Brother Bert Ramsey, a minister in Belize City and a mule cart driver, long ago
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Ramsey, one of Belize’s most humble, happy and always smiling cowboy. Ramsey the great. A hard working Belizean.


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Brother Bert Ramsey, a minister in Belize City and a mule cart driver, long ago

Bert Ramsey was a true Belizean icon, and a great gentleman. One always could have a great conversation with him and he also had a great sense of humor. He sang Christian songs on the streets and told everyone that Jesus loved them. he had a voice like no other. I remember him praying with worshippers at the Corozal Nazarene church, when Hurricane Carmen was threatening in 1975. "Power to love," those were his words. His favorite song that he's always singing was "all for Jesus you for Jesus Jesus comes for one he comes for all."

It's said he had one of the largest funerals ever seen in the City. Used to sing Power in the Blood and other Gospel songs. Ramsey was a relative to Bendigo of Forest Home Toledo who also operated a horse and cart and did odd jobs.

He was at everyone funerals. Very humble person you can listen to him singing while riding his cart. The kids use to run behind the cart and jump up getting a free ride. The beautiful part was the mule the moment Ramsey saddled him up the mule knew exactly the route he had to go. We always used this phrase that "one is mule headed" meaning stubborn but Ramsey's mule was an exemption because Ramsey didn’t have to talk to him, the mule already knew what all he he had to do. Always singing as he went along on his cart and every now and then you heard him say "power."

Bert Ramsey was also one of Belize's best Checkers Player. The name of his mule was Frank, Bert Ramsey affectionately called him Frankie. Unfortunately to test their cowardly machismoism it is said that some gang member shot and killed his mule as part of a gang initiation. The sad thing was that the mule did not died immediately but suffered for a while.

Before Ramsey there was an older man Mr Alfred Garbutt aka brownman that used to operate a mule and cart, he stopped and Ramsey came on the scene.

Stephen Ramsey: That mule and cart put 5 of us through college and that was the only form of transporting goods before trucks took over, by the way they were called Drayman. I worked on that cart and made sometimes $7.00 a day while you have to work a week to make that kind of money so if you ever heard the expression (strong like a mule)? and that mule had a stable got his water, corn, grass and a brush down evening, we had to take care of our interest. I hope you'll understand. (NO SHAME IN MY GAME) for real.

Icilda Jennifer Coye Paredez: That man was called Brown man he lived on Rocky Road. There was also the East Indian Community man Muhamed Alli that lived on Faber's Road when that was only a picket road, He use to take home our stuff from the market. We were forbidden to ride on the mule & cart but we still did until we reached our lane then we jump off.

Also he taught me how to do the who seh meseh fire dance the coolie aka east indian has a deep culture.we use to go at Faber's road once a month to see them do their fire dance & smoke their long bamboo pipe as they chant & pass it from one to the other. Its not like now how they greedy up the marijuana. It's a herb that cures a lot of illness including joint pains etc. Those Coolie had a vast. culture. i was born in the late 40'S & i am still friends with the young ones, they are like my children.


A feature from the Belize All Over Series from 1987. Jackie Gray took a ride on Ramsey's Mule and talked with the iconic Belizean about his life and ministry, 1987

Michelle Rivana Buckley: At the Holy Redeemer School Halloween Bazaar, one could not help but pay for a hay ride on Ramsey Mule and cart he would take kids for a ride around the school grounds near the bridges that lead to the rectory and church and back to the school yard. Everyone piling on his wooden cart with legs dangling and enjoying the ride. Him singing so loud and a happy smile resting pleasantly on his face as he led us around on his cart.

GILBERT WELLINGTON RAMSEY AND THE LAST OF THE MULE CARTS IN THE CITY

"He was not a head of state, never ran for office, and carried no portfolio, ministerial or otherwise. But if public recognition and popularity were the criteria, then the man known as Ramsey was as well known as any of our political leaders." Jacqueline Gray Great Belize Production

"Gilbert Wellington Ramsey, better known as just Ramsey was born in 1947, has a musical history that predates karaoke by at least a generation. Immortalized in song by Wilfred Peters, Ramsey was the last of a breed of “mule and cart” men who plied the streets of Belize City transporting everything from sugar to furniture."

"Ramsey started working on his mule and cart alongside his father when he was just thirteen years old. Never interested in getting a high school education, Ramsey only wanted to help his father transport goods throughout the city. In 1987, Great Belize Productions featured Ramsey in the programme, Belize All Over. In that interview, he spoke passionately to Jacqueline Gray about the job he did and the animal that was his trademark, pet, and friend."

Jacqueline:

“If you’ve ever walked the streets of Belize City, you can’t fail to have noticed him. His name is Ramsey, and ever since I was a little girl I’ve always wanted to know what it would be like to jump on his cart and beg for a ride. Today I finally got my chance.”

Ramsey:

“One time it used to be lone carts that used to do all the jobs in Belize. They no had trucks, and bicycle carts weren’t around then and trucks and things didn’t do those jobs, it was just mule and cart. They used to call them drays, used to do all the jobs, all the transportation in Belize. Used to run lumber and cargoes and all kind a goods this cart used to run.”

Jacqueline:

“Now looking at the mule and cart, where did you get the mule from?”

Ramsey:

Me and my dad bought the mule from Cayo road, fifty-eight miles on Cayo road from a man named Peter Banner. We went on a…we had to pass a river, I think it was either the Macal or Mopan River, because it was very stiff, stiff currant. And we went and bought this mule. We spent overnight and bought this mule.”

Jacqueline:

“How much did you have to pay for it?”

Ramsey:

Well at that time they had different size mule, so we didn’t pick a big one. Dah me pick this one…

Jacqueline:

“Why wouldn’t you pick a big mule?”

Ramsey:

Because I didn’t like big mule, I just want a small one I could handle.”

Jacqueline:

“Does it mean there’s a difference in the work that it does or something like that?”

Ramsey:

Yeah. Well the big mule is stronger, but it can be dangerous. Because you would park your cart and sometimes the mule just bruk weh cause sometimes somebody might scare him and he bruk weh and run down the street and if they too strong you might can’t hold them back. So I didn’t want a mule that was too strong that you can’t hold, I want one I could control.”

Jacqueline:

“So how much did you pay for the mule back then?

Ramsey:

“Back then, you pay a hundred and fifty dollars for it.”

Jacqueline:

“And how long you have this one?”

Ramsey:

“We have this mule now, twenty-six years. We get it after Hurricane Hattie.”

Jacqueline:

“Mr. Ramsey weh you use this mule and cart for?”

Ramsey:

“Well I use this cart to sing on, preach on, work.”

Jacqueline:

“When you say work, what kind of work?”

Ramsey:

“Run jobs, I run household things, some people want to move their house things, I move their things for them. Sometimes we run a boat on it. Sometimes I ker (take) a boat for some friends that go to Gales Point Manatee, some Grace Chapel Christian guys, and I ker the boat for them some Sunday morning. So I run all kinds of job on this cart. Sometimes I run pints for people, some people ask me to sell pints for them. I run all kinds of different things, as long as it pay off.”

Jacqueline:

“You know what I notice, this mule and cart have on car wheels, I know way back then they wouldn’t have had enough cars to give all the mule and cart wheels. How did you arrive at using that, what did they used to use back then?

Ramsey:

“Well first they used to use some wheels, spokes. It built like a bicycle wheel.”

Jacqueline:

“Weh you use to get that from?”

Ramsey:

“Well the spokes is made out of board, a tree called sapadilly tree, very hard wood. And they cut it and they beat it out and they make it into spokes and they put an iron…they get an iron and hot the iron and they put it over the wheel.”

Jacqueline:

“When you say “they” you mean you had to do it yourself?

Ramsey:

“No, you couldn’t do it, so my pa used to hire a man from Yabra to do it, a man named John King. He used to pay such money and he do the job for him.”

Jacqueline:

“Well Mr. Ramsey I know a lot of people in Belize City know you as the man who go around town singing on this mule and cart. Now do you sing because it was a childhood dream to become a singer?”

Ramsey:

“From when I was young I used to like sing, but I just couldn’t learn the songs. Then in 1970, I get a vision from God. Once I was sitting in the house and it was raining and there was thundering and lightening. And a big lightening struck and burst in front of my chest, big thunder and lightening and a big ball of fire explode in front of my chest and I feel the heat and God tell me he want me to go and preach for him. So I receive it in my heart and from then I like to sing. God said, you’re made as you are, and since I work on the cart I just sing on the cart for people that are on the street side passing.”

Jacqueline:

“You know Mr. Ramsey, it looks quite easy to drive this mule and cart. You think I could get a try?”

Ramsey:

You good, just have judgement and stay in the traffic line.”

Jacqueline:

“So you think I could drive it now?

Ramsey:

“Yeah, just hold the reins. The left one when you want to go left, you haul left. When you want to go right you haul the right one and you could drive it.”

Jacqueline:

“You think I could take a try now?”

Ramsey:

“Sure go ahead"

Ramsey:

“How it feel?”

Jacqueline:

“Well it feels okay so far, no problems.”

In 1992 the mule, named Frankie, became a crime statistic when he was shot twice in the chest by a pair of marauding gangbangers and died shortly afterwards. It was a loss Ramsey never forgot.

Ramsey died on Sunday, March 7th, 2004, from an unknown illness.

Source: Channel 5 Great Belize Production May 9th, 2004

Top photograph courtesy Margie Quan

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