If anyone had told me a couple of months ago that I would be writing this I would have told them they were on a different planet! There again, it often takes a one-off event to kick-start your memory and begin recalling a most important period in a long and eventful life.
Last month I answered a ring at my front door and, after an inquisition by a charming lady of similar age, was re-united with my long lost Scottish pen pal Lorna who I had last met for a day in 1963.
Apparently she had been going back in time (as we all do) and started to wonder what had happened to me. Briefly she had traced me to the Bermuda Police and tried to find me in Canada before ringing my doorbell here in Scotland only one hour’s drive from where she lives.
Lorna mentioned contacting Bermuda Police on the web and this prompted me to log on and start searching the internet for information. And that’s when I discovered the Bermuda Ex-Police Officers website.
Going back in time I was born (in 1944) and raised in Newcastle. On leaving grammar school in 1961 I spent a rather boring 2 years in the planning department of Newcastle City Council before joining Northumberland County Police in 1963.
I joined the County force to get away from Newcastle (somehow fancied being a village ‘bobby’) but, being a bit of a rebel I ended up doing a two year stint in Wallsend on Tyneside.
Fancying sunnier climes, I spent my 21st birthday at the ‘Crown Agents’ in London being interviewed for the Bermuda Police Force.
My application was duly accepted and I arrived in Bermuda on the evening of 1st September 1965. My first thoughts on Bermuda consisted of ‘swimming’ through humidity down the steps from a VC10 into the waiting arms of a certain Sergeant Derek Fletcher. There were seven of us, all hot and bothered, wondering what exactly was in store for us!
So ‘Fletch’ transported Alan Procter, Barry Budinger, Alex ‘Sandy’ Sommerville, Mike Jent, George Rose, Brian ‘Chalky’ White and myself to the Police Club for ‘drinkies’!
Over the next few days we were given barrack rooms ‘ovens’, introduced to a local ‘tailor’ (by the name of ‘Carty’ or similar), kitted out by ‘Tiny’ Wakefield, and settled into our ‘training period’.
Then off to the Bank, borrow money, buy a Lambretta and prove you can ride the thing and pass your test!.
Once again, my rebellious spirit seemed to have been noticed and I was sent to St. George's (‘go east young man’) where I spent my first night at the ‘temporary’ Police Club or should I say, ‘The Gun Powder Cavern‘, where Barry Meade, ably abetted by Alan Kennedy, Dave Chew, Tom Christie, Don Stuart, Alan Proctor and the late Willie Galloway were in full song.
Very soon a certain Sergeant ‘Doc’ Hall seemed to adopt ‘um umm Monzies’ and I ended up as Station Constable, much to the chagrin of Inspector James McMaster.
Mind you, the lads did get a good sleep when I was on nights’ and, no doubt, some may remember ‘Doc’s’ madcap ‘middle of the night’ squid hunt which resulted in the Station yard being stained for weeks!
Then there was the night when yours truly took a header into an open motor pit whilst ‘checking out’ a garage on Harrington Sound Road. Typical ‘Golf 3’ observer on nights, half asleep and wandering around like a ‘zombie’. Poor Taffy Thomas, the unfortunate driver, was in a worse state than me in the hectic drive to King Edward Hospital.
Before long the faithful Lambretta had to make way as I copied Alan Kennedy and bought a new VW ’beetle’ (on tick of course) I honestly think that I was the only ‘limey’ cop with a ‘spinner’ on his steering wheel!.
The words ’diddly bop’ spring to mind!
My first upset was the departure of my good friend Tom Christie in 1966. Tom had never really come to terms with the riots of the previous year which had had a serious effect on him. However, I was to meet up again with Tom ‘Toast’ a few years later at a very important time in my life.
My next move could have been brought about by two completely separate factors; a failed engagement to a local girl and a diploma in professional photography. I was transferred to the photographic and fingerprint department at Headquarters under the watchful eye of Sgt Les Waddell and a suspicious Ray Hodges. Soon Ray, his wife Lois and I became great friends and for a few months life was grand!. I even got to drive my ’beetle’ in fourth gear on ’emergency’ runs!
As the last man ‘in’, my C.I.D dream ended all too soon and as, no doubt, St George’s didn’t want me back, the ‘beat’ in Hamilton and the ‘Spot Restaurant ‘beckoned.
This, however, became more than acceptable as past experience at St. George’s steered me back into my previous number as Station Constable.
Here the memory begins to play tricks!. Was it before or after the 68 ‘troubles’ that I joined three other guys and a blue Morris Traveller as Parish Officers for Hamilton? Whichever, this was a great time with great mates. I believe our Sergeant was Kenny Roberts? A wise old bird who soon had me sussed. Also, I’m sure one of our guys’ was Eddie ’Boxhead’ Foggo and another possibly Erskine Warner but I could be mistaken.
My first memory of the ’troubles’ of 68 was coming out of the ’flicks’, walking down to the ‘Birdcage’ on Front Street and, on seeing all hell breaking loose in the direction of the docks, deciding on a quick about turn and heading for Headquarters where several were already getting their ‘gear’ on.
This was a time when the Police, the Fire Service, the ‘Regiment’ and other public services worked together as one and I was personally proud to have done my bit in their company.
Only personal reasons sent me back to the U.K. at the end of my three year contract, and I held on to my return ticket until one day in October 1968 I met a young lady at a dance who was assistant to the Purser on the Began Shipping Line and ashore on leave in Newcastle. Four days later we were engaged! Was this to be third time lucky?
So ended my time with the Bermuda Police Force and a new career started when Norwich Union Assurance actually were persuaded to employ me as a junior!
My wife Pauline and I were married in September 1969 and those of you who can remember back to those days may be surprised to see who my ‘Best Man’ was. Yes! Surprise Surprise!. I’m sure there are still a few who can recognize Tom Christie!.
On my return to the UK I had looked up Tom, who had joined the Police in Edinburgh. He had married Margaret, a local girl and they had a baby girl. Shamefully I lost touch with Tom and his family which I cannot put down to anything other than neglect. It would be good to have news of him.
So started the rest of my life which I will quickly lay out before you.
During the next seven years I continued in life assurance whilst Pauline worked in travel.
In 1976, with no family in sight, we upped sticks, moved 400 miles south to Torquay and bought a hotel.
During the next 28 years we had three hotels, the only ‘pub’ to have a weekly live show on the telly, and some cottages once owned by the Tzar. As a sideline I did driving instruction and sold commercial properties along with other ‘exertions‘.
In November 1984 we had planned a month in Florida but soon got bored. Seeing an offer from Delta, we decided to take a side trip to Bermuda.
On arrival we headed for Hamilton, called on an old friend, Mary Frick, who some may remember worked as manager at Crisson’s Jewelers in St. George's. After we had sorted out somewhere to stay we explored Hamilton until I couldn’t resist calling in at the Station.
It felt as though I had been home on leave, not 16 years!. There was Alan Kennedy, sat in the office and the only difference was a white shirt and pips!
Pauline and I were soon whisked up to a ’temporary’ Police Club where Dave Chew and others made my other half more that welcome. (Many thanks to all)
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so down when we left the ’Island’ until perhaps a couple of months ago when memories came flooding back.
In 2004 Pauline and I upped sticks again and moved up to Scotland to semi-retire, or so we thought. We bought a small guest house in the little town of Moffat a few miles north of Gretna Green, intending to run this until I was 65.
Well we all know what happened in the U.K. and we are still sharing our home with all and sundry!
Thankfully Pauline and I (yes she’s put up with me for 44 years) are both fit and well considering that we are approaching the big 70. There’s still just the two of us. (Darby & Joan or is Terry & June!)
I’m seriously looking at ways to spend some senior time in Bermuda and will keep you advised in the event that I may get an invitation to the ‘Club’. I’ve still got my Bermuda Police blazer badges (including an unused one!) and I’m sure I could find a pair of shorts to fit.
Please … anyone who can remember me, email me with your news. If anyone is in the UK--please call. (always spare beds). I would love to hear from or about Tom Christie--Ray/Lois Hodges--Alan Kennedy--Jimmy Robertson, Patricia Burrows or any of the lads who I was proud to work (and ‘play’) alongside.
Editors note - It was great to hear from Trevor completely out of the blue, and we were delighted with his collection of photos although we are still at a loss to figure out exactly what “Doc” Hall was doing with that squid! By coincidence we had heard from both Tom Christie and Jimmy Robertson quite recently so we will put Trevor in touch with both of them. Alan Kennedy is still here in Bermuda driving taxi and serving on our Committee, while Gladwin “Doc” Hall is still as robust as ever and living in St. George’s. We have tried to persuade him to write about his time on the Bermuda Police but so far no luck. He’s never at a loss for words, but not keen on putting pen to paper. We have no knowledge about the present whereabouts of Ray and Lois Hodges.
One other piece of information for all those police officers who spent time in Central Division - The Spot Restaurant is still located right there on Burnaby Street after more than 50 years, and is as popular as ever. It is worth a visit if you ever return to Bermuda because it’s still the best value in “Town”.
UPDATE ON "SID THE SQUID"!
We were fascinated by the photo of Sgt. “Doc” Hall with his 'giant' squid in the Station Yard and had to ask Trevor for more details.
He relates that early one morning while on night shift “Doc” came flying into the Station all very excited
“Um, um Menzies, there’s a giant squid in the water down by Ordnance Island!” Trevor wiped his eyes, marked the book he had been engrossed in (as Station Constable), and followed ‘Doc’ down to the water to examine the ‘creature’! Even though it was still dark Trevor could still make out the said squid.
At that point ‘Doc’ grabbed a boat hook and, “wham” he skewered the beast and headed back to the Police Station. There was a trail of “ink” all the way to the Station where they left “Sid” in the yard until daylight.
As Trevor so aptly says, “The picture is testament to “Doc’s” prowess at deep sea fishing!!!