Slavery, Freedom Day, and the Cup Match celebrations
We remember 'back in the day' or, to be more exact, decades ago when needing a great angle for a story, we wound write or broadcast about 'Cup Match being around the proverbial corner, etc. That was then.
In today's magical e-world strata, Cup Match is here and now!
That's whether one is on Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Google, the world-wide-web, or tuned to the interminable Bermuda radio and TV talk shows; or most significantly checking the authoritative sports pages of the daily Royal Gazette.
But what is Cup Match?
Is it really so indefinable as to stump such great scribes as the world-famous West Indian test cricket commentator G.B. Rock, way back in 1931, to write about what he termed the cricket lunacy rampant among the families in Bermuda at Cup Match time.
Credit must be given to Heritage Productions (HP), the intellectual machine put in place by Dr Radell Tankard, his wife Dr Mellisa Gibbons-Tankard and associates to preserve Bermuda's cultural heritage and to emphasise the distinct connection of Cup Match and the emancipation of slavery in Bermuda in 1834.
HP held its 9th Annual Emancipation Celebration Awards Luncheon at Somerset Cricket Club highlighting nearly a dozen Cup Match legends and personalities for their significant contributions. The event has grown in significance over the years, with the honorees being treated to a fabulous luncheon and presented with tokens for their feats in the classic.
Dignitaries at the luncheon were the presidents of the two clubs, Somerset's 'cup holding' Alfred Maybury and his St George's counterpart, Neil Paynter. Government's Junior Minister of Culture and Sports Senator Alexis Swan and Opposition MP Michael Weeks.
The four-hour programme, launched with prayer by Chaplin Kevin Santucci, included comments from HP members, Carlton Best and master of ceremonies former Senator Cromwell Shakir.
Former Cup Match legends honoured this year were Allan Douglas, Clyde (Tango) Burgess, Allan Richardson, Bergon Spencer, Arnold Manders, St. Clair (Brinky) Tucker, Clevie Wade and John Tucker.
Brilliant biographies of the awardees were presented by Charlotte (Molly) Simons and Chelito DeSilva-Ruddock. The biographies in all likelihood will be added to the 70-plus already in Dr Tankard's colourful book 'Cup Match Legends and Personalities.'
HP is keen on focusing on the relevance of Cup Match and the emancipation of slavery that took place in 1834. And even more profoundly, the event that took place 27 years earlier, which was the abolition of the slave trade. But how could one logically deal with emancipation without also dealing with slavery? And in this specific instance, it is chattel slavery that is being cited.
Chattel slavery was the captivity of defenceless African men, women and children, transported through the middle passage by the millions. Hundreds of thousands were lost at sea en route. Survivors brought to the Americas were put on the auction block, men, women and children shackled, branded, put to work in the fields and wherever else. Massive profits were derived by countries and communities that regarded this type of slavery as the main pillar of their economies.
It must not be forgotten that slavery, per se, is as old as the hills. It was well known in the Roman and Greek empires. But there was no racial basis for that traffic. So when the Christians of Western Europe began to turn their attention to the trade in men in the 15th and 16th centuries, they were not introducing a new practice.
They did however introduce some new techniques such as brutality, torture, branding with red hot irons, whippings and hangings.
The English, Spanish and Dutch in developing the New World preyed on poor whites to do their donkey work. We only have to make a short visit to the Prisoners in Paradise exhibit opened a year ago at the Maritime Museum in the Bermuda Dockyard for the stark proof of that. At first those poor whites were regarded as servants, indentured servants. Later the empire builders raided the prisons in England and elsewhere for outcasts to dump on the New World to clear the forests and cultivate the fields and to build their dockyards, like that in Bermuda.
Indentured servitude was the name of the game. When the supply of those who voluntarily indentured for a period of years proved insufficient, the English resorted to more desperate means. They not only raided the prisons, they kidnapped children, women and drunken men. Somehow those servants and convicts gradually gained respectability in the New World; became mayors and aldermen and members of our Colonial Parliament; or they ran away, or otherwise showed their heels to the masters.
The empire builders came to realise that white servants were unsatisfactory. They found it was costly tracking down their runaway servants and that caused fluctuations in the labour markets and on the plantations.
The Europeans began asking themselves, why should they be concerned with white servants when black people, Negroes, as they became known, presented so few of the difficulties they were encountering with their white brothers.
Because of their colour, and that factor was most relevant, black people could be apprehended easier if they dared to run away. Also they discovered Negroes could be purchased cheaper; and with the inexhaustible supply of blacks, Negro slavery became a fixed institution and their worries about labour were minimised.
Meanwhile the Europeans, bullish about capitalising on the commercial revolution taking place in the Americas began scouring the coast of Africa for black gold. And that became a source of great wealth for those engaged in the trafficking of human souls.
Now the distinctions should be obvious between the original slavery we mentioned earlier as being as old as the hills, and the slave trade that went on from the 1600s and continued for the next three centuries. And what is most interesting is the fact that the Christian church profited most from this traffic. They considered Africans as pagans, and salved their consciences on the grounds that they were converting slaves to Christianity.
But, and this is most important, by the early 1800s sufficient numbers of white people of good conscience and goodwill were so outraged by the barbarity of the slave trade and all that it encompassed, that they started a move to abolish slavery. The Abolitionist Movement became sufficiently powerful enough as to influence the British Parliament to Pass an Act in 1807 abolishing slavery.
However, it took the next 27 years after the passage of that Act abolishing the slave trade, for the actual Emancipation of the Slaves. That occurred on August 1, 1834. And the foregoing brings us directly to Cup Match.
It should be easy to comprehend the joy and excitement of the slaves in Bermuda and their offspring, when Freedom Day came. The rejoicing was unbounded, even though the slaves or former slaves had no material possessions, only the clothes on their backs and their indomitable spirits to sustain them. They had no churches, schools, no infrastructure, but they built one, through the friendly unions, or friendly societies they formed in each community enabling them to care for one another, especially the sick and most importantly, to help bury their dead.
It was those same friendly unions or societies now called Lodges, that spearheaded on August 1 each year after 1834 the celebration of Freedom Day. First there were church services, then parades, picnics, sports and other events that grew indefinably, phenomenally, all packing a soul force that culminated in 1902 into what is now Cup Match.
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