Butler showcases the undeveloped potential of St David’s Island
Convinced their land was needed to help win the Second World War, St David’s Islanders handed it over to make way for Kindley Air Force Base.
According to Dale Butler, it’s a part of Bermuda’s history that needs to be addressed but has been overshadowed by the land grab that took place in Tucker’s Town in the 1920s, two decades earlier.
“St David’s Islanders gave to Bermuda,” said Mr Butler, who learnt of what happened while doing research for his latest book, Reflections of St David’s Island.
“They were brainwashed based on the colonial rhetoric of the day. St David’s Islanders were told: ‘If you let us put the base there you will be able to help America to defeat the Germans.’ The people were helpless. They didn’t understand what was going on. They didn’t have access to lawyers.
“The pain in the Tucker’s Town community over historic land grabs gets a lot of attention in the press, but similar issues in St David’s also have to be addressed.”
A Commission of Inquiry into Historic Land Losses is now taking place, 100 years after a law passed by the House of Assembly allowing for the compulsory purchase of property in the Tucker’s Town area by a private company.
Some St David’s Islanders feel there was not enough input into what happened to the land they sacrificed when it was returned to Bermuda in the 1990s, Mr Butler said.
The former MP, who is not from St David’s and does not have any family there, believes the possibilities for the area are “enormous” and that it has the potential to become a tourist destination next year.
One of its many attractions, St David’s Lighthouse, could be made accessible and marketed in the same way that Gibbs Hill Lighthouse is in Southampton, he said.
“But anyone who wants to do anything there needs to call public meetings and get feedback,” Mr Butler said. “Going forward, whether it is tourism or any other development project, people must spend some time and really call some public meetings and work with them.”
He was inspired to write Reflections of St David’s Island while principal of St George’s Secondary School in the 1980s.
“I mentioned in assembly that we were teaching local history,” he said. “As a historian who was producing books I couldn't find much on St David’s. The only book back then written was in 1948, Life on Old St David's, by E A McCallan.”
With an idea of writing his own, he encouraged his students and their families to share any information they had. While people often came to him with their stories, they did not want their names or photos included.
Mr Butler put the project on hold while he focused on writing books and pamphlets about Bermuda-related topics and helping other authors such as Elizabeth Musson Kawaley whose book, The Island That Disappeared in 2013, detailed how Long Bird Island in St David’s was paved over to make way for Kindley Air Force Base.
While cleaning up at home this year, he came across notes on St David’s he’d compiled decades earlier.
“The week that I discovered the notes again, different people kept on mentioning things about St David’s,” he said.
Mr Butler took it as a sign that he needed to get the project going.
But, because so many St David’s Islanders seemed nervous about being involved, he instead focused on different articles written about the area.
“The book has facts about St David’s and a response from the islanders,” he said. “That way, without mentioning names, I got the sentiment of what the people were telling me.”
He is also selling a “St David’s Island passport” which contains an old map, photos of well-known residents and a visa that lists 50 unique things about the area.
“For example, it has its own international airport,” Mr Butler said. “It has cahows. It has a motor sports park.”
To pay the costs of producing and shipping the book he is selling pens, a calendar, a notebook and other St David’s-branded items.
The project has received the blessing of St David’s Islanders such as area MP Lovitta Foggo, who wrote the opening remarks, and artist and historian Ronnie Chameau. The popular author believes that it might be his last book.
“Now everything is going electronic,” he said. “Most people in my generation like a physical book.”
Buy copies of Reflections of St David’s Island on the Causeway close to the north east bridge from 10am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday. Copies will also be sold at Double Dip Express in St David’s this weekend from 1pm to 5pm. To place an order in advance: email@example.com; 595-9841. For more information visit St David’s First on Facebook and www.stdavidsfirst.com