Marie-Therese Belisle Nweke writes to Evan X Hyde about a documentary
https://www.historycalroots.com/nadia-cattouse/ on the life of legendary
Belizean Nadia Cattouse who emigrated to the U.K. as a young woman. The picture below is taken from the documentary by Audrey Dewjee (April 2020).
Thursday, November 9, 2023
Compelling reading about a true Belizean gem. During my teen years in Belize, she was an iconic figure, and on a visit to Belize from the U.K. was a much feted figure. A lot was made about her not being close to her father, Albert Cattouse, whom George Price appointed as his deputy, but who had no influence.
Despite all Nadia Cattouse’s patriotic, cultural and social contributions to both Belize and Britain, I am surprised that people like her and Errolyn Wallen—a truly iconic figure in the music world, not only in Britain, but globally — have not been recommended by the Government of Belize to Britain for the title of “Dame”. Ironically, Belizeans who neither understand such titles nor appreciate them, or the other British ones, are actually given them.
The West Indians don’t ever underrate their nationals who make laudable contributions to whichever society they live in outside of the Caribbean. I have a couple of Trinidadian friends, married to Africans, who live permanently in Nigeria, but have been given honorific titles from
Britain on the recommendation of the Trinidad & Tobago government. One was a secretary and the other, a nurse. The now retired secretary even obtained in addition to this, a Trinidadian national honour. For such people, these represent an important token from the land of their birth, in recognition of their valuable contributions even to other societies.
Looking closely at the photograph of the ATS recruits who with Nadia left Belize, and were all racially discriminated against while passing through the US, you’ll see a couple of them who look white, and in Old Belize would be referred to as “would-be-white”. Such families include the Jeffrey, Codd, Murphy, Anderson, Nesbit, Hunter and Bowman families, and a few members from the Hulse and Waight families. Belize doesn’t really have a white “native” population like in Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados (where they are called “Red Legs”), the Bahamas (where they are called Conchy Joe), and to a lesser extent St. Vincent, Dominica and St. Lucia.
The Creoles were actually the Belizeans who generously served Britain in both World Wars. I remembered meeting Mr. Rupert Arthurs, uncle to Rev. Carlton Arthurs, the well-known pastor and televangelist, on his trip to Belize with his English wife. He fought in WWI. Then there was Ian Leslie, a cousin of ours on your mother’s side who had gone to Britain with the Forestry Unit. He made a visit to Belize with his Welsh children. He asked to be cremated on his death, his remains brought to Belize and buried on the Leslie family land at The Lagoon. And, this was done.
Your maternal grandmother, Mrs. Eva Lindo Belisle, had an uncle, Rodwell Gibson (a younger brother of my maternal grandfather, Crispin Arthur Gibson), who had fought in the first World War. He was missing for years, having fought in the Middle East flank of the war. When the British finally located him after many long years living in desert terrain, he was repatriated back to Britain and Belize. As a child, I found Uncle Roddy a highly fascinating character, as he had lived for years among the Bedouin. He even looked exactly like an Arab! He spoke fluent Arabic and French, and was full of incredible stories. After drinking some shots of rum, he would sing in Arabic! He had left a wife and son behind in Belize before enlisting. However, when he had been reported as “missing in action” or dead, his wife remarried.