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Samuel Seward Toddings Jr.
February 29, 1892-May 22, 1971
Newspaper publisher and parliamentarian

Photo: Bell’s Beautiful Bermuda, 1947, Bermuda Archives

S. Seward Toddings played a prominent role in public life for more than three decades. He followed in the footsteps of his father and namesake to become publisher and editor of the Mid-Ocean News, and a Member of Parliament.

He was editor of the Mid-Ocean News from 1935 until 1959 and was a Member of Parliament, representing St. George’s from 1933 until 1968. He was also coroner for the Eastern District for nearly 30 years, served on several government boards, was chair of the Labour and Local Forces boards, and was also a St. George’s alderman.

Twice widowed and thrice-married, Toddings was known for his prickly personality and sartorial style. He wore custom-made Brooks Brothers suits, donned top hat and tails for ceremonial affairs, and also sported Texas ten-gallon hats on occasion.


He was known to be generous to people in need. Businessman and former Senator Charles Marshall said he paid school fees for him and his two brothers to attend Mount St Agnes Academy. He also backed two unsuccessful bids to obtain parliamentary approval to open a school for black Catholics.

Yet although he had black ancestry—his grandmother and great-grandmother were freed slaves—he did not lend support to black parliamentarians and the sole white parliamentarian, Donald Smith, as they battled to end segregation and to increase black voter participation during the 1940s and 1950s.

During a 1948 parliamentary debate, he denied, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Civil Service positions were closed to black Bermudians. As chairman of the Labour Board, he butted heads with labour leaders, E.F. Gordon being the most notable.

On the other hand, Toddings was a military man who helped reinvigorate the all-white Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps (BVRC) and the black Bermuda Military Artillery (BMA) after the Second World War. The role he played in amalgamating the two units to become the Bermuda Regiment would prove to be his lasting legacy.


Born on Cedar Avenue, Hamilton on February 29, 1892, and raised in St. George’s, Samuel Seward Toddings, who was known as “Seaweed” to schoolmates, had big shoes to fill. His father S. S. Toddings was founding publisher and editor of the Mid-Ocean News, a former editor of the Colonist, a long serving member of Parliament and also a church organist.

Toddings Sr. was Anglican, but when he married his second wife, Agnes Costello, he became a Roman Catholic.  S.S. and Agnes had two sons, Seward and his younger brother, Thomas. While Agnes had her sights set on Seward becoming a priest, he would take up his father’s career.

Toddings attended Mount St. Agnes Academy, followed by Montreal’s Loyola College. He studied law at Temple University in Philadelphia for two years, but after his father started the Mid-Ocean News in 1911, he returned home to help out the elder Toddings.  Up until 1914 he worked at the Mid-Ocean in various capacities: assistant editor, pressman, compositor and delivery boy.

With the outbreak of the First World War, he joined the BVRC. In 1917, he transferred to the Canadian Artillery, served in the trenches in Belgium and France, and was wounded in action. He entered the war as a private, and by war’s end had become a captain. He eventually returned to Canada, where he joined the Reserves, then spent 18 months working on the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper, a daily newspaper in Brooklyn, New York.


In 1923, he joined the Mid-Ocean News as a reporter. When his father died in 1935 at the age of 88, Toddings became editor and quickly put his own stamp on the paper. He built a building on Burnaby Street, and moved there from Front Street. In 1940, the newspaper’s name was changed from the Mid-Ocean to the Mid-Ocean News. The company was incorporated in 1947.

Toddings made his first foray into the political arena in 1928, when his father vacated his St. George’s seat, but he was not elected. He was successful on his second attempt in 1933.

Media profiles depict him as a man who was different from his father, but just as formidable.  An article in the June 1944 issue of The Bermudian described Toddings the politician as a man “feared by friends and enemies alike”. His favourite target is “abuse of public power, of public confidence, of public funds”.
As a publisher, he took a hands-off approach to House of Assembly reports written by the newspaper’s parliamentary reporter.  He also made sure shareholders did not interfere with editorial policy.

He was popular with his constituents who “know they can get him up from the dinner table, away from radio newscasts, even out of bed with a tale of woe...” He had a keen mind, and was one of those “rare legislators” who studied bills that came before the House.

“Toddings the man wears a carnation the buttonhole of his flawlessly tailored suit, and his coloured shirt with the monogrammed sleeve was made especially for him by New York’s famous Brooks Brothers,” the article also said. He was not a drinker, and his eyes were “a remarkable, vivid, sparkling blue…”

All three of Toddings’ spouses were American. His first wife was Alice Reed of Boston. They had one son Donald Pierce Toddings. His second wife was Olive Marie Terry, with whom he adopted a son, Terry. His third wife was Cynthia Earl Farnsworth, who outlived him. Both Olive and Cynthia were concert pianists.


Issues of the Mid-Ocean for the period he was editor have not survived, but reports of parliamentary debates in The Royal Gazette and Bermuda Recorder give a clear indication of his political views.  In April 1937, he supported an anti-plumping bill which would have diluted black voting power, already severely limited by the requirement for voters to be property owners.  The bill was rejected by MPs.

As chairman of the Labour Board, he and Gordon locked horns over the 1946 Trade Union bill, which Toddings introduced in Parliament. Gordon complained that the bill favoured employers; Toddings did not believe union funds should be used to run business enterprises.

Gordon said this was legal and common practice in the Bahamas, Barbados, the U.K. Gordon wanted Parliament to consider amendments to the bill, but Toddings was having none of it, having spent five months working on the bill.

The Trade Union and Trade Disputes bill, the first of its kind for Bermuda, won parliamentary approval, with Gordon vehemently opposed.


Their relationship worsened the following year when the Mid-Ocean’s parliamentary reporter referred to the labour leader as Gordon. Dr. Gordon told Parliament this was disrespectful and gave examples of honorifs used for white MPs. The controversy spilled over into three sessions of the House.

MPs voted to ban the Mid-Ocean’s parliamentary reporter from the House, although this was later rescinded. Gordon then declared, to the consternation of many MPs, he would adopt the African name “Mazumbo”.  

Toddings was apparently unmoved by the controversy.  He told the January 20, 1947 session of Parliament: “It has been and will always be my policy as editor and publisher of the Mid-Ocean News to refer to certain members of this House in that way.”


Still, Gordon, like Toddings, was Catholic and both men backed a bill tabled in Parliament in December 1952 and again in May 1953 to open a Catholic school for black Catholics.

MPs were opposed for a variety of reasons. Bermuda already had a Catholic school, Mount St Agnes, for white children only. The idea that a church would operate a segregated school system did not sit well with some black MPs. When the bill was defeated in May 1953, Toddings told Parliament: “The greatest concern is to be able to educate our coloured boys and girls who are Roman Catholic.”

(Toddings’ “yes” vote in 1952 was inadvertently recorded as “Nay”, but the Speaker would not allow it to be corrected. Had his “yes” vote prevailed, the bill would have passed.)


On issues that would have allowed greater participation by black Bermudians in the political process, Toddings sided with white MPs, who were the majority in Parliament.

In April 1948, during a debate on the report of the Joint Select Committee established in response to E F. Gordon’s historic 1947 Bermuda Workers Association petition, Toddings that he would not support universal franchise, but was in favour of free education and incentives to encourage home ownership.

On January 31, 1951, he voted against a motion brought by black lawyer David Tucker to establish a select committee to consider extending the franchise to allow more people to vote. Tucker’s motion was unsuccessful. Toddings said: “Now somebody wants to upset the applecart and bring about conditions such as exist in countries to the south of us. They want to make beggars of us and have visitors to these islands assaulted by beggars, fighting for a penny or two.”


In 1952, Toddings was appointed chairman of the Local Forces Board and one year later, he appointed Francis Pereira as the BMA’s first commissioned black officer.  Up to that point, the BMA, despite being a black unit, had white officers.

The Bermuda Recorder, writing about the appointment in February 1953, said Toddings promised when he took over the chairmanship that there was going to be fair play and promotions would be made purely on the basis of ability.

This milestone was followed in January 1957 by the appointment of a black Bermudian, W.H. Outerbridge, to the permanent staff of the Local Forces, but later that year, Toddings was on the receiving end of criticism from black MPs because of comments he made in a speech to the St. George’s Rotary Club.

Speaking at an ”all white audience” in November 1957, according to a report in the Bermuda Recorder, Toddings said the BMA had a higher success rate attracting recruits than the BVRC, because 99 per cent of BMA soldiers found better conditions at Warwick Camp than at home.

Five days later, black MPs in Parliament demanded his resignation as board chairman. MP George Ratteray described his remarks as “wicked and untrue.” Toddings said the reporter had focused on remarks he had made extemporaneously at the end of his 30-minute talk. “Striking an unusually contrite tone, he added: “It very often happens that things roll off our tongues which we didn’t mean to say.”


The next few years would see the falling of racial barriers, with the success of the1959 Theatre Boycott, and the campaign to end the property vote. Toddings actually voted for the parliamentary franchise bill, which passed the House in December 1962.

The protracted debates that brought about the final compromise bill gave property owners an extra vote (the so-called “plus vote”) and raised the voting age from 21 to 25. Toddings opposed increasing the voting age, but supported the plus vote.

These social changes permeated all sectors of Bermuda, leading to calls for the the forces to be integrated. Toddings was initially opposed, saying he was concerned about a loss of identity for both units.
Three years later, in the summer of 1964, Toddings, backing a proposal by black businessman Erskine Adderley, established a committee to consider amalgamating the two units.

That committee, chaired by Adderley, recommended amalgamation, which occurred on September 1, 1965, with the establishment of the Bermuda Regiment.

By then, Toddings had been won over. In 1971, still chairman of the renamed Defence Board, he was touting the success of the integrated Regiment: “It has proven highly successful, although it was tough sledding at first with the die-hards.”

Toddings had resigned from political life three years earlier. He joined the United Bermuda Party but quit, sayinghe did not have the temperament for party politics. He announced his retirement from Parliament on the eve of the May 1968 election, which introduced the two-party system. Toddings had been plagued by ill health for several years.

In 1959, Toddings retired as managing director of the Mid-Ocean because of ill health, but continued on as president of the company. He was credited with building on the successes of his father. He acquired up-to-date printing technology, moved the newspaper’s centre of operations from Front Street to Burnaby Street, in a building that became known as the Toddings building, and finally to Union Street. In 1962, the Mid-Ocean was sold to Bermuda Press Holdings and became the sister paper of The Royal Gazette.

He owned several properties including Palmetto Bay Hotel in Flatts and was a director of printing firm Engravers Ltd.

In 1968, the year he retired from Parliament, he was living in a bachelor’s apartment on Richmond Road, Pembroke. His wife Cynthia was based in New York, where she ran her music school.  

He died on May 22, 1971. His military funeral was held at St. Theresa’s Cathedral three days later and he was buried in St. George’s. He was survived by wife Cynthia, sons Donald and Terry, and a stepdaughter Cynthia Farnsworth, all of whom lived in the U.S.

His death ended the Toddings line in Bermuda after nearly 200 years. The Toddings family had made an outstanding contribution to publishing and politics. Their lives also shine a light on Bermuda’s racial dynamics.

S. Seward Toddings spent most of his life in Bermuda like his father S.S. Toddings before him. Despite their accomplishments and successes in business and public affairs, neither man never publicly discussed their black ancestry, an indication of the rigidity of Bermuda’s colour bar.

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February 29, 1892—Toddings is born in Hamilton

1911-1914—Assists his father at the Mid-Ocean in a jack-of-all-trades role

1914—Signs on with the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps following the outbreak of the First World War

1917—Enlists in the Canadian Artillery, serves in the trenches in Europe and is wounded in action

1923—Joins the Mid-Ocean News as a reporter, after serving with the Canadian Reserves and working as a reporter on the Brooklyn Eagle in New York

1928—Makes his first run for Parliament, but fails to win a set.

1933—Is elected to Parliament, representing St. George’s.

1933-1939—Serves as St. George’s alderman

1935—Becomes editor and publisher of the Mid-Ocean upon the death of his father

1940—Mid-Ocean is renamed the Mid-Ocean News

1946—Toddings and Gordon lock horns over the Trade Union bill, which Parliament approves

1947—The Mid-Ocean News Company is incorporated; A heated debate takes place in Parliament after a Mid-Ocean News reporter refers to the labour leader simply as Gordon. Toddings is unrepentant; Gordon assumes the name Mazumbo.

April 1948—Expresses support in Parliament for free education and incentives to increase home ownership, but backs retaining the property vote.

January 1951—Votes against a proposal to establish a committee in Parliament to consider expanding voting rights

1952—Appointed chairman of the Local Forces Board; will hold the post until his death

February 1953—Appoints Francis Pereira as the first black officer of the Bermuda Militia Artillery

May 1953—Toddings expresses his disappointment after MPs vote against a bill to open a school for black Catholics

1959—Resigns as managing director of the Mid-Ocean News

1962—Bermuda Press Holdings purchases the Mid-Ocean News, ending the Toddings’ connection with the newspaper.
1964—Establishes a committee to examine amalgamation of the BVRC and the BMA; the two units become one the following year

October 1966—Resigns from the United Bermuda Party, saying he does not have the temperament for party politics

May 1968—Announces he will not be seeking reelection on the eve of the 1968 general election

May 22, 1971—Toddings dies

May 25, 1971—Toddings is buried with full military honours



“The less that I know of what is going on in the rest of the world, the better off we are going to be.”—Toddings

“The utter childishness that comes out of the mouth of my colleague makes me convinced that he is one of those who will not be here for the next session.”—E.F. Gordon. Exchange between Toddings and Gordon, during a debate about whether Bermuda should host a Parliament conference in Bermuda—The Royal Gazette, April 6, 1948

"I am not prepared to budge one inch from our present system unless the House is prepared to extend the franchise along rental lines. I am prepared to give a vote to the man who owns a house and is a perfectly respectable citizen…. We know we have the highest standard of living in the world here…"

"I have searched Bermuda laws and I am tired of searching but I cannot find one saying a Church of England follower, a Roman Catholic, a Seventh-Day Adventist or any other kind of man is barred from the civil service. It is an administrative matter. We cannot legislate on it. It is for the Governor to decide. Nothing can stop a man from joining the civil service…This is the freest country in the world.”— The Royal Gazette, April 17, 1948

“One’s personal views however firmly held must be submerged in the collective decision.” Toddings, explaining his decision to quit the United Bermuda Party—The Royal Gazette, October 7, 1966.

“I think to allow the PLP with its radical, irresponsible thinking to get into power would be the worst mistake we could make. No man in this day and age can seriously think of standing in the way of justice or of preventing the correction of social or political ills. But the PLP seems to be manufacturing their own political and social ills as they go along.”

“I feel I was certain of being elected which is doubly disappointing to me, but I shall now support the United Bermuda Party because I think it would be highly dangerous and ethically incorrect at this stage not to do so.”—Toddings, announcing his decision to quit politics, ahead of May 1968 election, The Royal Gazette, May 11, 1968

“There was so much damn irrelevance. You got tired of listening to it. You know yourself certain people would go around the world, would not stick to a subject.” —Toddings speaking about the quality of debate in Parliament, Bermuda Sun, June 29, 1968.

“You have to like the newspaper business; if you do you give it your all, and sooner or later you undermine your health. I always liked it—it made me happier than any social entertainment ever did.”—Reporter Marian Robb recalls comments Toddings made upon his retirement as publisher, The Royal Gazette, May 26, 1971

S. S. Toddings Jr. at work. Photo from The Bermudian, June 1944.

S.S. Toddings meets the Queen in Town Square, St. George during her visit in November 1953.  Photo: Bermuda Archives

Members of the Local Forces Board that was responsible for amalgamating the BVRC and the BMA to become the Bermuda Regiment.
Back row from left: David Mello, Walter Roberts, Ken Ford, Jack Pitt, Jack Sharpe and Erskine Adderley.
Front Row, from left:  Dorothy Thompson, Brownlow Tucker, S. Seward Toddings, Mac Paschal and Kimbell Frith.

Photo: Royal Bermuda Regiment—50 Years Strong

Toddings’ funeral was a tribute to his military service, both on the front lines in Europe, and in Bermuda as chairman of the Local Forces and the renamed Defence Board. Following the funeral service at St. Theresa’s Cathedral in Hamilton, he was buried with full military honours in St. Peter’s cemetery, St. George’s. Photos: Bermuda Archives


Further Reading

“Personalities Abound—Samuel Seward Toddings”, The Bermudian, June 1944

“Pereira Becomes First Negro Officer in Local Forces”, Bermuda Recorder, February 14, 1953

“Board Chairman Told to Resign or Retract Slur Against Bermuda Negroes”, Bermuda Recorder, November 9, 1957

“This Week in Brief”, Bermuda Recorder, November 18, 1957

Mid-Ocean News Golden Jubilee issue, January 31, 1961

Debates on franchise bill, The Royal Gazette, December 21 and 22, 1962

“Veteran Politician Bows Out of the Race”, The Royal Gazette, May 11, 1968

“Mr. S. Seward Toddings: ‘My Bark is Worse than my Bite’,” Bermuda Sun, June 29, 1968

“Govt. Committees—What Do They Do?”, Bermuda Recorder, February 20, 1971

“A reporter remembers Mr. Toddings”, The Royal Gazette, May 26, 1971

Obit and tributes: The Royal Gazette, May 26, 1971

Tributes in Parliament, The Royal Gazette, May 29, 1971; Mid-Ocean News, May 29, 1971

Dr. E.F Gordon, Hero of Bermuda’s Working Class by Dale Butler, Bermuda, 1987

Royal Bermuda Regiment—50 Years Strong by Tony McWilliam, National Museum of Bermuda Press, 2016

Additional Sources:

Interview with Charles Marshall, 2018




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