Weather doesn’t dampen Peppercorn Ceremony pomp
Winds whistled through the Town Square in St George’s yesterday morning while dark clouds threatened rain. But not even overcast skies could dull the sparkle and pomp of the annual Peppercorn Ceremony.
The tradition, now almost 200 years old, marks the day when one of the town’s lodges, through the Corporation of St George’s, pays its annual rent of one peppercorn to the Crown for use of the town’s State House.
The historic building — the first stone structure to be built on the Island — was the meeting place of Her Majesty’s Council before the seat of Government moved from the old town to Hamilton in 1816.
Then-Governor Sir James Cockburn granted the property to the mayor, aldermen and Common Council of St George’s in trust for the lodge for an annual rent of just a single peppercorn.
The one condition of the lease was that the building must be made available at least once a year for a meeting of the Governor’s Council — a condition that has been met every year since.
Yesterday spectators — including residents, tourists and local schoolchildren — crowded the perimeter of the Square to witness the ceremony, which kicked off with the arrival of the Bermuda Regiment, wearing crisp whites, accompanied by the Regiment Band.
Led by a kilted bagpipes player, members of Lodge 200 then filed into the Square before the arrival of Town Mayor Garth Rothwell and Governor George Fergusson, both of whom travelled in horse-drawn carriages.
Among the dignitaries attending yesterday’s ceremony were acting Premier Michael Dunkley and Sally Holman, the Mayor of Lyme Regis.
The English seaside town is twinned with St George’s and is the birthplace of Sir George Somers, who claimed Bermuda for the English Crown when he landed here in 1609.
Coincidentally, yesterday’s ceremony took place on the 459th anniversary of Sir George’s birth.
Wearing his chain of office and a top hat, Mayor Rothwell took the opportunity to tell his audience of recent developments in the town, citing the installation of CCTV cameras and an improved police presence as two improvements.
He then introduced Governor Fergusson to the town’s councillors and aldermen.
It was the first time that both Mr Rothwell, who was appointed mayor in January, and Mr Fergusson, who took up his post last summer, had performed at the ceremony.
But in his address, the Governor pointed out that the occasion was not his first visit to “this wonderful town” adding that, since his arrival on the Island, he had “fallen under its spell”.
After the annual rent had been paid by the lodge, Mr Fergusson demanded the key to the State House in order for the meeting of Her Majesty’s Executive Council to get underway.
Visitor Gary Langlands was one of many tourists who enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere of yesterday’s event, which is one of only three annual state occasions in Bermuda.
“We come down on the same week every year so we’ve seen the ceremony before,” Mr Langlands, 62, from Toronto, Canada, said.
“I love the band and just the history of the whole thing, the pageantry. And it’s really exciting to think that this has been going on for so many years now. It’s good to see that these traditions are being kept alive.”
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