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Turks & Caicos Islands: the tenth parish

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White House, Salt Cay, Turks & Caicos Islands. Built of Bermuda limestone, the classic Bermuda house belonged to the Harriott family

Bermuda is part of a global village, and as importantly, we are part of a regional village.

One of the countries that is close to us in more ways that one is the Turks & Caicos Islands.

Located some 850 miles to our southwest, TCI is an archipelago of 40 islands. However, only nine are inhabited: Ambergris Cay, Grand Turk, East Caicos, West Caicos, North Caicos, South Caicos, Salt Key, Providenciales.

Some of the key statistics are as follows:

• Size: 649 square miles

• Population: 40,000 (70 per cent guest workers)

• Main economy: tourism

• Currency: US dollar

• Language: English

• Parliamentary system: Westminster

• Number of elected officials: 15

Without a doubt, the most relevant fact is that the vast majority of Turks & Caicos islanders are descended from Bermudians.

Salt rakers at work in the 1960s on Grand Turk (Photograph supplied)

White Gold

Starting in the late 1600s, Bermudians, both free and enslaved, travelled to islands such as Salt Cay and Grand Turk, in order to spend up to ten months harvesting white gold, Salt.

Prior to the advent of refrigeration, salt was used to preserve fish and meats on ships travelling to and from North America, Europe and the Caribbean region. Needless to say, the ability to deliver edible food after months of being on the sea was imperative to hundreds of ship owners.

Over the course of time, hundreds of Bermudians were taken down to TCI to become “Salt rakers” and many migrated back and forth between the two islands. Some went on to the Bahamas and other islands, while others actually remained in TCI.

This structure, believed to have been owned by Bermudians Richard and Robert Darrell, may have been where Mary Prince and her mother and sister lived while raking salt in the Turks & Caicos Islands

One of the most well known of these salt rakers was Bermuda’s National Hero Mary Prince.

Originally born in Devonshire, Bermuda, she, along with her mother and younger sister, Rebecca, were taken to TCI to labour in the salt ponds for Richard and Robert Darrell.

No doubt, the life of enslaved persons was brutal and Mary Prince’s narrative describes this in graphic detail.

Family ties

Some of the common surnames to be found are as follows: Astwood, Butterfield, Basden, Bean/Been, Darrell, Durham, Frith, Lightbourn(e), Missick/Misick, Robinson, Seymour, Saunders, Talbot, Taylor, Wilson, Williams.

Anything sound familiar?

Those surnames would ring a bell, as they are the exact same surnames that one would hear every day in Bermuda.

Some may say: “Oh, that is just a coincidence.”

Well, if further proof of the connection is needed, one would only need to listen to the accents/dialects of native TC Islanders. It would not take more than one minute to be lured into thinking that you are listening to any given Bermudian.

Depending on variables such as age, family background and which island they grew up in, TC islanders’ accent is 70 per cent to 90 per cent similar to Bermudian accents.

Recently, the Premier of TCI, Washington Misick — who descends from Bermudians — gave a speech. Many Bermudians remarked that his accent and delivery sounded nearly identical to former finance minister Bob Richards.

Have a listen to this recent interview.


Joined history

As we learn more and more about Bermuda’s history, we must also make a concerted effort to learn more and more about TCI. They are literally our family, and as such could actually be considered our tenth parish.

Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at carib_pro@yahoo.com

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Published June 17, 2022 at 7:59 am (Updated June 16, 2022 at 1:36 pm)

Turks & Caicos Islands: the tenth parish

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