Inspector Martin Joseph ‘Joe’ Colton
Martin Joseph Colton, was born on 2nd January 1931, the first of six children of Francis and Elizabeth Colton (nee Sweeney) in Ballinafad, Co. Sligo Ireland, The other children were Fidelma, Brendan, Leo, Gertie and Vera.
Elizabeth Sweeney Colton died in 1942, and Francis remarried some time later and went on to have four more children: Pamela, Carmel, Kevin and Miriam.
In 1945 Martin left school and started working to help the family make ends meet. His first job was as Messenger for the Post Office; his main responsibility was to cycle around the Cavan countryside delivering telegrams. Subsequently Martin moved to Dublin and trained as a Psychiatric Nurse at Portrane Mental Hospital. In 1952, after passing his nursing exams, Martin applied to join An Garda Siochana, the Irish Police. His acceptance into the Garda arrived around the same time as a request for a ten shilling fee for his nursing certification. Funds being tight, Martin never did obtain his official nursing certificate.
Martin’s father, Francis, known as Frank, was in the Irish Police Force (An Garda Siochana), having joined up in 1925. Martin (as he was known to the family) joined the Garda in 1952. He was stationed in Dublin, at College Green.
Martin was the eldest of three brothers. Later, his two younger brothers, Brendan and Leo would also join the Garda. It is believed this is the only time a serving Garda officer has had three sons serving at the same time.
It is said that young Martin Joseph detested being cold and wet, and he decided to seek warmer climes. As unlikely as it sounds, family history lore has it that he learned about the Bermuda Police Force from a retired British Army officer living in Dublin. Joe applied to join the Bermuda Police and was accepted in 1955 through the Crown Agents in London where he would have been interviewed.
At that time all Bermuda recruits from the UK attended a training course at the Police College in Millmeece, Staffordshire, and whilst there Joe met up with John Bull, Peter Edney, Ian Ferguson, John Hobb, and Barry Ward, who had all been recruited for the Bermuda Police. Joe sailed from London on the RMS EBRO on 20th May 1955. along with Ian Ferguson, Barry Ward and Peter Edney.
Editors note - CLICK HERE for an article written by Ian Ferguson in our "Then and Now" column.
On his arrival in Bermuda, Joe soon made friends with one Sean Sheehan, whose wife Pat hailed from the same town as his paternal grandparents. (Editors Note: CLICK HERE for Sean Sheehan’s "Hall of Fame" article.)
The records of Joe’s early years in Bermuda are incomplete, but we know he took a long holiday in 1959, returning home for four months as reported in the Belturbet news column of the local Anglo-Celt newspaper:
Anglo-Celt newspaper clipping - 1959
Rumour has it that during his single days he may have moonlit as a truck driver for Watlington Construction.
Although the Bermuda Police Service was open to all Bermudians by the time Joe arrived, much of public life in Bermuda remained segregated until the 1960s. Joe had little patience with these rules, and would recall going to places like the Green Shutters Pub for a drink with his friend Sinclair Bean at the end of a shift, where they would have to sit at separate sides of the bar and talk across a divided space.
Joe attended a Detective Training Course in Chelsea, London in March 1962.
On 4th May 1962, three young female recruits arrived in Bermuda from England, Marjorie Wainwright, Renee Adkins and Margaret Lester-Card, all of whom had served in English Police Forces. 21 year old Margaret Lester-Card was from Netherbury near Bridport and had served in the Dorset Constabulary for 3 years. Margaret was the youngest of five siblings. The others were Anthony, Patrick, Rosemary, and Michael.
On 4th February 1963, Joe as he was now known and Margaret married at St. Theresa’s RC Cathedral in Hamilton. Sean Sheehan was best man.
The best man was constantly fidgeting with his collar, to everyone’s distraction....... all the way through the ceremony and into the reception. Whereupon it was suggested he remove his tie. This was accomplished, and revealed the cause of his discomfort. He had left the plastic under his collar!
Joe and Margaret started married life in private rented accommodation, first in Spanish Point, then in Warwick, but in 1964 they moved to Alexandra Road, where their immediate neighbours were John Joe and Maureen Sheehy on one side, and Harvey and Jeannie Fothergill on the other. CLICK HERE for reminiscences about life in Alexandra Road in police accommodation
In 1967, Joe was assigned to Eastern Division and the family, now comprising daughters Teresa and Frances (Fran) moved to Sandhurst on Slippery Hill, St George’s, where they lived until Joe’s retirement.
Joe was a keen gardener, and he dug over, and maintained a large vegetable garden in St George’s.
He was also keen on fishing, regularly taking his kids down to the rocks behind the RA Canteen to see what they could catch. There were other places, but that one was a favourite. He also told his children ‘you catch it, you clean it’.
Joe wasn’t averse to cooking it though; being the oldest of 6 he was a superb cook. He enjoyed making curries, chilli-con-carne, and all sorts. One favourite was a proper Bermuda Sunday Breakfast (after Church) of Codfish and Potatoes. He even managed, somehow to get Grover Lamb's Fish Chowder Recipe (the one that used 100 lbs of fish heads).
Joe had been promoted to Sergeant in February 1962 and to Inspector in June 1970.
Joe, along with George Garrod, were sent on an Officers Training course in Wakefield, Yorkshire in 1970. The whole family travelled to the UK and Ireland, where the Colton children met cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents for the first time.
Joe served at various times in Hamilton, on the Mobile Reserve, in Murder Squad, and in Eastern Division where he was Sergeant from 1969 - 1971, and was the Officer-in-Charge of Eastern Division from 1973 - 1976. Joe was OIC Eastern Division for the visit of Her Majesty the Queen in 1976. As the Royal car was leaving Kings Square, with Her Majesty, Governor Ted Leather wound down his window and said ‘Good job Joe’.
Fran recalls that “Dad once brought one of the new Morris Minors (I think) police cars home, one with a bell on the front. Me being the kind, considerate loving daughter, decided daddy’s car needed gas. So I ‘filled it up’ from the paddling pool.....”
Joe was on duty during the 1977 riots on Court Street.
Many a time he would don his mess jacket (or ‘monkey jacket’ as it was sometimes called), and go off to places like the Sonesta Beach Hotel, or very occasionally Government House for some function or other. He was well liked by colleagues and locals, taxi drivers and politicians alike.
Joe and Margaret went on to have four children. Two daughters, Teresa, who lives in Ireland with her husband and 3 children, Frances, (known as Fran), who lives in England with her husband and 2 children. They also had a son, Joe, the older of the two boys passed away in a motorcycle accident just 4 months after Joe Senior. The youngest of the Colton kids, Sean, has two children and 2 grand children! This would have made Joe Senior a great granddad.
Around the same time as Joe retired in 1978, he was diagnosed with late onset diabetes. After he retired Joe and family moved to England. The family moved from place to place, even going to live in Portugal for some 8 years. Eventually, in 1999 he and Margaret returned to Ireland. Martin Joseph ‘Joe’ Colton passed away, on 17th March 2001 (St. Patrick’s Day) at Lisacul Co, Roscommon. He is buried with his parents in the cemetery of St. Patrick's Church, Corracrin, Emyvle, Co. Monaghan.
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