THE PRICE OF FREEDOM

The Bermudian Slaves were masters at the helm and many historians relate facts.Bermuda has long been known as a place where slaves and indentured servants struggled to obtain their place in Society once they gained their freedom. One of the most notable trades came to the fore well before Emancipation was that of building and sailing ships.. Local Pilots were some of the most knowledgable to maneuver around the reefs of Bermuda so the local pilots were encouraged after the collapse of the Somers Isle Company in 1684 to apply this trade.Bermuda disappointed by its failing in the tobacco and agriculture industry moved into the Maritime Commerce allowing Whaling,fishing,shipbuilding smuggling and even privateering to take over.By 1700 fishing boats appeared in abundance and they were operated by Bermudians.By 1800’s a surge of acts regarding the regulations of pilots was put into practice. This brought about the titles of Master & Warden of Pilots. All vessels were required to pay pilot fees. Wardens were authorized to license branch pilots and made by- laws to instruct pilots.By 1812 legislation prevented unskilled persons from becoming pilots unless they took an examination and they were also forced to register their boats.

JAMES JEMMY DARRELL is a well known name about Bermuda he was among the slaves who assisted Lt. Thomas Hurd  a British Surveyor sent to Bermuda to carry out a marine survey on the island.  Black pilots had extensive knowledge of the Inlets  bays and coastlines in the island. On May 1795 two years after Hurd began his survey Jemmy Darrell maneuvered Rear Admiral George Murrary’s huge Gun Ship HMS Resolution into a deep anchorage know as Murray’s anchorage on the North Shore near Tobacco Bay, St. George’s. Because of this vast and safe task Jemmy was made a kings’ pilot and given his freedom by Admiral Murray. Jemmy Darrell, Jacob Pitcarn and Tom Bean were appointed the first Kings pilots.Although free men they had no legal rights. They could not serve on a jury, or testify in court. Least of all they could not Will any property they acquired to any of their heirs. Only two pilots later petition to stay here in Bermuda and keep their property they were Jemmy Darrell and Jacob Picarn. Jemmy eventually Willed his property to his heirs.

STEPHEN BENJAMIN RICHARDSON 1800-1879 born a slave always had a desire to become a pilot. An alert and intelligent young man he quickly advanced in his chosen career. He saved enough to purchase his freedom and in later years the freedom of his wife for 30 pounds.He was one of 38 free blacks who signed a petition addressed to the government for the removal of disabilities under which free blacks and free people of colour had to labour.He was classed a hero when he saved a young woman from a near fatal accident in 1838.Stephen was issued a certificate of competence by captain by Captain Edward Franklin of the Royal mail Steam ship Tweed after he piloted the vessel out of Castle Harbour.Stephen Richardson was  able to purchase property in St. Georges’ near the Golf course in 1847. He later built his home on this land and named it “Northside”. He was one of 563 signatures who petitioned against the importation of farm labour. He was classed as one of the most skillful branch pilots of his time and for many years held the position of Pilot examiner.  Both Jemmy Darrell and Stephen Richardson homes have been selected to be put on the Bermuda Foundation African Diaspora Trail.

.James B. Richardson

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