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An Eagle on –the Brilliant

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It is perhaps indicative of the perils of serving in the Navy at that time that a great number of deaths by drowning, falling from aloft and disease are recorded, mostly relating to people in what would nowadays be described as the prime of life, under thirty years of age.' Ian Stranack, The Andrew and the Onions, 1990

'Indeed, it was only in the 18th century that the erection of permanent markers in England, even simple churchyard headstones, democratised to any great extent beyond the ranks of the artistocracy, gentry and rich merchants, with the trend continuing into the 19th century.' Professor Bruce Elliott, 2011

In the year 1910, the hurricane of death and destruction that was the First World, or Great War, was but a minor depression, soon to increase to tropical storm ferocity as tensions grew between Germany and the other major countries of Western Europe. In Bermuda that spring, the sun shone brilliantly and Easter lilies and Bermudianas began to appear through the grass, where the one was indigenous and the other a Japanese import gone feral. St David's Battery was newly completed with two of the largest guns ever mounted on British fortifications and two smaller ones which guarded the entrance to the Narrows Channel and the inspection anchorage of Five Fathom Hole, the weapons being manned by the recently formed Bermuda Military Artillery, possibly the first such brigade of persons of African descent in the British Empire, then at its height on a monumental global scale. Bermuda was the lynchpin of the defence of that Empire in the seas of the western North Atlantic, with its great Dockyard and massive new fortifications erected in direct consequences of the independence of the United States of America. From the beginning of the Dockyard in 1809 may thus be traced a major increase in the wealth of Bermudian citizenry, as military spending spread throughout the community, as many people, slave and free, were engaged in pursuits that were needed for the turning of the island into the 'Gibraltar of the West'. Construction work at St. George's into the 1840s, for example, was unequalled until the St. George's Hotel (now demolished) was built and early on military officers complained of the exhorbitant rents being charged by home and room letters in the town. Not much changed with regard to the that bit of piracy, except that all military personnel, British, American and Canadian, made a final exit in 1995, following cutbacks at the end of the Cold War: Bermuda's financial and social scenes were much diminished by that end to its primary military role of the past two centuries. In 1910, the island was home to the Fourth and Eight Cruiser Squadrons on the North America and the West Indies Station, and Bermuda was the Royal Navy's central base on that Station, supported by Halifax to the north and Jamaica and other British possessions in the Caribbean arena. Heading up the station in 1909-11 was Rear Admiral Arthur M. Farquhar CVO, possibly the son of Admiral Sir Arthur Farquhar KCB, who was certainly the son of Rear Admiral Sir Arthur Farquhar KCH, the latter two being from Scotland, or as some tombstones are inscribed, 'North Britain'. Prior to his Bermuda appointment, it appears that the first Farquhar was Rear Admiral of the Home Fleet aboard the

Prince George in 1908. One of the vessels that was on the Bermuda station in Rear Admiral Farquhar's day was HMS

Brilliant, sent here in 1908, when it was attached to the 4th Cruiser Squadron at the island. Brilliant was an Apollo class cruiser, laid down in March 1890, and completed for service in 1893, being ignominously sunk as a blockship in April 1918, off Ostend, Belgium, to interfere with German U-boat activity, having been converted to a lightly armed minelayer during the War. With such a name, it has perhaps a cheap shot across its historic bows to suggest that it had less than a brilliant career, but then not every Royal Navy ship was a

Victory, nor should one expect them to be. HMS

Brilliant did leave behind tangible evidence of her presence in Bermuda in the form of a gravemarker and the earthly remains of Joseph William Eagle, Chief Yeoman of Signals, who died here at the age of 39 on 1 April 1910, according to the copper plaque (misspelled 'Eagles') on the marker and family letters from the Captain of the ship to his widow in England. Perhaps in accord with custom of the day, Chief Yeoman Eagle was buried with full military and Masonic ceremony the very same day, watched by members of the Dockyard community of all ilk from the shade of the forest of cedar trees that ringed the Royal Naval Cemetery at Ireland Island, also known as 'The Glade' for the presence of those indigenous trees. The Chief's gravemarker yet reflects the sun in what is now a cedar-less Glade and on September 11, 2011 his granddaughter, Mrs Kezia Thomas, with her husband Dennis, came to see his burial spot, a part of what one might suggest is a growning branch of the visitor trade, perhaps to be called 'Genealogical Tourism'. The Thomases were hosted by local members of the Lodge of Loyalty No. 358 (which started in the Dockyard), as Chief Yeoman Eagle became a Mason of that Lodge on June 25, 1909. They were much impressed with the state of the Royal Naval Cemetery and the hospitality of all that they here encountered during their stay at Pompano and Bermuda: one thinks the Chief would have enjoyed the familial signals coming from Ireland Island on that day, a century and a year after he was laid to rest. Genealogical tourism, not to say of a warlike nature, is due to be enhanced on the island with the availability of a new book by Hilary and Richard Tulloch, Bermuda Memorial Inscriptions, jointly published by the Bermuda National Trust and the National Museum, as Volume 4 of the Monograph Series of the National Museum of Bermuda Press, 'coming soon to a bookstore near you'. That magisterial study is the result of three years of extensive work by the Tullochs, examining and recording most of the military gravestones and other memorial writings throughout Bermuda, ranging from the British Army graveyards at the eastern end of St. George's Island to the Royal Naval Cemetery in the far west of Bermuda at Ireland Island. Though but visitors to our shores, the Tullochs have performed an admirable service to the Island and its military heritage, for which, as in much that our visitors do for us when working hereabouts, we should be, in an ecclesiastic word, 'eternally' grateful, or at least so thankful until it becomes our turn to prop up a Memoria Sacrum ourselves.

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

Proud sailors: Joseph Eagle, on left, posed for an official photograph with a shipmate, about 1900; inset, his ship HMS Brilliant.
Tradition: Burial ceremony of Joseph Eagle with shipmates, Masonic members and the people from the Dockyard community, all surrounded by cedars; inset, the grave marker on September 11, 2011.
Geneaological tourists: Kezia Thomas, the granddaughter of Joseph Eagle, and her husband, Dennis, visit the grave, as visitors out from England.
Masonic members and friends at the Eagle Grave: Pat and Peter Haynes, Varnel and Judy Curtis, Vivian Williams, Dennis and Kezia Thomas, Tudor and Anne Smith and Janice Williams.
Rest in peace: An image of the Royal Naval Cemetery by Charles Anderson; inset, the cover of the forthcoming book on military gravestones and memorials in Bermuda by Hilary and Richard Tulloch.