Ruth Seaton James
Trailblazing civil servant.
Born May 4, 1926

Ruth Seaton James was the first woman and the first Black person to head a Government department in Bermuda. 

That milestone in the Island’s long march towards racial and gender equality occurred on August 22, 1966 with her appointment as Registrar General and Parliamentary Registrar. It came seven years after the 1959 Theatre Boycott ended legalised segregation in Bermuda.

James had risen up through the ranks to head a department that had rejected her application for an entry-level position in 1950 because of her race. But one year later, she was offered a job, becoming the first Black person to hold a clerical post within the Civil Service.

Her appointment as Registrar General and Parliamentary Registrar put her in charge of a newly created department. Previously the Registry General, which registers births, marriages and deaths, as well as trademarks, was attached to the Supreme Court.

As Parliamentary Registrar, James bore the awesome responsibility of registering voters for the forthcoming 1968 general election, the first under full universal suffrage in Bermuda. 

 

Governor opens Central School
May 18, 1931

Central School had its official opening, ushering in a new era in education in Bermuda. The event was front-page news. Governor Sir Thomas Astley Cubitt did the honours and those in attendance included Board of Education chairman Henry Watlington (later Sir Henry) and Member of Parliament Robert Crawford, who played a large part in getting the school established.

Built over six years, with a total price tag of £26,000, the two-storey building was state of the art, with 20 “large and airy classrooms with plenty of window space”, an assembly hall, drinking foundations, and a capacity for 900 students. Mr. Crawford said the school had typical Bermudian architecture, yet provided a modern touch. He urged students to make the most of their opportunities, but warned that “with privileges come responsibility.”Mr. Watlington said the school’s curriculum would be similar to that of a British public school. 

The new Central School, which had taken in its first students in 1928, was formed from an amalgamation of four “overcrowded and badly housed” schools in Pembroke. Government purchased five acres of land on Glebe Road, Pembroke in 1925 and construction of the new building took place over the next six years, with the moves of the four schools taking place in phases.

 The first headmaster was Mr. C.A. Isaac-Henry. In 1934, he was replaced by fellow Jamaican Victor Scott, after whom the school is now named. Under Mr. Scott’s leadership, Central School went on to play a leading role in the education of Black Bermudians. Its former students include premiers (Sir John Swan, Dame Pamela Gordon and Dr. Ewart Brown); lawyers and political leaders (Dame Lois Browne-Evans, Frederick Wade and Arnold Francis); union leaders (Ottiwell Simmons), civil servants and businesspeople.

For more about Central’s beginnings, see our bios on Crawford cousins, Edith and Matilda, whose schools were amalgamated with two others to form Central School.

SourceThe Royal Gazette, May 19 and 20, 1931.

Assistant head teachers Mattie Crawford, Rev. Rufus Stovell and Edith Crawford (front), with Central School teachers in April 1934


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