I was born in Warwick Parish, Bermuda August 15th 1935, during the period when it was believed “It takes a community to raise a child”, a custom that was evident daily, when my grandmother was waiting for me at the door, on my return home, I knew I had some answers to provide.
Evidence that this practice was effective, the group of friends I hung out with rarely got away with any childhood mischief we got into.
Growing up on the southside of the Island near the beaches was fun. It was also an accepted custom, those of us under the age of twelve, were not allowed to go into the ocean until after June 21st, summer solstice, when the Sun had crossed the Equator, and being unescorted was not allowed. Fortunately for us, an adult from our neighborhood was always available.
As teenagers, my friends and I found it to be exciting to go swimming during or soon after a hurricane. I feel sure our Spirit Guides, and Guardian Angels watched over us, as we all survived without any ill-fated events.
Received my education at Ord Road Elementary School, in Paget Parish. Graduated High School at Sandy’s Secondary, in Sandy’s Parish 1952.
Being what I consider to be a late bloomer, I had not decided what I wanted be, in relation to a profession. I went to work as a Masons Helper, with Burland Conyers and Marirea Construction Company, joining my Father, George Melrose, during the construction of The Russell Eve, Building on Church Street.
In 1954, I elected to attend a two-year program, at The Radio College of Toronto, Canada, with the intent of becoming a Radio Technician. I used the word intent, as I was failing badly after giving it a good try for approximately a year and a half. I should have known better, as my mathematics ability left a lot to be desired.
Returning home, I went to work at The Elbow Beach Hotel, as a Room Service/Bar and Grill Waiter.
It is said Girls are expected to reach the age of maturity at the age of 18, and Boys at age 21. The thought had not occurred to me to ask my grandmother, who had contributed to most of my daily upbringing, or to ask my father or my mother if in their opinion, I had reached the age of maturity in 1956? I would not be 21 until August.
To coin a phrase, I “jumped the gun” ready or not, I accepted the responsibility of manhood. Married my High School Sweetheart, Joan Marilyn Edness, April 12th. Our first son Kovan Clayton, was born in July, and I joined The Police Service December 1st 1956.
The Police Training School had not been established in 1956. On my first day, I was provided an adjoining room at the Hamilton Police Station, given a local Bermuda law book to read for two days, outfitted with two sets of winter uniforms, and on the third day I was posted to St George’s Division.
At that time, I was residing in Laffan Street, Hamilton, located behind the Catholic Church on Cedar Avenue. I had purchased a new Ambassador motor cycle the day I was informed I had been accepted, and I enjoyed my introduction to Policing at the East End. Taught the ropes so to speak, by the late Sgt. Bertram (Bertie) Denbrook, the late Sgt. Harry Fisher (CLICK HERE for article on Sgt Harry Fisher), and a Senior Constable, Kenneth Smith. I continue to hold these gentlemen in high esteem, with love and respect, and maintain fond memories of my orientation to Policing to this day.
I never kept a written record of the start and end dates of the various departments to which I was posted during my tenure, so I will be guessing at the exact dates, as I continue.
My second posting was at the recently vacated Army Garrison, in Prospect, Devonshire, February of 1957. A small group of us patrolled by foot, during the months we were stationed there, I had the pleasure of working with the late Hubert Swan, along with the late Sean Sheehan, I recall it was Sean’s first posting, and the late Vince (Super) Lottermore, our Dog Handler at that time. Two of the most memorable (fun) occurrences at Prospect.
One of the few remaining families kept geese, often geese are referred to as “Barn Yard Dogs”, and could be relied on to protect their Barn Yard. So true! One night Sean and I were patrolling in that area. Having had previous experiences with the geese, I was well aware of their behavior, and I could hear them hissing as they approached us, and suggested to Sean to be alert, but he decided to use the friendly approach. One of them caught hold of his heavy-duty coat, as it was a rainy and cold night. I watched with amusement, as he spun around and around for at least five minutes, in an effort to shake the goose loose, eventually he was successful, as the bird went flying into the air unharmed, with a big chunk of Sean’s coat in his beak. (CLICK HERE for our article on Sean Sheehan)
The second incident, became amusing to us only long after it occurred. Sgt, Custerfield (Custy) Crockwell, who was a serving Prison Officer at the time, prior to transferring to Police Service at a later date, resided in the nearby area. It was a Christmas Eve, Hubert Swan and I were on duty together, and during our break time we stopped by to say hello, and Custy invited us to join him for evening diner.
Included with dinner of course was a turkey. Here I will accept my portion of responsibility for what occurred. The three of us were having so much fun we over ate, by not leaving enough turkey for our gracious host family’s Christmas dinner that his wife had graciously prepared before leaving home to visit her parents. At the conclusion of our gathering, we became aware of the position we had put our good friend in, and made a hasty retreat. That incident that was not funny at the time, but it later became a memorable time we often shared.
I will again say how beneficial and enjoyable the years I spent with the Bermuda Police Service were. I gained the maturity needed at that time. The discipline learned, the camaraderie shared, and the lifelong friendships that developed contributed in an immense and positive way to the life I now have.
In 1956, policing in the two mentioned districts could be safely conducted with the Social Friendly Approach, up close and personal so to speak. It was custom and acceptable to be invited in for a cup of coffee or tea, and friendly conversation during our tours of duties. The crime statistics and threats of violence being very low, and seldom. The town of St George’s had one night spot, called The Casino, as did St David’s Island, The Mount Area Restaurant and Bar/Night Club. With duties in the town of St George’s, the only way to stay alert on the Midnight to 8 am shift, was to shake hands often during my shifts, with the few places of business door knobs or handles. It was also a duty requirement (smile) to visit the one and only nightly activity in St David’s Island, The Mount Area night club and restaurant, that would close at 3 am, leaving the one door handle to shake hands with for security purposes! Mr. Borden, the proprietor, resided on the second level of the premises.
An assigned duty I conducted when returning to St George’s, was an inspection of a facility on Ferry Reach, being a peninsula with few homes and no street lights at that time. After midnight the only illumination was the headlight on the 250 cc, BSA motor cycle I was riding, without my hand torchlight. I could not see my hand in front of my face. This assignment was conducted prior to my return to St George’s Police Station, after patrol of the St David’s area. If there had been any bad guys around, at the building to be inspected, they would have retreated long before I arrived, as the sound of the motor could be heard approaching from a mile away. After several months, I became accustomed to functioning in the dark, and cured of what little fear I had of darknights.
Transferred to the City of Hamilton, during the late part of 1957. I was assigned to work with a group of fellow Bermudians, we called ourselves The Black-Watch. Constable’s Shirley (Sharkey) Furbert, Eugene (Buck) Woods, Howard Dill, Hubert (Swanny) Swan, and Brackston (Bracky) Simmons. Our much respected and loved leader, who was a Sgt. at that time, was the late Leslie Burge. His personal characteristics, and ability to be a leader is unparalleled in my opinion.
Being the youngest of the group, and the smallest, I was assigned as Duty Driver, most of the time, and often “chauffeur” to Mr. (Weather Bird) Mills, with several of his feline companions following close behind. I called him Hamilton City’s Hobo Gentleman. Entry into the station’s desk log, showed his arrest for “Being Drunk and Incapable” but the underlying reason really was due to his loud baritone voice singing, that bellowed over the city. His reputation earned him notoriety, as a bust of him remains on permanent display at the City Hall.
The Hamilton Dock Workers dispute in 1959, was my first exposure to confrontation with a large group of individuals, we were armed with shields, helmets, and long batons, fortunately no violence occurred.
Police at No. 1 Dock during 1959 Dock Dispute
I spent some months as Parish Constable in Pembroke Parish, before I was transferred to Operations Department, at Prospect in 1960. I remain aware of how I have previously described my experiences and satisfaction of my tenure, the up close and personal approach to Policing continued to work for me, and maintained a high level of mutual respect, and support of the late Douglas (Red) Hebberd, who was a Sgt, at that time, and I/C of all Officers posted throughout the Parish’s.
Bob at Traffic Department
A brief and vivid, short experience working with Sgt, Red Hebberd was my reaction to an investigation we conducted, and discovered a corpse that had not been located for several days in a dwelling totally constructed of tin sheeting in the middle of a hot Bermuda summer. It was my first experience dealing with a corpse, and would not be my last during my career, but it was the most memorable one due to my reaction!
Bob with his beloved Triumph 350cc motor cycle 1046
I served in Operations Department from 1960 to the middle of 1965, this posting being my most extended period of service. During that time I had the pleasure of working with many members with whom I developed lasting memorable friendships, and continue to have pleasant thoughts of them, and the many experiences we had working together. The late Arthur Rose, who was the Sgt. I/C. Radar duty, with the late Ernest (Ernie) Moniz who was a Sgt. during that period. He operated the speed meter reading equipment, and I enjoyed the short motor chase on motor cycle, in order to issue the violation tickets.
I always enjoyed vehicle traffic patrol of Central Division with the late constables Kenneth (Ken) Morris, the late Kenneth (Ken) Norman and George Hammond, and all of the members of the Motor Cycle Display Team. I vividly recall having the pleasure of driving one of the two remaining sleek looking Sunbeam Talbots before they were taken out of service.
If I was to be asked the question, “Well Robert, which posting of your tenure within the Bermuda Police Service did you enjoy the most?” as I write, I will not hesitate to reply, “The Operations Department”. Why? It was the involvement and participation with the original Bermuda Police Motor Display Team, being a participant with many of Government Ceremonial and V.I.P Escorts, including the visits of foreign Dignitaries. (CLICK HERE for our article on the History of Police Motor Cycle Display Team).
The dedication, pride, and the trust each member of the display team placed in each other, during practice and the displays we performed for the public with confidence. I had been assigned to the Police Garage for a short period, at the time of receipt of the Display Team 350 cc motor cycles. Registered number 1046 was my pride and joy. I had assisted the late Sgt. Peter Edney to assemble most of them, I was allowed to ride 1046 home for that period.
Our second son Robert Sheridan was born in 1961. I think it was late 1962, that my sons and I left for a vacation in the United States, “Do not tell anyone” I had forgotten to leave my assigned cycle at the Police garage before I left (smile). It was kept safe, as it was parked in the hallway of my residence.
Lynn E Hall, who also became a lifelong friend, was a Constable at the time, and I/C Police Equipment Stores, at that time located in the lower level of Operations. He and I shared duties as driver for Police Commissioner George Robins when needed. On one occasion I had driven the Commissioner to a function at Dockyard in Somerset, and on our return I turned off the lights that illuminated the dashboard, The Commissioner on these occasions would sit in the front passenger seat. Without saying a word, he leaned across and turned them back on, giving me a smile without saying a word. He was indeed a Gentleman.
Lynn and I often had personal and enjoyable discussions about who was the better motor cycle rider. The calibration of all traffic vehicle odometers, including motor cycles was a standard requirement, and conducted at the Airport Runways, at Kindley Field. He and I would often test our skills of emergency riding on our return to Headquarters.
I was a member of the Police Tennis Team, and each year lost to Derrick Singleton in our Police tennis tournament finals. With his patience during our long rallies, versus the very little of mine, made him worthy of the Championship.
My last posting, during the latter part of 1965, was to Central C.I.D. partnered with Detective Lennett M.(Lennie) Edwards. This partnership was one of those memorable ones I had mentioned earlier in my writing. Lennie extended me the honor of being Godfather to his son. I had earlier been asked to be Godfather to Ken Morris’s daughter soon after I was transferred to Operations, Ken had became aware that Natalie and I knew each other well, as she and I had attended Sandys Sec High School at the same time, and he asked for an introduction. The rest is history.
I also partnered with the first Bermuda Police Woman, Jean D. Vickers on several assignments. CLICK HERE for our article about Jean Vickers)
My method of and my approach to Policing never earned me a permanent promotion, but I served as watch I/C, at the Operations Department on many Sundays, and received a certificate of excellent service from Commissioner George Robins.
In the years that followed, I had several successful careers, at home and abroad in related professions that I attribute to the experience I gained from the years I spent with the Bermuda Police Service.
I immigrated to the United States soon after I resigned. I had a successful career as a Private Investigator for Pinkerton Inc Detroit, and with W.I.S.E. World Investigations Security Engineers, Inc. 21819 West Nine Mile Road Southfield, Michigan, for seven years.
I returned to Bermuda on July 2nd, 1972, and on 3rd of July I was appointed as Director of Security for King Edward Hospital where I worked for approximately six months, until I met Nobby Clark on Front Street. He offered me the opportunity to rejoin the Police, but due to the amount of superannuation I would have to pay to be eligible I decided against rejoining. Nobby, in turn, introduced me to the then Chief Justice, Sir James Rufus Astwood, and recommended me for The Provost Marshall’s Office as Court Bailiff. Sir Rufus and I were raised in the same neighborhood. I accepted the position and functioned successfully as a Bailiff for eight years.
I worked successfully with former Sergeant Ted Burton, as an associate in his business as an Investigator, for at least ten years. I acquired a License to do so endorsed at that time by then Commissioner Penny Bean if my memory is correct.
In 1980 I was appointed Director of Safety and Security, at the Southampton Princess, until retirement in 2000. Aaron Sabir, who was already in the Department as interim Director, stayed with me long enough to see me through orientation. Retired Sergeant Eugene (Buck) Woods replaced Aaron as my Assistant for over five years. Another former policeman, Webster Furbert (CLICK HERE for our article on Webster Furbert) was one of my Shift Supervisors until his retirement, and Fred Beach was also one of my Supervisors for several years.
During my 20 years as the Director of Safety and Security at the Southampton Princess, Fairmount Hotel, we had many V.I.P. visitors to the hotel, including Presidents of the United States, Saudi Arabian Royalty, The Queen of England, and many other V.I.P Dignitaries. I coordinated with members of the Bermuda Police Service, in particular with Special Branch, and was presented with a Bermuda Police Plaque on the day of my retirement in appreciation of my assistance. It was a pleasure to have Commissioner Lenny Edwards, in attendance at my retirement party.
In 1974, I met and Married my Soul Mate Margaret E. (nee Myers) Anton. She had one daughter, Michelle, and we also adopted a daughter Taj-Mah. I have two sons, Kovan and Robert, eight grandchildren Lauren (37), Ashley (30), A.J. (30) , Janae (29), Shaquille (29), T.J. (23), McKaina (17), and Leyla (9), and one great-grandchild Ashtyn (6 months) with a second great-grandchild expected next month. I am blessed that all of our adult children have successful careers. My two sons, three grandchildren, and great-grands reside in Bermuda, and I see them whenever I return home. The rest are here in the United States and I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by my family who all mean so much to me. With use of the new technology we are all in daily contact, something I could ever have imagined when I first joined the Bermuda Police back in 1956 when the radio equipment we had back then was very basic.
As I submit this writing, I am in my 87th year, residing in Las Vegas, Nevada, and fortunately remain in good health.