Late last year or early this year, Peter “Chukku” Young was visiting from Jamaica, and came over by my home one evening along with his good friend, Owen “Sonny” Meighan. We ended up next door at my dad’s, and during the course of the latter conversation on my dad’s verandah, a fairly heated argument began between myself and Chukku about the year when the MCC Grounds was declared open in Belize. He was saying 1957, but I thought it had to be later than that, because in 1957 the PUP and the British were locked in bitter dispute. And MCC was a British gift …
Chukku and I reached the point of challenging each other to bet, but then he took out a big roll of money, an intimidating roll of money, and that ended the whole thing, because I had to back down, discretion being the better part of valor, you know, and all that.
In 1957, the British sent Mr. Price home from London “in disgrace” because they accused him of holding secret talks with the Guatemalan Foreign Minister, Jorge Granados. The following year, 1958, the British tried Mr. Price in the British Honduras Supreme Court for sedition, for which he was acquitted by a jury of his peers. By 1959, however, Mr. Price began to speak of independence within the British Commonwealth, whereas before that he had never committed himself to the Commonwealth. The MCC Grounds was opened in May of 1960, and it is clear, in political retrospect, that it was a kind of peace offering from the Mother Country, through their leading cricket club.
The MCC Grounds was designed to be a cricket pitch, although this sport was already beginning to wane in popularity in the old capital. It was a truly beautiful field, a lush garden actually, and it was tended with loving care by an old Jamaican groundskeeper named McMahon, who personally played competitive cricket on the MCC, as a very old man. Rest in peace, McMahon.
When it was that the decision was made to include football as a competitive sport in The Garden, I can’t say for sure. Fairly quickly, I think. I am positive Pine Hernandez knows for sure. In those days, the football season would start in early October, when the weather began to cool, and football would be finished around March, just before the hot dry began. Cricket, being a more sedentary sport, would be played in the hot months, from April onwards.
So, the MCC would host both cricket and football, because the seasons did not usually overlap. Whenever there was any conflict between the two sports in the 1960s, however, Cabinet Minister Hon. Albert Cattouse would flex his muscle, and cricket would be given the priority which the MCC donors intended. “Dandy Cat” attended football games, but he definitely preferred cricket. And, during the early and middle 1960s, he was Mr. Price’s “strong man” in Belize City.
Well, five decades have passed, and the Barracks, which used to be all about horse racing and sports for us native people of Belize, has been taken over by casinos – one established, the other still under construction, and by the ambitious, imposing Renaissance Tower hotel. These huge investments have a serious parking space problem. That is why they want to buy out Canada House, and that is why the MCC Garden is very much an endangered facility.
I cannot believe the way The Garden is being violated by concerts, fairs, and all kinds of activities which drive huge trucks and other machines onto the delicate green which was supposed to be sacred to cricket and football. It is a sacrilege which is blessed by the Government of Belize. What I feel inside is not anger: it is rage. But I cannot encourage such feelings in myself, because if there is one thing I have learned since they changed the school holidays from April and May in 1964, it is this: no one cares.
It is, nevertheless, a form of soothing for me when I share my feelings with you. In my rash youth, I used to feel that, once I said it or wrote it, I had to prove it, so to speak. I don’t have to prove it anymore. Matter of fact, Jack, I can’t. It’s as simple as that.
Landivar, senior football champions, pose on the MCC Grounds in the 1960s.