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Official Remembrance of the late Mr. Charles Bartlett Hyde, CBE

FeaturesOfficial Remembrance of the late Mr. Charles Bartlett Hyde, CBE

Photo: Hon. Valerie Woods, Speaker of the House of Representatives

“A long life of stellar service”

April 4, 2024

Introduction

A pleasant good afternoon to everyone in attendance. I wish to acknowledge: Ministers of Government, members of the Diplomatic and Consular corp., the Clergy, Senior Government officials, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, all.

We are gathered here today to celebrate the long and illustrious life of the late Commander Charles Bartlett Hyde, who was blessed to live a hundred years; and as a country we were fortunate to receive his stellar service for over 5 decades. During his professional life, he was a Postmaster General, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chair of the Public Service Commission, an avid sportsman and much more. Just as important, he was also a loving husband, father, grandfather, mentor, and friend to thousands of Belizeans.

On behalf of the Government of Belize, I am therefore honoured to deliver the Government’s official remembrance of the eminent late Commander Charles Bartlett Hyde; and I extend a heartfelt sympathy to the Hyde family, immediate and extended, and everyone who crossed paths with this Giant of a man, who was still such a humble soul, for this tremendous loss. We have lost one of our shining stars, and heaven has gained one.

Family Life

The late Charles Bartlett Hyde affectionately known as C.B. Hyde, or C.B. by family and close friends, was born in 1923 to parents Eunice, née Locke, and James Bartlett Hyde in Belize City; he was the eldest of 5 children. In October 1946, he married Elinor Belisle Hyde, and together they raised seven sons and two daughters.

Childhood memories

According to the renowned English poet, William Wordsworth, “the child is father to the man”; and to one extent, or the other “we are all products of our childhood”. C.B. Hyde never shied away from his roots, which he was immensely proud of. He recounted that he “was born in a small house on Canalside at the foot of Bolton Bridge”, No. 1 West Canal, which was built from pine and covered by shingles. Amazingly, it withstood the category 4 hurricane of 1931 and the infamous category 5 Hurricane Hattie in 1961; which demonstrated the quality of the builders of that era.

He would recall that the canals were originally built to drain the city, but lamentably they later became open sewers. The Southside Canal, which he referred to as “our canal” was not fit to play in except in May and June when strong south-easterly winds would sweep it clean. During that time, neighbourhood children would race “sailboats made from shingle wood with grape leaf sails and rudders of old razor blades”.

C.B. Hyde’s childhood memories were fun-filled and active. Together with the children from the Barrow, Bladen, Usher, Gabourel, and Henderson families, they “played marbles, tops and ballgames in the streets, raced barrel hoops and stick horses made from mangrove branches in the streets, and flew kites made from shingle wood frames”; reminiscent of a time when children would often use their creativity, skills and resourcefulness to create their own toys and entertainment. Sadly, this is becoming rare these days.

Education and early career

C.B. Hyde received his formal education at Holy Redeemer School and St. John’s College, where he graduated in 1940. However, he recounted getting his first job at the tender age of 12 years, with Sergeant Maurice Fuller, who lived in an adjoining lot; where he would chop firewood and run errands for 25 cents a week. After graduating from St. John’s College, he got another job as office boy, as the term was back then, at Mr. Thurton’s office, with a weekly salary of one dollar.

Interestingly, at one point, C.B. Hyde was at a crossroads in terms of his true calling in life. Should he become a machinist, engineer, and seaman like his father; or should he aspire for something different, which his mother encouraged due to his Cambridge School Certificate. However, it was Providence that intervened in the form of the late Mr. Lindsey Jefferies, Treasury Superintendent, who suggested to his friend Jim Hyde that C.B. apply for the vacant post of Messenger in the Colonial Civil Service; with a salary of fifteen dollars a month. That was the genesis of his civil service career and a lifetime of public service which followed.

Public service career – from messenger to Postmaster General

From his start as a messenger, “he passed through the clerical ranks of the service as junior clerk and upwards, working in various government departments, including the Department of Lands and Survey, and the Housing and Planning Department”. During his time at these departments, he became involved in the rehabilitation and rebuilding of Corozal Town, which had been devastated by Hurricane Janet in 1955; and also, the planning of Cinderella Town on the north side of Belize City. He also had the privilege of working with other public service stalwarts like the late Mr. Henry Fairweather.

From there, C.B. Hyde was transferred to the General Post Office as an Accountant; and was later promoted to the post of Assistant Postmaster General. In this post, alongside his then supervisor, the late Mr. Percival Ewing, considerable improvements were made to Belize’s postal system, including the introduction of modern systems of handling and cancelling mails. As a postal administrator at the General Post Office, he continued to grow. He spent a year in London at the British Post Office College, from 1958-1959, where he studied all aspects of the British postal system. This accumulated training and experience would serve him well when he was elevated to Postmaster General in 1961, the zenith of his career in the Civil Service.

Over the next 17 years, until he retired in 1978, he attained noteworthy accomplishments, including: 1) restoration of Belize’s postal system after Hurricane Hattie, which took several months of hard work; and 2) developing international interest in the Belize philatelic service, to the extent that Belizean stamps became regarded as some of the best and most interesting in the world; among others.

Prolific work after retirement

Even after retirement, C.B. Hyde maintained an indefatigable work rate, being appointed to fourteen important boards/committees, among them: Chairman of the Judicial and Legal Commission, Chairman of the Tourist Board, Chairman of the Public Services Commission, Chairman of the National Sports Council and the Stamp Advisory Committee, where he continued to promote Belize’s people, culture, history, flora and fauna to the world through our stamps.

Speaker of the House of Representatives

Another defining moment in his extraordinary life of service came in 1979, when he was appointed Speaker of the House of Representatives (HOR), on the eve of Independence, where he had the difficult task of guiding parliament during this turbulent time of transition; and ensuring the smooth running of our democratic parliamentary system. According to C.B. Hyde, he had trying times while “presiding over House meetings and having to control the tempers in the highly charged Legislature when members were debating matters in which very strong feelings were involved”. Still, he managed to “maintain an image of absolute impartiality” when having to make decisions that were displeasing to a member, or members of the HOR. He served in this role with distinction until 1984.

One of the milestones achieved during his time as Speaker of the HOR was agreeing to broadcast House debates over Radio Belize. He thought that “it was desirable that the public at large hear what their representatives had to say on matters which concerned them”; and that it would result in better preparation and delivery of speeches by representatives. Although, he also held strong views that the media had a responsibility to report in a balanced manner concerning House affairs.

In 2021, thanks to the introduction and assistance of his son Nelson Hyde, I had the honor of meeting former Speaker CB Hyde for some advice from the man who excelled in the Chair, and for his reflections on the occasion of marking the country’s 40th anniversary of Independence. It was an initiative of the Office of the Speaker to gather a few reflections of some of the members of the House who were present during the house meetings at that time which witnessed the historic occasion. Former Speaker CB Hyde’s reflections 40 years on read, “it was a profound moment in time. Amongst the members there was a sense that something great was about to be accomplished …. That day, I fulfilled my role as I always did. I knew though, that there was a difference on that day, the difference being that I was steering the proceedings for the historic passage of the Belize Constitution Bill 1981 and other related motions, that were to transition Belize from colony to an independent nation.”

Avid Sportsman

This portrait of the late C.B. Hyde would be incomplete without mentioning his athletic prowess and his passion for sports, physical education and vocational skills; which he felt were absolutely important to the development of our young people. According to his friend, Mr. Paul Rodriguez, former Ombudsman, C.B. Hyde was an athlete who excelled in football, basketball, cricket, tennis, and long jump. In fact, he set a record in running long jump that lasted for 20 years, from 1948 to 1968; and was for a long time a member of the Colonial Band Association Bridge team who were undefeated champions in Belize.

Accolades

As a consequence of his decades of dedication and stellar service to Belize, C.B. Hyde received several accolades during his lifetime, including: Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1977; Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1998; and in 2008 the Administration Building, or “Complex Building”, in Belize City was named after him to memorialize all of his service to Belize, both inside and outside of government.

Conclusion

Shakespeare, in his classic Julius Caesar, once said that “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”. This is a powerful quote that the late C.B. Hyde strongly identified with. In his own words, he said that “my roots are among the common people. Greatness has been thrust on me. I perform according to my best judgement and abilities in the service of the people”. Truly, C.B. Hyde was a great man who contributed so much to Belize’s development in diverse areas; and yet a humble man who never forgot where he came from. Indeed, he is worthy of emulation, and the praise and recognition which we now bestow on him after such long and distinguished service to our nation.

I will end with a quote used by C.B. Hyde at the dedication ceremony of the building named after him. “There is no success without discipline, and no discipline without sacrifice.” 

May his soul rest in perfect peace.

Thank You.

(AMANDALA Ed. Note: The above Official Remembrance was prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and read by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Valerie Woods, at the Divine Mercy Church funeral service on Wednesday, April 3, 2024.)

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