Editors note:- We are delighted to publish this article specially written for our "Then and Now" column by Gail Marirea (nee Endres) who had a unique insight into the workings of the Bermuda Police while she worked as a secretary in Special Branch for Superintendent John MacGregor about whom we knew very little other than that he was recruited by Commissioner George Robins to be head of the newly created Special Branch. Gail worked in Special Branch for 3 years and during that time she was also actively involved in the Police Drama Group. CLICK HERE to read more about the History of the Police Drama Group.
Gail Marirea (nee’ Endres)
Special Branch Secretary 1962-1964
I was born in Camrose, Alberta but we moved to Calgary when my Father, Leon Endres, joined the Canadian Air Force and was sent to England in 1940 to serve as a Radar Officer where he remained for five years. My Mom, Stella Endres, and I lived in two windowless rooms in the basement of a three story house owned by an elderly lady who catered to war wives and their children. When I was four Mom became a stage mother and signed me up for acrobatic, highland and tap dancing lessons where I competed in competitions around southern Alberta. The lessons stopped when she arrived at the studio one day to find two small boys swinging me like a jump-rope by my hands and feet, training for an acrobatic dance routine, according to the teacher. Then Mom found out she had diabetes and Dad came home from the War to find out that his younger brother had cancer so our small family packed up and moved to Rosalind, Alberta to take over my uncle’s gas station and trucking business in order to help support my aunt and two very small cousins.
Dad in Uniform
Mom looking glamorous
Rosalind was rather a shock to a 7 year old city kid but we made out OK because everyone in town was worse off than we were and I had lots of cousins living there. We acquired an old Model T Ford which we had for a few years until a cousin drove it over the river bank while out on a date. Our house consisted of four granaries nailed together over a dugout cellar. We had a red hand pump on the kitchen sink, dark green oilcloth on the walls, a 40 watt bulb hanging from a cord in the kitchen ceiling, a wood burning stove and an outhouse. I remember my mother crying the day we moved in with all our goods piled up in the middle of the kitchen floor but we lived there until I was sixteen. It wasn’t all bad and during that time we also had a lot of fun.
When we first arrived in Rosalind my Dad formed a small dance band and my parents would take me with them to the Saturday night dances and put me to sleep in the cloakroom. At the midnight break I would put on my costumes and entertain everyone with all my tap and highland dance routines. People would stand around the hall in a big circle and at the end they would pass a hat around collecting money for me. This lasted until I grew out of my costumes but by that time I was playing alto sax in Dad’s band. I tell my son now that I’ve been earning my own money since I was seven years old.
Gail in Costume
Dad had taught himself how to read music. He could play the accordion, saxophone, clarinet, drums and he taught guitar. He also taught me to read music and play the alto sax. When I was nine years old I joined the band and we performed at all the small town dances around our area on Saturday nights with Dad and me harmonizing on our sax’s, Grampa Endres on the drums (he played the coronet in the Bawlf Salvation Army Band), a few other guys on various instruments and Ruby Keene thumping away on the piano. I loved every minute of it, playing "In the Mood”, “Twelfth Street Rag”, waltzes and Blues. When I returned to Rosalind on holiday at age 21 I attended a country dance and there was Ruby, still thumping away on stage. She had to be in her 80’s by then. The band invited me up on stage, handed me a sax and I played "Twelfth Street Rag" with them. One night several members of the Canadian Airforce Band, who were visiting Winnipeg for a performance, held a jam session in our basement and Dad and I played a tiny bit with them. I still have that old saxophone.
Dad also formed a girls quartet when I was 14 with me singing Bass and we both joined the Camrose Marching Band. During one small town parade Dad lost his partial plate (which he kept in his shirt pocket when playing the sax). We retraced our steps and found it in a mud puddle.
When I was sixteen we moved to Winnipeg where Dad went to work for Avro Air Industries as an Electronics Engineer. His job was to work on the Sabre Jet Planes that the American Air Force would send up to Winnipeg for repairs. There was no actual parts manual for the Sabre Jet at the time so he, along with Barbara Cook, wrote the Manual and Barb, who was a well known Winnipeg artist, did the illustrations. In Dad’s spare time he taught Electronics to young men in the local prison. Barb would eventually become my father’s second wife. In Winnipeg I attended a huge high school for one year where the classes were so far beyond me after going to a country school in a different Province that I ended up basically taking Art Classes most of the day. Although I won an art scholarship I decided to attend an excellent Commercial College instead where I graduated with Honors. So I never graduated High School but in later years took various university courses. Dad, who was originally a high school math teacher before the War, told me “Your education doesn’t start until after you leave school”.
But I wanted to travel. My first job was as secretary in the Computer Room of the Canadian National Railway Terminal Building in downtown Winnipeg. Our next door neighbor at home, Mr. Yerex, as the guy who sat in a room suspended above the concourse and announced the train arrivals and departures. I was nineteen and getting very tired of Winnipeg winters so when a suntanned young woman came into my area one day I enquired about her to the girls in the keypunch room. They told me Ruthie had been a keypunch operator but was now living in Nassau, Bahamas. I had been planning a trip to Bermuda with another girl but our plans fell through when she got married so I contacted Ruthie who asked me to come to Nassau and join her and two other girls in a four bed apartment. I said “Yes” but only for a few months because my Mom was very ill. Then Mom died. Dad’s friends from work talked me into going for longer and said they would watch out for him and keep me informed of his health.
In 1960 I moved to Nassau where I spent ten months working for a Shipping company during the week and for a Greek gentleman called Mr. Popadopoulos on Saturdays, doing his typing. He owned a tiny little sewing notions shop in downtown Nassau. However, I did take a three week visit back to Winnipeg to see how Dad was doing. In order to do this I arranged to have my healthy tonsils removed so Dad wouldn’t realize my visit was just an excuse to check up on him. Unfortunately, a week later I ended up in the Emergency Ward with a hemorrhage and had a blood transfusion. I managed to return to Nassau for a few more months when all of us returned to Winnipeg and a few months after that Dad and Barb got married with me as their Maid of Honor.
I had several jobs in my twenties because I couldn’t stand the Winnipeg winters and couldn’t afford the plane tickets to fly back and forth without working. I always upgraded and learned as much as I could at every place I worked so this time I became Secretary to the Manager of the Great West Coal Company. One day I was updating the files and found a letter from the previous secretary saying she was working in Bermuda. I wrote to her and she invited me down.
My friend Sy Shibuya and I finally arrived in Bermuda in February 1962 where I worked briefly for a shipping company and there I met Reg Donald, husband of Diane Donald who was Commissioner Robins’ Secretary. Reg told me of an opening in Special Branch at Police Headquarters. I applied and got the job.
Special Branch was a whole new world to me. Police Headquarters was a hive of activity during the sixties and I loved it. I had a wonderful boss in Superintendent John MacGregor, or Mac to all his friends and staff and the detectives were great characters, bustling in and out of the office all day long. Commissioner Robins was to me the very image of what a British Commissioner of Police should look and act like. Diane Donald was a great friend and all the Detectives treated me like one of the guys. Even the Officer of the Morgue was full of fun and energy and loved to tease me with his “scrapbook” photos.
Editors Note - CLICK HERE to read our "Then and Now" article on Diane Donald who was the first secretary to work in Special Branch after coming out to Bermuda having worked as a secretary for the Metropolitan Police. Gail became secretary in Special Branch when Diane was transferred to the Commissioner's office.
The position of Secretary was interesting and varied, consisting of issuing all the Firearms Licenses for the Island, guardian of filing cabinets full of confiscated drug and firearms and going with the Reserve Constabulary on night stakeouts on drug watches. I was part of the Special Branch bodyguard for the visits of Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia and the Queen Mother and helped to entertain the two officers from Scotland Yard who were in Bermuda twice to investigate the attempt to blow up the ZBM tower and again for the Warwick Rapes. I remember being in the office the day John F. Kennedy died when all the detectives filed in and we listened to the radio.
During this time a scruffy elderly man arrived in the office and introduced himself as Sir Paul Hanover, King of England and Governor General of Bermuda. The guys weren’t interested so they sent him over to me. He told me he made a point when he traveled of always introducing himself to the local Police Department. We didn’t know how he got to Bermuda and since a ZBM tower explosion attempt had just been recently made, they felt he might have had something to do with it so on the advice of the guys I gave him a fake name of Joan to encourage him to keep visiting us. He decided he liked me and came back for several days to visit and then one day he disappeared.
Postcard from Sir Paul Hanover to H.E. Governor Gascoigne
"Translation of Giant Postcard"
Sir Gascoine, Presiding
and former Governor
General of Bermuda
On this 9th day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and sixty three with the Royal Mace on my left shoulder In the presence of the Sgt. at arms in the Bermuda Legislative Assembly Mr Jolliffe (Sgt of Arms) I, sir Paul Hanover declared myself king of the British Empire and all Colonial and Commonwealth possessions by an unRevokable act, and the presence of the Sgt. at Arms and Mr Tatem, Clerk of the House. With the Mace on my left Shoulder I appointed myself Governor General of Bermuda.
I am Sir Paul Hanover"
After that, for over a year I received odd things in the mail from all over the USA from Sir Paul….ticket stubs, programs, a small stamp catalogue….usually a postcard, addressed to Joan, c/o Special Branch, Police Headquarters, Bermuda and always signed from “Sir Paul Hanover, King of England and Governor General of Bermuda”.
Superintendent John MacGregor
I’ve had some great bosses, and a lot of jobs, but of all the people I worked for Superintendent John MacGregor of Special Branch, Bermuda Police Constabulary had to be one of the most unique. He was more than just my boss, he was my friend. Everyone loved the guy and the detectives who worked for him had a deep respect for him as well. He probably would have had a problem functioning in our current world because he didn’t always go by the book. His previous post had been somewhere in Africa and I believe his wife had passed away. He was a quiet man who lived alone….most of the time.
We all worked hard for Mac but we played hard too. He encouraged me to be part of the Force even though I was just his civilian secretary. He gave me a lot of responsibility and besides bodyguard duty he sent me out for night drug watches along with the Reserve Constabulary, who were mostly all retired police officers. One of the guys and I would drive into the “Back of Town”, park and pretend we were making out. The Reserve Officer would look over my shoulder and I would look over his and we would watch for any suspicious activity in the area. I’m sure all the drug dealers were quite aware of who we were. But it also meant that we were on the job and it helped to keep those areas safe. Afterwards we would go back to the Police Reserve clubhouse and play Dominoes. I was actually Police Club Champion for quite a while as we would also play at lunchtime for cigarettes.
There is an old fortress close by the Police Headquarters and once the guys took me there to get rid of the ammunition from the confiscated guns stored in our office. All went well until someone handed me a '45 and it knocked me on my bottom.
Det. Harold Moniz examining illegal drugs
Supt. MacGregor examines firearms and ammunition
Another time Mac used me as ‘bait’ for tracking practice. He sent all the detectives and me to the Belmont Hotel on the far side of Hamilton Harbour. They gave me a one hour head start and told me to do everything I could to lose them. I got on the Ferry, went into the Ladies department of major stores and wore myself out but by the time I got back to Mac’s little cottage, the guys had caught up with me. So what did we do? We had a party, of course and Mac had a lovely lunch waiting for us.
Special Branch Team
(l-r) Hubert Simmons, Mike Kelly, Harold Moniz, Ian Morrison,
Gail Endres and John MacGregor.
Our office was in the right hand corner, bottom floor of one of several very old buildings which used to be part of the British military Headquarters many years ago. Our particular office had bars on the windows and a steel door.
Police Headquarters building - Prospect
I remember one day in August of 1963 looking out the window of our office when Hurricane Arlene was underway and seeing a small tree fly by. All the guys were out but Mac and me and he decided he should drive me home as soon as the eye of the storm came over us. We reached the house I shared with three other girls and found a party in full swing. So we joined the party and Mac had a great time sitting in the corner with a big smile on his face and a bottle of his favorite Scotch close at hand. We had a lot of parties in those days. We always invited Mac and he kept his own bottle at our house.
In 1963 Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia, arrived and I was on the Special Branch bodyguard, stationed upstairs, outside on the balcony, overlooking the tarmac. There were hundreds of people at the airport that day and we were on high alert because attempts had been made on his life. As he was getting into his limousine someone knocked off his hat and that caused a temporary panic but it was only an accident.
Emperor Haile Selassie arrives at the Bermuda Air Terminal
The airport was packed with people who came to witness this historic event
P.C. Terry Bawden salutes His Imperial Majesty Emperor Hail Selassie
& H.E. Governor Julian Gascoigne us they are driven from the airport
Editors note - The above photo of P.C. Terry Bawden was featured in our "Who, Where and When" column in 2016, and is also featured in our "Then and Now" article on Terry Bawden.
It was during this time that Scotland Yard sent out two detectives to investigate the “Warwick Rapes”. I believe almost all the males in Bermuda had to be fingerprinted at the time and I had the distinction of being the only female in Bermuda who was also fingerprinted for the Warwick Rapes. The Officer of the Morgue did have a rather strange sense of humor!
The same Scotland Yard detectives made a second trip to Bermuda shortly afterword to be here for the the Queen Mother’s visit in April of 1964. Special Branch was her bodyguard and we set up a large room just off the Airport tarmac with tables around two sides of snacks, beer and alcohol for the police volunteers. I had been assured that the Queen Mother’s party would not be coming through that room and while waiting for her entourage to return to her plane I was by myself, tidying up the table behind one of two doors leading into another room. A cop poked his head through the other door and hissed “She’s coming” and disappeared. In a flap, I just had time to back up against the table behind the door and hold out my elbows to try to cover the mess as best I could. The door opened and in walked the Queen Mother, accompanied by the Governor, Sir Julian Gascoigne, who wasn’t at all happy to see me, followed by Her Majesty’s entire entourage. The Queen stopped, smiled at me and graciously said “How do you do!”. and I said hu-hu-hello”. It was very embarrassing. But at the end of the entourage came the two Scotland Yard men. One took my right arm and the other the left, we joined the end of the group and continued with it out to the plane. When we all got back to the Police Club Bar one of the guys said "At least you could have said “Hello Ma'am!” How was I to know….I'm not English!
Programme for "On Monday Next"
Cast and Production Team for "On Monday Next"
The Police Drama Club had already performed a few plays and by 1964 the play of choice was "On Monday Next”, a comedy directed by Dusty Hind. Dusty was a Special Branch Detective so of course several of the detectives were cast members including Mac and me. It was about a group of actors in Britain rehearsing a play which included a large white poodle called “Kippy” and I had the part of a ditzy actress who thought she was much better than she actually was. It was a good form of entertainment for the Police and the public as well and so much fun.
Pete Parnell, Sy Shibuya (sitting) and Gail Endres on stage
Colin "Dusty" Hind with Gail Endres holding Kippy,
and Bernard "Bernie" Burrell
Shortly after this I was asked to make a commercial for White Rock Gingerale, along with two Policemen called Jack Rouse and Peter Rose. Jack was from Fiji, had dark curly hair and was very handsome. Peter was from England, had blonde hair and was also very handsome. How could I refuse? We were posed in front of a roaring fire wearing sweaters and sipping supposedly Whiterock Gingerale in the middle of summer. I never did see the commercial but heard it was shown in the USA…... but maybe not.
When my friend Sy and I returned to Winnipeg in 1964 we decided to stop at the World’s Fair in New York and we stayed at the Barbizon Hotel for Young Women. Only guests could go beyond the 2nd Floor and no men were allowed at all beyond the Lobby. It was a fortress and, although we didn’t know it at the time, it was famous for being the temporary home of women such as Joan Crawford, Grace Kelly and many other women waiting to be discovered. Sy and I felt like complete hicks when we first stepped into the elevator with our suitcases all around us and wearing flip flops. There were two very glamorous models already in there and as soon as the elevator took off Sy and I and all our luggage immediately fell down. We thought it was very funny but the other ladies didn’t appreciate the humor. In Bermuda the highest building at that time was only three stories and we hadn’t been in an elevator in over two years.
That night I was very surprised to receive a phone call. Nobody knew where we were staying except our gang in Bermuda. It was Mac. He was downstairs in the Lobby and he invited us to dinner with him that night. He took us to The Top of the Sixes on Fifth Avenue and spent the evening dancing with both of us and treating us to a fabulous meal. When he took us back to our hotel he presented me with a beautiful gold lighter. I never found out why he went to New York, maybe for the World’s Fair but maybe he just wanted to say “Goodbye”. He left Bermuda himself not to long after that
I found a job in Winnipeg as Secretary to the Dean of the Manitoba Law School, however I realized that my real home was in Bermuda, so when I had earned enough money for a ticket I returned here after only six months away. I married Howard Marirea in 1967 and our Son Robin was born in 1970. Howard was Purchasing Manager of the Sonesta Beach Hotel at the time but became Manager in later years. He retired from his position in 1981 to run his own business of making the Island’s rubber stamps which he, Robin and I have operated since 1972. I spent a few years as Headmistress of the Skinner Secretarial School, several more as secretary to the Manager and part-time Reservations Agent in the Eastern Airlines Front Street Office, then eventually, after taking up Accounting, worked for an exempt company. I retired in 1998. We built a cottage in a small town in the Adirondacks and spent twenty summers there fishing and golfing wth Howard’s American cousins but we are now back in Bermuda full time.
Howard and Gail out on their boat
In 1987 I began to quilt. In my earlier married life I sold my watercolors and oil paintings at Well’s Gallery in the Washington Lane but always wanted to quilt when I had more time. The week after I retired I bought a quilt pattern, fabric and tools and made a king sized bedspread entirely by hand (because I didn’t know how to do it on a sewing machine). Since then I’ve had two One Woman Shows at Masterworks Museum for Bermuda Art, placed 3rd in the Vermont Quilt Festival, had my quilts hung several years in Government House and have sold them to people in several different countries. Over time I graduated from regular bed quilts to wall quilts to "Art Quilts” and now I mostly replicate Winslow Homer Paintings of Bermuda and of the Adirondacks and I also work from my own photographs.
From a Winslow Homer painting
From a photograph
From an old Bermuda Postcard
I call my type of quilting “Quilting WITH Fabric”. The highlight of one of my Shows at Masterworks was when Mrs. Margaret Trammell Crowe, owner of the Asian Art Museum in Dallas, Texas and a well-known international philanthropist, bought one of my Asian originals. I am completely self taught, have never had a quilting lesson and I owe it all to my art background, perseverance and luck.
Gail Marirea (nee Endres)
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