Back in the day: Steamer Day, Hamilton, Bermuda is featured in the Bermuda Post Office’s commemorative book celebrating 200 years. Steam driven transportation made postal transportation faster and cheaper on the island. *Photo supplied
Back in the day: Steamer Day, Hamilton, Bermuda is featured in the Bermuda Post Office’s commemorative book celebrating 200 years. Steam driven transportation made postal transportation faster and cheaper on the island. *Photo supplied

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18: The Bermuda Post Office is marking its 200th anniversary with a commemorative book.

Written by Liz Jones with the help of Corporate Services Division Manager Eugenie Simmons, Bermuda Post Office Bicentennial 1812-2012 tells the story of the postal service on the island and its overseas connections.

The book charts the story from the post office’s unofficial beginnings in the 1780s, its official launch in 1812 and subsequent role in Bermuda’s history — not least in hastening the demise of segregation.

But the book is no dull account of historic events, according to Ms Simmons, but rather a treasure trove full of interesting anecdotes and juicy facts. 

“The book was laid out to appeal to all audiences,” she told the Sun.

“It’s not just something the Post Office can be proud of as the oldest international business in Bermuda.

“It is going to appeal to the stamp collector and philatelists — there is a chapter devoted to the history of the stamps.

“It appeals to the purists — the historians who want to see the timelines and all the dates of when things happened. There is a whole narrative that goes throughout the book for them.

“And then there are the sections for those of us who have very Puckish, mischievous personalities and really want to know all the tidbits and juicy parts.

“We have sidebars in the book called ‘Focus On’ where there are all sorts of cute stories.”

One such story is that of former convict William Facey. Living in England as a youth, Facey stole one of his father’s horses and to teach him a lesson his father reported him to the police.

To his parents’ dismay, William was transported to Bermuda along with other convicts. He must have been well-liked on the island as he was one of the only convicts allowed to stay after release.

He grew his own livery and by 1842, he became one of the first mail carriers contracted by the Post Office to deliver post by coach from Hamilton to St George’s.

He was a forgiving man too — he made a healthy wage and helped his father out when he fell into financial ruin.

Liz Jones was chosen to write the book to add her own lively, human narrative while remaining
functional and factual.

Ms Jones has authored other historical books of Bermuda including Bermuda Recollections and the Talbot Brothers Book Project.

Ms Jones said she enjoyed interviewing people who were alive in the early 50s when there was strict segregation on the island. The Post Office was the first government institution to break that barrier.

“I got to meet Phyllis Guishard — one of the first three black Bermudian women to be employed by the civil service,” explained Ms Jones.

“Dr Gordon was behind it and he was there every morning for the first week of her employment to make sure she didn’t let the side down.

“It made it all come to life. It’s not easy to understand the pressure that segregation put on people and she made it really come alive.”

The book is based on interviews with retired and current Post Office employees, Post Office Management, prominent stamp experts and philatelists. The book is also derived from research of primary material in the Bermuda Government and Post Office archives as well as extensive printed literature from the Bermuda Library and Ms Jones’s own collection.

The book launches at a Business Bermuda reception in London and locally at the main Post Office in Hamilton on the morning of April 24. It will eventually be available from various bookstores and retail outlets and sub-post offices across the island. It retails at $34.99. Book signing dates are to be arranged.