Opening Day

The Bermuda Maritime Museum was officially opened by The Queen in February 1975, but much more work needed to be done before paying visitors could be admitted.  The volunteers continued to work to prepare the 1850 Building and ready the displays, lighting, signage and (importantly) secure the artefacts.  I recall helping the curator during the Easter 1975 holidays to log the mass of donated items, prepare them for exhibiting and do other odd jobs as well as we prepared to open to paying visitors.

It was not until 30 March 1975 that the doors were opened to the public.  Earl Mountbatten of Burma, cousin of Queen Elizabeth II and uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh, was visiting the island, and he had agreed to open the Museum.  He travelled from Hamilton to Dockyard in the tender Canima.  Sea Cadets from TS Venture lined the entry.  Having inspected the cadets and met the Museum officials, in his well-known style he told everyone to ‘break ranks and gather round.’

Mountbatten recalled that, as First Sea Lord and tasked with rationalising the Royal Navy in the mid- to late-1950s, it fell to him to abolish the North America and West Indies Station, close the Bermuda Dockyard, and reduce the Royal Navy’s presence to a Commodore’s post based in HMS Malabar at Moresby House.  It was not a duty or decision that he made lightly or happily.

He also noted that The Queen had reported her recent visit to him, and he was excited to see that the Keep Yard and related estate had been turned over to become a Museum.  With that, he grasped the handle of one of the main gates saying that, whereas in the 1950s his actions had led to a load of ‘Keep Out’ signs being installed throughout the Dockyard, he was delighted to open the Museum, and that the signs should henceforth read ‘Keep In.’