A mosaic of relatives from around the world

They are black, white and every shade in between — and all descended from the same Bermudian "icon".

Hundreds of descendants of Pilot James (Jemmy) Darrell met for the first time at the weekend and delighted in the fact that they come in all colours.

The huge four-day family gathering was organised by members of the Darrell family in Bermuda — and attracted more than 50 visitors from New Zealand, the States and the UK.

  • Respect: Descendants of Pilot James (Jemmy) Darrell gathered at his grave at St. Peter's Church in St. George on Saturday for a church service commemorating his life. The service was part of a weekend-long reunion for the Darrell family, many of whom travelled from the US, UK and New Zealand to be here.
Also in attendance at the service were: Friends of St.Peter's Church, the TS Admiral Somers Sea Cadets, the Bermuda Branch Pilots and the St.George's Salvation Army Corps Band.
Pictured laying a wreath at his grave is one of Pilot Darrell's oldest surviving descendants here -83-year-old Calvyn Rowling.

    Respect: Descendants of Pilot James (Jemmy) Darrell gathered at his grave at St. Peter's Church in St. George on Saturday for a church service commemorating his life. The service was part of a weekend-long reunion for the Darrell family, many of whom travelled from the US, UK and New Zealand to be here. Also in attendance at the service were: Friends of St.Peter's Church, the TS Admiral Somers Sea Cadets, the Bermuda Branch Pilots and the St.George's Salvation Army Corps Band. Pictured laying a wreath at his grave is one of Pilot Darrell's oldest surviving descendants here -83-year-old Calvyn Rowling.


They are black, white and every shade in between — and all descended from the same Bermudian "icon".

Hundreds of descendants of Pilot James (Jemmy) Darrell met for the first time at the weekend and delighted in the fact that they come in all colours.

The huge four-day family gathering was organised by members of the Darrell family in Bermuda — and attracted more than 50 visitors from New Zealand, the States and the UK.

The Reverend Erskine Simmons told them at a church service in St. George's on Saturday that Pilot Darrell — a slave who won his freedom due to his ship piloting prowess and went on to fight for better rights for blacks — was "an icon of national and nautical pride".

The Kiwi branch of the family were the palest at the reunion — but Pete Darrell, from Christchurch, who got married on Saturday outside his ancestor's former home, told The Royal Gazette he'd done a DNA test to confirm his heritage.

"I actually got a kit and did the swab from my mouth," he said. "They said it was medium to strong that black was our history."

Wentworth Christopher, the PLP's public relations officer, attended Mr. Darrell's wedding with wife Betty, a descendant of Pilot Darrell.

"I think it's a phenomenal day," he told this newspaper. "When you look at the descendants, it's really a mosaic of ethnic groups and countries. I was able to even see familiarities in appearances across racial bands."

The festivities began on Thursday with a fish fry at the Leopard's Club in Hamilton, followed by a cocktail reception on Friday for the overseas guests and event organisers at Bermuda Archives, where an exhibition about Pilot Darrell is on until July 31.

On Sunday, there was a family day and talent show at the Whitney Institute Middle School, attended by about 350 people.

The gathering came about after New Zealander Bill Grant pieced together the family tree and discovered the connection to Pilot Darrell, whose great-grandson Edward left Bermuda for Tasmania in the 19th century.

Rita Gail Johnson, from New York, said: "What Bill Grant was able to do was give us the Rosetta Stone of how we are all related. Now we all know how. A lot of us were crying just to realise how far sprung we are."

Linda Manders, one of the organisers, said she'd discovered cousins close to home. "I'm a teacher and quite a few of my students turned up and said: 'I'm related to you!'.

"There are Bermudians we realised were cousins and so many we didn't realise were cousins. It's just been really, really positive and enlightening. We did not realise how far we extended around the world."

Ellen Fenty-Morrison, from Connecticut, said: "It's just been so wonderful meeting these cousins. Everything has gone without a hitch and it's given us a lot of opportunity to interact with each other. We have all been doing the reading and learning more of our history. The fact that our ancestor is who he is makes it even more thrilling."

Romano Ramirez, a descendant who has restored and lives in Pilot Darrell's cement-wash late 18th century home, said he willingly agreed to host the wedding ceremony. "They asked and I said why not. I have never had a wedding here."

He added: "I didn't know until several years ago that this Pilot Darrell existed."

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