Bermuda (Peppercorn Ceremony)
Bermuda: The Peppercorn Ceremony
We arrived in Bermuda in mid-April, just in time for the annual
Peppercorn Ceremony in the town of St. George. St. George's (as
everybody writes it) was founded in 1612, and was the seat of government
until 1815, when the capital was moved to Hamilton. St. George's
has preserved its character and smallness so well that in 2000,
it was selected to be one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These
are a series of places (towns, objects, natural phenomena) of international
interest, well-reserved and worthy of preservation. (Lisa: link
to photos St. George Bermuda street; town crier; Ordinance Island;
and Bermuda garden).
When the capital moved to Hamilton, St. Georges was left with the
former State House, itself built in the 1600s. So the Crown decided
to let the local Masonic Lodge use it, and so as to be nice and
legal about this, they drew up a formal rental document, in which
the Masons are granted permission to use the Hall for the annual
rental of one peppercorn. That's right: One of those dried peppers
that fill the big shakers that pretentious waitpersons offer to
grind onto your steak. And the Masons are to pay this rent to the
Governor of Bermuda on the Feast of St. George's Day (or now, in
modern times, the Wednesday closest to that day). This year, it
happened to be on April 24th.
Bermuda has a new Governor this year, recently appointed by the
Queen, and a Brit, to the disappointment and disapproval of a number
of the citizenry. However, no such reservations were evident on
the day of the ceremony. And the new Governor was clearly enjoying
this as one of his first official acts.
Early that morning, the Royal Bermuda Regiment and its band began
arriving and getting into formation, quite near where we were moored.
(Lisa: Link to photo Regimental Band assembles). The town square
was cordoned off in readiness. The flag bearers were the first to
arrive, and positioned themselves around the square. Then the band,
led by its impressive drum major (Lisa: Link to photo drum major)
arrived. We were particularly impressed with the leopard skin that
the bass drummer wore (Lisa: Link to photo Back of Bermuda drummer),
and so were the schoolboys, for a while (Lisa: Link to photo schoolboys).
The Regiment itself then marched in spiffily and assembled (Lisa:
Link to photo Bermuda regiment). All the town dignitaries arrived,
as did the Masons, in their regalia (light blue satin sashes and
aprons) and led by bagpipes. Alas, there weren't many Masons; they're
getting older and not bringing in new members. Next came a 15 gun
salute for the Governor from Ordinance island, with pretty big modern
day cannons, causing all of us to jump and scaring kids and dogs.
Then the Governor and his lady arrived in a horse-drawn open carriage
(Lisa: Link to photo Governor arrives). In his impressive uniform
and plumed Napoleanic-looking hat, he reviewed the troops (Lisa:
Link to photo Gov reviews...) We wondered if he asked the young
men he stopped to talk to, "Hello soldier, where are you from?"
as U.S. functionaries commonly do, but it was pretty obvious where
all of these guys came from.
The Governor mounted the podium that was set up in front of the
stocks, with the mayor of St. George (really short guy in top hat
and tails) (Lisa: Link to photo Governor and mayor...) . The history
of the Ceremony was explained, and the Gov. gave a gracious speech,
noting that the excellent band had to be one of the only military
bands in the world equally at home with Bob Marley and God Save
the Queen. Also present was the mayor of Lyme Regis, a village in
England which is the sister city of St. George's, because George
Somers, who founded St. George's as a result of a shipwreck, came
from Lyme Regis. Then the Governor demanded that the Masons deliver
their rent. With great ceremony, the head Mason reached into a red
velvet purse and handed over the peppercorn. (Lisa: Link to photo
The ceremony ended with all the officials trooping off to the Masonic
Hall to inspect it and have a meeting, then lunch somewhere. The
troops marched off, the band marched off, and it was all over for
another year. We were delighted.
The next day, we met the mayor and mayoress of Lyme Regis (Ken
and Jen) in a pub, learned more about their small village which
is on the south coast of England, and received a personal invitation
to visit it. They may have just been being polite, but we intend
to take them up on it!