March 12, 2015

It Happened on March 12th

John Smith wrote one of the first histories of Burmuda.

Bermuda Colonized 1609
It wasn't exactly intentional, you understand. A flotilla of ships belonging to the Virginia Company, headed for Jamestown and carrying the new Governor, encountered a dreadful storm at sea -- probably a hurricane. The Sea Venture, the flagship of the flotilla, was under the command of Admiral George Sommers, who deliberately wrecked the ship on a reef in order to avoid foundering in open sea. The reef turned out to be attached to the island of Bermuda. 

Bermuda was not unknown at this time. It had been discovered over a hundred years earlier, and was used by both the Spanish and the Portuguese as a place to replenish meat and water supplies. The island, however, was thought to be haunted and was known as the "Island of Devils." Its bad reputation probably sprang from the treacherous reefs surrounding it, the almost-constant sound of wind and storms, and the odd noises heard in the night (birds, wild hogs, and the storms.) 

The crew and passengers of the Sea Venture made it safely to land: 150 people and one dog. Over the next 10 months they built two new ships, and in 1610 most of the castaways sailed for Virginia. They left several people on Bermuda to establish the claim for England. Today, Bermuda's capital, St. George's, is the oldest continuously inhabited town in the Western Hemisphere. 

Among the individuals wrecked on Bermuda are two noteworthy individuals. The first is William Strachey, whose written report of the shipwreck is thought to have been one of the sources of Shakespeare's The Tempest. The other is John Rolfe, who later made his way to Jamestown, where he became the husband of Pocahontas. 

John Rolfe was one of the shipwreckees. Here he is at the baptism of his future wife, Pocahontas.

Charles Boycott was a most unpopular man.
Birth of Charles Cunningham Boycott, 1832
Have you ever wondered where the word "boycott" came from? Charles Boycott was an Englishman who served as land agent for Lord Erne, who owned much of the property in County Mayo, Ireland. As land agent, his job was to collect rents from Lord Erne's tenants. Boycott was already unpopular among the tenants: he had a reputation for fining people for minor offenses, such as leaving gates open, or allowing chickens to trespass on his property. 

1880 had been a poor year in terms of harvests, and Lord Erne had agreed to a 10% reduction in rents. The tenants, however, wanted a 25% reduction. Boycott forwarded the tenants' demands to Erne, who refused them. Boycott then began eviction proceedings for those who had not paid their rent. 

It was at about this time that the Irish Land Movement had begun to become powerful. Headed by such men as Charles Parnell and Michael Davitt, the movement strove to reduce land rents and stop evictions, and ultimately, to allow tenant farmers to become owners of the lands they tilled. 

It was a bad time to try to evict tenants. The locals began by evading and threatening those serving the eviction notices. They then began threatening Boycott's servants and advising them to leave his employ. The blacksmith, laundress, and postal carriers were next to boycott Boycott, and pretty soon the shopkeepers had stopped serving him as well. Boycott had no help to harvest his own crops, and was bringing his own supplies in by boat from a distance. 

In October of 1880, Boycott wrote a letter to The Times outlining his situation. After his situation became known outside of County Mayo, the newspapers became involved, and soon The Boycott Relief Fund was organized to help Boycott harvest his crops. 

Fifty Orangemen came in from County Cavan and County Monaghan to harvest Boycotts crops, and were protected by 1000 men from the Royal Irish Constabulary. It is estimated that it cost the British government and various donors over £10,000 to harvest £350 worth of potatoes.

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