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Junos calls for historical accuracy on Somers

Remembering 1834: Emancipation banner at Somerset Cricket Club (File photograph)

A historian has sounded a warning over a bid to rename Somers Day, the second day of Cup Match, after Mary Prince, a former slave and abolitionist.

Somers Day, to be marked on Friday, was established to commemorate Admiral George Somers, who ran aground in Bermuda in 1609, which led to a permanent British settlement of the island.

Admiral Somers has been denounced as a slave owner with no place in a holiday designed to mark the 1834 end of slavery.

But LeYoni Junos said: “I believe the argument is based on a lack of research.”

Somers, an English sailor, became prominent in the Elizabethan era before his accidental arrival in Bermuda.

Ms Junos said she knew of no evidence that Somers held slaves.

She added “We have not done the research to even pinpoint where this idea of Cup Match being all about emancipation even came from.”

Somers was branded a supporter of slavery in July last year by Christopher Famous, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher.

Mr Famous said people should remember Cup Match’s origins as a celebration of the end of slavery.

He told the House of Assembly: “Stop naming the second day of our emancipation after a slave owner.”

However, Ms Junos, who has carried out major research into Bermuda’s slavery records for several decades, said: “I disagree with renaming that day.

“I believe it comes from a lack of understanding of factual history. If our starting point is we should change it because Cup Match is only about emancipation, that’s wrong.

“If we make the argument that Somers Day was only added to Cup Match later to appease the white community, that’s also not true.”

She added: “The statement that black Bermudians have played cricket since 1835 to celebrate emancipation is also based on misinformation. Until we take the time to find out what’s really correct, that’s not honouring Cup Match.”

She said it was “coincidental” that Cup Match fell around August 1, the day in 1834 when slaves in Bermuda were freed.

She said the Bermuda Recorder had reported in 1970 that the Somerset Cricket Club captain and the historian Kenneth Robinson said they knew nothing of an emancipation connection.

Ms Junos said that Eva Hodgson, had written in the Recorder in 1963 and called Cup Match “strictly British in its origin”.

But she added: “I am all for Mary Prince having her own day.”

“It could be attached to the Slavery Abolition Act, which was given royal assent on the 28th of August, or it could be in February, to commemorate when her story was first published.”