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Pastor: Resort failed to stop desecration of cemetery

Reverend Joseph Whalen, pastor at Marsden First United Methodist Church, left, and Craig Tucker, former trustee chairman at the church (Photograph supplied)

A church pastor said yesterday that golf course operators “failed” to stop the “desecration” of graves where Bermudian ancestors were buried.

The Reverend Joseph Whalen told the Commission of Inquiry into Historic Losses of Land in Bermuda that the resting places were not protected from golf balls hit from a Tucker’s Point driving range.

Dr Whalen, the pastor of Marsden First United Methodist Church – the custodian of the graveyard – was asked to comment on the problem.

He said: “It is considered desecration.”

Dr Whalen added: “Usually burial ground is a place where it’s a hallowed place, it’s a sacred place for the dead to be at rest.

“To me, there’s no rest certainly for those who are the descendants with the knowledge of ... the golf balls."

He explained that recommendations made to the Tucker’s Point Club included redirection of the driving range and the provision of a suitable canopy to stop balls landing at the site.

Dr Whalen said that the club agreed, in an April 2009 letter, to “consider a number of alternatives including additional netting”.

Reading from the letter, he told the Commission that the club said an architect was commissioned to design a net structure to “fully protect the graveyard”.

Rosewood Hotels and Resorts took on management of the property that includes the golf course in 2011. The resort was acquired by an affiliate of Gencom in 2017 and is now called Rosewood Bermuda.

Dr Whalen said: “We have been up and down like a yo-yo in dealing with this, back and forth with Tucker’s Point, Rosewood Tucker’s Point.

“They keep on bringing a design, a proposal, an attempt and it always fails.

“At one time they had a general manager who had been over a golf club in the US that had a similar issue.

“He told us that they managed to have some kind of protective covering and that he was going to pursue this as a solution or resolution.

“It never went anywhere so it has been a failure.”

The pastor added: “We have gotten assurances, we met with owners … nothing adequate has transpired, now there’s no net at all down there.”

The Commission earlier heard from Craig Tucker, a Tucker’s Town descendant and former trustee chairman at the church.

He explained that “numerous ancestors in Tucker’s Town are associated with Marsden members” and it was his understanding that the graveyard was not conveyed to developers when ownership of surrounding land was transferred.

Mr Tucker, a retired HSBC vice-president, was asked about earlier evidence from another witness that related to an article in The Royal Gazette from October 2012.

The report said 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.

It added 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 Edward Harris, then of the National Museum of Bermuda, and overseas archaeologists.

Mr Tucker said: “I don’t recall there being any evidence of the graves actually being dug up.”

He added: “Within that article there was no sense of the bodies being removed.”

Mr Tucker said: “The trustees of Marsden had consented to the removal of the concrete slabs as they were not part of the original graves.”

He said that work was carried out “unbeknown” to the church trustees.

Mr Tucker pointed out: “The trustees asked for and were given verbal assurances that nothing of the original structure of the graves would be violated.”

He added: “The church did not participate in any way in the work done at the cemetery.”

Mr Tucker told the Commission that church trustees joined renewed calls for the redirection of the driving range at the golf course.

He said: “It really is, in my view, very poor taste for them to put it in that location because when the balls are hit they essentially drop into the cemetery.

“We are still quite upset about that, we don’t like that.

“We had an agreement with Rosewood that they were supposed to put some form of a netting or some cover over it to be able to keep the golf balls out.

“In our view, we feel that the driving range essentially should be moved.”

He added: “There’s really no need for the driving range to be where it is.”

The Commission of Inquiry continues.

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Published November 19, 2020 at 9:24 am (Updated November 19, 2020 at 10:46 am)

Pastor: Resort failed to stop desecration of cemetery

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