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CoI: cemetery damage made descendant furious

Eugene Stovell (left) answers questions from Joseph Whalen, pastor at the Mardesn First United Methodist Church (right), at the Commission of Inquiry into Historic Land Loss in Bermuda

A descendant of Tucker’s Town residents said yesterday that he felt “not important” when a cemetery was “desecrated” in 2012.

Eugene Stovell told the Commission of Inquiry into Historic Land Loss in Bermuda that he was “extremely angry” at the way a restoration project was handled.

He said: “I was at work doing my chores and while I was working the phone went off and I picked it up and somebody was on the other end screaming that ’hey, you gotta come down here to the cemetery, they’re down there desecrating the cemetery, they’re pulling it apart’.

“I couldn’t believe it … I said they just restored the thing, what do you mean they’re down there desecrating it?”

He added: “I felt I had to go down and see what the person was talking about.”

Mr Stovell was asked about the incident as the Commission saw a copy of an article in The Royal Gazette from October 2012.

The report said that members of the Tucker’s Town Historical Society claimed they were left out of discussions between the Marsden First United Methodist Church and Edward Harris, then of the National Museum of Bermuda, on the restoration of the cemetery.

It added that the Old Tucker’s Town graveyard was on the Tucker’s Point golf course and held the remains of former residents of the area.

The article said that work was under way to remove what were said by experts to be false sarcophagi and to extend a portion of the eastern wall, under the supervision of Dr Harris and overseas archaeologists.

But it added that the Tucker’s Town Historical Society were “the active custodians of the interest of the descendants of Tucker’s Town” who were moved out for tourist development in the 1920s and that they felt they “should have been included in meetings.”

Pastor Joseph Whalen, of the Marsden First United Methodist Church, said at the time that the graveyard was “in the custodianship” of the church, which negotiated with the golf course management over carrying out the work.

Mr Stovell, 71, said yesterday that he was “not happy at all” at the situation.

He added: “We couldn’t understand how that could have been done, at least we in the Tucker’s Town Historical Society were never informed or … were brought into the loop … because I have lots of relatives buried in the cemetery.”

Mr Stovell read part of his witness statement to the Commission, which said: “This makes me extremely angry and gives me the feeling that the people that lived at Tucker’s Town, that toiled the soil, that were satisfied with their community and way of life have been disrespected because of who they were.

“If Queen Victoria was buried down there, they wouldn’t have done this – there would probably be an honour guard down there still protecting her grave.

“What this translates to me as a descendant is the message that I am not important in this country.”

The Commission heard that Mr Stovell had researched the 1921 Bermuda Census, which showed that the population was 20,127.

Mr Stovell said: “The African Bermudian community was two-to-one the white community and we had a 36-seat Parliament, which had 34 white members and only two black members.”

The research found that only 1,408 men could vote – 934 were white men and 474 were black men.

Mr Stovell pointed out that the electoral system meant that people who owned property in more than one parish could cast extra votes.

He added: “It made me understand how easy it was for these folks to be able to take whatever they want.

“They had the power – the political power, they had the legal power – they had everything behind them.

“They had the military, the police and everybody behind them. They were in charge, they were the man.”

Mr Whalen also asked Mr Stovell questions at the hearing.

He said: “It would not be in the interests of the church or the trustees to desecrate its own cemetery, that wouldn’t make much sense, would it?”

Mr Stovell agreed that it would not.

Technical problems meant that The Royal Gazette was unable to hear some of yesterday’s hearing.

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Published October 29, 2020 at 12:00 pm (Updated October 29, 2020 at 12:10 am)

CoI: cemetery damage made descendant furious

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