Sandys students remember historic election

  • Commemorating milestone: Sandys Secondary Middle School students celebrate 50 years since the first General Election held under universal adult suffrage (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

The 50th anniversary of Bermuda’s first General Election under universal adult suffrage will be marked next Tuesday.

Students at Sandys Secondary Middle School got an early start yesterday with a celebration of the political and social milestone — and its links with their school.

Kalley Baxter-Williams, Sandys Secondary principal, said two former heads of the school, Mansfield Brock and Eustace Cann, were “vital in the movement”.

She added: “We wanted to do a vote of thanks for the anniversary.

“The students were informed in social studies class about suffrage and the sacrifices that folk made at the time, as well as the Somerset connection.”

Dr Cann, a GP in Somerset, was one of a handful of black representatives in Parliament in the days before equal voting rights.

Dr Cann also backed the right of women to vote in 1944, a cause championed by another Somerset activist, Gladys Morrell.

His son, John Cann, is now a member of the school’s board of governors and joined the group of students as they cast symbolic ballots.

Dr Cann said: “I was young when my father was in the House of Assembly.

“He and the other black politicians of the day struggled and fought trying to get the population to realise the importance of being fair and equitable in our political system.”

One of the youngsters who joined in the vote of thanks was Ms Morrell’s great-great- grandson Zico Smith.

Mr Brock, a principal at the school in the late 1960s, was a member of the Committee for Universal Adult Suffrage, and addressed the public at the group’s meetings.

The election of 1968 was followed less than a month later by the unveiling of the island’s new Constitution.

Commemorations planned for next Tuesday will begin at 9am with the unveiling of plaques at three locations used as polling stations for every General Election in the past 50 years.

The ceremonies, at Dalton E. Tucker Primary School, the Horticultural Hall at the Botanical Gardens and Francis Patton Primary School, will open with a prayer followed by a short speech from the area MP.

A special joint session of Parliament will take place at 10.15am in the House of Assembly.

Speakers will include David Burt, the Premier, as well as Jeanne Atherden, the Leader of the Opposition.

The House will also hear from Dennis Lister Jr, Speaker of the House, Senate president Joan Dillas-Wright, and a member of the “class of 1968” to represent the trailblazers who took part in the ground-breaking election.

A tree planting ceremony will also be held in the grounds of Sessions House.

The joint session will be followed by the unveiling of official portraits of former Speakers of the House, Stanley Lowe, Speaker from 1998 to 2012, and Randy Horton, Speaker from 2013 to 2017.

The special sitting of Parliament will be streamed live on the Bermuda Government’s Facebook page. It will also be broadcast on 105FM.