Belize Celebrates Baron Bliss Day

Belize Celebrates Baron Bliss Day

With the Red Baron, Baron Barracuda (for those of you who remember the kids’ show “Under the Sea”) and many other notables, there has been an assortment of, shall we say, interesting barons.

But not many as interesting, and as cool, as Baron Bliss.

And Belize has some very interesting holidays, and today we commemorate Baron Bliss Day in honour of Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss, 4th Baron Bliss, commonly known as Baron Bliss.

Born on February 16 1869 and living a very interesting life until he passed away March 9th 1926 aboard his yacht anchored off Belize City, Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss, was an English traveller and adventurer who willed nearly two million Belize Dollars a trust fund for the benefit of the citizens of what was then the colony of British Honduras, now known and loved as Belize.

Born Henry Edward Ernest Victor Barretts, he lived in England in Buckinghamshire as a youth, an engineer by trade. At some point in his adult life, inherited the title 4th Baron Bliss of the Kingdom of Portugal, from an ancestor.

Not bad work if you can get it…

He was obviously successful in his career, but it is not known exactly how he obtained his fortune.

Probably as a result of polio, Bliss became paralysed from the waist down in 1911 at the age of 42, and was confined to a wheelchair. Despite this, he remained active an avid sailor, and when WW1 ended, he was wealthy enough to retire to a lifetime of fishing and leisure aboard his yacht the Sea King II.

Bliss then spent much of this time sailing around the British Honduras, or Belize area, exploring the coastline and fishing. However, just days before his 57th birthday, his health took a turn for the worse, and doctors advised him that he was terminally ill. It was at this time that he decided he would leave the bulk of his fortune to Belize and signed a will on 17 February.

Several weeks later, he died on his yacht, never having landed on the Belize mainland. He was buried in what is now known as Bliss Park, and he was later interred in a granite tomb near the sea, with a lighthouse nearby, as stated in his will.

At the time of his death, Bliss’s fortune was worth nearly £1 million (about BZ$1.8 million). His will gave specific instructions on how the money was to be used to the benefit of the citizens of British Honduras.

The original monies were to be invested in British stocks securities, with only the interest earned spent, and that could not be spent on churches, dance halls or schools, except agricultural and vocational ones

One hundred pounds was to be set aside annually for a regatta, which has since been held every year on Baron Bliss Day.

A peculiar stipulation was that no American may be a trustee or an employee of a trustee. No explanation was given.

Over the years, the trust has provided more than $2 million to fund projects, including the Bliss Institute, Bliss School of Nursing, and other worthy projects across Belize. As of 2011, the fund was still worth roughly $1.5 million.

So, it’s understandable that soon after his death, the government declared 9 March to be Baron Bliss Day, a national public holiday. In November 2008 this was renamed to National Heroes and Benefactors Day, and is now observed the Monday closest to 9 March, unless it falls on a Saturday.

Those traditionalists among us still like to think of it as Baron Bliss Day. After all, it’s a great name with a great ring, and he was a great man who saw the beauty and potential of Belize well before others.

So here’s to the good Baron and his works. If you stop by the Chaa Creek Jungle Lodge and create a signature, voted as winner Baron Bliss Cocktail, we’ll not only make and give you one for free; it will become part of our extensive drink menu.

Let the legacy live on!

And let’s all toast one of histories more offbeat, adventurous characters. Just like the land he eventually adopted.

Happy Baron Bliss Day!

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