Storyteller aiming to preserve tradition
With a Bermuda history going back 11 generations, Peter Frith has a lot of stories to tell.
His lineage on both sides can be traced back to early settlers of the island.
Having worked in hospitality for 40 years, he’s shared his tales, but as the St George’s Foundation prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary, the general manager knows his isn’t the only story worth telling.
Crossroads of the Atlantic is one of several initiatives put forth by SGF in honour of its milestone. The upcoming exhibition is based upon chapters of Michael Jarvis’s book In the Eye of All Trade, which looks at Bermuda and its maritime history from 1680 to 1783.
“This is designed to tell our full story,” Mr Frith said. “Both the good and the bad. To show our true diversity as a community and how we all have made important contributions, regardless of race, colour or creed.
“When you’ve got longevity on both sides of the family going back that far, it’s easy for the history of the island to rub off and for me to pick up all the stories.”
His ancestors were among the first settlers in 1609.
On his mother’s side he is a direct descendant of Sea Venture sailor, Christopher Carter.
“He can be classified as the first real true Bermudian as he chose to stay here and not go anywhere else,” Mr Frith laughed.
The Friths arrived in 1620.
“A distant cousin to the famous privateer Hezekiah Frith, my branch of the Friths actually left Bermuda and became part of a Bermudian contingent that colonised the Turks and Caicos and were part of the salt trade.
“Then my granddad [Archibald Frith] came back to Bermuda in 1882.”
After retirement, his mother Betty Frith worked at Tucker House and was curator for St George’s Historical Society at Mitchell House. His father, Horace Frith, became the curator of the Carriage Museum on Water Street. His brother David Frith is the town crier.
Mr Frith started his career at the Hamilton Princess Hotel & Beach Club in 1974. He worked for the Department of Tourism and the Fairmont Southampton before taking on his current post in St George’s.
“Being a salesman, marketing, people person, I’ve been out front conversing with visitors to the island since the beginning,” he said.
“With that comes the love and passion that you have for your home. I just got real good at telling everybody about it.
“People could see straight away this passion for my island. I became, as the Princess senior executives called me, ‘Mr Bermuda’. It was in my blood.”
Mr Frith retired from the Fairmont Southampton in 2010, looking for a way to “give back to his favourite town”.
He became museums manager for the Bermuda National Trust and then general manager of SGF in January 2016.
The 64-year-old described it as his “dream job”.
“Every single day I was learning more and more and more about Bermuda’s history. I became a very good storyteller and a tour guide extraordinaire.
“I can speak for five minutes or five hours without any hesitation and this job allows me to do that. Isn’t that perfect?” he laughed.
The St David’s resident’s days are never the same.
“I’m a one-man band with an excellent team of volunteers. I’m an event planner as well as an office administrator. Like any charity in Bermuda there’s an extreme amount of administration.”
Fundraising is the biggest challenge.
“We hear it bandied around all the time that Bermuda has more charities than churches. They were looking for my connections, my communication skills and my outgoing personality to generate more revenue and to bring in more funds.
“I’m constantly, dare I use the word, struggling in order to maintain a steady flow of funding to keep the St George’s Foundation operating.”
Mr Frith has put out a 20th anniversary fundraising appeal for the upcoming projects, maintenance and exhibitions, which include a raffle and a gala dinner.
He hopes to raise $250,000 for the work, an estimated $80,000 for the Crossroads of the Atlantic exhibit.
The Foundation is also looking to emulate some of the interactive attractions used at Jamestown, the historic US city it twinned with in 2010, and draw on their strong connection with Lyme Regis in Dorset, England.
“I was part of the catalyst to bring the three towns together to be known as the Historic Atlantic Triangle,” he said.
“It’s a term called tripling. St George’s and Lyme Regis were twinned. We have now formed three towns together.”
His ultimate plan is to create a historical social network.
“It’s about getting people inspired to leave where they are and come to visit me,” he said. “Showing how we really are just a mere six degrees of separation between people and events.
“We talk about our black history and our Native Americans, our Portuguese and our British history. Bermuda’s a melting pot of all of these.
“Why can’t we quadruple with Lisbon in Portugal and why can’t we make a connection with one of the African cities that was involved in the slave trade and learn from their history and share it with ours?”
• Learn more at www.sgf.bm. Contact Mr Frith on email@example.com or 297-8043