open secret. But to all intents and purposes, he
functioned as a white man.
“At the time, the level of segregation was
not what it became,” said Zuill.
Toddings attended the military school in St.
George’s and then Mount Allison University
in New Brunswick, Canada, graduating in
1866 with a B.A. degree. At Mount Allison,
he met his first wife, Jane Allison, the niece of
the university’s founder. She died two years
after their marriage.
Toddings started his career as a junior re-
porter at the Halifax Herald. He worked there
for three years, and then returned to Bermuda.
In 1869, he and his brother Lindsay purchased
the Colonist, which had been founded three
years earlier. He also served as the paper’s
Shortly after buying the paper, he increased
publication from every two weeks to weekly.
In 1871, he began publishing full reports of
parliamentary debates, a critical contribution
to the island’s historical record. The Royal Gazette said his reports were never “questioned
for their accuracy or fairness.” Toddings
travelled from St. George’s to Hamilton taking
notes in a shorthand he developed, wearing
formal dress, including a top hat, according
to William Zuill. He eventually received a
government grant for his efforts.
Toddings remained owner of the Colonist
until 1907 and served as editor until 1911.
He either quit or was fired as editor following
a dispute with the new owners over editorial policy. In August 1911, he founded the
Mid-Ocean News. As its editor, he enjoyed
a reputation for fearlessness and was sued at
least once for libel.
Toddings served in parliament from 1904
to 1911 and again from 1923 to 1928. A proponent of widening Town Cut to allow bigger
ships into St. George’s, he made his views
known in parliament and in his editorials and
lived to see his dream become a reality.
Toddings’s tenure as newsman was longer
than Lee’s, a record 69 years. Like Lee, he was
editor up until the time of his death at age 88,
and was highly productive, putting in 10-hour
days. Toddings, who had been a strong advocate of a railway for Bermuda, died as a result
of a railway accident. He was travelling by rail
from his residence in St. George’s to his office
in Hamilton and fell while disembarking from
the train, sustaining foot fractures and other
injuries. He died of gangrene a month later on
April 24, 1935.
In its obit, The Royal Gazette described him
as “an exceptional, able and far-seeing journalist; the public life of the colony is the poorer
for the loss of a citizen of the highest calibre
and integrity.” His death was also reported in
the New York Times.
Toddings was succeeded by his son S.
Seward Toddings Jr., one of two sons he had
with second wife, Agnes Costello. In 1962, the
Mid-Ocean News was acquired by Bermuda
Press Ltd., owners of The Royal Gazette.
Toddings’s death was front-page news in the
black-owned Bermuda Recorder. Noting his
“distinguished career” and “fearless editorials,”
the report also said that “for years Mr. Toddings had been our newspaperman,” perhaps a
reference to his black ancestry.
The founders of The Recorder were James Rubain, David Augustus, Henry Hughes and Joaquin Martin, all carpenters and masons, and Alfred
Brownlow “A.B.” Place. But it was A.B. Place,
a printer who learned his trade at the Colonist
(post Toddings), who was the newspaper’s
The youngest of 12 children, Place was
raised a member of the Salvation Army. In
1904, as an 11-year-old, he attended the third
International Congress of the Salvation Army
in London, where he got to see the Salvation
Army founder, William Booth, in person.
But it was another international figure,
Marcus Garvey, a man he never met but
greatly admired, who was the inspiration for
the founding of the Recorder.
Jamaican-born Garvey came to prominence
during the early twentieth century, electrifying
black people all over the world with his message of black pride and empowerment. When
the Bermuda government denied Garvey
permission to land in Bermuda and The Royal
Gazette declined to print a letter protesting
this, Place decided that the time had come for
black Bermudians to have their own media
“It was then that I made up my mind that
the black people of Bermuda should have a
newspaper and voice of their own, because you
know, there was complete segregation of the
races in those days,” he told the Workers Voice
in a 1977 interview.
The five founders raised £750 to purchase
equipment, and the first edition, a four-page,
was printed on July 18, 1925, with A.B. Place
as manager. Naysayers said the paper wouldn’t
last six months. Place would be at the helm
as publisher for 47 years, serving primarily as
manager and ad man, but also as managing
editor, as the need arose.
The Recorder began as a weekly, and was a
twice-weekly publication from the 1940s to
1965, when it reverted to a weekly. It grew
from a four-page to a 12-page edition and at
its height enjoyed a circulation of 5,000. Place
recruited a distinguished roster of editors.
They included George DaCosta, the first
headmaster of The Berkeley Institute, E. T.
Richards, the future lawyer and premier, who
was then a Berkeley teacher, and lawyer and
parliamentarian David Tucker. The support
from his wife Julia, with whom he had four
children, was invaluable. She put her hand to
whatever was needed, from selling advertising
to helping put the paper together during the
early hours of the morning on press nights.
Veteran journalist Ira Philip got his start at
The Recorder and was its parliamentary reporter for many years. His coverage of key battles
in the struggle for black Bermudian rights,
from the Gordon years in the 1940s to the
battle for universal suffrage during the 1950s
and early 1960s, put The Recorder at the front
and centre of current affairs. Stories about
distinguished black visitors who were denied
accommodation in hotels received prominent
When the Bermuda government denied [Marcus]
Garvey permission to land in Bermuda and The
Royal Gazette declined to print a letter protesting
this, Place decided that the time had come for
black Bermudians to have their own media outlet.