It was my longest trip ever and after about 8 hours out of Heathrow the magical sight of Bermuda appeared under the starboard wing of the BOAC ‘707’, in September 1963. Alastair Lane flew in with me, also newly recruited to the Bermuda Police; he was not to stay more than a few months in his wonderful new world of really cheap alcohol, before he flew back to dry out. I never did get back the one hundred English pounds I had loaned him ‘until pay-day’. We were met at the airport by Dave Parsons, the Training Instructor. I remember thinking at the time, “This chap’s got flat feet!” I recognized Dave many years later when he had retired from the Service as Chief Inspector. I was driving with Marion (my wife) in a car rental. He was walking along the high street of a town in Menonite Country in Canada and had taken a part-time job as a uniformed traffic inspector in Elmira or St Jacob. Marion and I had the jolliest evening with Dave and his wife. I wanted to tell him that I had recognized him by his flat feet, but instead we swopped stories about family. By then our two daughters, Gemma and Catherine were at Waterloo University. We were visiting them and had spotted Dave whilst we were shopping for a quilt like only the Menonites can make by hand.
As Dave Parsons drove Alastair and me to Prospect in the training school’s Morris Traveller – that was the one with ribs of shiny wood running along the sides - I was struck by the shrill tone of the tree frogs. I think I was wearing one of those long-sleeved English polyester dress shirts and was already quite uncomfortable in the unfamiliar evening heat and humidity. Mr. Carty soon fitted me out with the requisite Bermuda shorts. He had a little shop just across from my new home, McBeath Block at Prospect and was adept at tailoring the many requirements for a service organization. Andy Bermingham advised me on the all important electric fan which was crucial really to one’s survival in a non-airconditioned environment and loaned me his electric iron so that I was more or less presentable when doing the orientation trail on Monday morning.
Bermuda was on a journey in the sixties that had commenced in the late fifties with the cinema boycott, trades unionism and party politics. Some aspects of policing in Bermuda were entirely unlike prior experience. For instance, the time I stopped a young man on the sidewalk outside the Rosebank Theatre, a few days after my arrival. The youngster had thrown a small object in a moment of enthusiasm. I was intent on telling him not to repeat that on a crowded sidewalk. I was immediately surrounded by an enquiring crowd of youngsters. No opportunity there to call on assistance as I would have in the Coventry City service that I had just left in the British midlands! Rather I was driven away from the situation by smiling Keith Pratt, a sturdy fellow who was in charge of the police garage and had been driving past the cinema in his private car. Thanks Keith, wherever you are now. (Editors note - Keith passed away a few years ago) And a lesson well learned for the next twenty-five years, that Bermuda is another world. However, I did get caught up in a riot outside BelCo on Serpentine Road on 2 February 1964, and got a great bash on my head that needed a lot of stitches. Soon thereafter I was posted to St. Georges.
Doc Hall, Dudley Swan, Sydney Morgan, Walter Sneddon, Tom O’Sullivan, Laurie Jackson, Harvey Fothergill and John Sharp, to name a few, were the most unlikely makings of a police team that really did function very well in the Eastern Division. It was offensive to the native St Georgians if they were not greeted with a ‘Good morning’. It was a most civilized aspect of life in the old British colony, and I am quick to recognize it today when I meet the habit in the rural parts of the Cayman Islands – another old British territory - where I am now living. In 1963, the top floor of the police station functioned as magistrate’s court and I have to remark that when I did court duty I totally admired the summings-up of the magistrate Walter Maddocks. (Editors note – Mr. Maddocks passed away in late 2011). His sequencing of evidence and application of logic was remarkable. Another fellow who likely did court duty was the late Barrie Meade. Barrie was the St David’s Parish PC. He took to book study early on, taking a Rapid Results College course toward an LLB, which he achieved, and after a varied police career and judicial apprenticeship, went on to be appointed Attorney General in the Islands.
St. Georges was not ‘all work’ and I was lucky to meet Mary Anne (Marion) McGee, who was a district nurse and midwife. Whilst I was an ardent motorcyclist, Marion let me practice my driving in the district nurses mini car; I passed the driving test at the Parsons Road centre and at my next review I asked Ch. Supt. Harry Saunders to be considered for a police driving course. In the meantime Marion and I were married in Stella Maris church, just down from the Salvation Army Citadel and just up from the olde prison in the St Georges back of town. Roger Sherratt did the driving course with me and we were posted to driving duties in St Georges. I had just acquired a brand new VW Beetle and Roger must have considered it was poorly parked when he put a dent in the front bumper bar whilst reversing a police Riley 1.5 litre patrol car outside the police station. The Riley was grossly overpowered both for the body size of the car and the width of many of the Bermuda roads and it was easy to squeal the tyres on the bends of Mullet Bay Road.
I spent several happy and productive years in St Georges. Marion and I were blessed with two beautiful daughters and we made many friends in the local and expatriate community. We were each granted Bermudian status. Kindley Air Force Base had great target-shooting facilities and I got quite competent with a range of weapons in the company of Tim Willis, Stuart Kirkpatrick, Wayne Perinchief, John Instone and others. I was parish constable for Hamilton Parish, which came under the jurisdiction of the St Georges station.
I remember getting a roasting from James McMaster, the Inspector in charge of St Georges, who’d had to endure the wrath of the Director of Education who lived on Blue Hole Hill in a mansion. I hadn’t attached sufficient priority to searching for the Director’s Dalmatian dog when it went missing. Marion and I then lived in one of the Wilkinson cottages on the Crystal Caves property. It was a lovely location but the rent was a bit of a stretch at 30 pounds per month!
One day I was riding my police Lambretta scooter through Wellington, St Georges when I spotted the largest centipede I’d seen, crossing the road. I quickly turned the scooter and ran over the creature with both wheels; to my amazement the centipede continued to run to concealment in the roadside coral.
Bermuda’s rough ride along the human rights road and the related activism, regretfully created a need for an armed police bodyguard section following the murder of the Police Commissioner, Mr. Duckett and the assassination of Sir Richard Sharples – the Governor – and his ADC, Captain Hugh Sayer. The new unit was a natural fit for me.
I had earlier obtained my first promotion (posted to Sgt in charge of the Central Parish Constables where amongst many other things, I used to meet weekly with Hugh Sayer to discuss the Governor’s police presence requirements at formal engagements) and with my weapons prowess I suddenly found myself as D/S Cox in Special Branch, assisting Inspector Tim Willis with the bodyguard section.
Thereafter followed fifteen years of the most memorable and interesting part of my service. Ian Morrison, Len Edwards, Andy Bermingham, Peter Stubbs, Barry Smith and Lionel Edwards were some of my colleagues. Several years before my retirement, and quite long after the bodyguarding days, when I was Government Security Officer and Secretary to the Government Security Committee – and an Inspector in Special Branch – the Deputy Governor, the late Peter Lloyd, to whom I reported on certain protective security matters , advised me to ‘get the books out’ and be ready for civilian life, post retirement. He mentioned the merits of a professional designation from the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators. The Institute gave me few study breaks from the formation and professional programmes, but by the time I was ready to retire as a relatively young man from the Service, I was taking my final courses in distance learning with the Institute. Thank you Mr. Lloyd, for the encouragement and motivation.
One of my lighter moments with the police bodyguards was when I was doing a training exercise at Warwick Camp. Theoretically I was Sgt in charge, and had invited Sgt Pat McBride from police training school to supervise us for physical exercise. Pat had the brilliant idea that our group would be paired off for a slugging match over 90 seconds, and we should wear boxing training gloves to avoid much personal damage. Pat matched me with Tony Diggins. Recall, Neil is 5’9”, Tony is a six footer, with the extra weight to boot. My Guardian Angel (yes, I do believe it) had me momentarily focus on my memory of Danny Finn, a fellow pupil in Junior 5 at St. Josephs School in Aldershot. Danny and I were in the school boxing team. I never won a fight and always felt a bit beaten up on after a tournament. Danny, on the other hand, won every fight with a definite style; from the sound of the bell he would come out punching and never let up until his opponent was pulverized – that is, to the extent junior kids were allowed to pulverize. And that’s how I saved my bacon, astonished Pat, and never gave Tony an opportunity to land a blow. Another funny memory is that of Dave Purcell, assisting me during a slow time with the BG’s, to paint the Special Branch office I occupied with Tim Willis. Dave painted the walls, ceilings, yes …., but also dropped enormous blobs over the chairs, desk and filing cabinets. He was I am sure, happy never to be invited back to paint!
Peter Borland and David Smith from the police finance department also went the chartered secretary route; they found rewarding positions with Bank of Bermuda. Retirement into civvy street for me provoked a really steep learning curve in commerce. A (then) local conglomerate, Holmes Williams & Purvey, took me in at the deep end, and for five years I got immersed in Lotus 123, subsidiary company secretarial work, agency contracts, personnel and benefits management, inventory control and a million other things. I also achieved the professional designation I had been working towards and lo…, the perfect job materialized in the classifieds of the Royal Gazette: Conyers Dill & Pearman’s subsidiary, Codan Services, was looking for a corporate manager to run a bunch of companies. Just two years into the new job, the directors asked me to run their trust company in the Cayman Islands. Marion and I were about to take our first cruise – fortuitously in the Caribbean – so we took a side trip to look at the Cayman Islands. The job was one ‘to die for’. I threw everything into it and worked my butt off for ten years, growing the company.
I remember, on our cruise in 1996, prior to our visiting Cayman, the ship docked in Barbados. Marion and I looked up Lionel Haynes who had retired there, back home, with his Bermudian wife, Marceille. Lionel and Marceille were running a farm and I was really surprised to discover that their reason for keeping a pack of dogs around the property was to frighten off the many wild monkeys that would ravage the farm produce. In a few hours we must have covered half the island in Lionel’s 4x4. Lionel was my assistant back in the late 70’s and 80’s and I recall that I had written a document security survey in a government department and made the requisite recommendations. The head of department, anguished at the extent of the recommendations and had remarked privately to Lionel that I was a twerp. Lionel shot back that it took one to recognize another! Now, that is loyalty.
Many times in Cayman, whilst managing people (and clients!) I thanked my lucky stars for my peculiar police background, and was able to deal without intimidation, with corporate governance and compliance issues, and keep the financial services regulator and my firm, happy.
One of the most thoughtful and charitable human beings I have met in life was the late Derek Fletcher, who was at one time my Watch Sgt.
When the great hurricane of 2004 temporarily wiped out the delivery of trust services from my Cayman office, CD&P asked me to spend some time in Bermuda, in contact with clients. Whilst CD&P put Marion and me up in a comfy South Shore hotel, Derek took me out one lunch time to La Trattoria and on behalf of the Bermuda ex-Police Officers inquired what could be done for us! I was blown out of the water. I’m really pleased to supply these few lines at the request of Roger Sherratt and of course look forward to reading other former colleagues’ accounts.
It proved too much of a chore to keep the Smiths Parish homestead that we built in the late seventies and we exchanged it for a modern apartment in Hamilton just a few years ago. It is presently managed for us. I’m making up for the years I didn’t see what was going on outside my Cayman office. I do keep in touch with trust developments through attendance at lectures put on by the Cayman branch of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (they serve a decent glass of red after the lecture) and I do a voluntary monthly fee receipt reconciliation with the bank account for the 47 owners of the condo complex where we live. Marion has a network of good friends. Medical services are satisfactory between George Town and Miami. I found an old friend from Bermuda working in Cayman with Appleby, Robin McMillan – he was a Crown Counsel in Bermuda and used to stop by the Officers Mess - and another former Crown Counsel, Doug Schofield, who is with the Attorney General’s department here. Dave Cook and John Barnett keep me on the eMail list and of course I see the ‘RG’ regularly online. We make a point of getting back to Bermuda regularly. Good luck and every other best wish to all.
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