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Francis Harvey Edmondson
July 4, 1866-October 24, 1964
Leading lodgeman, parliamentarian



Photo: The Berkeley Educational Society Centenary Journal 1879-1979

For more than 50 years during the era of segregation, F. Harvey Edmondson devoted his time and talents to Friendly Societies and other black institutions.

A carpenter by trade, he was chairman of the Berkeley Educational Society from 1935 to 1946. He was also chairman of the Bermuda Nursing Association, the parent body of the Bermuda Nursing Home and its successor, the Cottage Hospital Nursing Home.

A leading lodgeman, he was a longtime general secretary of Alexandrina Lodge, and oversaw the reconstruction of Alexandrina Hall in Hamilton, after it was demolished by a hurricane. From 1938 to 1948, he was a Member of Parliament for Warwick.

Carpenter

Edmondson was born on July 4, 1866 in Paget, and lived in Warwick for most of his life. He was one of five children of William Joseph Edmondson and Martha Harvey.

The public record is silent about his early schooling or where he learned his trade, but it is likely he attended Paget Glebe School. He ran his carpentry shop on Washington Lane in Hamilton before moving it to Court Street.

He devoted much of his energies to Alexandrina Lodge, which was established by the Oddfellows in 1852, and whose building on Court Street, Hamilton, Alexandrina Hall, was constructed during the 1860s. Edmondson was elected general secretary in December 1898 and held the position for more than 50 years.

When Alexandrina Hall was nearly destroyed by a hurricane in 1926, he oversaw its rebuilding, and remained in charge of the building’s maintenance.

In taking on the role of chairman of the Berkeley Educational Society—the governing body of The Berkeley Institute—he was following in the footsteps of his father, who served as chairman from 1905 to 1911.

Nursing

For a time, he served as chairman of the executive committee of the Bermuda Nursing Home, which was established around 1904, with financial backing from several lodges, as a nursing home for elderly lodge members and for the training of black district nurses.

He was chairman of Bermuda Nursing Association for 50 years. In this role, he led the drive to raise funds for the nursing home. Although Government eventually increased its annual grant and assumed greater responsibility for operation of the nursing home, this did not diminish the need for additional funding.

For black nurses for whom employment at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital was off limits because of their race, and black doctors who were denied admitting privileges, the Nursing Home and its successor, the Cottage Hospital Nursing Home on Happy Valley Road, were an important link in the island’s health care system until it closed in 1956.

When Edmondson was honoured for his service to the Association and to lodges in general in 1952, he was praised for his dedication, especially during the early years when keeping the nursing home open was a “struggle.”

Younger

Edmondson also dipped his toes into the political waters in 1938, when he was elected to Parliament, and served two terms. But in 1948, the Warwick Political Association led by power broker Martin Wilson determined it was time for Edmondson, then age 82, to step down.

E.T. Richards, who had recently qualified as a lawyer, was the association’s choice to replace him. Edmondson agreed to resign, then changed his mind. E.T. Richards, who would become Bermuda’s first black leader, told biographer J. Randolf Williams that Edmondson was more acceptable to Front Street businessmen.

Unlike labour leader E.F. Gordon, Edmondson was no firebrand. He told a political meeting held prior to the general election that he supported the 1948 White Paper, which E.F. Gordon had denounced as “trash”, and was not in favour of universal suffrage. Gordon, who was at the meeting, took Edmondson to task, asking him why he consistently voted “against the interests of the underprivileged in Bermuda”.

In the end, Edmondson was defeated at the May 1948 general election, while Richards was successful. He retired from public life in 1952. In 1960, he was awarded an MBE. He died at the age of 98 at his home Edmonton in Warwick where he had lived since 1894. His funeral took place at his family church, St. Paul’s in Paget.

Infancy

Edmondson outlived two wives, Mary Ingham and Susan Robinson Eve, and four of his five children. Daughters Muriel and Sybil died in infancy, son Alfred died age 10, while his eldest son John Harvey, a Canadian trained accountant, died in 1935 at age 39.

He was survived by his third wife, the former Mary Darrell of Flatts, son Leonard Edmondson and a grandchild, Jeannette Fubler.

Edmondson did not challenge the political status quo. Richards’ biographer Randolf Williams described him as “mild-mannered”. Yet, by all accounts, he commanded respect for his community service. His work on behalf of institutions that supported the welfare, education and health of black Bermudians is worthy of recognition.

Editor’s note: Edmondson’s brother Frederick made his mark on the other side of the world. After serving as a teacher at Paget Glebe School, he moved to Sierra Leone and became a missionary. He married an African woman, was ordained an Anglican minister rising to the rank of Canon. But his family in Bermuda untimately lost contact with him. He is believed to have been killed during a period of upheaval.

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July 4, 1866—Edmondson is born in Paget

December 1898—Elected general secretary of Alexandrina Lodge

October 1919—Marries third wife, Mary Darrell, of Flatts.

1926—Oversees the rebuilding of Alexandrina Hall, after it was destroyed by a hurricane

March 1935—Eldest son John Harvey dies at age 39 after a long illness, leaving Leonard as the sole survivor of Edmondson’s five children

1935-1946—Chairman of the Berkeley Educational Society

Around 1904—Elected chairman of the Bermuda Nursing Association; served in this position for 50 years.

1938—Elected to Parliament, and serves two terms; honoured by lodges for his service

May 1948—Stands for reelection and is defeated by newcomer E.T. Richards

1952—Retires as president of the Bermuda Nursing Association

1960—Awarded an MBE

October 24, 1964—Dies at his home Edmonton at age 98.

 

 

 


As president of the Bermuda Nursing Association, Edmondson raised funds for the Cottage Hospital Nursing Home on Happy Valley Road, Pembroke. Photo: Bermuda Archives

Right, the Cottage Hospital today.

Edmondson oversaw the rebuilding of Alexandrina Hall on Court Street after it was nearly demolished by a hurricane in 1926. The building, now the home of dance school United Dance Productions,  is still owned by the Oddfellows. 

 


 

Further Reading

“Rev. Edmondson, Now a Canon”, Bermuda Recorder, March 2, 1935

“Lodge Secretary Honoured”, Bermuda Recorder, October 29,1938

“Election Meeting is Held in Warwick”, The Royal Gazette, April 28, 1948

“Oddfellows Rebuilt Alexandrina Hall After Hurricane in 1926—Former MCP Has Been Lodge Secretary over 50 Years”, The Royal Gazette, December 3, 1950

“Fifty Years Service to Community Recognised—Presentation to Mr. Harvey Edmondson Upon Retirement as Nursing Association President”, Bermuda Recorder, March 8, 1952

“‘Grand Old Man of Warwick’ also Celebrating”, The Royal Gazette, July 4, 1963

“Death of Mr. Francis Edmondson, MBE”, The Royal Gazette, October 27, 1964.

Bermuda’s Architectural Heritage—Hamilton Town and City, Bermuda National Trust, 2015

Bermuda’s Forgotten Heroes—Our Greatest Legacy by Joy Wilson Tucker, 1997

Peaceful Warrior—Sir Edward Trenton Richards by J. Randolf Williams, Camden Editions, 1988

CARE: 100 Years of Hospital Care in Bermuda by J. Randolf Williams, Camden Editions, 1994

 


 

 



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