Column: Honouring Mary Prince On Cup Match

February 11, 2020 | 5 Comments

[Opinion column written by Chris Famous]

Like many others of my age, we were never taught the full story of Bermudian, Caribbean or African History.

We all grew up fully believing, to different degrees, whatever we were taught in school.

Basically, European History. Specifically, British History.

Fast forward a few decades, we all now have access to historical facts that we never knew before.

This has led to many discoveries of who we are as a people and what has been done, in the distant and not so distant past, that has lead to our present state.

That being centuries of colonialism, slavery and racism.

As a people, we cannot change the past but we can, indeed, shape the future. As such, two years ago we began a journey to correct a historical wrong. Namely, the 1999 naming of Sir George Somers as a part of our Emancipation / Cup Match celebrations.

Political compromises

The name ‘Somers Day’ was first added to Cup Match celebrations in 1947.

For those who do not know, it was the former United Bermuda Party [UBP], as opposition, who basically argued, for Sir George Somers name to remain a part of the Emancipation Celebrations.

Hon. John Barritt was the UBP spokesman for legislative affairs in the 1999 debate in the House that saw the PLP government, which was led by Premier Dame Jennifer Smith at that time, decide to let the first day of Cup Match be known as Emancipation Day and the second day be known as Somers Day as an act of “political compromise.”

The Real Somers

Now, let us go back to this little thing called historical facts.

As stated above, we were all told a sanitized version of what really took place for centuries of European colonization.

Part of that fable was this white washed version of who Somers really was.

For those who do not yet know, Gerorge Somers was a privateer or licenced pirate who was given permission to plunder as long as he gave a cut to the British crown.

With that licence he traveled to the Caribbean and South America raiding Spanish colonies and taking whatever he wished.

In 1595, he burnt down Caracas Venezuela as the Spanish refused to pay him any money.

Let us also bear in mind that in 1609, when his ship was blown onto the shores of Bermuda, he was actually on his way to Virginia.

Essentially, he was on his way to take, by force, land that belonged to Native Americans, specifically the Algonquian tribes, who had constant skirmishes with English colonizer John Smith.

Virginia Map Bermuda Feb 2020

Our National Hero

At the same time that we were being fed sanitized stories of Somers, our own heroes and heroines stories were being hidden or completely destroyed.

One such story was the story of Mary Prince, a black Bermudian born in Devonshire, her father being held in enslavement by one David Trimmingham.

Mary Prince witnessed a life time of slavery, beatings and lynchings in various Caribbean islands, including Antigua, Bermuda and Turks and Caicos Islands.

The History Of May Prince Bermuda Feb 2020

In the year 1828, she went to England as a servant for the Woods family.

There she met abolitionist Thomas Pringle and was encouraged to tell and write about the truths of slavery in the Caribbean.

In 1831, her published story then became a part of the abolitionist movement that led to the freedom of enslaved Africans throughout the Caribbean.

So, with all of that being said, I now ask you, my fellow Bermudians, what is morally and historically right? Who do you think we should honour during celebrations about the freedom of enslaved Africans?

The privateer and colonizer George Somers? Or the enslaved person, whose story helped to free enslaved Bermudians and those in the Caribbean?

- Chris Famous

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Comments (5)

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  1. Stinky D. says:

    Excellent

  2. Clem says:

    Hello Chris,

    I enjoyed your article. I get your point about European history. It is great to learn about history through significant individuals like Mary Prince. In order to understand them more, we need to look at cause and consequence in history. These aspects require us to be mindful of the wider process like the Atlantic Slave trade and in turn the European Empires race to rob and plunder.

  3. Funny says:

    Just remember, slavery. Must be an election coming soon!

  4. General Grievous says:

    European history? What kind of ridiculous statement is that? Bermuda is a British colony, discovered and settled by Europeans. That is why you get taught our European history. Stop trying to rewrite history and claim this island for certain people! You take away Queens Birthday, you take away Somers Day, the man who discovered the island. Our founding father. What next? Ridiculous! Good for Mary Prince, give her her own holiday!

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