Eighty-five years ago, Sullivan Dillon, now deceased, had a vision. A humble man with meagre means, he left Buccoo, Tobago, to work in Cuba in the cattle ranches and then Panama on the Panama Canal.
His name is well known in the village of Buccoo and mentioned among the great Tobagonians who dared to strive despite the odds.
As the story goes, Dillon saved funds from his working exploits with a specific purpose in mind; to buy a piece of land and raise a family.
He returned to Tobago, married Marilda from Patience Hill, had six children with her and used those funds to invest in a piece of land on the Buccoo sea coast. From it, there is a clear, exotic view of the Buccoo Reef, Nylon Pool and the Buccoo Bay.
His children—Carlos Dillon, Dr Maria Dillon-Remy, Winston Dillon, Miriam Dillon-Foderingham, Angelique Dillon and Marilyn Dillon— are now all well known within Tobago’s social landscape according to Gaston Foderingham, Sullivan’s son-in-law who has been married to Miriam for the past 43 years.
Foderingham told Tobago Today the enterprising Sullivan was one of the first people to take visitors to the Buccoo Reef and Nylon Pool for a fee. He also practised conservation and taught the youngsters from the village how to preserve the creatures of the sea.
Foderingham, a medical doctor since 1987, said: “Many of the villagers who still take visitors on the reef, were fully taught by him (Sullivan).
“Sullivan told them never to take turtles when they are laying their eggs or when they have their young and if fish is not of the right size, put it back into the sea.”
The story of Sullivan’s perseverance and vision, as told to Tobago Today, spoke of the ancestor telling his children that there is gold in Buccoo.
“My father used to say gold is in the riches of the sea and land and investing in it. Gold is in Buccoo,” Winston Dillon, a former teacher, recalled.
It’s this vision, passed on from generation to generation, which has resulted in the Dillon family making a “significant” investment - the biggest and arguably the best tourist facility overlooking the Buccoo Beach and jetty. It’s located on the land Sullivan bought 85 years ago. The facility houses a wedding reception hall and seven executive suites.
Asked why the investment was coming now, at a time when tourism stakeholders are crying about the state of the industry, Foderingham echoed the words of Hillel the Elder, a Jewish leader from the first century.
“If not now, then when, and if not us, then who?”
The Dillon family paired with Foderingham, who feels the project is a manifestation of Sullivan’s vision.
They are thankful for lessons their ancestor learnt in Buccoo and have aptly named the new tourist facility ‘Merci Buccoo’. Translated in English it means: “Thank you, Buccoo.”