Constable Webster Furbert

Served from June 1953 -  0ctober 1964

 

Young P.C. Webster Furbert in ceremonial uniform
 

I was born on 30th September 1932 at Trinity Church Road, Bailey’s Bay, in Hamilton Parish.

I started my education at Temperance Hall and  Cripple Gate School in Hamilton Parish, and then attended Berkeley Institute.  I was actively involved in sports at Berkeley. In athletics I was a sprinter and high jumper and won the junior Championship Cup for two years.  I enjoyed playing football and cricket.  I was a left-handed batsman and could hit the ball  out of the ground on both sides in the days when we played in “The Box”.  I was also a member of the Berkeley Cadet Corps, and Syke Smith, who went on to become a senior police officer, was one of our instructors.  

Editors note -  The Late William Maurice "Syke" Smith is featured in an article in our "Hall of Fame" section.

My dad worked as head groundsman for the Manager of the Bank of Bermuda, Horace Outerbridge.  My mum Marjorie (nee Darrell) came from Flatts.

I had two sisters, Eloise and Juanita, and three brothers, Vernon, Roy and Shirley. Early in life my sisters took piano lessons and somehow I was always around listening to them practicing.  My mum and dad both loved music. I don’t think they had lessons but they managed to buy a piano and dad would occasionally sit and play it.

We were then living in Bailey’s Bay and that was where they first had a piano.  I started playing piano myself when I was about 10 years old.  I had some lessons with Aunt Louise Manders who lived on Crawl Hill, and I went on to have lessons for several years with Ms. Olivette Morris on North Shore in Devonshire.  I really loved playing the piano and carried on by myself after my lessons with Ms Morris. 

One of my sisters, Eloise, married Mr. F.S. Furbert who was the headmaster of Berkeley Institute.

After leaving school I worked for a couple of years with my father doing  landscaping, as a deck hand on ferries, as a general warehouseman and on the U.S. Base during the summer.

When I was 19 my father counseled me to consider joining the Prison Service. I was interviewed by Mr. Cliff Mello and he told me I was a bit too young and to come back the next year.

I then decided to apply to join the Police Force and passed both the entrance exam and the physical. I remember meeting up with Leon Bean and Milton Cholmondeley one morning on Union Street in Hamilton and they both encouraged me to proceed with my application.  I think this was after I had my interview but before I had decided to accept the offer to join.

P.C. Webster Furbert as a new recruit in 1953
 

Mr. R.G. Henderson was Commissioner of Police when I joined on 23rd June 1953. (Mr. Henderson was COP from 1953 – 1961.)

My first posting was to St. George’s.  I don’t recall any actual training when I first joined the Police. It was really hands-on training on the job.  I believe my first sergeant was Sergeant Bertram Denbrook and the Divisional  Inspector was Leslie Morgan.  I remember someone saying I should hope not to get on “D” Watch because Sgt  Denbrook had a reputation of being very tough to work for.  As fate would have it I was posted onto “D” Watch and although he was strict I greatly appreciated that Sgt Denbrook really knew what he was doing and I got to like him as my Sergeant.

Kenneth Smith started as a P.C. in St. George’s on the same day as me and I also worked with Cyril Inchcup, Gladwin “Doc” Hall and Dudley Swan who had joined a few years before me.

My youngest brother, Shirley, also joined the Police Force a little after me but he only served for about a year.

Webster retained his love of piano
playing while serving in the Police Force
 
After three months on the beat I was transferred to Hamilton/Smith’s Parish as Parish Constable.  There were two parish constables, Neville Albury and William Darrell, at that time and I made the third one. I believe Supt Percy Miller  was in charge of all the Divisions, East, West and Central. 

I really enjoyed working in the Parishes, attending incidents, checking licensed premises, dealing with thefts such as stealing vegetables and bananas, attending accidents, and dealing with domestic disputes.  We were also responsible for serving summonses and executing arrest warrants.  When it came to executing warrants, especially for non-payment,  I always tried to be reasonable.  If I was dealing with someone who was not “hard core” I would do my best to give the person a chance to  pay the amount off.  If we wanted to be effective in the community we needed the public to be helpful and provide us with information so they were on our side.

Editors note -   Webster is extremely modest.  He was considered to be one of the strongest men on the Police Force and has been described as a "gentle giant"  by a fellow officer, former P.C. John "Alfie" Fox who has written an article in our "Then and Now" column.  Webster was no doubt a powerful officer, but he used tact and diplomacy rather than force when carrying out his duties. 

At that time all motor vehicles would have to be re-licensed and insured by 30th April each year,  so by May we would set up road blocks and check to see if they had been re-licensed.  We would also deal with sudden deaths.  As parish constables we would usually work in pairs on motor cycles.  For about the first 6 months I used my own personal motor bike for which I received a gas allowance, then I was assigned a BSA 250cc bike, and then a Triumph 350cc.

Webster with his 350cc motor cycle outside the home
he and Cecilia still reside in today
 

Unfortunately, I had an accident on my BSA bike and that triggered a transfer to Hamilton working shifts. My Sergeant then was Sgt Blackwell, and I worked with Harry Fisher and Joe Ray Correia.

Joe was a nice guy to work with.  In fact I found all the guys I worked with to be nice, but Joe was exceptional. His son “Cheese” also worked on the Force for a while but not while I was there. 

In March 1954 I was transferred to the City of Hamilton.  I remember the various beats in Hamilton, with beats 1 and 2 being on Front Street. The docks were open at that time, and this was in the days before shipping containers. If I was working beats 1 and 2 on day shift it would mean alternating an hour on the beat with an hour on the birdcage.

 
P.C. Webster Furbert directs traffic on Front Street when traffic on Queen Street was two-way
 

On late shift 4pm – midnight,  we worked in pairs especially in the roughest part of Town which was then along Reid Street East, around Dick Richards’ bar and Tankard’s Liquor Store.

After a few months in Hamilton I was transferred back to St. George’s in November 1954, but in early 1955 I went back to Central Division to work as Parish Constable in Smith’s and Hamilton Parishes for most of 1955.  Also in 1955 I attended a Training Course for constables at Prospect.

Members of the Force who attended one of the first training courses for Bermudian constables
in 1955  together with Senior Officers and the overseas Training Officer.  
P.C. Webster Furbert is second from left on the middle row
 
On the 30th June 1955 I married my lovely wife, Cecilia Ratteray  nee Gibson. 
Cecilia is proudly escorted by her father Mr. William Gibson on her wedding day.
 Going down the steps are her cousin Veronica Ratteray (now Ross)
 Grace Hodgson (now Swan -  Webster’s cousin and a family friend),
 and Sheila Simons (now Johnson) also a family friend.
 
Mrs and Mrs. Webster and Cecilia Furbert
The Wedding Party (l-r) Randolph Furbert (cousin and friend), Sheila Simons, Roy Furbert (Webster’s brother),
Marjorie and Leopold Furbert (parents of the groom),Webster and Cecilia Furbert,
(William and Albertha Gibson (parents of the bride),
Veronica Ratteray, Shirley Furbert (Webster’s brother), and Grace Hodgson.
 
I was still working as Smith’s and Hamilton Parish Constable, and 3 months later Cecilia and I moved to Somerset where my father-in-law invited us to move into an apartment at his house on Cooks Hill Road. (Cecilia was an excellent nurse and mid-wife, and our daughter Gloria followed her into the same profession).
 
Nurse Cecilia Gibson (far right) holding one of the Miller triplets as they were
presented to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II during her Royal Visit in 1953.
 
In early 1956 I was again transferred to Hamilton Police Station and a few months later I requested a transfer to Somerset to be closer to where we were now living.  I submitted it to Superintendent Percy Miller but he railed on me and denied my request.

I remember going downstairs at the Station and typing a letter to Commissioner Henderson with my transfer request  which I then posted to him through the regular mail. 

Soon after that I was called into Supt Miller’s office and he was very upset about me going over his head in writing directly to the Commissioner, but the Commissioner, who I always found to be very reasonable, had granted my request, and I was the posted to Somerset.

My Sergeant in Somerset was Sgt. Moir.  I enjoyed working out of Somerset and got to know Westmore Bean, ‘Sony’ Roberts who became a Sergeant,  Milton Cholmondeley,  Neville Phillips and his uncle Alvin Phillips, John T. Simmons, and many others.  Inspector Robert Ball was the Inspector in charge of Western Division.  He was a very quiet person but I got along with him well.

I remained in Western Division for about the next 5 years which included about 4 years in the latter part of that period in Warwick and Southampton Parishes, where I worked with several very good parish constables including Willard Scott who was very quiet and very likeable to work with. I think Willard ended up building several houses up on Khyber Pass.

In May 1961 I was once more assigned to the Eastern Parishes of Hamilton and Smith’s.  I remained there until late 1964.  That ended at the end of my vacation period on 31st October 1964 when I resigned from the Police Force and moved to New York City with Cecilia and our two young children, Gloria and Myron.

I had been thinking for some time about moving to the U.S. and maybe to Boston.  My brother Shirley was already living in Brooklyn,  and Cecilia and I decided to Travel to New York on the Queen of Bermuda, along with our two children.  The Queen of Bermuda would leave Hamilton on Wednesdays and arrive in New York on Fridays,  so we arrived there on 5th September on vacation.

Queen of Bermuda arriving in New York
 

I started looking for a job and on 8th September I found one in Long Island City with the Franklin Welding and Tool Corporation where I was trained to repair acetylene torches and welding machines.  I started work a week later and lived with my brother in Brooklyn for a few weeks before finding a home for our family. 

I worked at Franklin Welding for 2 years.  It had always been a dream of mine to become a concert pianist, and I had retained my interest in playing piano.  I had always been fascinated when the tuner came to our home to tune our family piano, and in 1965, I decided to take a piano tuning course. My instructor was Mr. Avna Carmi from Israel who was teaching in Queens.  Mr Carmi was an excellent teacher and a sharp technician. I really enjoyed the course.  I was living upstairs in an apartment Brooklyn at the time and my landlord had a piano that he kindly let me practice on. 

In January 1966, I remember doing my first job as a piano tuner, and I started tuning pianos in my spare time.  Since then I’ve probably tuned as many as 5,000 pianos over the years.  While working in Long Island City I got to know several music teachers and I used to tune their pianos for free, and I did a good job so they would recommend me to their students so I was kept quite busy.

After two years I took a vacation and came home to Bermuda for 6 weeks with my family.  When we returned to New York I took a job in security at May’s Department Store in downtown Brooklyn, working undercover in a department where I was the only man.  Six months later I took another security position in the warehouse of Holly’s Stores warehouse, a womens clothing  store  in Manhattan where I stayed for about two years. 

On my way to work at Holly’s I would pass the Albert Merrill School on 59th Street at Columbus Circle which offered vocational training.  I decided it was time for me to tackle another course – in computer programming.  I discussed the idea with Cecilia and took the entry test which I passed with 100%. I successfully completed the course, in Data Processing/Computer Programming, in March 1970.

In the meantime I had again changed jobs and was working for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals in their culture production department from 1968-1970.

Upon graduating from my course at the Albert Merrill School I spoke to my department head at Pfizer and that led to my transfer to Pfizer’s World Headquarters in Manhattan where I worked in the Operations Department.  It was my intention to return to Bermuda after a couple of years there, and I had been promised a position here.  I came back to Bermuda with my family in 1972 but the job I was promised failed to materialize and I joined H.M. Customs for about a year and then resigned to manage my daddy’s store,  Furbert’s Grocerette on Crawl Hill.

Webster's parents celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary 
(l-r)  Webster's sister Juanita Guishard, brother Roy Furbert, sister Eloise Furbert,
parents Leopold and Marjorie Furbert, and brother Vernon Furbert.
(Missing are Webster and his brother Shirley)
 

I still had a burning desire to use my skills so I took a trip to Philadelphia in mid-1974.  My brother was working for Pfizer and had moved to Philly.  I went to  Center City to seek job interviews and spoke with a man that I had previously worked for at Pfizer and he sent me for a job interview.  After the interview I returned home to Bermuda and a week later I received confirmation that I had been accepted for a position as computer operator at General Accident so I quickly headed back to Philadelphia.  I went by myself at first while Cecilia stayed in Bermuda and looked after our family.

Webster operating computer at General Accident Ins. Co in Philadelphia - 1978
 

They joined me early the next year and we looked for a home of our own and settled in Philly for the next 12 years.    While in Philly I continued tuning pianos and managed to hook up with a prestigious piano company, Cunningham Piano Company who sold and rebuilt pianos, and they kept me more than busy. 

After 12 years at General Accident  I was getting older and they were offering early retirement to anyone who had worked there for over 10 years so I decided to retire.

Webster and Cecilia with their children
(l-r)  Wendell, Gloria, Brian and Myron
1978
 

In June 1986 we returned to Bermuda for our daughter’s wedding and while here I went up to the Southampton Princess Hotel where I spoke to Bob Smith who was then in charge of security at the hotel.  Bob knew me from my days in the Police Force and he told me that he needed another supervisor at the hotel.  Bob kindly held the job open for me for the next 3 months while I returned to Philly.  We sold our house and came back home to Bermuda.  I worked at the Southampton Princess for 11 years before finally retiring.

Webster and Cecilia with their son Brian and his wife Ruby at their wedding  
Hamilton Princess,  March 1998
 

Cecilia and I have been happily married for 60 years and we still live in the house I built on my father’s property back when I was a policeman back in 1962.

We are regular members of the Harrington Sound Gospel Chapel.  I still keep my hand in tuning pianos and I play at home quite often, usually church music or my favourote classical music.

Webster doing what he loves doing
 

We are also blessed with 8 grandchildren,  all of them daughters.  Gloria and her husband Rev. Dr. Milton Burgess, have two girls, Rasheeda 27 and Kamila 26, and they both have double Masters degrees.

Gloria and her husband Rev. Dr. Milton Burgess
with their two beautiful daughters Kamila and Rasheeda
 

Our son Wendell also has two daughters,  Amanda, and Rita  who is a dental technician.

Myron and his present wife Christina have a lovely daughter, also named Christina, while Brian and his wife Ruby now live in Georgia.  Brian has a daughter, Zarrah, born during his first marriage to Norma.

Myron and Christina with their daughter Christina  

 

Christina in 2015
 

I firmly believe that the strict upbringing given to me by my parents, together with the discipline and experience of being  a police officer from 1953 to October 1964, proved to be extremely valuable during my 27 years of living and working in the United States of America from 1964 to 1991.     

Webster's reference from the Commissioner of Police
is an "Excellent" testimony to his service in the Bermuda Police

The following personal comments were kindly provided by Webster's daughter, Gloria Burgess, who followed in her mother's footsteps as a nurse/mid-wife and is now Supervisor of the Maternal Health and Family Planning Clinic.  Gloria was honoured in 2014 as Bermuda's Nurse of the Year after 35 years of dedicated service to her profession.
 
Gloria Burgess
 
When I think of my father I have a vision of a tall and a strong man who always is well dressed. He is a person who is very much of the “old school” with deep family values and would always dress in a suit when travelling abroad. He is well versed and can talk on just about any topic. I appreciate him as a person that I can have an intelligent conversation.

He is a man of wisdom and I remember as a teenager sitting on his lap and asking questions or seeking advice to a problem that I had and I could always count on some very good advice. He is patient and kind but I also remember him as a disciplinarian and often my brothers got the proof of that. I was terrified of his police belt and so I tried my best not to need it!

My father loves piano music especially classical. I remember him spending hours at the piano practicing Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and many other musical artists but I remember him also playing pieces from Scott Joplin. He has an incredible memory and would memorize huge pieces of music and play them without a hitch. My Dad plays the piano at church at times but he is very humble and at times shy about his gift; He would rather play in the home for his enjoyment. My father’s good memory also serves him well in remembering dates and events. Things that I have forgotten he still remembers in detail.

 Our home was always filled with music and as young children we all grew up to appreciate good music. All of my brothers and I had an opportunity to play some musical instrument. I took piano lessons and later also studied the flute. My brother Myron developed a liking for drums which he still plays and Wendell plays the bass guitar for his church. Brian developed a liking for the guitar also. I don’t believe any of my brothers had a formal lesson with their instruments but their talents I know are credited to my father.

I also remember my father as a man with a great sense of humor. He is extremely funny and would often have people laughing until their sides ached. This was often surprising to people who did not know him well as he appears to be a man of quiet demeanor. I remember him having my family laughing about some of his policing duties and having us very interested in his police history.

My Dad is a man who likes to do things well and with honor. He is very meticulous. He had a spot for every tool in his tool box and if anyone used any of his tools he would always know it even if we thought we had put them back properly.

Apart from his love of music, my Dad loves to travel and he and my mother have spent many long vacations abroad. A vacation for him was not just a week but usually 2 months or more. He still acts as a great father showing concern and interest in all of his children and their families.  I can say that the person that I am today and the success I have achieved can be largely credited to my father.

Gloria Burgess


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