Of all the sports activities by members of the Bermuda Police Force, one must surely stand out as the only one in which our team remained unbeaten from start to finish -- and that is Tug o’ War. Here are some reflections on the history of our Police Tug o’ War Team through the eyes of the person who inspired our team to be the best on the Island throughout his time in Bermuda. His name, of course, is Pat McBride.
This article, written by Pat McBride, first appeared in the Police Magazine in 1969
Credit for the introduction of Tug o’ War as a PRC sponsored sport must be placed squarely on the shoulders of that well-known sporting correspondent of the Bermuda Police Magazine, Sergeant “Grim Jim” McNiven.
Casting my mind back a few months, I remember the original proposal for the event coming from a gathering of sporting types at the Police Club on a Saturday evening when the “Grim One” was recalling his days in the British Army and the happy times he spent pulling on ropes!
There then followed a lively discussion by the sporting types on training and pulling techniques, resulting in Sergeant McNiven, with his limited knowledge, declaring that he could train a team to beat any other in the Force …. Tug of War was back!
The first event of any significance was an Inter-Divisional competition held opposite the Gymnasium at Frog Lane on 15th February 1969, when the Central team pulled its way to victory with wins over Dog Section and St. George’s.
They were duly awarded the Ocean Monarch Cup, presented by the Commissioner, Mr. George Robins. To the readers who have been waiting patiently to hear what happened to the McNiven team – well - we can reveal that they went out early, panting and puffing!!
The victorious Central Team that day was Pat McBride, Ray Sousa, Davie Kerr, Mike Parris, Barrie Mancell, John Balsden, Brian Hanney, John Eve, and Inspector Dave Parsons coaching.
Shortly afterwards a headline article in the Sports Section of the Royal Gazette read,
"A GRAND OLD SPORT TO BE REVIVED HERE"
The article went on to announce that Tug o’ War was going to return to the Island with the introduction of a competition planned for the 1969 annual Agricultural Exhibition.
Again, Pat McBride takes up the story in another article published in the Police Magazine:
Shortly after (the inter-Divisional Tug o’ War competition) an invitation to enter a Police Team at the Annual Agricultural Show was sent to the PRC. This caused a little consternation because nobody wanted to see the Boys in Blue humbled in a public event such as the Agricultural Show.
At a meeting that followed the invite, P.C. Pat McBride (who had pulled with the Glasgow City Police for four years) was asked if he could raise and train a team that would be good enough for the competition. The answer was a resounding “YES.”
Training started one month before the Show, and the comedians from the Traffic Department had a field day as the potential team strained and heaved to move a pick-up truck (with its hand-brake on); pulled against each other; ran with heavy boots on; lifted telegraph poles above their heads, and sweated on the hill at Prospect (as only yours truly could make them!)
They also began to learn teamwork. Come the Show we were as ready as we ever would be.
On the first day of the Show the spectators were treated to the sight of eight giants from the N.O.B. Fire Brigade annihilating the Bermuda Regiment. Inspector Harry Lister, in police uniform, informed Pat that no team on the Island could beat the Brigade (Oh ye of little faith!).
On the second day the Police came on and had a good pull against HMS Malabar, beating them by two pulls to nil. The scene was now set (fat versus fit). Could we overcome the weight advantage which was about two stone (28 pounds) per man?
Saturday came and it was quite obvious which event the crowd wanted to see. Our team was nervous, but not the Motor Cycle Display team and Ian “Baby” Douris who were quick to reach for their wallets when a gentleman shouted, “Twenty pounds on the Brigade!”
At 4 p.m. we strode into the arena like a bunch of schoolboys against our gigantic opponents who were already behaving as if they had won. The team that Spring day was Pat McBride, Gary Perinchief, Davie Kerr, Owen Marsh, Barrie Mancell, Ray Sousa, Mike Parris and Keith Pratt, with Mike Caulkett as coach.
By five minutes past four there wasn’t one Police chest which wasn’t bursting with pride, as we walked off with the Shield (after two quick pulls) , leaving the Brigade wondering what had hit them, Deputy Commissioner Frank B. Williams waited outside the arena and shook every man’s hand as the team left the park. Also delighted were the members of the Motor Cycle Display Team (no wonder!)
The following month saw us invited to the Sandys Flower Show where we again lifted the silverware, beating HMS Malabar and the U.S. Marines. The only change to the team was Mike Caulkett pulling and Owen Marsh coaching.
All that’s left now is our contribution to retaining the Commodore’s Cup. So here’s hoping that we can preserve our unbeaten record. A last word of thanks to all the lads who trained so hard. Thanks also to the boys from the barracks who we used as cannon-fodder as the event came closer.
Last but not least a big thank you to Jim McNiven for remembering his Army days!
Editors Note - The Police Tug o’War team went on to beat all comers for the next seven or eight years. They were a source of great pride within the Force and tremendous goodwill ambassadors.
MORE TUG O’ WAR SNIPPETS
The longest and toughest pull by the Police Tug o’ War Team was at the 1971 Agricultural Show against the Royal Navy ship, HMS Bacchanti. The Police Team won the first pull but the sailors took the second. However, the second pull certainly seperated the men from the boys, lasting for more than 4 minutes. This was the toughest competition the Police Team had ever encountered, and in Pat's own words, "that was the day our boys discovered what tug o' war was all about"!
Pat remained confident that the Team would pull off the victory, but just before the deciding pull started he spotted Police Commissioner George Duckett bounding out of the stands and bearing down on the boys. Pat immediately realized that this was not a social visit! Commissioner Duckett explained to Pat that he had wagered quite a substantial sum on his team winning, and he they lost then the whole gange would be heading west - transferred to Somerset!
Needless to say the old fighting Police spirit came through and the team handily won the last pull. When asked if the Commissioner's threat of immediate transfers had any effect on the result, Pat laughed and said that he seriously doubted it because, as soon as the referee called, "Take the strain" he knew by the tension on the rope that the sailors were finished.
Pat also noted that, “A beaming Mr. Duckett was waiting outside the area for us, along with "Gruff" Hammond and Inspector Dave Parsons, and they presented us with a PRC chit for 4 cases of beer."
In December 1972, Mr. Duckett was again butting heads with the Royal Navy – HMS Glamorgan, one of the guard ships for the Heath-Nixon Talks The Royal Navy was providing two guard ships for the Summit, HMS Glamorgan and HMS Phoebe, both of which were berthed on Front Street. Glamorgan had challenged Phoebe to a tug o' war match on the jetty and had beaten the smaller ship 2-0 so they were casting their eyes for bigger fish and had heard about the much vaunted Bermuda Police Team. Darby Allan, the ship's PTI then challenegd the Police who explained that it was out of season for tug o' war in Bermuda. He hinted to his Captain that the Police might be a little "windy" of the "Jolly Jack". This was obviously music to the ears of Commander Baird who promptly issued a challenge to Commissioner Duckett and he even had the temerity to suggest that the Police Team was scared of his ship's team
George Duckett sent back the famous reply shown below accepting the challenge and concluding with the words, “Put your money where your mouth is.”
Chief Inspector J.C.P. Hanlon then duly sent the following memo to P.C. McBride making it clear that "The Commissioner instructs that you inform your team, hold practices and win the event!!"
The result was another comprehensive victory for the Police Team much to the delight of Commissioner Duckett and the rest of the Police Force.
When Major and Mrs R.L. Johnson, Commanding Officer of the Marine Barracks, Bermuda was departing the Island he wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Police in which he stated:-
"... Many names and faces will be embedded in our thoughts. Of course with all the seeet must be some bitter. We never beat your Tug o' War Team. I still think you import your strong talent. Please relay to your men my grateful appreciation for the cooperation and professional attitude we received and also in which my Marine have been treated."
Pat points ot that during this time period the Police Team used about 20 men on the rope ALL of whom contributed to the great record and stories.
The old grunt and groaners included:-
Patrick McBride, Keith Pratt, Barrie Mancell, Mike Caulkett, Ray Sousa, Mike Parris, Davie Kerr, Gary Perinchief, Owen Marsh, John Balsden, Steve Bond, Paul Wakefield, Alex Armfield, Graham Maddocks, Bill Butterworth, Andy Lavery, Eddie Foggo, Mick Richardson, Tony Laughton, Paul Deans, Roger Brydon, Pete Swan. P. Gimson, Dave Cook and Peter Brown.
The coaches included Pat McBride, Mike Caulkett, Mike Parris, and Dave Garland.
The legend lives on!
Editors Notes - If you have any photographs, or reminisences of your own involvement in our Tug o' War Team we would be delighted to hear from you. Photos can be sent in either TIFF or JPEG format by email to
* The photo of Pat McBride in "drag" was taken during the time when Bermuda was experiencing a spate of handbag snatches by "diddlybops" from women riding livery cycles. Both Pat McBride and Tommy Barnes were used as decoys. To the best of our knowledge neither fell victim to the handbag snatchers although this had nothing to do with the fact that they refused to shave their hairy legs!
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