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Remembering Edward Cross

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Edward Cross, founder of the Long Distance Comet Race

As National Heroes Day approaches on June 17, many Bermudian sailors are in training to compete in the Edward Cross Long Distance Comet Race. Others plan to attend as spectators, either on boats or lining the shores, along the route to the West End. It is an important date in the history of local sailing and a reminder of the man for whom this race has been named.

Edward Cross, by all reports, was an unassuming man who did not seek fame or fortune. This is probably why little is known of him other than his name as it appears on the cup he crafted 79 years ago. He was not asked to design or make it, but he saw the significance of a commemorative trophy to be awarded after an often difficult sailing race.

His father, Howard Alexander Cross, was a boilermaker from St George’s Parish. He had worked for many years with Meyer’s Machine Shop before moving to Somerset to work in the Dockyard. He married Laura Elizabeth Maybury, from Sandys, and in 1916 Edward, the second of their nine children, was born.

Edward Alexander James Cross was christened and confirmed at St. James Church, lived on Cook’s Hill and attended the West End Primary School. Carpentry had always fascinated him and before long he was learning the trade while working in carpentry shops until he went to work with his father in the Dockyard. The difference was that Edward was a specialist with the lathe. (The lathe is described as the “mother of all machine tools” and one of the most ancient tools able to perform a wide range of tasks. Its history dates back to 1300BC when invented by the Egyptians.)

In 1937, at the age of 21, he married Ismay Simmons and moved to Scaur Hill, where they raised eight children.

It is said that Edward Cross did not swim and was not involved in the building of boats. However, he did own a comet in partnership with his friend, Arnold “Midnight” Knights. After the frightening race of 1944 when the weather was a challenge to even the most seasoned sailors, he avoided competitive sailing.

The trophy for the Edward Cross Long Distance Comet Race

Although Edward Cross was a skilled carpenter, he preferred lathe work and particularly enjoyed making souvenirs. In his retirement, he had a workshop beside his home on Scaur Hill. He made a variety of souvenirs, including cedar lamps, cedar trays and ashtrays that stood on legs. He was known to make samples of all his work. His son, Howard, and nephew, Alphonso, were charged with sanding all of his cedar work and perfection was expected of them.

Today you can see his work in St James Church in Somerset, where he crafted the two cedar flower stands.

Lady Martonmere, wife of Lord Martonmere, Governor of Bermuda from 1964 to 1972, made pictures with shells as a hobby. She had heard about the work of Edward Cross and sought him to make the cedar frames used to display her work.

In 1945, he designed and made a cedar trophy to commemorate the long-distance race and it remains the coveted prize for the winner of the comet race that now bears his name.

Mr Cross never missed the annual race and, although he was invited to travel on the official boat, he preferred to sail on a craft provided by his friends.

In 1971, the Government of Bermuda purchased “Camden”. He is recorded as one of four men who renovated the dining room of what is now the official residence of the Premier of Bermuda. This dining room has a cedar table with 24 chairs and 24 chargers. It is unknown as to whether he contributed to the making of the cedar chairs and table, but it is known that Mr Cross made the cedar chargers. (A charger is an under-plate used in fine dining to protect the table from hotplates or safeguard the tablecloth from being soiled. It is removed before dessert is served.)

Certificate of Honour bestowed upon Edward Cross by the Queen for his contributions to sailing in Bermuda

In 1990, Edward Cross was awarded the Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour as a highly skilled cedar carpenter and for his involvement with the long distance comet races in Bermuda.

He was a member of the Somerset Cricket Club, West End Sailboat Club and the Somerset Venture In Progress Group, which was commonly called the VIPs.

In 1994, the West End Sailboat Club celebrated its 50th anniversary. To mark the occasion, Edward Cross decided to make miniature replicas of the original cup to present to every participant. On that anniversary year, the race was won by Rudy Bailey sailing in Kitty Hawk.

Making these replicas was a mammoth task and owing to his failing health, he enlisted the help of nephew-in-law George Ratteray to complete his last labour of love. By the August of that same year this humble, creative man, Edward Cross, had departed this world.

Although he was not a competitive sailor, his contribution to comet sailboat racing in Bermuda must never be forgotten.

Cecille Snaith-Simmons is a retired nurse, historian, writer and author of The Bermuda Cookbook

Cecille Snaith-Simmons is a retired nurse, historian, writer and author of The Bermuda Cookbook. With sincere thanks to Madree Cross-Musson for the photographs and information on her father

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Published June 14, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated June 20, 2024 at 8:38 am)

Remembering Edward Cross

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