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Back to the future: New parliamentary year marked in country’s first capital

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John Rankin, the Governor, who gave the first Throne Speech in St George in more than 200 years. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

St George took a step back in time yesterday as the first Throne Speech for more than 200 years was delivered in what was once the island’s seat of government.

Parliamentarians and a few members of the public gathered at King’s Square to mark the 400th anniversary of the establishment of a General Assembly in the Olde Towne.

George Dowling, the Mayor of St George, said that it was “moving” to see the first Convening of the Legislature in the town since 1815, when Hamilton became the island’s capital and seat of government.

He added: “As far as I know this is the first time that we’ve actually celebrated a major anniversary with the Convening of the Legislature in the town.”

“It’s a great opportunity for us and for the town to showcase itself.”

Mr Dowling said that the Throne Speech gave the town an opportunity to show off how well looked after the centrepiece King’s Square was.

Mr Dowling added that, although the town was always “inspection-ready”, the Corporation of St George went “above and beyond” to make sure that the streets were clean and the buildings were well kept.

He said that St George was “where it all started” and that the occasion was a great opportunity for the public to me minded of the historical significance of the Old Towne.

Mr Dowling added: “From the State House to St Peter’s Church, these were the seats of Government in the early years of Bermuda’s growth.”

MPs walk the steps of St Peter’s Church in St George’s to be sworn in to the House of Assembly. From left: Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Ianthia Simmons-Wade, the Warwick North East MP, and Kim Swan, the St George’s West MP. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

MPs, dressed in smart suits and bright dresses, were sworn into the House of Assembly at the nearby St Peter’s Church.

Dennis Lister was reappointed the Speaker of the House after a near-unanimous vote in his favour.

Mr Lister told MPs: “You have made history today. This is the first time the assembly has met in St George’s since 1815.”

Mr Lister said the anniversary theme of “Bermuda: Future Matters” was an opportunity to reflect.

He added: “Have we become all that we should be, 400 years later as a country?”

Mr Lister said the occasion was a chance for “Bermudians to understand that we have more in common than the things we allow to keep us apart”.

The Royal Bermuda Regiment, which marked its 55th anniversary this year, added a touch of military precision with a parade, including the Band & Corps of Drums, on to the square.

Mr Dowling granted the RBR the Freedom of St George, a centuries-old honour that permits military units to march through the streets with “bayonets fixed, colours flying and band playing” to celebrate its birthday.

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Published November 07, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated November 06, 2020 at 4:37 pm)

Back to the future: New parliamentary year marked in country’s first capital

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