I was born on June 17, 1939 in Lambeth, England. During the Second World War I was evacuated to Hereford and after the war I lived in Stretford, Manchester and attended Stretford Grammar School. The school was only a 10 minute walk from Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United. I recall my dad taking me to Old Trafford and putting me on his shoulders as there was no seating in the vast majority of the stadium. At age 13 I found out, by accident, that I had been adopted. More about that later.
When I was 17 I joined the BP Tanker Corporation as a Navigating Apprentice. This gave me the opportunity to travel to Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Canary Islands, South Africa, the Belgian Congo, Kenya, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Ethiopia and Egypt.
In 1959 I was conscripted into the British Army and served as a Lance Corporal in the Royal Corps of Military Police. My British Army service was spent in a British Army garrison outside Dusseldorf. In the latter months of my army service I was looking in the occupation adverts in the Daily Telegraph and saw one for police officers in Bermuda. After countless forms were completed I went to London for an interview with the Crown Agents. One of the questions I was asked was did I play football and, if so, in what position? My response that I did play football and was a goalkeeper seemed to stir some interest! Could it be that being a prospective football player for the Bermuda Police was part of the magic key to open the door for me to land up in Bermuda as a police constable on October 17, 1961?
I spent many happy hours on the section of grass next to the Police Recreation Club having a football blasted at me by Clive Donald, who later became Commissioner of Police. My Police football career came to a grinding halt when I let the ball from a long goal kick by the Somerset Trojans’ goalkeeper slip between my legs, causing Police to lose the Cup tie. It didn’t harm the relationship with Clive however as we continued to be the best of friends.
This was evident when he became my best man when I married Sandra Louise Jones on December 10, 1964. I met Sandra while working as the props manager during a production by the Police Drama Group. Sandra was helping Louise Pearman with costumes.
Alastair Johnson, one of my friends from the police service, played the organ at the wedding service at St. Paul’s, Paget. Sandra and I had a whirlwind romance as we had only known each other for 6 weeks. We must have had some gold dust sprinkled over us however as we are still married. I became Clive’s best man when he married Penny Kite.
In addition to playing football for the Police I had a keen interest in the administration side of football. There were two events where my interest was of some use. George Robins, the Commissioner of Police during my police service, had a cousin Derek Robins who was the Chairman of Coventry City Football Club. At that time Coventry was in the top division of the Football League so it was very exciting when Mr. Robins invited his cousin to bring the Coventry team to Bermuda to play against a select Bermuda XI. In addition to many of the top Bermuda players of the day, several police officers were of sufficient quality to play in the select XI but the team was not good enough to prevent a thrashing. I think the score was 6 or 8 zero.
Editors note - For more information about the members of the team and the match against Coventry go to our "Who, When and Where" column at http://expobermuda.com/index.php/who-when-where/637-soccer-team-with-a-difference
My service in the Police Force, that’s what it was called then, began with me walking the beat in Hamilton. Someone then found out I had been in the Merchant Navy so I was seconded to the Police Marine Section. Our first boat was the Blue Heron 1, built at Admiralty House by Derek Jenkinson and Dave Garland (see article at http://expobermuda.com/index.php/articles/10-first-boat. The Blue Heron was “launched” by the then Commissioner’s wife, Lou Robins. Mrs Robins must have had a few gin and tonics before, during and after lunch as she tried on a few occasions to throw a bottle of champagne at the stem of the boat, missing every time! Brian Malpas, who is still alive as I write this article, was one of my fellow mariners and I owe it to him how to keep warm in a wet suit on a cold winter’s day. After putting the wet suit on, Brian told me to pee in it! It worked until I had to take the wet suit off. Phew!
Editors note - John's wet suit made the news for another reason in late 1971 when it was stolen. John must have been really "peed off" because it was specially made for him, but fortunately for John the wet suit was found by Det. Sgt George Rose and P.C. Bob Porritt while searching the room of a suspect who was being investigated for another theft. The trial made history in a way because it was the first case in which the then new magistrate, The Wor. K.C. Nadarajah, sent someone to jail in Bermuda. You can read more about the case in our Interesting Articles column at http://expobermuda.com/index.php/articles/638-too-many-burglaries-in-bermuda
After the Marine Section I was in the Traffic Section, completing my service as a clerk in Police Headquarters after someone found out I had been taught to type while in the British Army.
In 1969 I was approached by Jim Walsh, an ex-police officer, to join him at Sun Life of Canada. I remained with Sun Life in Bermuda until 1981 when I was transferred to the Company’s head office in Toronto. In 1982 we moved to Canada’s most delightful city, Vancouver, where we raised our three children, Scott, Philip and Nicola. Alastair Johnson once again came into our lives as he joined us as we drove from Toronto to Vancouver with our family, two dogs and a cat. In 1998 Alastair flew to Vancouver to play the organ at our daughter’s wedding.
When Sun Life became a stock company in 1999 I was out of a job as a branch manager. I was given the choice of staying in Vancouver as a life insurance agent or returning to Bermuda. It was a no-brainer to return to Bermuda where I continued to work with Sun Life until 2001 when I formed a relationship with a Harvard graduate who had formed a company called Life & Annuity Services Ltd. (L&A) This company distributed very large life policies to wealthy residents of countries such as the USA, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, the Philippines and Taiwan.
My son, Scott, took over the running of L&A as I approached retirement age and he continues to work with such companies as Sun Life and Manulife in the distribution of life policies to wealthy individuals around the world. Scott is married to Karen and they have two children, Tyson and Kaitlyn. Our other son, Philip, had been involved as a restaurant manager in Vancouver and when he returned to Bermuda he was hired by the Henry VIII restaurant. After 8 months there he became involved in the Island Restaurant Group which now operates the Frog and Onion in Dockyard, the Hog Penny Pub, the Barracuda Grill, the Victoria Grill and the Pickled Onion. Melanie is Philip’s wife and they have two children, Benjamin and Hailey. Our daughter Nicola is married to Brent Slade. They have three children, Jordan, Connor and Julia.
I mentioned earlier that I was adopted. It never occurred to me to search for my biological parents as I had a wonderful Mum and Dad, who had adopted me in 1945. Fourteen years ago however, my world was turned upside down when I was approached by a lawyer in Warrington, England who told me I had a sister in Los Angeles and did I want to meet her. There was no discussion about this and two weeks later Sandra and I flew to Los Angeles to meet Barbara Karagosian and her husband Michael. They had also adopted a daughter Alix, who I am pleased to say is a Manchester United supporter.
More surprises were in waiting however as eight years ago, Barbara called to let me know she had been contacted by another sister in Sussex, Linda Buck. Linda had been searching on the Internet for two years believing she had a sister somewhere after being alerted about this possibility. Linda flew to Bermuda several weeks later, as did Barbara and we all went to Christ Church, Warwick to thank God for getting us all together.
Now that I’m retired I am able to devote much of my time to working as the President of the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Bermuda (G&S). G&S produces top quality musical theatre shows. The Wizard of Oz is our most recent and we have performed such shows as Jesus Christ Superstar, Oliver!, Pirates of Penzance, South Pacific, Les Miserables, Carmen, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Ragtime. Profits from the shows assist young Bermudians with their theatre education. Rebecca Faulkenberry, who has appeared in a number of shows on Broadway, is one of our scholarship recipients.
My time with the Police Service in Bermuda gave me the opportunity to form friendships with many police officers, all of whom have since retired and as I approach my 80th birthday it is with a huge amount of regret that I can no longer chat to a large number of officers who have now passed.
Editors Notes - John and Sandra attended a reunion of our Police Drama Group held at the Officers Mess, Prospect, on 21st August 2017. This reunion was held to coincide with a visit to Bermuda by Kate (Byrne) Shaw and her husband Darren. Kate is the daughter of the Late Denis Byrne who played a pivotal role in the drama group as Stage Manager of several productions and she was keen to meet up with old friends and former colleagues of her father while she was here in Bermuda with her husband celebrating their wedding anniversary. The event was a great success and has been fully reported on our website at http://expobermuda.com/index.php/articles/597-dramatic-gathering-at-officers-mess