermen took him out to the cayes and barrier reef, where he seemed very happy and contented, and pleased with the helpfulness and friend-liness of the local fishermen. This must have seemed to him all he wanted to make him happy and lively.
But the health of Baron Bliss began to fail, what with his crippled state and his bout with illness in Trinidad. He was just a few days from his 57th birthday when, on February 10th, his nurse aboard the yacht sent ashore for a doctor. One report states that "the illness from which Baron Bliss was suffering was not an illness just beginning; things were getting serious, and it must have been in existence for some time. He was ill in Jamaica, and he had come from Jamaica in a state of great illness." The doctor came aboard the yacht; and after his examination, Baron Bliss is stated to have asked him, "Is this the beginning of the end?" The doctor advised him of this likelihood. Baron Bliss then re-called Governor Sir John Burdon on the 10th February, expressing his wish and details for a will which would leave the bulk of his estate for the Country. The Governor very wisely and very fortunately acceeded to the ideas and conditions which were outlined by the ailing Baron. He took the notes ashore; and on February 17th, one day after the 57th birthday of Baron Bliss, the will was executed and signed aboard the "Sea King". The Will named the Governor (John Alder Burdon, C.M.G.), the Colonial Secretary (Charles Crawford Douglas Jones, C.M.G.) and the Attorney General (Willoughby Bullock, Esq.) and their respective successors as Executors of his Will that would comprise a "Baron Bliss Trust". The Will was witnessed by Captain R.K. Masson and Mr. H. Towrye Price, Solicitor, and consisted of twelve pages.
Baron Bliss wrote to his brother-in-law in England on the 18th February. It was a courageous letter, telling him about the Will and his decision on his estate. The doctor visited him once more on the 25th February, telling him he had about two weeks more to live. He died on the 9th March, 1926, courageously stating in his will before that "I hope to die happy."
Above is a copy of the only picture known to exist of Baron Bliss' famous yacht "Sea King." The picture is owned by Mrs. Ethel Young Garbutt of Dickenson St., Belize City. Her father Sam Young was a Customs coxswain in 1926.
Baron Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss, 4th Baron of Portugal, arrived in the Belize City Harbour on January, 1926, in his yacht. Although he never set foot on Belizean soil, he fell in love with our sea and fishing and on his death March 9, 1926, bequeathed a legacy of over a million dollars to Belize, then British Honduras.
Among the buildings and programs founded out of his bequest (the interest there-from) are the Bliss Institute, Corozal Town Hall and Health Centre, the intransit lounge at the Belize International Airport, the Baron Bliss School of Nursing, the engineering studies for the city water supply system, the land on which Belmopan is built, and many playgrounds and playing fields throughout the country.
The yacht, and what a lovely specimen she is, was taken to the United States to be sold following the good Baron's death.
Funeral of the Late Baron Bliss, Wednesday 17th March 1926
"Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss"
Researched and produced on behalf of the Baron Bliss Trust by: Leo H. Bradley, Sr., M.B.E., J.P.
Baron Bliss was buried in the Bliss Garden (what is now a Children's Playground just across the street behind his present tomb). His body was to repose there until the tomb by the sea with the lighthouse could be built. The funeral took place at 5p.m. on Wednesday 17th March, when his body was conveyed from the Yacht the "Sea King" to the Customs House Wharf. From there the coffin was taken to the temporary burial place in the Garden. Officiating Ministers of the Clergy walked in front of the Gun Carriage transporting the coffin, followed by pall bearers and Chief mourners.
Attending the funeral were the Governor and suite, the Chief Justice, members of the Executive and Legislative Councils, Ministers of Religion, Consuls and Vice-Consuls, Justices of the Peace, Heads and officials of Government Departments, the Town Board, the Friendly Societies, the Belize Fire Brigade, and the general public of Belize City.
It is interesting to recall that during the time of the short stay in Belizean waters, Belize was then the Crown Colony of British Honduras, enjoying years of normal prosperity. The budget was being balanced, and the waters around the "Sea King" was filled with small fishing boats. Larger boats sailed into Belize Harbour from Turneffe, San Pedro, Caye Caulker and other places loaded with thousands of coconuts weekly for export abroad in ships anchored in the harbour. It was the time (before the later 1920's that brought on prohibition days, the depression and then the great hurricane), when our poets and musicians excelled, producing the Belizean National Anthem (S.A. Haynes & S.W. Young), the two anthologies of poetry by Rev. J.A.C. Elliott and also by James Sullivan Martinez, and other literary works especially by members of the flourishing Literary and Debating Society. Citrus was taking the place of the banana industry in the Stann Creek Valley; and there was much trade by the Cayo Boats through the Belize River to the West, and coastal boats plying to the North and South.
Belize City was then a town of about 12,000 people, mostly Creoles. The Jefferson Construction Company of New Orleans had completed contracts for constructing the present Belize Swing Bridge, the present Supreme Court and Public Buildings, and had joined the fishing island of Fort George (formerly a fort) to the north-side mainland, also constructing the sea wall near to which the tomb of Baron Bliss was to be located permanently. Apart from seeing expatriate Government officials, Baron Bliss experienced the courtesies of good Belizeans like Customs Coxswain Sam Young who had the picture of his yacht, and Creole and Mestizo seamen and of other ethnic groups that plied the coast and cayes, fishing and sailing. Experiencing the early-year cool weather and delightful scenery around his yacht, and feeling much impressed with the character of the people he met, Baron Bliss in a short time was convinced that his money should be left for the good and bounty of Belize.
It is interesting that the small boat, the "Sea King" later came in use by the Customs Department for decades. It is interesting too that it is said that his wheel chair was given to a Belizean Creole who was also crippled, and who later travelled the streets of Belize City in the wheel chair, known by the name of "Baron" or "Baron Bliss."
Projects Achieved From Baron Bliss Funds as of 1986
Researched and produced on behalf of the Baron Bliss Trust by: Leo H. Bradley, Sr., M.B.E., J.P.
The first projects completed from the interest obtained from the investments of Baron Bliss funds were those that concerned the stipulations of his will. Apart from the annual amount for the regatta, the Baron Bliss Garden was set up at a cost of $2,335.00. The erection of his permanent tomb cost $3,688, and the Bliss Lighthouse was completed at a cost of $8,225.00.
During the 35 years of the last three and-a-half decades of this century, the Baron Bliss Trustees have spent over a million dollars from the accumulated savings from interest collected from investment of the principal investments on as many projects for the benefit of Belize. These projects completed have benefitted all parts of Belize in different spheres. The Trustees examine and consider carefully requests for capital expenditure on projects; and they ensure that the project is in conformity with the will, can be maintained by 'the recipient, and will be of ongoing benefit for the people.
Two major projects undertaken in the early 1950's were the Baron Bliss Institute and the Bliss Promenade. Before then, there was no road passage from the Court House Wharf or Plaza to the junction of Southern Foreshore with King Street by the riverside. Between this area stood a Rice Mill, which was eventually taken down. The river frontage between the two areas was then filled in and paved. This project, called the Bliss Promenade, cost $53,532. The Baron Bliss Institute commenced construction in 1953, consisting of a Library, an Auditorium, a Display Area, and Lecture Rooms. The Baron Bliss Trustees spent $251,829 on the construction of the Institute, contributed another $7,532 for furniture in the Institute, and only recently has assisted in converting the display area of the Institute into a small arts exhibition area.
The Institute was opened in 1954, and has contributed immensely to cultural activities in the City. It bears within a small, emblazeond, bronze plaque of Baron Bliss's countenance.
The Bliss School of Nursing
Another large fruitful project undertaken was the construction of the Bliss School of Nursing on Princess Margaret Drive, Belize City. This massive structure of reinforced concrete was commenced in 1961, and opened on the 2nd December, 1963.
The Bliss School of Nursing was planned to accomomdate 60 beds as a hostel for student nurses, as well as to have lecture halls and other amenities for training purposes. To the cost of the building and some of the hard furnishings, the Baron Bliss Trust contributed $250,000.00. Again, this project has proved a very important project towards health and medical care for all parts of Belize.
Water Supply System for Belize City
When it was found possible to pump potable water supply from artesian wells located near the Belize International Airport to Belize City, the Baron Bliss Trust contributed $11,510 for the plans and specifications for this project. Later on in the 1950's, in preparation of the visit of Princess Margaret and more use of water in Belize City, a contribution of $47,325 was made for a further water supply to the City. The piping done, has been incorporated in the present water-supply system.
Intransit Lounge at Belize International Airport
Mention of the Belize International Airport brings to mind the very important addition of the Bliss Intransit Lounge for intransit passengers arriving at the Airport. This Intransit Lounge, a most worthy Baron Bliss project, is an addition nearby the Terminal Building and has accomodated thousands of intransit passengers, not to mention great dignitaries, as for instance, Pope John Paul II depicted in the photo below.
Corozal Town Hall, Health Centre, and Ambulance
Corozal Town, in northern Belize, boasts a modern Town Hall and Health Clinic. The Town Hall, which is located to one side of the Central Park of the Town, is visited frequently, portraying on its rear, interior wall a huge mural painting depicting the coming of the Mestizos to the Country, done by Corozal artist Manuel Villamor. The Health Clinic sits within view of the four historic corners of a fort that defended the Town in the late ninteenth century.
The Baron Bliss Trust contributed $19,380 for the construction of the Town Hall, $478 for some of its furniture, the sum of $27,838 for the construction of
the Health Clinic, and $6,368 for the purchase of an ambulance for the Clinic. Both buildings are much in use.
Purchase of Land for the building of Belmopan
Among the many important projects funded from interest accumulations of Baron Bliss money, must be mentioned the purchase of land for the building of the City of Belmopan.
After Hurricane Hattie struck the country in October, 1961, and it was decided to construct a new, inland capital for the nation, it was eventually decided that the site of the present City of Belmopan was the most suitable and centrally located area on which to construct. The Baron Bliss Trustees provided a sizeable amount towards the purchase of the land from the Melhado Estate. This was the most important for realization of the opening of the new capital city by August, 1970.
In remembrance of this worthwhile project from Baron Bliss funds, the entrance of Belmopan has been named the "Bliss Parade." This area around the Parade is the busiest and most important area of the capital city.
More recently the Baron Bliss Trust also contributed $10,278.97 towards sports facilities for Belmopan. Of this, for instance, the sum of $1,300 was used for light fixtures for the tennis courts in the City.
Other Library/Town Hall Projects
Baron Bliss funds have also caused the construction of the small but beautiful, modern Library Building for Punta Gorda, the Library Town Hall Building for San Ignacio, and the Library Town Hall Building for Benque Viejo del Carmen. The last-mentioned edifice cost 536,225.
Other Projects from Baron Bliss Funds
Markets, sports facilities, utilities, etc. have also gained capital assistance from Baron Bliss funds. Some are mentioned here:
- — The construction of the connecting road between Burrel Boom Village and Hattieville Village: $26,000.00
- A cricket field at Yarborough Belize City: $500.00
- A children's playground at Yarborough, Belize City: $200.00
- The Punta Gorda Market: $7,958.00
- The Dangriga Market: $12,919.00
- Contribution towards Orange Walk Town Electric Lighting: $6,000.00
- A cricket field near Pound Yard Belize City: $800.00
- Cricket Patches at Newtown Barracks, Belize City: $300.00
- The San Ignacio Market: $14,381.00
- The Bliss Fisheries Smack: $6,405.00
Other grants made include the realization of a Scouts Complex near Burrel Boom Village named "Camp Oakley" which received a contribution of S18,000.00, meteorological equipment for the Belize Weather Bureau costing $4,430.00, and repairs to the Baron Bliss tomb of about $200.00 after Hurricane Hattie.
It need not be said that the projects realized and described are formidable and have involved use by thousands of the citizenry. They have covered many fields of endeavour, always in conformity with the desires of the will of Baron Bliss. They are wide-spread, and no doubt received careful consideration from the Trustees before implementation.
Other projects are being considered; and this will be an on-going procedure for the good of Belize.
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