George Somers statue targeted amid anti-racism protests in Lyme Regis

The “Black Lives Matter” anti-rascism protests have raised the issue of slavery. The latter is an extreme form of human exploitation. Any wealth accumulated on the back of the cotton, sugar or tobacco trades, all of which boomed in the “golden era” of the merchant trading companies in the two hundred years before the abolition of slavery can almost certainly be linked to slavery. 

Owl’s view is that there can be few forms of wealth creation that do not not involve exploitation of human endeavour in one form or another, they are just less extreme and less obvious. See, for example, the wealth creation of the East India Company

From a local history point of view (and not often remembered or talked about), the inhabitants of the southern coastal communities in Devon, and particularly Cornwall, were also the victims of White slavery. For over 300 years, were at the mercy of Barbary pirates (corsairs) from the coast of North Africa, based mainly in the ports of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli. Their number included not only North Africans but also English and Dutch privateers. Their aim was to capture slaves for the Arab slave markets in North Africa. By the 1650s the attacks were so frequent that they threatened England’s fishing industry with fishermen reluctant to put to sea, leaving their families unprotected ashore.

It was ended by combined British and Dutch military action in 1816 with the release of 4,000 slaves, nothing like the scale of Black slavery, but slavery none the less.

About Francesca Evans

The statue of Admiral Sir George Somers in Lyme Regis has become the target of vandalism amid anti-racism protestsThe word “murderer” has been written on an information about Sir George Somers’ life next to his statue

The word “murderer” has been written across an information board next to the statue in Langmoor Gardens. A cardboard sign describing Sir George as an “opportunist” was also removed from the statue this morning.

The vandalism of the information board follows anti-racism protests held across the UK over the weekend, in response to the death of George Floyd in America last month.

George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25 after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes while he was handcuffed face down in the street. Chauvin has since been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Anti-racism protests have since been held across the globe, including in Bristol where a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down.

Sir George Somers was a former Mayor and MP of Lyme Regis, who founded the isles of Bermuda after being shipwrecked there in 1608 on his way to the new English colony of Jamestown, Virginia.

Lyme Regis is now twinned with St George’s in Bermuda, where Sir George is widely celebrated and suggestions that he was involved in the slave trade have been refuted.

Lyme Regis historian and author Peter Lacey, whose book ‘Elizabethan Lyme’ includes a section on Sir George’s life, said he died in 1610 and the slave trade “did not get under way until the 1640s”.

The Mayor of Lyme Regis, Councillor Brian Larcombe, was contacted by ITV show ‘This Morning’ yesterday to ask if there were any concerns or reservations about the statue of Sir George.

The mayor has condemned the vandalism of the information board and is expected to release a full statement on the issue later today.

Comment is also expected from the Lyme Regis/St George’s Twinning Association, which erected the statue.