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British-Belizean Nadia Cattouse Celebrates 99 Years of Triumph

As she marks the beginning of her 99th year, Nadia Evadne Cattouse’s life remains an inspiration, as her remarkable journey from the streets of Belize City to the heart of British cultural society embodies a tale of resilience, talent, and unwavering spirit.

Born in 1924 in Belize City, then British Honduras, Nadia is the daughter of Albert Cattouse, who rose to become Deputy Premier, and educator Kathleen Fairweather Cattouse. Her early education was funded by her uncle, Henry Fairweather, the renowned “Mahogany Man.”

World War II saw young Nadia, a teacher by day and student by night, witness her male counterparts, including relatives, depart for Britain to aid in the war effort. Her cousin, Gilbert “Dick” Fairweather, would later be posthumously honored for his valor with the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Nadia would go on to enlist in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) as soon as black women were permitted, becoming a pioneer among her peers. Her journey from British Honduras to the United Kingdom spanned not only miles but also cultural differences, as she experienced the harsh realities of segregation in the United States in her overland journey to New York, before travelling across the ocean to the U.K. on the Queen Mary.

Arriving in Britain in 1944, Nadia’s ATS service took her from London to Scotland and eventually to the Royal Signals Corps in Edinburgh.

After the war, Nadia’s quest for knowledge led her to the London School of Economics. She later juggled roles with the BBC and the Colonial Office, where she aided Caribbean immigrants in navigating life in Britain.

Nadia also embarked on a music and acting career. She graced stages and television screens alike, with notable appearances alongside contemporaries like Ewan MacColl, who famously serenaded her with “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” Aside from her own compositions and recordings, her folk music adaptations are still cherished, especially her rendition of “This Long Time Boy,” for which she is most recognized in Belize, echoing her Caribbean heritage and her innovative spirit.

Additionally, Nadia was involved in community activism, taking part in demonstrations and cultural events that called for racial equality. Her association with Claudia Jones also led to her instrumental role in the inaugural West Indian Carnival in London.

Nadia’s personal life was as rich and varied as her public persona. Her marriages, the first to David Lindup, produced two talented children—Michael (Mike Lindup of Level 42) in 1959 and Pepita in 1961—before she divorced and remarried.

In her later years, Nadia continued to engage with veterans’ associations, using her profile to advocate for the British Commonwealth Ex-Services League.

In September, 2009, Nadia received the Meritorious Service Award from the Belizean government for her significant contributions to raising awareness of social, cultural, and political issues among Belizeans and the broader Caribbean community residing in the United Kingdom.

Over the years, Nadia has maintained a strong connection with her country of birth and has displayed a deep fascination with its history. She has diligently compiled an extensive archive of historical materials related to Belize’s early history.

As mentioned earlier, during her career as a singer, Nadia adapted, arranged and recorded several Caribbean folk songs such as “Brown Girl in a Ring”, “Long Time Boy” and “Nobody’s Business”. She also composed and recorded a number of her own songs, such as “Please” and “That’s What I’d Like To Do” under the pen name Eva Dayne.  

Source : Amandala