Photos: 2012 Service Honouring James Darrell

April 15, 2012

The Annual Commemorative Service for King’s Pilot James ‘Jemmy’ Darrell was held yesterday [Apr.14] in St. George’s, with the service celebrating the life of the freed slave who become the first black man to own a home in Bermuda.

The Vestry And The Friends Of St. Peter’s Church, the Pilot Warden and the Branch Pilots Of Bermuda hosted the service at his grave in St. Peter’s Graveyard, St. George’s, as well as placing wreaths over board at Murray’s Anchorage.

Approximately fifty family members and friends gathered at the graveside to honor Mr Darrell. Reverends David Raths and Erskine Simmons officiated the service and Senior Branch Pilot Mario Thompson addressed the crowd. TS Admiral Somers Sea Cadets were smartly represented and provided an honour guard at the ceremony.

The first black man to own a home in Bermuda, James “Jemmy” Darrell was a slave who was ‘owned’ by Captain Francis Darrell of St. George’s. Some researchers believe that Darrell [who was light-skinned] may have been Francis Darrell’s offspring.

In May 1795, James Darrell piloted Admiral George Murray’s ship, the 74-gun HMS Resolution, into Murray’s Anchorage on the North Shore near Tobacco Bay, St. George’s. The Admiral was so impressed with Mr. Darrell’s skill that he recommended that he be granted his freedom, and Governor James Craufurd released him from his enslavement on March 1, 1796.

Shortly after being freed he purchased a house in St. Georges on what is now Pilot Darrell’s Square. He was made a Kings Pilot on May 23, 1796. Kings Pilots were premiere pilots whose main responsibility was to pilot British naval ships through the Bermuda reefs.

Mr. Darrell’s life as a free man was not much different than during enslavement due to legislation introduced to limit rights of the freed slaves. He consistently fought these regulations which sought to limit his hard-earned rights, writing petitions asking for better pay for pilots, as well as for the legal right for blacks to will their property to their wives, children or relatives. Mr Darrell died at age 66 on April 12, 1815.

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  1. United says:

    Bermuda has such importance to the world without probably even knowing it. Such historic relevance. Bermuda has also the nicest, most respectful people that can be found anywhere on planet Earth. Bermuda and Bermudians,please don't lose sight of your importance and please respect that and ALL your inhabitants because there are not too many spots like this in the universe.

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    • Can't Take It Anymore says:

      I second that comment!!

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  2. Jean Foggo Simon says:

    Beautiful ceremony and beautiful family. I am forwarding this on to the Darrell descendants who live in New Zealand - Bill Grant and family.

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  3. Nothing But the Truth says:

    A name a did not know but a name I will not forget. Thanks Bernews

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  4. Grace Bell says:

    @ Jean Foggo, I am sorry that I could not attend this Ceremony due to a family wedding at the same time. Jean do inbox me on Facebook, my maternal side of my family are linked... would like to have as much info as possible... Cherylann and I had plans of connecting in the past...

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