The return of Rosemary Steed
It was in September six years ago that we did our first feature on Rosemary Steed. We then described her as a vivacious 48-year-old technology clerk in one of Scotlands leading information technology firms.
She was born and bred in Leith, Scotland, and was well into her 40s when she discovered she was the offspring of a Black Bermudian, Charles William Dowding Steed. He fathered ten children with his two Scottish wives resulting in three or four generations of Scots bearing the distinctive name Steed with Bermuda being their ancestral home.
We referred to Rosemary on her first roots-connected trip as being excited as if she had discovered a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow..
Well she's back in Bermuda, on her second visit, no less excited and even more vivacious in her early 50s. She has been royally entertained on this trip by her host of black Bermudian cousins and friends. They include such prominent personalities as St Clair (Brinky) Tucker, who is the Right Worshipful Grand Master of Irish Masonic Lodges in Bermuda. On occasion of visits to Grand Lodge meetings in Dublin, Ireland, the Tuckers have made diversions to Edinburgh to be guests of Rosemary.
Other cousins include Hall-of-Famer Gene Steede, the entertainer who has been dubbed Bermudas national treasure; the Ross Tuzos of Warwick and Cindy Steede Williams, Administrator at CURB, the organisation for uprooting racism in Bermuda.
Rosemary and her fiance Richard Morgan, a mechanical engineer, are house guests of cousin Beldwin Smith and wife Velda in Devomshire. Beldwin is the Grand Superintendent of Bermuda Chapters of the Masonic Supreme Royal Arch of Scotland. It is a weighty office that has merited annual visit to Scotland for the past four years, when he made a point of including Rosemary on the social side of masonic programme.
Rosemarys father was Charles William Steed, a decorated Second World War veteran who served in the Royal Artillery as a bombardier, in France, Belgium, Greece, and after the war in Palestine. Shortly before his death in 1996, Charles William entrusted to Rosemarys care certain documents. He made special reference to the log of his grandfather, Charles William Dowding Steed (CDWS) who was a seafarer.
Her fathers concern that she take particular care of the log intensified her interest in it. It was an official leather-bound document from the Merchant Marine Office in the United Kingdom, containing page after page of his Certificates of Discharges, each listing his character of conduct as good; and character of ability as very good in whatever he was engaged.
Rosemary, upon thumbing through the pages of the log. discovered her great-grandfather was born in Hamilton Parish, Bermuda on September 28, 1852, and was baptised in the parish church there. He arrived in Leith, Scotland in August 1878 aboard the 80-ton vessel Ann. There was no reference from whence the ship came, but he signed off as a cook-steward. Somewhere along the line he met a Scottish lassie, Isabella Cunningham. Three years later, in 1881 they were married at a Wesleyan Methodist Church in Leith.
The log reveals that during the next several years CWDSs voyages took him to Cork, Ireland; China, Bombay, Iceland and Quebec among other places. His last journey from Leith was in December 1894, when he signed off in Grangemouth, Scotland. By then he had graduated to classification as an able-bodied seaman.
Charles William Dowding Steed secured a job in the Leith Dockyard. Tragically, while working as a journeyman shipwright, he fell into a dry dock, sustaining injuries that put him in a coma for several days before he died at age 47 in August 1897. He was survived by his wife Isabella, who had borne him ten children, the last being a set of twin girls.
One of CWDSs sons was William Thomas Steed, Rosemarys grandfather. William Thomas Steedwas a professional soldier, serving from 1905 to 1911 in the Royal Artillery. Upon the outbreak of the First World War, William Thomas along with other reserves was called up for active duty. His unit was involved in one of the first major battles of the war, the Battle of Mons. As luck would have it, William Thomas was captured in August, 1914. He was held as a prisoner of war by the Germans for the duration of the war. Three times he was recaptured while attempting to escape; the last time at serious threat to his life.
In keeping with prevailing conventions pertaining to prisoners of war the Germans sent post cards showing their captives to families as proof they were alive. William Thomas is seen with fellow POWs . After the First World War, lady luck was more blessed to William Thomas. He lived until 1976, dying at age 85.
As we stated earlier, William Thomas was one of Bermudian Charles William Dowding Steeds ten children, and and was Rosemarys grandfather.
Rosemary, being a professional in the IT field, followed her first impulse, which was to get on the internet and do a search. She hit on the web page of no less a resourceful Bermudian than Jean Simons. She hailed from from Devonshire; but for several years she held the prestigious position of City Clerk of Oberlin, Ohio. Jean at the time was heavily involved with her cousin Brinky Tucker, Edward Welch and others in regard to the pending, historic reconnect of the Pequot Indian Tribe and Tall Oak with the St Davids Islanders.
Jean connected Rosemary to Brinky. During her lightning trip to Bermuda accompanied by Richard Morgan, a meeting with thenNational Archivist Carla Hayward resulted in her acquiring a copy of Dr Halletts resource book on Births and Deaths in Bermuda. They also were introduced to Danny Richardson, president of Leopards Club International who took them to the Methodist Church in Harris Bay, and to Holy Trinity Church, Baileys Bay. At Trinity the Rector showed her the ancient font at which CWDS was baptized.
Through the medium of census records in Leith, and Dr Halletts book, Rosemary has meticulously compiled a 21-page family tree of her ancestors in Bermuda and Scotland. It shows her great grandfather, CWDS was one of the ten children of Benjamin Steeds two marriages. Benjamin was born in 1826. One of his daughters was Almanza Medora Steed. She was born in 1858. Her first husband was a Benjamin, and her second was Somers James Tuzo.
Rosemary said she had no inkling her ancestor was a black man. She recalled, as a youngster, shrugging off the fact that sometimes persons used to take second looks at her and two brothers. One had curly hair. He became a policeman in London and died. The other had straight hair. Also, her father had what she called nice skin and so did an aunt. She was a platinum blond with good skin texture. Her father always commented on the fact that he had 33 first cousins in Scotland.
Subsequently, a Jackie Burton in Edinbburgh phoned Rosemary upon happily discovering they were second cousins. She said in passing her brother had just returned home after visiting visiting Bermuda. He was totally unaware of the Steed family connection. Every day it seemed, Rosemary said beautiful new discoveries have come to the surface about the Steeds of Scotland and Bermuda.