Raymond DeShields (1933-2021): Carpenter who built the Deliverance replica
A carpenter trained as a shipwright in the Dockyard Apprentices programme went on to build the landmark Deliverance replica in St George – his proudest accomplishment.
Raymond DeShields fondly called the Deliverance “his baby” and enjoyed dropping by the Olde Towne to check on the historic attraction, according to his niece, Sergeant Debbie Symons of the Royal Bermuda Regiment.
Two ships, the Deliverance and the Patience, were built from Bermuda cedar with pieces from the wreckage of the Sea Venture after it foundered off Bermuda in 1609.
In June 1610, they delivered food and supplies to the Sea Venture’s intended destination, Britain’s early colony at Jamestown in Virginia, where famine-stricken settlers were clinging to survival.
Mr DeShields’ journey to recreating the ship, based on plans by dock master Ralph McCallan, started with his childhood passion for carpentry.
Growing up in North Village, he was sent to collect sawdust for the family’s outhouse at a neighbourhood carpentry shop, where he was soon working after school.
The promise of woodwork training took him to the apprenticeship programme at the West End in 1949, when he was 16.
In 1950, he was sent to Portsmouth in England to complete his education as a shipwright.
While abroad, he formed a singing group called the Bermuda Quartet with three other apprentices, ending up on the BBC.
Mr DeShields returned to the UK for work, and developed the skills that ultimately went into the Deliverance.
He spent three months at the Portsmouth Naval Base at work repairing the replica of the Royal Navy’s famed HMS Victory, which was Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Mr DeShield credited that job when it came to the task of building the Deliverance for the Junior Service League, with the assistance of carpenter Gary Paynter, for which he was hired in 1968.
He recalled the experience for The Royal Gazette in 2009.
“It took us about 18 months to complete,” he said.
“I made the mast myself. It was made of Canadian spruce. When I started, we were being paid in pounds, shillings and pence, and before I finished it changed to dollars.
“I was quite happy with the outcome.”
Mr DeShields was the son of John W Deshields, a veteran of the Second World War who served in the 1st Battalion of the Caribbean Regiment, and Edna Deshields.
He was a regular in the November 11 Remembrance Day parade in honour of his father.
Ms Symonds said her uncle made a point of arriving early at the Cenotaph to hold seats for his siblings Elizabeth, Marilyn and Bradlyn.
His success with the Deliverance led to more work, especially on boats: Mr DeShields repaired Bermuda fitted dinghies, worked for the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, as well as working on yachts, including as a deck hand.
He told the Gazette in 2018: “Over the years, I’ve worked on boats all over Bermuda and even overseas, but I think the thing I’m most proud of in my life is the work I did on the Deliverance replica.”
Mr DeShields was a passionate supporter of the Progressive Labour Party, canvassing for candidates over many years – which was recognised in 2018 at the party’s founder’s day Drum Major awards.
Ms Symons said: “Raymond lived his life, travelling the world, and was always invited to bring in big yachts all over the world.
“Raymond will be strongly remembered by his loved ones, by many who he taught, and those who knew of his talent.”
• Raymond Harold DeShields, a Dockyard Apprentice shipwright, was born on August 20, 1933. He died in October 2021, aged 88.