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Talk to focus on friendly societies

Old news: an article from 1949 about the Oddfellows friendly society.

The lifeline provided by Bermuda’s friendly societies from slavery to the Cup Match celebrations of today will be highlighted tonight at the Bermuda National Library.

The introductory forum on the unique role of the societies will be given by Michael Bradshaw, a historian, who said he hoped that the audience would bring knowledge of their own.

Dr Bradshaw added: “Much of my objective is to make people aware of the resources among ourselves that we aren’t using.

“I want people to look in their attics, talk to their seniors, and identify the artefacts that are still around.”

He said the societies played a crucial role in helping former slaves after the 1834 abolition of slavery, but they had started in Bermuda even before that.

Dr Bradshaw added that Bermuda had “celebrated emancipation under the aegis and the attitude of the friendly societies every year since 1834.”

He said: “Nowhere else in the world can say that. Cup Match was not given as a holiday — black people took it as a holiday and I’m glad that it has moved to a national holiday.

“It’s a long story, something to be celebrated and recognised, and something we really need to spread more awareness about.”

The presentation will be held from 6pm at the library on Hamilton’s Queen Street.

Kenisha Shakir, the library’s events co-ordinator, said the forum would include “an open discussion”.

She added: “The focuses will include self-help and mutual help, empowering individuals and the community, public education and trade unionism.”