Tag Archives: Harrington Sound

Lucy Harington of Harrington Sound

What’s in a name? One ‘r’ or two?

I plan on reading a book entitled “The Noble Assassin”, historical fiction about Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford. But I wanted to find out some of the facts about this lady before the novel inserts itself in my understanding as “this is actually what happened”.

Despite the spelling variation, Harrington Sound, the large inland sea-water lake in the middle of Bermuda, was apparently named for this lady.

Harrington Sound, Redshank island

Harrington Sound, Redshank island

Poets (John Donne and Ben Johnson) and musicians seemed to be falling over themselves in their efforts to honour her, dedicate works to her, write poetry to her – she had over 50 works dedicated to her. Why was she so popular?

  • She was well connected – her father was Sir John Harington, Baron of Exton. This family were said to have the most extensive estates in Rutland in the 16th century. Rutland? It’s a tiny county almost as small as Bermuda in the east midlands, UK.
  • She clearly came from a wealthy family, though some sources suggest her father and brother made huge losses and she inherited debts. She did however have sufficient to buy both Twickenham Park and Moor Park estates. There she became an amateur gardener – a 17th century Charlie Dimmock (you might have to be British to know her – a TV gardener).
  • And she was intelligent – home schooling resulted in fluency in French and Italian and she was knowledgable about classical art and poetry.
  • One author described her as “a fit companion for men” but we need to allow that in 1949 he might not have intended what this could mean today.
  • She performed in court masques, as a Lady of the Bedchamber for Queen Anna of Denmark she would join the other court ladies in these extravagant performances. For one, Masque of Blackness, the ladies all used body paint to blacken their faces and arms, which was actually quite controversial even then. She had speaking parts in some of the dramas and helped with directing others – clearly not just backdrop material.
  • But she wasn’t exactly “available” having been married from the age of 13 to Edward Russell, 3rd Earl of Bedford. He made some poor decisions and spent some years in prison and under house arrest after supporting the “wrong-would-be-monarch” but his fortunes picked up somewhat when King James came to the throne. It appears that he was happy to permit his wife an active life at court in her own right.
  • She may have been considered beautiful, though the few portraits that exist don’t really confirm this, but maybe it was like early photographs, smiling was considered inappropriate.
Lucy Harington

Lucy Harington from National Portrait Gallery (online digital)

It seems she never actually set foot in Bermuda, but as a wealthy lady investing in the adventurous Virginia Company she was one of the original shareholders and thus land owners of the island. She was the only woman among the 117 original investors in The Somers Isles Company that was granted a charter to control Bermuda in 1616.

One of the local websites encouraging tourists here states that Lucy Harington “did a lot for the parish”, immediately triggering an image of a parish fete with stalls of home-made jam; but I don’t think she actually DID anything for the parish of Hamilton and probably was only vaguely aware she had a large body of water named after her. After all, which would you prefer, a poem written for you or a salty mid-Atlantic lake that in all likelihood you would never get to see?

Early Bermuda Map showing Harington Sound (image Wikipedia)

Early Bermuda Map showing Harington Sound (image Wikipedia)

So why the spelling mistake? In one of the earliest maps of the island they do have the name spelled with just one “r” but modern spelling has morphed to Harrington. I don’t think it is of major importance, after all the Harington family descended from the earlier Haveringtons by a series of typographical variations.

Amazing – Harrington Sound has a Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/pages/Harrington-Sound/135689173130265
Admittedly the person posting most on there seems to be me, and I didn’t even know it existed! How do these pages just appear? Oh well, maybe I will end up “doing a lot for the parish” just like Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford (1581-1627)

Sunrise over Harrington Sound

Sunrise over Harrington Sound

Where have all the rabbits gone?

You might think that a news article about a “lost bunny” on Easter Sunday so close to April 1st is a wind-up but it did actually happen and there was a happy ending. It left me wondering:

Why are there no wild rabbits on the island?

An article from “Guinea Pig Today” from 2012 carries the headline

“Feral guinea pigs, rabbits are destroying Bermuda’s ecosystem”

In case you are wondering, no I don’t usually read that website, it came up on a search for “Bermuda rabbits”. I have to say, in my explorations I have not once seen either feral rabbits or guineapigs.

The second link on my search led me to a Facebook page for Bermuda Rabbit Society and, as you can imagine, many cute photos. But I am no closer to discovering why there are no wild rabbits here.

A book entitled “The Naturalist in Bermuda” published in 1859 infers the presence of rabbits on at least one of the islands in the Great Sound:

Extract from The Naturalist on Bermuda, 1859

Extract from The Naturalist on Bermuda, 1859

And in Harrington Sound, our local patch of water, there is indeed an island called Rabbit Island.

We live alongside Green Bay near the bottom left of the map, Rabbit island is the first of the larger islands as you sail or kayak across to the far end of the sound.

We live alongside Green Bay near the bottom left of the map, Rabbit island is the first of the larger islands as you sail or kayak across to the far end of the sound.

Lucy Hollis has blogged a photo of Rabbit Island in 2008
It looks much more overgrown now. We can kayak across there in warmer weather so I will take a camera with me on my next expedition.  The website Bermuda-online claims there are wild rabbits on that island, but I am not convinced – it is pretty rocky and there is no fresh water source. It belongs to the National Trust and is designated a nature reserve so no landing on the island to prove this one way or the other.

If there are wild rabbits then they would have arrived by ship, the same way the rats, hogs and chickens came across. Hogs of course are no longer roaming free, the early settlers ate them. Chickens are everywhere, I guess nobody eats them, they cross the roads at random – don’t ask me why. And my recent experiment at bird-feeding demonstrated the presence of rats, well fed ones. Maybe ships didn’t carry rabbits, I suppose they supply little on the way of meat or tradeable value.

Without foxes, there are no natural predators here to threaten wild rabbits so I would assume if they did exist then there would be an abundance of them. Bermuda grass is apparently a good food for a rabbit and we have plenty of that all over the place:

Bermuda grass

Bermuda grass

IMG_1143

Our own Bermuda grass. The island you can see here is called Redshank Island. Rather like Rabbit Island without rabbits, it does not appear to be home to any redshanks

Any other results from my search “Bermuda rabbits” seem to be for boats or grass suppliers. One strange link goes to an online auction sale for a shirt  with a print described as a Bermuda rabbit, but to me it looks like a frog – maybe I am missing some information here!  So I am none the wiser about wild or feral rabbits on Bermuda and leave the question open, in a slightly altered form, because one or two sites I usually trust for reliable information imply their existence:

Where are the wild rabbits on Bermuda?

One Cahow and lots of not-cahows

Yesterday morning over breakfast I came across the live webcam feed from the Cahow nest on Nonsuch Island.  A comment beneath said that “anytime soon” a chick was expected to hatch.  So for half an hour or so I watched the non-moving-is-it-really-live image and finally gave up to busy myself with housework (the cleaner is due this week).  Of course I missed it, the actual birth, as I learned this morning when I tuned in.  It isn’t the first birth I have missed – at medical school in year 1 we were assigned a pregnant mother with the expectation we would be around for the delivery and subsequent parenting challenges, but my “mother” must have changed her mind about the whole viewing idea, before she met me I hasten to add, and I similarly learned of the new arrival one day too late.  By the end of med school I had seen enough deliveries to be able to hold back the tears, at least to see enough to be able to catch the baby, but I have never seen a Cahow chick hatch and will now probably have to wait until next year. Actually I have never seen a Cahow – thought I did once when a greyish plumpish bird flew across Harrington Sound but then I learned that the adult birds are nocturnal so I had probably just seen a juvenile tern.

Cahow: Image from Bermuda Conservation (creative commons licence)

Cahow: Image from Bermuda Conservation (creative commons licence)

The Cahow is much talked about in local conservation groups, rediscovered sometime in the 1950s after presumed extinction it is now protected to the extent it has its own island where people rarely tread.  According to history when the first people found themselves on Bermuda in 1609 the Cahow was so plentiful as to provide regular suppers for months:

A kinde of webbe-footed Fowle there is, of the bignesse of an English greene Plover, or Sea-Meawe, which all the Summer we saw not, and in the darkest nights of November and December (for in the night they onely feed) they would come forth, but not flye farre from home, and hovering in the ayre, and over the Sea, made a strange hollow and harsh howling. They call it of the cry which it maketh, a Cohow.

The quote comes from William Strachey’s account of the shipwreck in 1609. In 1901 a professor from Yale University questioned the veracity of the species, suggesting a petrel doesn’t actually taste very nice.  David Wingate has written more comprehensively about the cahow and its rediscovery, his knowledge based on breeding and habits of the bird rather than taste!

Being so very short sighted I was never attracted to bird watching – they are mainly black specks in the sky looking as far as I can tell exactly like a small child’s depiction of a bird, a slightly curved v-shape.  But when we sit on our dock in the late afternoon, perhaps feeding the fish, the birds have taken to arriving in hopeful swoops, close enough that even I can see some detail.

P1120818 P1120817 P1120812 P1120811 P1120804 P1120803 P1120802 P1120801 P1120799 P1120797 P1120795 P1120794

Rather like the flowers in the previous post, I need some help in identifying them.  I do know that none of them are Cahows!

Photos by HCL, taken on a rather grey day over Harrington Sound.