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Francis Harvey Edmondson (1866-1964): against universal suffrage but respected for community service

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Francis Harvey Edmondson oversaw the rebuilding of Alexandrina Hall on Court Street after it was nearly demolished by a hurricane in 1926. The building, now the home of dance school United Dance Productions, right, is still owned by the Oddfellows.

In acknowledgement of Black History Month, The Royal Gazette continues the publication of stories throughout February on African-American, Black Bermudian and global African people, events and institutions, and their contributions in history

For more than 50 years during the era of segregation, F. Harvey Edmondson devoted his time and talents to Friendly Societies and other Black institutions.

A carpenter by trade, he was chairman of the Berkeley Educational Society from 1935 to 1946. He was also chairman of the Bermuda Nursing Association, the parent body of the Bermuda Nursing Home and its successor, the Cottage Hospital Nursing Home.

Francis Harvey Edmondson (Photograph courtesy of the Berkeley Educational Society Centenary Journal)

A leading lodgeman, he was a longtime general secretary of Alexandrina Lodge, and oversaw the reconstruction of Alexandrina Hall in Hamilton after it was demolished by a hurricane. From 1938 to 1948, he was a Member of Parliament for Warwick.


July 4, 1866: Born in Paget

December 1898: Elected general secretary of Alexandrina Lodge

October 1919: Marries third wife, Mary Darrell, of Flatts

1926: Oversees the rebuilding of Alexandrina Hall after it was destroyed by a hurricane

March 1935: Eldest son John Harvey dies at age 39 after a long illness, leaving Leonard as the sole survivor of his five children

1935-1946: Chairman of the Berkeley Educational Society

Circa 1904: Elected chairman of the Bermuda Nursing Association (served in this position for 50 years)

1938: Elected to Parliament and serves two terms (honoured by lodges for his service)

May 1948: Stands for re-election and is defeated by newcomer E.T. Richards

1952: Retires as president of the Bermuda Nursing Association

1960: Appointed a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE)

October 24, 1964: Dies at his home, “Edmonton” at age 98


Edmondson was born on July 4, 1866 in Paget, and lived in Warwick for most of his life. He was one of five children to William Joseph Edmondson and Martha Harvey.

The public record is silent about his early schooling or where he learnt his trade, but it is likely he attended Paget Glebe School. He ran his carpentry shop on Washington Lane in Hamilton before moving it to Court Street.

He devoted much of his energies to Alexandrina Lodge, which was established by the Oddfellows in 1852, and whose building on Court Street, Hamilton, Alexandrina Hall, was constructed during the 1860s. Edmondson was elected general secretary in December 1898 and held the position for more than 50 years.

When Alexandrina Hall was nearly destroyed by a hurricane in 1926, he oversaw its rebuilding and remained in charge of the building’s maintenance.

In taking on the role of chairman of the Berkeley Educational Society — the governing body of The Berkeley Institute — he was following in the footsteps of his father, who served as chairman from 1905 to 1911.


For a time, he served as chairman of the executive committee of the Bermuda Nursing Home, which was established around 1904, with financial backing from several lodges, as a nursing home for elderly lodge members and for the training of Black district nurses.

He was chairman of Bermuda Nursing Association for 50 years. In this role, he led the drive to raise funds for the nursing home. Although the Government eventually increased its annual grant and assumed greater responsibility for operation of the nursing home, this did not diminish the need for additional funding.

For Black nurses for whom employment at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital was off limits because of their race, and Black doctors who were denied admitting privileges, the Nursing Home and its successor, the Cottage Hospital Nursing Home on Happy Valley Road, were an important link in the island’s healthcare system until it closed in 1956.

When Edmondson was honoured for his service to the association and to lodges in general in 1952, he was praised for his dedication, especially during the early years when keeping the nursing home open was a “struggle”.


Edmondson also dipped his toes into the political waters in 1938, when he was elected to Parliament, and served two terms. But in 1948, the Warwick Political Association led by power broker Martin Wilson determined it was time for Edmondson, then age 82, to step down.

E.T. Richards, who had recently qualified as a lawyer, was the association’s choice to replace him. Edmondson agreed to resign, then changed his mind. E.T. Richards, who would become Bermuda’s first Black leader, told biographer J. Randolf Williams that Edmondson was more acceptable to Front Street businessmen.

Unlike labour leader E.F. Gordon, Edmondson was no firebrand. He told a political meeting held before the General Election that he supported the 1948 White Paper, which E.F. Gordon had denounced as “trash”, and was not in favour of universal suffrage. Gordon, who was at the meeting, took Edmondson to task, asking him why he consistently voted “against the interests of the underprivileged in Bermuda”.

In the end, Edmondson was defeated at the May 1948 General Election, while Richards was successful. Edmondson retired from public life in 1952. In 1960, he was appointed a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. He died at the age of 98 at his home, “Edmonton” in Warwick, where he had lived since 1894. His funeral took place at his family church, St Paul in Paget.


Edmondson outlived two wives, Mary Ingham and Susan Robinson Eve, and four of his five children. Daughters Muriel and Sybil died in infancy, son Alfred died age 10, while his eldest son, John Harvey, a Canadian-trained accountant, died in 1935 at age 39.

He was survived by his third wife, the former Mary Darrell of Flatts, son Leonard Edmondson and a grandchild, Jeannette Fubler.

Edmondson did not challenge the political status quo. Richards’s biographer, Randolf Williams, described him as “mild-mannered”. Yet, by all accounts, he commanded respect for his community service. His work on behalf of institutions that supported the welfare, education and health of Black Bermudians is worthy of recognition.

• Courtesy of Meredith Ebbin and bermudabiographies.bm

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Published February 11, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated February 10, 2023 at 3:43 pm)

Francis Harvey Edmondson (1866-1964): against universal suffrage but respected for community service

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