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Walk highlights the displacement of Tucker’s Town residents

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Less than 100 years ago, scores of black families were forcibly displaced from their homes in Tucker's Town, on the grounds that the land was needed for tourism.

Yesterday, hundreds of people visited the same site and were asked to consider whether the sacrifice was worthwhile and whether the area should be further developed in a fresh bid to boost visitor numbers.

Some of the descendants of those Bermudians who lived in Tucker's Town before 1919, when the government of the day decided to compulsorily acquire the area, would undoubtedly answer no to both questions.

They are already horrified that the graveyard where their ancestors lie is in the middle of a golf course at the failing five-star Rosewood Tucker's Point resort.

The tiny village cemetery was one of 20 points of interest featured in a two-mile “informational walkabout” around Tucker's Point yesterday and it was perhaps the most poignant.

Other stopping points revealed the rich environmental worth of the Hamilton Parish location: the rare native trees and ferns, the dense woodland, the rock formations, the limestone caves.

At one parkland area, environmentalist Stuart Hayward had blocked a dazzling view of the sea with a huge white tarpaulin emblazoned with the words: “Farewell to all this!”

But it was at the golf club, overlooking the graves, where the emotional impact of plans to extend the resort could really be felt.

As oblivious golfers practised their swings on the driving range, Eugene Stovell, a researcher for Tucker's Town Historical Society, told walk participants of his family's deep roots there.

“My great, great, great grandfather and his wife and some of their children are buried there,” he said.

As he pointed out the graves and the scattered golf balls nearby, he added: “The good thing about it is they are dead. It's their last resting place that's being used as a practise range. The balls are right down in there.”

He said promises made to residents back in the 1920s that the plot would be tended amounted to nothing.

“They didn't pay it no ragged mind,” he said. “When Tucker's Point came into being, we managed to get them to clean it up. You couldn't see it for overgrowth.”

Headilene Stephenson, of Smith's, who was on the walk to find out more about the special development order (SDO) approved last week in the House of Assembly for Tucker's Point, said: “Looking at it, to me, it just has a feeling of, let's say, on the disrespectful side.

“Imagine if they built some golf club area and it was near St John's Cemetery. People would be making off and something would be done and it probably wouldn't happen.”

Further along the route, there was more history from Denny Richardson, deputy chairman of the Historical Society, whose family owned about 140 acres at Tucker's Town.

He told how one homeowner, Aunt Dina Smith, was “dragged out kicked and screaming” from her property and “died of a broken heart”.

“We need to let folks know that they cannot push us around like they used to,” he said.

Standing in front of some of the original Tucker's Town cottages, he told walkers that allowing the owners of Tucker's Point, who were losing more than $1 million a month from the start of 2009 through to the end of August last year, to continue to develop was a dangerous gamble.

The SDO will allow the Development Applications Board to consider plans for 78 homes and 70 hotel rooms to be built on Quarry Hill and Paynter's Hill but Mr Richardson said that wouldn't do much for the Island's tourism industry, as Government has claimed.

“We had 14,000 [hotel] beds in the 1960s and now we are down to less than 3,000 and they think 70 beds down here is going to make a difference? Spare me.

“There are 2,000 condos unoccupied in Bermuda now. Tell them to go down to St George's and put the hotel down there. The caves will be lost.

“The habitats will be lost. Those folks can walk away and leave us with rubbish. We need to preserve something.”

Denny Richardson, centre in reflective vest, talks about the Benjamin Talbot residence at a stop on the Tucker's Point walk yesterday.
Dr David Wingate, centre in hat, talks about the environmental impact that development in the background would have at a stop on the Tucker's Point walk yesterday.

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Published March 07, 2011 at 9:00 am (Updated March 07, 2011 at 9:01 am)

Walk highlights the displacement of Tucker’s Town residents

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