St. George's Caye celebrations in Belize City, 1923
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September 10, 2021

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The picture above, was on Queen Street almost in front of the Police Headquarters. The big building above was the Thistle Hall, the birth place of the People's United Party on Sept 29th 1950. (I was there.) Hector Silva
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St. George's Caye celebrations in Belize City, 1923

Happy 223rd St George’s Caye Day celebrations!

This looks like in front of the Presbyterian Church on Regents street. You can see Dr. Cran house to the left or the building (renovated) that is to the right of Welworth today.

The church in the background was called Scott's Kirk because it is the church that the Scottish people built for themselves to worship. This church is across from the Court House in downtown Belize City. It is otherwise known as the Presbyterian Church. It was destroyed in Hurricane Hattie and rebuilt. Some of the actual bricks from the original church were used in the front of the current church.

The Capture and Destruction of St. George's Caye in 1779

The early settlers of the Belize settlement faced a series of attempts by the Spaniards to expel them during the 1700s. The most successful attempt took place on 15th September 1779. In a surprise invasion, St. George's Caye and parts of the mainland settlement were captured and destroyed. Almost four hundred persons, including settlers and slaves were captured and taken to Merida, Yucatan, and then imprisoned in Havana, Cuba. It is believed that there were others further inland at the logging camps who evaded capture.

It was not until 1782 that those who survived imprisonment were released and sent to Jamaica. This experience with the Spaniards deeply traumatized those who returned and it would eventually play a part in the decsion-making at the 1st June, 1797 Public Meeting. In the face of another Spanish invasion, 51 persons voted for evacuation and 65 voted to stay and defend Belize. This encounter would eventually take place on 10th September, 1798— the Battle of St. George's Caye.

The London Gazette is one of the official journals of record of the British government and has been published since 1655. The letter written by the John Moss, Captain of the HMS Merlin, recounting the activities leading up to September 10, 1798, was published in the London Gazette issue Jan 19-22, 1799. Click here for a 500k four page PDF of that letter.

The Battle of St. George’s Caye

Editorial by The Reporter

The Battle of St. George’s Caye was the climax to a series of provocative actions taken by the forces of Spain against the Baymen Settlers,who were cutting logwood for export to Britain, where it was used to make a rich purple dye.

The ups and downs of the early settlement were determined by the frequent strife between Britain and Spain. In 1779 Spanish forces destroyed St. George’s Caye, taking many of the settlers as prisoners and shipping them off to dungeones in Havana.

Spain, which was overlord of all the territory on the Atlantic side of the continent, allowed the Settlers to cut and harvest logwood and mahogany, but they were forbidden to build any permanent structures, especially fortifications or any defensive work on the mainland. They were also required to confine their logging activities to the lands north of the Sibun River.This arrangement was cemented by treaty in 1783.

But the Baymen settlers chafed under these restrictions and largely ignored them. They pushed their logging operations to lands beyond the Sibun and for their own comfort and protection, built permanent buildings on the mainland.

The Governor of Jamaica, Lord Balcarres, sent Lt. Col. Thomas Barrow to be Superintendent and Commander in Chief of the Settlement. When Barrow learned from a captured Spanish officer that war had again broken out between Britain and Spain in 1796 and that a Spanish invading force was being prepared against the Settlement, he made preparations to defend the it.

From his seat of government in Jamaica Lord Bal- carres did all in his power to assist the settlers. He sent the sloop, HMS Merlin with munitions and supplies. The Baymen settlers met at public meeting on June 1, 1797 and voted 65 to 51 not to evacuate the Settlement, but to fight against the invading force.

The size of this invading force, when it first appeared on the horizon on September 3, must have been a daunting sight: 31 vessels carrying 2,000 troops, 13 of them big vessels of war carrying from 8 to 20 cannons. But the dye was cast! For better or worse the men would fight. And fight they did, so valiantly in fact that the Spaniards, in the words of Lt. Col. Barrow “ began to fall into confusion, and soon afterwards cut their cables and sailed and rowed off, assisted by a great number of launches, which took them in tow.”

The British writer, Alger Robert Gegg, in his book, British Honduras, gives the names of the tiny defending force of sloops and schooners: Towser, Tickler, Teaser, Swinger and Mermaid.

Material for this editorial was taken from the private collection of Harry Lawrence: Brief Sketch of Britiish Honduras by Major John Burton, former Governor, Handbook of British Honduras by M.S. Metzgen and H.E.C. Cain, and British Honduras by Algar R. Gregg.

For more on the events of The Battle of St. George's Caye, click here.

Photograph courtesy Gerald Straughan

This lecture is a presentation on recent transcriptions of Colonial Spanish records accounts of the Battle of St. George's Caye, a pivotal moment in Belize's political history and the larger Yucatan Peninsula.

Tenth September - Lord Rhaburn Combo & Calypso Rose

Lord Rhaburn Combo - 10th Brukdown

Here is a 10th September Brukdown done by Lord Rhaburn Combo. Words by then-Governor General Sir Colville Young.

Belize and the Battle of Saint George’s Caye

In 1798 the Spanish Empire sent a small fleet to finally destroy a small community of British smugglers, poachers, pirates, and enslaved Africans from a coastline they had long claimed as theirs. The Spanish expected success as they had managed to destroy these settlements several times over the preceding century, only for the British to keep returning. They clashed at the battle of Saint George’s Caye in September. The British were ultimately victorious and the battle is still commemorated in Belize every year on the 10th September.

Dr. Ben Fuggle will examine what led of this battle, why a clash that had fewer than 4000 participants (and in some accounts zero casualties) was so significant, and why some historians consider it a capstone of an identity forged over the previous two centuries. Centuries centred around, among other things, lumberjacking, global imperial rivalry, dodgy intelligence and pirates just trying to find a new job.

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