Scion of Trimingham family dies
T. Andrew Trimingham, a historian and theatre connoisseur as well as a scion from one of Bermuda’s classic merchant families, has died at the age of 82.
A driving force behind the founding of the Bermuda Maritime Museum, now the National Museum of Bermuda, Mr Trimingham was a longtime leading light of the Bermuda National Trust, as well as serving as its president from 1985 to 1987.
Known as Bermuda’s own Renaissance man, he contributed to local arts as well as reviewing the arts scene for the Mid-Ocean News and The Royal Gazette.
Mr Trimingham’s keen interest in architecture found him a place as the chairman of the Historic Buildings Advisory Committee.
While he served as a vice-president for the now departed Trimingham Brothers department store, Mr Trimingham’s career in the stage world of Broadway and New York in the 1960s was one of his true callings.
His work entailed contributions to the New York Shakespeare Festival, founded by the groundbreaking producer Joe Papp.
Jobs included designing the suit of armour for actor Richard Burton to play King Arthur in the classic 1960 Broadway production of Camelot.
Coincidentally, Mr Trimingham’s work on Camelot hearkened to his 1940s school days at Stowe in England, where he was a protégé of the school’s legendary founding headteacher, J.F. Roxburgh.
Roxburgh proved influential for Stowe’s then English master, T.H. White, who used him as the model for his rendering of Merlin in the Arthurian series The Once and Future King — which provided the basis of the Broadway musical.
Mr Trimingham left Bermuda after his retirement and settled in Devon with his friend and life companion, former Bermuda Government Archivist John Adams. He died there on Friday, shortly after celebrating his 82nd birthday in December.
He attended Oxford University after Stowe, before immersing himself in New York’s theatre scene.
“The best word to describe Uncle Andrew is ‘colourful’; he was hugely into theatre,” recalled his nephew, Eldon Trimingham. “He was very talented, very creative, and he had a way with design.”
Upon returning to Bermuda in the 1970s he became an influential member of the Trust, and shortly thereafter one of “the Founder Trustees and impassioned minds” behind the creation of the Maritime Museum, according to executive director Edward Harris.
The museum was established in 1974 on “a lack and a promise”, Dr Harris said, with Mr Trimingham and Jack Arnell leading a dedicated team of volunteers from the Trust.
“It is fair to say that Andrew and the late Dr Arnell provided the important early intellectual direction for the institution, which is now the 16-acre National Museum of Bermuda, yet a private organisation as he and others established, and now much expanded not only in geographical size but in its extensive work in a number of aspects of the preservation of Bermuda’s cultural heritage over the last 43 years,” Dr Harris said.
The museum’s achievements constituted “a major credit for Andrew”, and it remained “dear to his heart until the end”.
“It was a privilege to see Andrew and John in June last year at their lovely home high on a hill overlooking the coast and the English Channel near Torquay and to say farewell to a wonderful fellow Bermudian.”
Bill Zuill, executive director of the National Trust and former editor of The Royal Gazette, recalled Mr Trimingham as a defender of the island’s architectural heritage who “felt Bermuda had to be careful not to throw away its natural beauty which was the basis for its prosperity and wellbeing of all Bermudians”.
During his presidency, Mr Trimingham led opposition to the so-called Cabinet Towers development, high-rise condominiums planned for the section of East Broadway where Renaissance Re now stands.
“He was the author of Devonshire, the first volume in the National Trust’s Architectural Heritage Series. He also contributed to St George’s and Sandys, the second and third volumes,” Mr Zuill said.
“With John Adams, he helped to drive the Bermuda Old House Survey, which was the genesis for the series, and which also led to the listing system for Bermuda’s old homes, which was badly needed and has done much to preserve Bermuda’s architectural heritage.
“Andrew was passionate about all of the arts, from theatre to painting and sculpture to architecture, and was a serious student and expert on these subjects. His knowledge and passion for Bermuda were invaluable to the Trust and he continued to contribute his thoughts and ideas until quite recently.
“As editor of The Royal Gazette, I also had the pleasure of having Andrew as the paper’s arts critic for some years. Many people will remember that Andrew was always forthright and you never had any doubt about where he stood with regard to certain work. That did not always make him popular in the arts community but I think it also meant that artists may have felt they had to work a little harder to avoid a critical review. Certainly, he was quick to criticise shoddy or lazy work but he could also be quite fulsome in his praise of work that he felt captured the spirit of the moment.
“Andrew was a longtime friend of my family, and Bermuda has lost another character, and is poorer for it.”