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Sep 4, 2020

Hunting Caye Lighthouse Renamed after its Former Operator Thomas Lester Garbutt

Tonight we have a heart-warming story of humble man whose heroic acts are little well-known. He is Thomas Lester Garbutt, in whose honour the lighthouse at Hunting Caye has been renamed. The former operator spent almost his entire life working at sea. As a young man, he worked as a sailor on a tugboat that travelled between Belize, Honduras and Guatemala.  Later, he transitioned to lighthouse keeper spending over thirty years working at Halfmoon Caye, English Caye and Hunting Caye. Garbutt is described not only as a lighthouse keeper, but a sailor, a soldier, a brave and humble warrior, a servant of the people, a loyal patriot, a defender and protector of the Jewel. But Garbutt gained the reputation as a first line of defense for a heroic action back in 1986 in which he ordered a former president of Guatemala to leave Belizean waters. Last Friday, a ceremony took place on the island and News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

The lighthouse at Hunting Caye has been renamed after its former operator Thomas Lester Garbutt, who spent most of his adult life as keeper at the caye. The remains of the old lighthouse are still at the caye and a newly erected structure has been installed. That monument boasts a plaque in memory of Garbutt’s son, Charles Garbutt who carried on his father’s tradition as lighthouse keeper at English Caye, but tragically went missing in 1998.

 

Dennis Garbutt

Dennis Garbutt, Nephew of Thomas Lester Garbutt

“Unfortunately we lost Charlie at sea. Thanks minister, thanks to the government, the prime minister; thank you admiral. I want to stay with you a little bit cause you knew my dad personally. Like the minister said, because of the story that you told, the experience that you had with my dad, we are able to stand here today. He was a humble man and I know this whole ceremony for him, he was not looking forward to it. He was not doing his job for this purpose; he was doing his job because of the respect and the love that he has for Belize.”

 

The story for which Garbutt is recognised goes back to 1986. Described as the first line of defense, back then, he paddled a canoe to inform former Guatemalan president Vinicio Cerezo that his yacht had illegally entered Belizean waters and ordered the president to leave, which he did. At a ceremony held on the caye last Friday, Minister of National Security Michael Peyrefitte that Garbutt was a true patriot.

 

Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte, Minister of National Security

“This was after listening to the almost incredible tales told to me by Admiral Borland who happened to have had the experience of meeting and getting to know Mister Garbutt or Uncle Les as he was affectionately known. It puzzles me that such an intriguing story had not been told to the wider population and indeed this man was befitting of the highest honour bestowed upon our heroes. That was of course if the stories were actually true and factual, but as it turned out, the admirals recollection was easily verified which led me to seek the Prime Minister’s approval for this lighthouse to be named in his honour. The approval was outright and complete and the rest will now be history.”

 

Relatives of Garbutt were in attendance for the unveiling of the plaque. For the family, Hunting Caye was an adventure for the family, a vacation destination and a reminder of the love of country that Thomas Lester Garbutt had.

 

Ewart Garbutt

Ewart Garbutt, Relative of Thomas Lester Garbutt

“The thing about my dad is that it was all family and to him everyone was V.I.P., everyone was the same. If we eat, we eat all together.  But what touch me most is I really appreciate the choice of what you choose to put his name on – a beacon of light. That’s what my dad was always about. He was always people first and the wealthiest man that I ever know. Yo check ih account, ih noh got nothing, but dah heaven, I think ih got the most.”

 

Linda Garbutt

Linda Garbutt, Daughter of Thomas Lester Garbutt

“For the time that my dad was here, he was treated with respect because he gave respect and in return he was treated with respect. We looked at him at times and thought that he was a strict person, but he was one of the nicest dad that you could ever have.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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