Our gigs are named after well known Bermuda pilots , and a brief history of each follows;
Stephen Benjamin Richardson
Stephen Benjamin Richardson, was born a slave 1800. He was a shipwright but his desire was to become a pilot. He was an intelligent, resourceful and courageous young man, not only purchasing his freedom, but several years later in 1831 he also purchased freedom for his wife.
In a bid to make his dream of piloting come true, he spent time familiarizing himself with the waterways and channels around the eastern end of Bermuda and he advanced to the position of Branch Pilot No. 27 by 1840.
The introduction of the steam engine drastically changed the shipbuilding business and reduced the number of pilots, but Stephen was one who maintained his position as a very experienced branch pilot. However the need for marine transportation continued to increase creating an opportunity for Pilot Richardson to place an advertisement in the Royal Gazette in
December 1846, notifying the public that he had purchased a new boat for freighting and carrying passengers or piloting between Hamilton and St. George’s. As a result he purchased several properties on the Northern side of St. George’s. Pilot Stephen Richardson died at his home “Northside”, St. George’s on February 4, 1879.
“Lieut. Evans says, “The pilots are the most expert I ever met with. I was in a frigate, Thos Smith, a clever colored man, picked out through the devious passage in mastery style, under double reefed topsails and going eight knots. He had nerve and quick eyesight, qualities essential to a Bermudian pilot”. An instance once occurred, in which a frigate was taken aback in the North Rock Channel, and the pilot James Darrell, with great coolness and presence of mind, had the vessel’s sail shortened, backed her through the more intricate part of the Channel, until he had room to wear ship, and then proceeded by the usual course past St. Catharine’s Point to the sea.”
Robert (Bob) Kennedy was a pilot for many years station at the St. David’s Pilot Station. His picture was featured on the cover of Fame Magazine, August 1966, with the Cover Note “The late Pilot Robert Kennedy, an outstanding seaman and navigator, was also a remarkable youth leader and musician. He lived during the days when most Bermudians made their living on the sea”
In the fall of 1936, Robert Kennedy started the St. Alban’s Sea Scouts with nine boys. By 1943 the St. Alban’s Sea Scout Troop consisted of 66 boys – 48 Sea Scouts and 18 Rangers (boys 17 and older). In addition, there were also Sea Scout troops in Devonshire, Hamilton Parish and St. George’s.
Sea Scouting was started by Rotary in 1934, at a time of strict racial division in Bermuda. According to the Recorder, in August 1943, “Scouting History was Made on Hawkins Island” when the St. Alban’s troop and the Rotary’s Sea Scouts camped and worshipped on the island at the same time.
Although the St. Alban’s Troop was based in Pembroke, Pilot Kennedy made certain that the boys were exposed to the pilot service proper, by organizing visits to the Pilot Station located in St. David’s. In fact, he recommended that Pilot Station donate an old abandoned pilot gig with sail, riggings etc., to the sea scouts. After restoring the gig, the St. Alban’s scouts could be seen sailing around Hamilton Harbour and the Great Sound – often racing the Dockyard to Hamilton Ferry and winning the race.
Pilot Robert Kennedy influenced many young men, one in particular Pilot Keith Battersbee who was Warden of Pilots from 1989 to 2005.
Albert Jed Newton Lamb
Jed Lamb (1887 – 1964), was a descendent of a family of mariners. He was the great-grandson of Benjamin “Jack” Smith, a slave who after being released from bondage in 1834, became a King’s Pilot and by 1843 was considered for the post of Warden.
Pilot Lamb started his career as a mariner at age 14, spending the early years crewing gigs, and eventually going to sea, aboard four-masted barques and steamships. He travelled extensively to countries around the world.
Shortly after the outbreak of the First World War, Jed left Bermuda and went to sea aboard the freighter Westfield which was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine in the Mediterranean. However, he along with the crew, were eventually rescued by a British Freighter and returned to safety. Sometime after the war ended Jed returned to Bermuda and joined the Bermuda Pilot Service in 1921 and retired after 31 years of service. The Bermuda Recorder 1 October 1952, “Mariner Retires After Half a Century at Sea”.
In 1936, Jed Lamb was recognized in an Article by the Bermuda Recorder entitled “Shall We Follow the Leaders” as one of the leaders within the Branch Pilot Service.
Bermuda Gazette: January 15th, 1825: graphic account of the survival of a pilot boat and crew which was driven offshore by a sudden gale. The pilot was James Forbes 1770 – 1842), a black man and a King’s Pilot, and from that account and a further one given by Richard Cotter (Sketches of Bermuda 1828) it is apparent that the crew included 3 other black men; that they fought the elements out to the Gulf Stream and back and that their harrowing experience extended over a full fortnight. They all survived. The gig would have only had a compass and a jug of water! [Dr. KE Robinson 1979]
James Forbes was the slave of the very popular Dr. Forbes on Smiths Island and the house that he built in the 1700s is still there and it is thought that James lived at the western end of Smiths Island across the bay from Dr. Forbes House in a small wooden house. James Forbes [1770 to 1842] was the best King’s Pilot of his time and really was a free man by 1824 and even before Abolition he achieved the rare distinction of becoming Warden of King Pilots, the top position and continued in that exalted position until his death in 1842. Although highly achieved and respected by all white and black he died a poor man in material terms leaving “a wood house, personal furniture, a row boat and a cow”.
In an article reported in the Royal Gazette of 1843, John Simmons was described as a Senior Pilot. He was a mere 24 years old. In that same year the Spanish Brig, Sophia ran aground off Somerset. When Pilot Simmons set his price at $400.00 to remove the Brig from the reefs, the Captain would only offer $200.00, exactly half of what he was entitled. Senior Pilot John Simmons took the matter of salvage payment to the ofﬁcials in Hamilton where $400.00 was settled upon as a fair price. Upon this decision he agreed to pilot the vessel to sea and left her clear of the reef. An article in the Royal Gazette of May 21, 1844 reported on THE NEW CHANNEL describes several Queen’s Pilots using the expertise of John Simmons and his pilot boat. The article describes Pilot Simmons climbing 12 or 15 feet up the mast of his boat to facilitate the plotting of a new channel. He was a proﬁcient gig racer and there are many reports of his successful exploits in Hamilton Harbour. A report in the Royal Gazette of June 1,1852, stated that he won eleven pounds as the ﬁrst place winner of a gig race. John Simmons died in 1859 after a short illness, at his residence near Wreck Hill, Somerset. He was described as a colored man and a Queen’s Pilot aged about 40. The Royal Gazette in the acknowledgement of his death stated that the deceased was not only considered by all the Pilots of the country to stand at the head of his calling, but Owners and Captains of vessels belonging to Bermuda, held him in high estimation for his skill, civility and judgement , as proof of which several of the vessels in port lowered their colors to half mast when his death became known. Researched by Lionel D.Simmons
Harry Granville Fox
The Gig Harry G. Fox was named after First Class Pilot Harry Granville Fox (1895 – 1970) better known to most St. David’s Islanders as Granville or Harry G. He was a very respected and reputable pilot and many stories are told regarding his innovative sailing and piloting skills.
According to the Royal Gazette, January 1921, Harry G Fox and fellow First Class Pilot Frederick M. Minors, cancelled their membership with the Bermuda Pilot’s Association and organized their own independent gig crews at Ruth’s Bay and “the Dock” thus resuming the “old system of racing after vessels”. The Royal Gazette also reports … There is nothing more interesting to the “hill haunter” than a good close pilot gig race”.
James Thaddeus Griffiths , was a highly respected and reputable Queen’s Pilot for more than 60 years.
On January 1st, 1917, James Griffiths (1863 – 1953) guided the first vessel, the S.S. Admiralen, through the new Town Cut Channel. He was presented with a gold watch which bears the inscription “Presented by St. Georgians as a mark of their appreciation to Pilot James T. Griffiths for piloting the first vessel S.S. Admiralen through the Town Cut Channel, January 1, 1917”. This treasured heirloom is in the possession of his great grandson St. Clair Tucker.
In 1936, James T. Giffiths, at age 73, was recognized in an Article by the Bermuda Recorder entitled “Shall We Follow the Leaders” as one of the leaders within the Branch Pilot Service.
John A. Cann
On 28th December 1909, the Italian Barque “Filippo Denegri” (with non-English speaking crew), falling victim to gale force winds and heavy seas was driven ashore on the reefs off the Western End of Bermuda.
The following letter was sent to the editor of the Royal Gazette, January 13, 1910:
Wreck of the “Fillip Denegri”, Bravery of Pilot Gigs Crew
To the Editor of the Royal Gazette,
“Dear Mr. Editor:-
The local newspapers of last week told of the brave conduct of Pilot Swan and his volunteer crew in going out at night in the whale-boat Dolphin to the Italian Barque, Fillippo Denegri, but nothing is said about Pilot Cann and his crew. Every credit that can be given to a pilot and crew ought to be given to the pilot and crew of the pilot gig Rambler, as I am certain that there are very few men that would have launched their gigs out in the face of such a sea and wind as they did from Philpot’s Hill in the dark with a north west gale blowing right in their faces, rowed along the coast as far as Daniels’s Head, and then Pilot Cann took his departure for the ship in distress, and watched there about one half hour after the dolphin and stuck to the ship all night like Britons, whom they are. Next morning Pilot Cann and his brave crew rowed to Hamilton to notify the Health Officer that his presence was needed aboard said ship.
On July 1910 The Colonial Parliament awarded pilots Swan, Cann and their respective crew members silver watches for their selfless acts of bravery.