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About the book

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"Island Flames" is the WINNER of the Bermuda Government Literary Awards for 2018 (Non-Fiction category).

Now in its 3rd printing.

Go to the 'How to Order' page for details.



"Island Flames" is the first book about the murders, executions, Bermuda's race problems and UK policy that resulted in the 1977 riots.


The 1970’s was the closest Bermuda ever came to a revolution. Political murders marred the early part of the decade and in 1977, the Island was on the brink of public order breakdown when US Marines, 250 UK troops and more than 1,500 Police, Regiment, Fire and other local resources were deployed to restore order following the executions of two convicted killers. The riots were the most extensive and deadly riots ever experienced on the island. Fire damage to mostly establishment-owned businesses was extensive and three people, two tourists and a Bermudian hotel worker, were killed at the Southampton Princess Hotel fire. The riots occurred against the back drop of the murders of British symbols of power in Bermuda, Governor Richard Sharples (former Conservative MP), British Army Captain Hugh Sayers, UK Police Commissioner George Duckett and two local shopkeepers, Victor Rego and Mark Doe between 1972 and 1973.

Two men, Erskine Durrant ‘Buck’ Burrows and Larry Tacklyn, with ties to the Black Power movement, were arrested, tried and convicted for their roles in the murders. By the time the date was announced for the executions, the last hangings to occur on British soil anywhere in the world, Bermuda was sharply divided. On one side was the white-dominated United Bermuda Party which supported the death penalty. On the other, the first female Opposition leader in the Commonwealth led the mostly-black Progressive Labour Party’s charge against the death penalty. The country was similarly divided – on racial lines. Forty representatives of the international media descended on Bermuda for the executions and were caught up in the riots as they unfolded.

Politics, race, cries of racial injustice, colonialism, lack of economic opportunity for blacks, the death penalty and the UK’s role in the final decision to hang the men, all converged to make this the most confrontational and deadly era in Bermuda’s history.

“Island Flames” draws on close to two hundred separate sources, including interviews with former Foreign Secretary, Lord David Owen, former Bermuda Premiers Sir John Swan and Alex Scott – the last surviving Bermudian member of the Pitt Commission – embodied to help the country heal. Professor Michael Banton, a key member of the Commission, offered his views on why the Commission’s Report stood the test of time. Several themes emerge through “Island Flames” as it guides the reader through a decade of political, social and racial tension, violence and attempts to overthrow the symbols of UK authority in Bermuda:


  • The impact of the 1965 and 1968 riots

  • The flip flopping of UK policy on hangings in the colonies.

  • The breakdown in the relationship between Bermuda Governor, Sir Peter Ramsbotham and the Foreign Secretary, Dr. David Owen at a critical time.

  • Denial by many UK MP’s that Bermuda’s race problems were as bad as reported.

  • How last ditch efforts to prevent the executions, failed.

  • Once ‘Secret’ and ‘Classified’ UK Government files revealed show how UK troops were sent to Bermuda to restore order.

  • How top Secret anti-communist operatives worked in Bermuda to counter the Black Power movement and prop up the largely-white Government.

  • How decades of oppression and discrimination forced the black population into action.

  • Frantic calls from Government House to PM James Callaghan as the riots escalated.

  • The horrific scene which confronted firemen at the hotel fire which claimed three lives.

  • How Regiment soldiers faced the prospect of death during the riots.

  • Key decisions on the hangings traced to the desks of UK Prime Minister, James Callaghan, Deputy Prime Minister Michael Foot and Foreign Secretary, Owen.


Guest contributor, Cordell Riley, the respected former Government Statistician, writes a chapter in the book and offers his views on the trajectory Bermuda has taken since 1977 and analysis of what has changed, and hasn’t changed in the years since the riots. Using statistical data, Riley invites the reader to reflect on the relevance of prior events with the socio-economic-racial fabric of the modern-day Bermuda.


“Island Flames” is a 360 page, hard-back, indexed book including more than 40 photographs – with more than 1,000 references.

Published by Ten Ten Publications, PO Box HM 1010, HMDX, Bermuda

Edited and designed by Paul Shapiro, Brimstone Media Ltd., Bermuda.

ISBN 978-1-927750-92-6

(C) Island Flames Limited



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