I heard the name ‘Baron Bliss’ more than once when I was working with World Peace & Development in Belize City back in the mid-70s, and often visited the Bliss Library pictured above. (Being a hoarder, I probably even still have my card around somewhere.)
Henry Edward Ernest Victor Barretts was born in Buckinghamshire, England on February 16th, 1869, and changed his surname to Bliss upon becoming the fourth Baron Bliss of the former kingdom of Portugal through lineal descent from a Sir John Moore, who distinguished himself in its wars. An engineer by trade, he was an extremely wealthy man by the time he was struck by paralysis in 1911 and confined to a wheelchair. His infirmity did not keep him from enjoying life however. After WW I, he set off in a yacht called Sea King II (his Sea King I having been commandeered for naval service) and made his way to the Bahamas, where he resided until 1925. He then moved around the Caribbean a bit and in January, 1926, sailed the Sea King II to Belize (then British Honduras), a place he fell in love with without even going ashore. He mostly stayed aboard his yacht attempting to recover from a bout of food poisoning he’d got while in Trinidad, but what he could see of it from aboard ship (he did visit the cayes and the barrier reef, and went fishing from a small launch), and what he learned about it from its colonial administrators was enough to prompt him to change his will and leave the country a two million dollar trust fund when he eventually succumbed to the food poisoning on March 9th. The British government claimed some of it for ‘taxes and UK estate duties’, but the rest has been used to the benefit of Belizeans, resulting the library, a museum, a park, markets, health clinics, Belize City’s water system, the annual regatta held in the baron’s honour, and the lighthouse under which he is buried.
But the will did specify some things the trust money was NOT to be used for, such as churches, dance halls, and schools. It also contained the somewhat puzzling stipulation that no American was ever to be a trustee or even an employee of any trustee. (Sorry, American blog followers. I haven’t been able to find out why he didn’t like you.)