A Belizean by the name of Clinton Gardiner passed last week at the age of 73. I write this column to give him maximum respect and express condolences to his family.
A quiet guy, relatively small, but very strong and principled, Clinton Gardiner was a student at St. John’s College Sixth Form in September of 1969 when he and Charles X Stamp led the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) September 10 parade with a UBAD flag designed by the late Edgar X Richardson. (UBAD had been formed in February of 1969.)
Although I was UBAD president at the time, I really didn’t know Clinton well. I heard that he was at SJC Sixth Form, and I wondered if he had ruined his future academic prospects by taking this bold step.
I lost track of Clinton after that. My sense was that he went away to study, married a Belize Technical College student I knew by the name of Celia Moody (I believe), and pursued a public service career in the Lands and Surveys Department in Belmopan. At a certain point in his career, Clinton Gardiner became the Lands Commissioner of Belize. This is a prominent and powerful position.
On hearing of his promotion, I felt a personal pleasure at knowing he had been able to overcome the stigma of being the youthful 1969 UBAD parade flag bearer.
Decades went by, and a few years ago I ran into Clinton at the Kremandala compound, and we chatted. He pointed out to me that he had scored the goal for Lands and Surveys which defeated the UBAD team in a much hyped football game at the old BEC field, in 1971, I believe.
There are only a few older Belizeans who will be interested in this story, but much of my role today is as a roots community historian. In 1971, this was a big game amongst young Belize City males.
I don’t believe Clinton Gardiner was considered a big star in the Lands and Surveys squad, whose superstars included Raymond Davis. Jim Myers was also on that team, but only he considered himself a star. (Smile.) Respect always, Jim.
Now here’s how that game came about. There was a gregarious taxi driver whose street name was Chunga. He lived in the Harlem Square section of Belize City’s Southside, and among the football players whom he organized for a bet game against the UBAD selection was the late Rupert “Canalete” Anderson, one of Belize’s greatest goalkeepers ever.
I remember playfully threatening Rupert that I would score on him, but he took the threat seriously, which was somewhat surprising. So Rupert decided not to mind goal that day at BEC field: he “played out,” as we would say.
The reason for the hype in the game between UBAD and Harlem Square was because of the bet, which was a case of wine.
Harry Pilgrim, who was not known as a football player but was a star athlete, was on holiday from school at the University of the West Indies, and he played on the UBAD forward line that Sunday morning. Harry scored a goal in UBAD’s 3-1 victory.
Well, the UBAD team was now challenged by a team from Yabra (called Psycho, I believe), which included the late “Ching,” or “Manuel Wong.” Ching scored the goal for Yabra which drew the game, 1-1.
This was what led to the UBAD clash with Lands and Surveys, because UBAD was undefeated, attracting challengers. On the day of that game, our lineup actually included the legendary, late Raymond “Toro” Alvarez. But Lands and Surveys beat us, 1-0. That was the end of the UBAD football experiment, and Clinton, the son of Joseph Gardiner and Cordelia Usher, and the nephew of George “Bolo” Gardiner, was proud to tell me that he was the one who scored to beat us.
The Gardiner family is a very famous family where sports is concerned. Keith Gardiner, who now lives in the United States, may be Belize’s greatest natural athlete ever, but Gilbert “Chico” Ellis also has a claim to this title. In Dangriga, they will argue for Daniel “Don D” Lino, I am sure. (Keith and his brother, Charlie, won several football titles in the 1960s with Mr. Hoy’s Landivar.)
In any case, it is a pity that no one has ever published researched material on the football career of one of George “Bolo” Gardiner’s sons, who was the sweeper for the storied Guatemalan football team, CSD MUNICIPAL, during the 1990s, and earned five caps for that country. That is a story I would like to read.
Remember, during the presidency of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala between 1951 and 1954, there were several Belizean families who began living in Guatemala City, people from the Gardiner, Cattouse, Reyes families, of those I remember. Personally, I am totally intrigued. Remember that our greatest patriot, Hon. Philip Goldson, visited Guatemala during this time, was greatly impressed, and said so publicly, referring to his time in Guatemala as “seven days of freedom.”
This column was supposed to be about Clinton Gardiner. That is how it will end. I mourn his death, celebrate his life, and extend the deepest of condolences to his family. This was a special brother. I honor him.