The house once owned by Captain Richard Foote, the first exporter of lobsters in Belize. Also a bit of his biography
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January 1, 2021

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The house once owned by Captain Richard Foote, the first exporter of lobsters in Belize. Also a bit of his biography

The top photo was taken on South Street. The house on the left located at #1 South Street was once owned by Captain R. E. Foote and is the home of One South Place Hotel and Megs Corner (Cafe and Bistro).

Back in those days the boats that brought coconuts could have docked at the wharf at Captain Richard Foote's warehouse and discharged their products. Captain Foote's ship was called the Belliveau. He lived in the building where the Welworth store is next to the City Council. That building was made of ballast bricks. But new owners plastered the walls and took the beauty of the building.

Cap'n Foot was a Millionare, (they said) who exported coconuts and copra, but suddenly he lost all his Money. So a popular song was made. "Cap'n Foot money gone, I don't know whe y gone. Some say da lie, Sone say dah true, Cap'n Foot money gone, I don't know whe y gone." It was quite a popular song in the '40s. I don’t think he was well liked in the community.

There was a 'big' building between the old market and Dr. Cran's house that was called Capt. Foote Building when I was growing up. They used to store coconuts and coconut products in the lower floor. This building was on the seaside opposite The Royal Bank. That's the original Captain Foot building that was broken into, I believe in the 1940's, and stole his money out of the SAFE. Hence the song. I few people were arrested and charged! Folks used to purchase coconut there in large quantities and re-sell them individually.

Here's a biography of Captain Richard Foote:


CAPTAIN FOOTE (Local CAP’N FOOT)

The first attempt to establish a lobster export industry in Belize was made in 1921 by Captain R.E. Foote, a representative of the Canadian Franklin Baker Company, which was then one of the major exporters of coconuts. Captain Foote introduced the traditional lobster ‘pot’ used in the Maritime Provinces in Canada. He set up a small processing operation on a barge located near the south end of Water Caye and used the fresh water from shallow wells dug on the caye to steam cook the tails in a boiler fired by mangrove wood. In 1925 he moved the operation to Baldwin’s Bogue to be near more abundant lobster grounds.

Foote’s enterprise did not always go well, however. He had a reputation for severely underpaying his workers. The fishermen who sold their lobster tails to him received only one cent per pound. Aware of the high prices lobsters were fetching on the luxury markets abroad, the workers knew he was becoming rich at their expense and grew restive. The Annual Reports for British Honduras for both 1927 and 1928 mention labour unrest in Captain Foote’s operations during those years.

The hurricane of 1931 demolished Foote’s plant. By 1932, however, he had acquired another barge and moved his operations to the bay on the leeward side of Caye Caulker. There he set about training the local fishermen. 25 women and 12 fishing smacks were employed to catch and process the lobster, and the business prospered until 1935 when it fell victim to the economic depression in the U.S.A.

Although Captain Foote’s operations were not a lasting success he did leave a permanent impression on the fishing industry in Belize. The lobster trap he introduced is still being used today, although with some slight modifications. Most important of all, he introduced Belizean fishermen to the export of processed marine products.

The first photo is a photo of a modern day lobster pot. The ones that Captain Foote may have built might have been a little different. These pots are made from the palmetto palm. They are cut into strips of wood and are nailed on to a wooden frame. The pots are place in an area in the sea where the fisherman believes there are lobsters and are able to see the pots from the surface.

The second photo is a historic photo that shows where Captain Foote once lived. The building is where the current Welworth Store is today or the building in front of the church with the tall steeple. It is also believed that the house in the last photo which is located on #1 South Street, was a house that Captain Foote once owned.


Palmetto palm. Palmetto, cut at the right time is used for a lot of marine construction in Belize, for example piers are held up with poles are made of it, as it is water resistant. There are two kinds of palmetto; salt-water and fresh-water. the sort of hairy (fresh-water) is used for the lobster pots. Palmetto has a small trunk with a very fibrous covering. The hairy palmetto comes from the savannas on the mainland. It is also called "primenta" or "papta". The Saltwater Palmetto does not have the hairy trunk and does grow on some of the larger islands and the coastal areas. The ones for the lobster traps comes from the savsnnas



There is an opening at the front and the lobster are always looking for a place to hide so they go in and then can't find their way out.


#1 South Street, a house that Captain Foote once owned

"Captain foote moni gawn wi no noh weh I gahn"

Source: Lawrence Vernon Leo Bradley Library.


For a longer biography of Captain Foote by Jim Currie, click here!

There are also several mentions of Captain Foote in this document, "The Geography of Fishing in British Honduras and Adjacent Coastal Areas" by Alan Knowlton Craig, 1966

Top photograph by Albert Paul Avila

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