Moving on from a colonial past
By Claire Price
Mark Warner is a chaplain living in a quiet Dorset village. He's been researching his family history - and found strong links with the slave trade. He tells BBC Dorset about how he moves on from his family's colonial past.
Mark Warner is embarrassed by his family’s past. As Baptist minister living in a quiet Dorset village, it’s hard to see how he is connected to one of the most immoral trades in history. But by blood, he is.
Joseph Warner, great grandson of Sir Thomas Warner
“My ancestor Sir Thomas Warner was the first coloniser of the West Indies,” he begins. “And that means my family was heavily involved with the slave trade.”
Mark has recently been researching his family history. Stories include the slaughter of Carib Indians on St Kitts, the betrayal of ‘Indian Warner’ and the beginnings of the slave trade.
It makes uncomfortable reading. “I don’t think I can be personally guilty for my family’s past but I can carry a responsibility.”
“If I carry the name Warner I have to acknowledge that the Warners were slave owners, brutally transporting and subjecting hundreds of people from West Africa.”
Eight generations of the Warner family were involved with the slave trade. They imported slaves to work on their tobacco and sugar plantations in the Caribbean. When the slave trade was abolished, the family was heavily compensated for its losses.
Mark hasn’t found evidence that any of his Warner ancestors called for abolition. “Charles Warner was involved with the reorganisation of slavery in the West Indies. He oversaw a peaceful transition, but didn’t campaign against the institution of slavery.”
So he is at least relieved that his mother is descended from a Quaker family, who were the chief opponents of the slave trade: “That’s quite a balance of justice.”
Mark now works as a minister with the British and International Sailors’ Society. He also campaigns for fair trade, promoting anti-poverty initiatives in his preaching.
“I believe that God wants justice for all people, since we are all made in his image. I’m so glad that my job gives me the opportunity to work towards that.”
last updated: 04/03/2008 at 14:00
Have Your Say
Does your family have links with the slave trade? We want to hear your stories here on BBC Dorset.
Carmen Tobalawi (nee Harvey)
Dr Peter Warner
george mortimer warner/morris