Bermuda: Born of a Shipwreck

Sir George Somers: A man and his Times. Book by Bermudian the late David Raine.

The portrait below right was painted by Paul van Somer (no relation) originally from the Netherlands, believed to be during the lifetime of the Admiral. 

The original oil painting canvas -in much greater detail than shown above - measures 45 x 35 inches, in wood and gilded 54.5 by 43.25 inch frame. 


It and its twin - of wife Lady Somers - were purchased in 1932 (some say 1937) by the Bermuda Historical Monuments Trust and Bermuda Historical Society (BHS) from Miss E. Winifred Bellamy, of Woodside Cottage, Plymouth, Devon, England, a descendant of Sir George. Both paintings had been handed down from generation to generation in England through a collateral branch of the Somers family.


Also in the Museum of the BHS at Par la Ville, 13 Queen Street, Hamilton is the wooden sea chest belonging to Sir George. It is of early 17th century Italian origin. The chest is thought to be Venetian and has a scene from Greek mythology showing Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, surprised by Acteon, a hunter, while bathing. To punish him she turns him into a stag, whereupon his own dogs attack and kill him, no longer recognizing him as their master.


The Bellamy family, direct descendants of the Admiral, also sold Sir George's lode stone. This was used to magnetize his compass needles during his earlier seafaring voyages. The lode stone is thought to date back to 1600. Egg-shaped and banded by strips of iron, it is mounted on an oak plinth with a plaque which states 'Lodestone, Sir George Summer, obit 1610'. Also on display at the BHS Museum is a freehand sketch of the 1609 Somer's Map, a hand-painted reproduction of the original map of Bermuda charted by Sir George. The original map is in the Bermuda Archives.


The existence of these valuable artifacts was first made known to Bermudians by Major-General and two times Governor of Bermuda and historian Sir John Henry Lefroy. In the 1882 edition of the manuscript in the Sloane Collection, British Museum he edited, he added an original and unpublished portrait of Admiral Sir George Somers which Miss Bellamy inherited from her ancestor, Dr. Bellamy, MD, connected with the Somers family. Lefroy reproduced the painting on page 11 of his book "Historye of the Bermudaes or Summer Islands."


Lefroy was also the author of "Memorials Of the Discovery and Early Settlement of the Bermudas or Somers Islands." It was first published in MDCCCLXXXII by the Hakluyt Society in a limited edition. No. LXV is today in the collection of the Bermuda Historical Society. On pages 49 to 52, the lives of Sir George and Lady Somers are described by historian Preston Davie in the book Virginia Historical Portraiture, 556 pages. It was first published in 1929 in a Limited Edition of One Thousand Copies, of which the Bermuda Historical Society has Copy No. 369.


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