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News : Ministry of Tourism Updates Last Updated: Feb 17, 2017 - 7:53:30 PM


Tourism Minister pays tribute to Nathanial Clement "Piccolo Pete" Saunders
Feb 17, 2017 - 7:43:33 AM

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Nassau, Bahamas - Message from The Minister of Tourism Hon. Obie Wilchcombe, MP:

He was Mr. Bimini and the full and colourful life of this cultural ambassador, entertainer, mariner, fisherman, fishing guide to world celebrities and entrepreneur Nathanial Clement “Piccolo Pete” Saunders came to a peaceful end after close to a century of promoting and marketing that slice of Bahamian paradise called Bimini.

With the passing of this legend, an era has come to an end but his life’s work will live on in perpetuity.

Born on the 7th November, 1914, Uncle Natty as he was affectionately called was the community’s oldest, most respected and entertaining personality and considered by many to be the backbone of the Bimini community.

Piccolo Pete’s life and story was intertwined with the larger Bahamian story. He was born into humble beginnings but his career in tourism and culture brought him into personal contact with global icons such as author Ernest Hemingway, civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., former US president Richard Nixon and even the infamous Chicago mob boss Al Capone, among others.

Uncle Natty was an entertainer and jazz singer who also played the Banjo and was known for popular local songs like “Bimini Gal”, “Never take a lickin’ till you go to Bimini” and “Balamina”.

In an interview with Tim McDonald of the Associated Press in 2000, Saunders claimed that he was the model for the old sherman in the Hemingway novel “The Old Man and the Sea,” instead of Cuban angler Gregorio Fuentes.

“I wrote two-thirds of that book,” declared Saunders at his bar Precious d’Paris. “I’d tell him all about my experiences, then he’d go and write it down. I never got anything from that book, not one dime.”

According to McDonald, Hemingway told friends that discovering the Bahamian island off the Florida coast was one of the great events of his life: He cited the world-class shing and relaxed, idyllic setting that he said might as well be “the end of the world.”

In Bimini, “The Old Man and the Sea” is required reading in public schools, and both the novel and video of “Islands in the Stream” are popular among island students and inextricably linked to the iconic author Hemingway and the island paradise Bimini is Nathanial Clement “Piccolo Pete” Saunders.

On 24th January, 2015, Mr. Saunders was the recipient of the Clement T. Maynard Lifetime Achievement Award at the 16th Cacique Awards Ceremony for his life’s works in the development of Bahamian culture and tourism.

His nephew Ashley Saunders is a coconut craft maker and Ashley’s brother, Ansil Saunders, a legendary boat builder, is also a Cacique Award winner.

I had the pleasure of celebrating with Mr. Saunders on the occasion of his 100th birthday at a special mass at the Parish of Our Lady and St. Stephen in Bimini. I was accompanied by of cials of Local Government and the Of ce of the Prime Minister on Bimini.

So compelling was his life’s work that The Bahamas chose him as its cultural ambassador along with its musical folklore as this country’s representatives at the Smithsonian Institution in the summer of 1994 on the Mall at Washington D.C.

On behalf of the Ministry of Tourism, I extend heartfelt condolences to the paternal family of Nathanial Clement Saunders and condolences to his extended family – the entire community of Bimini on the passing of this cultural icon. May his work and legend live on forever in our hearts and may his soul rest in peace.


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