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Tributes paid to Gombey ‘giant’ Darrell

Llewellyn Spencer "Merry Mice" Darrell.

Friends, family and fellow dancers have paid tribute to a “real giant in the Gombey movement”.

Francis Llewellyn Spencer Darrell, also known as “Merry Mice” — said to be the oldest Gombey captain — died at the age of 83.

The former Pembroke resident had moved and resided in Stanford, Connecticut, in the United States, but remained well-loved in Bermuda.

Janice Warner-Tucker, Mr Darrell’s distant cousin, said: “He was one of the prettiest Gombey Dancers you’d like to see.”

Ms Warner-Tucker, who has been making Gombey costumes for more than half a century, made Mr Darrell’s last one.

“It was an honour for me to be a member of his family and to know that in his last days that I was able to dress him,” she said.

“I felt very proud to be able to do that and make him happy. He was a very happy man — his legacy will go on.”

Mr Darrell was a protégée of the founding father of Bermuda Gombeys — Charles Ebenezer Norford — and he was honoured at the 2008 Gombey Festival.

H & H Gombeys, Places New Generation Gombeys, Warner Gombeys, Richardson’s Gombeys and the Warwick Gombeys all performed and the programme concluded with the formal recognition and honouring of Mr Darrell. “He was the oldest Bermuda Gombey captain alive, even though he was living in Connecticut,” Ms Warner-Tucker said. “He started very young — I think he was about seven years old. He danced when my father danced,” she said, adding that her brother William Llewellyn Warner also danced under Mr Darrell when he was a Gombey captain of the Spencer Gombeys.

Mr Warner, who went on to become a Gombey captain himself, described Mr Darrell as a “wild guy and a good entertainer”.

“He was this famous taxi driver and decided to start his own group,” Mr Warner said. “He had a lot of dancers. He used to dance at the hotels and everything.”

According to Mr Warner, Mr Darrell was also a great drummer, who would take off his cape and “beat the drums all night”.

Even after he left Bermuda, Ms Warner-Tucker said Mr Darrell would often return to the Island for the holidays “just to dress and perform along with our family Gombey troupe”.

She added that when he was older he was still “one of the most beautiful dancers”.

“He still had the rhythm, still knew the steps,” she said.

Ms Warner-Tucker said it was wonderful to see a captain who loved his Gombeys so much that he came back just to perform with them.

She added that Mr Darrell was a very proud father, whose sons and grandsons also danced with various Gombey troupes.

Dale Butler, the former Minister for Community, Culture and Sports, said he remembers Mr Darrell as a “real giant of the Gombey movement”.

“As a child I heard of his outstanding reputation,” Mr Butler said. “He was revered by the other Gombey leaders and Gombeys themselves.”

He added that Mr Darrell “stood out as a champion of Gombeys,” who “danced with tremendous pride and was very enthusiastic.”

According to Mr Butler, the nickname “Merry Mice” stuck forever and that “whenever you find Gombeys that name would always come up”.

Mr Butler said Mr Darrell had a real understanding of the roots of the Gombey movement and described him as a big man, who “put a fear into children” because it was “like a giant dancing before us”.

“He was an awesome guy, awesome dancer, awesome leader,” Mr Butler said. “He was an awesome performer.”

Mr Darrell died on August 22. A Gombey tribute will be held at 5pm tomorrow at Ewing Street car park. All Gombeys and former Gombeys are welcome.