A Mosaic of Relatives From Around the World

Kings Pilot James "Jemmy" Darrell Commemorative Service, Bermuda, April 13 2013. Courtesy of BERNEWS.

The Royal Gazette

A Mosaic of Relatives from Around the World

By Sam Strangeways

April 21, 2009

“They are black, white and every shade in between — and all descended from the same Bermudian ‘icon’. Hundreds of descendants of Pilot James (Jemmy) Darrell met for the first time at the weekend and delighted in the fact that they come in all colors. The huge four-day family gathering was organized by members of the Darrell family in Bermuda — and attracted more than 50 visitors from New Zealand, the States and the UK.”

“The Reverend Erskine Simmons told them at a church service in St. George‘s on Saturday that Pilot Darrell — a slave who won his freedom due to his ship piloting prowess and went on to fight for better rights for blacks — was ‘an icon of national and nautical pride’. The Kiwi branch of the family were the palest at the reunion — but Pete Darrell, from Christchurch, who got married on Saturday outside his ancestor’s former home, told The Royal Gazette he’d done a DNA test to confirm his heritage. ‘I actually got a kit and did the swab from my mouth,’ he said. ‘They said it was medium to strong that black was our history.'”

“‘Wentworth Christopher, the PLP’s public relations officer, attended Mr. Darrell’s wedding with wife Betty, a descendant of Pilot Darrell. ‘I think it’s a phenomenal day,’ he told this newspaper. ‘When you look at the descendants, it’s really a mosaic of ethnic groups and countries. I was able to even see familiarities in appearances across racial bands.'”

Annual Commemorative Service For King’s Pilot James 'Jemmy' Darrell, held Apr.14, 2012 in St. George’s, celebrating the life of the freed slave who became the first black man to own a home in Bermuda. Courtesy of BERNEWS

Approximately fifty family members and friends gathered at the graveside to honor Mr Darrell in 2012. Reverends David Raths and Erskine Simmons officiated the service and Senior Branch Pilot Mario Thompson addressed the crowd. TS Admiral Somers Sea Cadets were smartly represented and provided an honour guard at the ceremony. Courtesy of BERNEWS

“The gathering came about after New Zealander Bill Grant pieced together the family tree and discovered the connection to Pilot Darrell, whose great-grandson Edward left Bermuda for Tasmania in the 19th century. Rita Gail Johnson, from New York, said: ‘What Bill Grant was able to do was give us the Rosetta Stone of how we are all related. Now we all know how. A lot of us were crying just to realize how far sprung we are.'”

“Linda Manders, one of the organizers, said she’d discovered cousins close to home. ‘I’m a teacher and quite a few of my students turned up and said: ‘I’m related to you!’.’There are Bermudians we realized were cousins and so many we didn’t realize were cousins. It’s just been really, really positive and enlightening. We did not realize how far we extended around the world.'”

Members of the T.S. Admiral Somers Sea Cadet Corp remove their hats for a moment of silence during the Annual Commemorative Service for King's Pilot James Darrell at his grave site in the churchyard of St Peters, Their Majesties Chappell in St Georgeís on Saturday. Photo by Glenn Tucker via The Royal Gazette.

To see the complete article, please visit “A Mosaic of Relatives From Around the World“, as well as the more recent coverage from 2012, “Service Honouring James ‘Jemmy’ Darrell“, and 2013, Remembering Kings Pilot James Darrell, both by Bernews!

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