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Remembering Bermuda’s lost sailors

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Bermuda's lost sailors were remembered during an historic ceremony at sea organised through the Guild of the Holy Compassion in partnership with the Department of Marine and Ports.

The Royal Gazette was invited to witness and document yesterday's events that specifically commemorated working seamen.

The memorial is held each year in memory of three separate events connected to Bermuda's maritime history.

Firstly was the sinking of the pilot gig Ocean Queen II which, along with its St George's crew members, was lost off St David's Head in January 1927. The men were not found but the gig itself was found floating upside down off Elbow Beach.

Then, in 1988, there was the sinking of the Lloyd Bermuda en route to the Island from New Jersey. During rough weather, the cargo on the container ship shifted and the ship toppled, resulting in the loss of life.

Finally, the day's events commemorated former slave and King's pilot James “Jemmy” Darrell who piloted the HMS Resolution — a large Royal Navy flagship — through the narrow channels some 200 years ago.

This was a big responsibility for a former slave — if the ship was not successfully piloted, the admiral in charge, George Murray, would have been returned to England and hanged. The admiral was so impressed he requested Darrell be made a free man.

On Darrell's release he became the first slave to buy a home on the Island.

For the second year running, Marine and Ports deputy pilot warden Mario Thompson dressed as Darrell and piloted container ship Bermuda Islander, captained by Dirk Veldhuijsen, through the same route Darrell would have done.

Mr Thompson said: “I am very active in St George's, most of the industry partners know me. I think it is very honourable. The Jemmy Darrell story came back to life about ten years ago — it is one of the big maritime stories that I can reflect upon as a harbour pilot.

“The second ship that they highlight today is a ship I piloted as part of my young career as a first-class pilot. What is significant is that I know the captain and officers from the ship that perished.

“Traditionally we like to use a container ship because the Bermuda Islander was just like the Lloyd Bermuda. It will provide the backdrop for the replaying ceremony that will take place in the Five Fathom Hole area where we disembark.”

Leaving the cargo dock in Hamilton at approximately 8.15am, the Bermuda Islander made its way through Two Rock Passage towards the Dundonald Channel. Making courtesy calls to Harbour Radio along the way, we then approached the South Channel and into Murray's Anchorage. As we neared the Spit Buoy off St David's Head, there was one of three new pilot gigs recently brought to Bermuda and it turned out, quite aptly, to be the one named after Jemmy Darrell himself.

The ceremony took place on a pilot boat with father David J Addington of St Peter's Church leading the proceedings. Also aboard the boat were members of Marine and Ports, the founders of the Guild of the Holy Compassion Derek Tully and Henry Hayward, retired seamen, and relatives of some of the seamen being commemorated.

After delivering the Lord's prayer, Father Addington read out the names of those lost saying: “May God, who commands the winds and the sea, make peace in your hearts and prosper the work of your hands and the blessing of God Almighty. The Father, Son, the Holy Spirit be with you now forever more, Amen.”

The wreaths were then laid in the sea.

Father Addington said: “I am always honoured to be asked to do this ceremony. It is a privilege. We are glad we had a cargo ship today as what we are honouring are the working seamen. The merchant seamen, the pilots — all those whose work it is to go out to sea in ships. We remembered our brethren pilots.”

Aboard the pilot boat was Richard Brangman, nephew of George Brangman who lost his life on the Ocean Queen II.

He said: “It takes me back in time — I never really knew my uncle but I was told about him. Before I came out here we used to meet up at the graveyard on Cemetery Hill. When I was young my mother said you have to go and honour somebody in the family. I started back then and now it has ended up here. It is a very special occasion for my whole family.”

Heading back to shore Dr Tully reflected on the day's events.

He said: “Bermudians are a seafaring race — we always have been. Seafaring and agriculture is what made Bermuda plus the Royal Navy. Everybody is connected and we are happy to do this ceremony because it encompasses the whole community.”

The Bermuda Islander container ship sets off from Hamilton cargo ship docks towards St George's (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
The pilot gig Jemmy Darrell, named after the former slave and pilot who was commemorated on the day (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
The pilot gig Jemmy Darrell (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
The pilot boat from which the ceremony took place pictured with the pilot gig Jemmy Darrell (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
Father David J Addington during the Guild of the Holy Compassion Ceremony at Sea off St. David's Head (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
A wreath is thrown at the ceremony at sea (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
Mario Thompson dressed as pilot Jemmy Darrell after the ceremony at sea (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
Mario Thompson dressed as pilot Jemmy Darrell after the ceremony at sea (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
Pilot gig Jemmy Darrell after the ceremony at sea off St David's Head (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
Richard Brangman and Ivan Caines Brangman are relatives of George Brangman who died in 1927 off the Ocean Queen II pilot gig (Photographer by Sarah Lagan)
Members of Marine and Ports, and Guild of the Holy Compassion, along with father David J Addington and descendants of sailors lost at sea (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
The crew of the pilot gig Jemmy Darrell (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)

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Published August 15, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated August 15, 2015 at 2:13 am)

Remembering Bermuda’s lost sailors

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