Missing the name of Jesus

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  • Andrew Harris carries out a civic duty by repainting the second version of the Scaur Hill inscription.

    Andrew Harris carries out a civic duty by repainting the second version of the Scaur Hill inscription.

  • A photo of about 1890, with no inscription, compared to a recent view of the Somerset Road.

    A photo of about 1890, with no inscription, compared to a recent view of the Somerset Road.

  • The original inscription at Scaur Hill was written in Italic script, about 1910 (courtesy Mark Nash).

    The original inscription at Scaur Hill was written in Italic script, about 1910 (courtesy Mark Nash).

  • The uppermost row of letters indicates what is left of the original Inscription in Italics below.

    The uppermost row of letters indicates what is left of the original Inscription in Italics below.


Heritage Matters

The other oddity is also an inscription, a Biblical text of 20 words cut into the sandstone flanking the road on the west side near the summit of Scaur Hill.— Terry Tucker, The Bermudian, 1961

Historians sometimes present an incomplete picture of the past when discussing ancient monuments, but such views can be enhanced by archaeologists, so as to determine the wheat from the chaff, the edible from the indigestible, culinarily speaking. Much detective work is involved in sorting out some accounts and often takes years to accomplish, like that related to the religious graffiti at the defile at the summit of the Somerset Road on Scaur Hill. At long last, information has been found to paint a fuller picture of that piece of religious fervour, due in large measure to a unique picture of the original inscription, which has emerged thanks to the historical photograph collection of Mr Mark Nash.

Let us review the matter in light of earlier pronouncements in print, one being that of Mrs Terry Tucker in The Bermudian magazine in 1961. Regarding the Scaur Hill inscription, Mrs Tucker wrote that it was a Biblical text, which read, as it does today in its second rendition: ‘There is none other name under Heaven given among men whereby we must be saved but the name of Jesus.’ Under the second rendition someone had painted the reference to ‘Acts 4:12’, in which source can be found only a part of the inscription, namely all of it except ‘but the name of Jesus’; the latter phrase is from an unknown source. So when refurnishing the second inscription, ‘Acts 4:12’ was not repainted on the rock face. In addition, the reference to that source in the Holy Book was not appended to the original inscription, according to the Nash photograph.

Mrs. Tucker also suggested that the inscription was first carved into the ‘sandstone’ cliff face, following which the incised letters were whitewashed. Examination of both versions of the inscription suggests that they were only painted onto the ‘limestone’, as most the original version would have survived had it been carved, whereas some of its letters have been lost by the erosion of the whitewash.

In a more recent history, that of the Somerset Methodist Church of Sandys Parish, former talk show host Oda Mallory presented the story of how the original painting came into being, as its originator was a steadfast member of that ecclesiastical establishment, later joining the newly built Emmanuel Methodist Church in the adjacent Southampton Parish. He was a farmer by the name of James Brown, also mentioned in the Bermuda National Trust’s book on the historic houses of Sandys Parish, and had suffered through a period of poor climate, which was reversed at end of the nineteenth century. Apparently inspired by that perhaps heavenly intervention in Bermuda’s gardening industry of the day, Farmer Brown caused the inscription, in praise of the Lord Jesus, to be painted on the western wall of the defile at a crest of Scaur Hill, through which the only road to the remainder of Somerset Island passes.

Such vandalism today would be immediately eradicated by the Public Works Department or a possibly irate landowner, but such was not the case in 1901, when the act is said to have occurred, and now the Scaur Hill inscription is seen as a part of local heritage. That is despite the fact that what is seen today (and which was renewed several years ago), and thought to be original by many, is in fact the work of someone other than Farmer Brown, likely painted as late as the early 1950s.

Two pictures have recently come to light that allow us to put the painting into a perfect perspective, as perfect as any history can be. The earliest is a photograph of the summit of the road at Scaur Hill, likely taken in the late 1890s, or certainly after the introduction of electricity or the telephone to the wilds of Somerset. That photo shows a ‘telephone pole’, partly cut into the cliff in about the same position as a BELCO electricity pole is today, but there is no sign of the inscription on the rock face. Just as important, the rock face continues uninterrupted to the north. Another photography, tinted in the style of the day for magic lantern slide shows, has emerged and that shows the same configuration for the rock face of the western scarp of the defile as the pre-1900 image. Most importantly, the Nash image records the appearance of the original Scaur Hill inscription and it is in an Italic typeface: it is the only known photograph of the first version of the inscription.

At some date, perhaps in the 1940s, the driveway to the house called “Elyham” was cut through the cliff at the northern end of the inscription, removing the text [na]‘me of Jesus’. Traces of the letters of the rest of the original inscription can still be observed, painted but not carved, on the cliff face above the second version of the religious text.

The second version of the inscription, in Roman typeface, was thus of necessity moved to the south and below the original one. That is the image that many chat about on ‘Everest’ and otherwise, failing to appreciate that the ‘last’ is in fact not the ‘first’ and never shall be, Amen (Matthew 20:16).

Dr Edward Cecil Harris, MBE, JP, PHD, FSA is Director of the National Museum at Dockyard. Comments may be made to director@bmm.bm or 704-5480.

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Published Jan 19, 2013 at 10:25 am (Updated Jan 19, 2013 at 10:25 am)

Missing the name of Jesus

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