A STATUE of a former Mayor of Lyme Regis, Admiral Sir George Somers, is being moved to a more prominent position in St George’s, Bermuda, despite recent controversies surrounding his character.
Residents of Lyme’s twin town St George’s panicked when the statue was removed, thinking it had been targeted by protestors, but it was actually taken down to be moved to a more central location by the local council.
The statue of Lyme’s former mayor – who founded Bermuda after being shipwrecked on the islands in 1609 on his way to the new English colony of Jamestown, Virginia – has stood on Ordnance Island in St George’s since 1984.
Questions have recently been raised about the importance placed on Sir George in Bermuda’s history, in light of anti-racism protests across the globe sparked by the death of George Floyd in America.
Sir George’s legacy was revisited after Progressive Labour Party MPs Rolfe Commissiong and Christopher Famous said his arrival in Bermuda, which led to the island’s permanent British settlement, had been an accidental aside of a mission to bolster Britain’s Jamestown colony.
Somers Day, which was celebrated as part of Bermuda’s biggest annual event, Cup Match, was this year changed to honour Mary Prince, Bermuda’s world-renowned former slave, whose book documenting the horrors of enslavement boosted the abolitionist movement in Britain.
A more modern statue of Sir George, which stands in Langmoor Gardens, Lyme Regis, was targeted by vandals in June when the word ‘murderer’ was scrawled across an information board next to it.
The statue was also added to list of monuments on the anti-racism campaign website ‘Topple the Racists’.
The incident followed the toppling of a statue of Edward Colston, a prominent slave trader, in Bristol.
The Lyme Regis/St George’s Twinning Association and local historian Peter Lacey, whose book ‘Elizabethan Lyme’ included a section on Sir George, remain adamant that he was not involved in the slave trade, but others have criticised his role in colonising America.
A member of staff at the Corporation of St George confirmed that there had been a flood of calls from people worried by the Bermudian statue’s disappearance.
He added that the local authority had already put out statements on its plans to renovate Ordnance Island and give the bronze statue a more eye-catching location on the area’s roundabout.