Sleek vessel: The brand-new gig Memory under oar in 1924 in Hamilton Harbour, with her owner Pilot Henry Tucker at the stern. *Image courtesy National museum of Bermuda
Sleek vessel: The brand-new gig Memory under oar in 1924 in Hamilton Harbour, with her owner Pilot Henry Tucker at the stern. *Image courtesy National museum of Bermuda
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A rare watercolour of a Bermuda gig painted nearly 150 years ago has been donated to the National Museum.

The unique image was created by the well known 19th century marine artist, Edward James, in 1875, two years before the prolific artist died of apoplexy at the age of 57.

James arrived in Bermuda in 1861 from England and the Crown surveyor’s extensive artwork documented a broad spectrum of late 19th century life on the island.

The painting was given to the Museum on behalf of the directors of the old store HA & E Smith Limited and handed over by a former director, Roger Davidson, last week.

Mr Davidson told the Sun the painting had been donated in memory of HA & E Smith’s son, and his great uncle, WB Smith.

He added: “The painting ended up with my great uncle WB Smith and he passed it down to his daughter ‘Mabs’ Cooper.

“She then contacted me when she was moving from her home in Maine and I took possession of it.

“We always felt that the National Museum was the right place for a piece of artwork as important as this.”

Mr Davidson added: “WB Smith was a marvellous guy and he certainly made a huge contribution to life in Bermuda from establishing the Bermuda Perfumery to all sorts of marine projects.

“He was an extremely able and intelligent man and we felt it appropriate to present this Edward James watercolour to the Museum in his memory.”

The painting shows a two-masted Bermuda pilot gig, which was an unusual subject for James, who usually concentrated on broader harbour scenes and local events.

Gigs and their crews would race under oar or sail to “catch” incoming ships to earn the piloting fees.

They were also used in the rescue and salvage of shipwrecked vessels off Bermuda.

Curator Elena Strong told the Bermuda Sun: “The National Museum is delighted with this gift from Mr Davidson and the other Directors of HA & E. Smith Limited.

“The watercolour joins a growing collection of objects, photographs, documents and art relating to Bermuda’s piloting heritage.”