Sunday, September 11, 2022

Tickler and Teazer

Today Belize has celebrated with parades and parties its defining Battle of St George's Caye (1798), the seventh and last time the settlers fought off an attempt by the Spanish crown to expel them from the Central American mainland. 

It went on for a week, with the enemy attempting to force their way through one of the main channels leading through the barrier reef alongside Montego Caye. 

The key moment occurred after 1pm on September 10 when a not-so-grand armada from the Yucatán commanded by Irish-born Don Arturo O'Neill Tirone lined up in the standard fashion  — at least until Nelson would change the rules 7 years later at Trafalgar — alongside the hastily-assembled fleet of the defenders, assisted by three British ships from Jamaica: Merlin, Teazer and Tickler. (There was also a schooner called Swinger.

The Superintendant of Belize, Lt Colonel Thomas Barrow, had been impatient to move the battle to the "land phase", but Merlin's commander John Moss spotted the opportunity to rout the Spanish at sea. 

Crucial decisions had also been taken in July, such as the arming of the loggers' slaves, many of whom appeared to have a handy understanding of West African ways of warfare, and not evacuating the settlement over-hastily. 

The British had long considered it a bit of a liability, its inhabitants too unruly to manage, and another 64 years would pass after the battle before Belize would formally join the Empire as British Honduras. 

Yet war between Britain and Spain was effectively ended for a while by the treaty of Versailles in 1783, which re-established the previously-agreed logging rights of the Baymen. (Though peacetime might not have pleased the buccaneers quite so much.)

New York explorer-lawyer John L. Stephens visited "Balize" in October 1839, then home to some 6000 people, and confessed that he "knew not whether to be shocked or amused" by the racial diversity evident at the higher end of society...

Before I had been an hour in Balize I learned that the great work of practical amalgamation, the subject of so much angry controversy in the States, had been going on quietly for generations; that colour was considered mere matter of taste. 

When I first came to Belize myself, I visited St George's Caye, then operating as a kind of Club Med facility for British service personnel, offering windsurfing and other entertainments. (The resort has since shifted into the private sector.)

In five days time Guatemala will celebrate its Independence Day, an event, it must be said, significantly facilitated by Admiral Lord Nelson's celebrated victory at Trafalgar, which left Spain's American colonies effectively cut off from the interference of their European masters, who found themselves suddenly bereft of a navy and thus a means of control and communication.


norm said...

that colour was considered mere matter of taste. : A refreshing thought .

Inner Diablog said...


Inner Diablog said...

All the more ironic then that many of the individuals with white ancestry in modern Belize are descended from Confederate soldiers bamboozled after the Civil War into re-settilng there on the grounds that it was just like the Anti-Bellum South.