Tag Archives: Royal Gazette

Bermuda Samples

Almost hidden away on the top shelf of the Bermuda reference section of the library is a small book that one might easily overlook – just 5 inches tall in mid-blue cloth-covered hardboard with various stamps inside indicating it once occupied a shelf in Somerset Library and was for 14 day loan only. Sadly it is now never borrowed and possibly rarely read, “Bermuda Samples” by William Zuill sits between a volume of island-inspired poetry on one side and a large “Bermuda Development Plan for 2000” on the other.

William Zuill put this book together in 1937, selecting extracts from the Gazette (was Bermuda, now Royal) between 1815 and 1845.  His choice suggests an eclectic mind and definitely a sense of humour:

  • From November,1816 a warning to women wearing low-cut dresses that an “elderly gentleman of venerable appearance and correct manners” was imprinting their bare shoulders or backs with a “stain similar to that from lunar caustic” the words NAKED BUT NOT ASHAMED; washing would not remove it so the ladies were forced to cover it up with more respectable clothes.  [Lunar caustic is silver nitrate, used in the past to treat warts and in photographic developing, it darkens on exposure to light. My thoughts on reading that were that the elderly gent was not so correct in his manners.]
  • From June 1818, a letter to the editor bemoans latecomers to church services, for lying in bed on Sundays was “un-Christian-like“. The writer continues to comment on lowering of standards that permitted “ladies at the breakfast table in night or dressing gown” and “men with chins like a pigs back”.  [which I took to mean unshaven but was less clear as to whether this was lamentable at breakfast time or in church]

The selections that caught my eye were cures or remedies for various illnesses.

  • March 31, 1829, Cure for Consumption:  In the month of May gather flowers from the thorn bush and boil two bunches of blossoms in half a pint of milk. Let it stand until it is about as warm as milk from a cow. Drink it first thing in the morning and take a walk immediately afterwards, if the weather is favourable, and a cure will soon be effected. [Maythorn or hawthorn has its main effects on the heart and is unlikely to do much to help TB, but it might be beneficial to cholesterol levels] 
  • July 19, 1823, To remove pins and bones: Any person who may swallow a pin or the bone of a fish will find almost instant relief by taking four grains of tartar emetic dissolved in warm water and immediately afterwards the white of six eggs. So effectual is this remedy, that it has been known to remove no less than twenty-four pins at once. [who would swallow 24 pins?] [tartar emetic is antimony potassium tartrate, nasty stuff once used for treating alcohol intoxication, known as an emetic since the middle ages. The egg white protein would protect the patient to a degree from poisoning by binding with the antimony. ]
  • July 3, 1832, Recipe for Cholera: 1oz of cinnamon water, 35 drops of tincture of opium, 1 drachm spirits of lavender, 2 drachms tincture of rhubarb.  [1 drachm or dram = ⅛ fluid ounce or approximately one teaspoonful.  If it is a solid measure then 1 drachm = 3 scruples or 60 grains, almost 4grams. I rather suspect the opium might slow the diarrhoea but the rest is just to make it taste pleasant. ]
  • April 1, 1834, Simple Cure for Consumption: this distressing complaint which carries of so many of our valuable young men annually has been cured by a very simple remedy, viz:- the inhaling of the gaseous perfume of chloride of lime. [ Consumption = TB. Chloride of lime is calcium hypochlorite and was used then to bleach laundry, now for swimming pools; the gas given off would be chlorine but is not going to cure TB] 
  • April 21, 1835, Cure for the whooping cough: Take one fourth of a pint of sweet or olive oil, the same quantity of common leeks, cut them fine and simmer them moderately two or three hours; add honey to make it palatable; half a teaspoon full a portion for an adult if taken four or fibre times, it will in a few days remove this distressing disorder. [Cabbage water was also a well-known remedy for coughs] 

The final sample that caught my attention was a report from December 1840 documenting the occurrence of ice “a full quarter inch thick” on the low lying ground in the central parishes of Bermuda. Unbelievable?

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Halloween in Bermuda

Preparations for Halloween began back in September.  These were on display in Gorhams:

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Just about every organisation seems to be putting on some form of party or event.

Bermuda National Trust have an evening of Ghost Stories told by John Cox who is described as ‘Bermuda’s favourite ghost whispererhttp://www.bnt.bm/documents/GhostStoryFlyerQ42013.pdf

I had the pleasure of meeting John at Verdmont last week – he is reassuringly normal, no baleful stare or spine-chilling handshake, at least not then in the middle of the day.  You can hear one of his real ghost stories on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwgEiw_t3NQ where he talks about his own home and the family ghost Mary, but for the Verdmont ghosts you will have to go to the talk on Thursday.  I am not sure I want to know – I have to open up and close up when it is very dark inside and it is creepy enough without thinking about apparitions. The first time I was in the nursery there I scared myself as I brushed against the cradle, setting it rocking with a rhythmic tap on the floorboards – or was it me?

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The local newspaper boasts article headings such as

“Will your pet look scary for Halloween?”

” A friendly mansion? Don’t be fooled…be scared, very scared”

and the more down to earth one

“Residents balk at price of trick-or-treat candy”

(I did buy some, but we have eaten it, the mellow-creme-pumpkin sweets are particularly addictive)

I was brought up in England and during my childhood Halloween was a minor event, less celebrated than Bonfire Night and possibly slightly frowned upon in my standard CeeofEE familyIt is, after all, based on a pagan festival to do with magic charms, faeries and spirits. For my own children we went along with some dressing up and visiting immediate neighbours for trick-or-treat but not the full-fat-American-style Halloween that appears to take place here on Bermuda.

Dressing up is apparently to fool or scare the evil spirits

 

 

 

And the treats are to appease the faeries, who are, apparently, angels who won’t commit to either God or the devil and so are condemned to walk the earth until judgement day.

The story behind pumpkin lanterns seems to relate to an Irish scoundrel called Jack who trapped a devil in a tree.  He only let the devil go when it was promised to him that he, Jack, would never go to hell.  But when he died he didn’t make the grade for heaven either and so was given a turnip lantern to help find his way back to Ireland – he is still searching.

So the Christian Church set up “All Saints Day” on 1st November, the day after Halloween.  Do you remember that really long hymn we sang at school assemblies For All The Saints ? 

Eleven verses, each ending with an un-singable  Alleluia, Alleluia, one of those hymns more ancient than modern.

I think through this hymn I confused Saints with Knights, but then St George was usually depicted as a knight in armour.  St George is honoured here in Bermuda  – confusingly being the name of a town, an island and a parish, all at the far eastern end of the island.  That was where they first settled back in 1609 (the wreck of the Sea Venture) and 1612 (first colonists to arrive on the Plough).  It is a really pretty town with quite a lot for visitors to see, deserving a whole section of its own.

Some Saints have their own days for commemoration; of course St Georges Day in England is celebrated on 23rd April, the day on which the Roman soldier George of Lydda was executed for his Christian beliefs.   I was surprised to find out that there are several different lists of Saints and George does not appear on the Eastern Orthodox Calendar even though their art depicts the familiar George and the Dragon images.  That he usurped Edward The Confessor as England’s Patron Saint as late as 1552 is probably part of the reason that the town, island and parish were named after him on Bermuda, not all that long afterwards.

 

Well, I need to go and buy some more treats, just in case so will leave you with more images of Halloween on Bermuda:

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The Library

 

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