Mr Gipson makes a tour – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community

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Mr Gipson makes a tour

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‘It is my hope that those who do not know the Bermudas will find enough charm in the pictures to make them want to visit these coral islands. Such a visit will be a travel experience which cannot be equaled for quiet, unpretentious beauty' — Henry Clay Gipson, 1937

Tourism is all in the news at the moment, counterpointed by shootings (which in the Age of the Internet should also be considered ‘crimes against the economy'), as the long-held opinion by some that the handling of that fundamental business should be privatised.

Awaking from a slumber of over twenty years when powers that were sang the frequent unmelodious tune that ‘Tourism is Dead', many people on the Island now appreciate that hotel tourism is essential to Bermuda.

Without a flourishing non-cruise-ship tourism, the Bermuda ship of state will be dead in the water indeed, fulfilling the self-fulfilling prophecy enunciated for so many years by that doomsday faction.

(One wonders if the authorities have contingency plans to relocate boatloads of Bermudians to the dampness of Britain, or if we would be granted refugee status in the USA, including those on the so-called ‘stop list'!)

The fact of the economic matter is that without a good hotel tourism economy, the Island cannot support its population.

Institutions such as museums, art galleries, charities and other such like that rely on hotel visitors would be the first victims, shutting their doors since there would not be enough government funding to keep them open and alive.

One fundamental mistake of recent years has been the unfavourable comparison between Tourism and International Business, along the lines that ‘IB is overtaking Tourism', instead of reciting a mantra that Bermuda needed both ‘international' businesses to pull the carriage of the country in tandem.

Consequently, all those working in tourism were relegated to second and third class citizens, denizens of a dying industry who could not jump ship onto the lucrative gravy train of the other international businesses.

Hopefully this will be reversed in the coming years and Bermudians across the board will come again to appreciate that hotel tourism is our fundamental business, which can sustain the Island when other entities come and go (including cruise ships!).

Of course, the fundamental connection between tourism and ourselves is that what sells Bermuda is what we are as a people, along with all the extraordinary built and portable heritage that we have inherited from our forebears and from the British and US military forces and other sources.

It is that heritage which attracted people like US photographer Henry Clay Gipson Jr (1908—1998) and other notables in the decades before the Second World War, coming as they did from our perpetual main market of the East Coast of the United States.

Henry got so entranced with the place that he produced his own tour guide by way of a booklet of pictures of Bermuda, published with a spiral binding by Cameron & Bulkley of New York in 1937.

Perhaps the booklet reflects a man of few words but an inspired vision, which is certainly what he presented to the public about Bermuda.

Gipson also collaborated with F van Wyck Mason, the famous author and Bermuda resident, in the murder mystery, “The Castle Island Case”, also published in 1937.

Such a work of fiction also encouraged people to visit Bermuda (but not to get bumped off).

Gipson's tour of 24 photographs of Bermuda starts appropriately with an image of the Monarch of Bermuda transiting Two Rock Passage, for ships were the only way to get to Bermuda until 1937 when Pan American World Airways and Imperial Airways began a ‘flying boat' service.

Henry then goes for the heritage jugular with a photo of the oldest standing building in Bermuda, the iconic King's Castle, which unfortunately does not look as good today as it did in his picture as it has suffered much in recent hurricanes.

From Castle Island, he rightly takes the photographic tour to the now World Heritage Site of the Town of St George's with a particularly fetching Queen Street scene near St Peter's Church and an overview of the town and Ordnance Island, the latter with nine buildings, all but one now gone.

Gipson then travels to the far west of Bermuda to present the ‘Buttery' at the National Trust property of “Springfield” on Somerset Island, returning in subsequent images to the City of Hamilton with a view of one of the last schooners to ply a cargo trade into the Island under sail.

In the next view under the caption ‘Transportation', Gipson captures a donkey cart with a flying boat overhead, suggesting the coming change in getting visitors to Bermuda from the water to the air.

He also presents one of the earliest aerial photographs of Bermuda taken from the Imperial Airways flying boat, Cavalier, crossing over Horseshoe (Great Turtle) Bay on its approach to land at the Darrell's Island Terminal, now a crumbling piece of aviation heritage.

The photo must have been taken on one of the earliest Imperial Airways flights from New York, as his book was published in 1937 and such flights only began after the flying boat was assembled here and test flown on 25 May that year.

In the centre of his tour book, Henry Clay gave the reader a wonderful portrait of Mary Lamb (who may have been a Fox, as she has a wedding ring) of St David's Island and alludes to her part Native American ancestry, not from any indigenous peoples of this place, as there were none, but of Indians and others brought to Bermuda as slaves or otherwise.

The Gombeys complete his presentation of live human heritage in the archipelago.

He then includes homes, farms, churches and other places of interest, all in all an enticing tour on paper that doubtless encouraged many to visit this land of ‘unpretentious beauty'.

Given the present state of the economy, some of Gipson's few words are poignant and reflect the changing ‘heritage' of money matters in the place: “Bermuda is a country almost without any outstanding public debt, and with such a surplus in the treasury each year that the legislature is kept busy planning ways to spend it.”

Then very little was spent by the Legislature to preserve the extraordinary heritage that Henry Clay Gipson presented in his photographic tour guide: it is left to you to consider the changes into present times.

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

Henry Clay Gipson's views of Hamilton Harbour, by night with the Queen of Bermuda and by day with tourist rental yachts and a departing ‘Lady Boat' of the Quebec Steamship Line.
Gipson's image of Queen Street, St George's, with “Taylor House” and “Stewart Hall” on the left, indicative of Bermuda's unique domestic (World Heritage) architecture.
‘In the strong, aquiline features of Mary Lamb, a present day resident of St David's Island, can be seen bold evidence of her American Indian blood…'.
The King's Castle on Castle Island was started in 1612, soon after the permanent settlement of Bermuda began on 10 July that year.
In this Gipson view, possibly of late May 1937, a man and boy look skyward to the coming mode of transportation for many American visitors to Bermuda.

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Published September 07, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated September 06, 2013 at 6:28 pm)

Mr Gipson makes a tour

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