by Larry Smith
THETFORD, Norfolk -- Probably few readers will know that the first black mayor of an English town - specifically this town, a coach stop on the way from London to Norwich - was a Bahamian physician named Alan Glaiser Minns.
Of course, the term "black" depends on your perspective. Alan was the grandson of John Minns, who in 1800 "absconded from his apprenticeship" as a baker in Reading to be shipwrecked off Nassau. He subsequently married the African woman who saved his life - a slave named Rosetta. Retired airline pilot Paul Aranha and Exuma civic leader Basil Minns number among their descendants today.
John and Rosetta had several children. One grandson became the first non-white Anglican priest in the Bahamas. Two others trained as doctors in England, and both practised in Thetford. Pembroke Minns died here in 1912. His more illustrious brother Alan (who was born on Inagua in 1858), also died in England in 1930.
Although not many Bahamians are aware of Dr Minns' place in English political history, Susan Ketchell at the Ancient House Museum on White Acre Street here certainly was. During my visit, she recalled a recent lecture and exhibit on the subject. Minns' three-year term as mayor (from 1904) may have been just a footnote to Thetford's 1500-year history, but he was considered an exemplary candidate nonetheless.