Bermuda mourns the Voice of Summer’
C.V. “Jim” Woolridge, one of the leading figures of the former United Bermuda Party and a cricket commentator famed as the “Voice of Summer”, died yesterday at the age of 92.
The long-serving former minister of tourism, who was MP for Smith’s South, retired from politics in 2001 after 33 years.
Colleagues said Mr Woolridge was a dedicated ambassador for Bermuda who shaped the island’s tourism industry in its heyday.
His nickname, which is shared with John Arlott, the famous English commentator, was coined by Howard Rose, a reporter at the Mid-Ocean News.
Sir John Swan, a former UBP premier, said Mr Woolridge was “a great marketer and salesman who could reach into the community”.
Sir John added: “When it came to the Government, Jim was a natural, with relationships across the community — black and white, rich and poor, sports, business, culture, you name it.
“When Jim Woolridge spoke, we paid attention. He was regarded as an ambassador, and that led to him becoming the minister for tourism.”
Sir John said Mr Woolridge also marketed the island as a centre for business.
He added: “He is associated with goodwill to Bermuda overseas as much as locally. He was a very strong advocate for the fiscally conservative development of Bermuda and helped lay the foundation for the transition of Bermuda from what it was in the 1960s and 1970s to what it became.”
Sir John said: “He came, he saw, he gave and now we are saying goodbye. What he has left behind is for us to try and evolve. Anything new will still be based on the foundations he helped to create; he holds an indelible place in our community.
“He was a family man, and I wish to extend to his wife, Roslyn, his daughters, Annarita and Marcia, his grandchildren and extended family, my deepest sympathies.”
Mr Woolridge joined the UBP in 1968 and served as the party whip and deputy chairman of the Tourism Board.
His first ministerial appointment came in 1971 when he was appointed Minister of Labour and Immigration by Sir Edward Richards.
Mr Woolridge stepped down from Cabinet in 1977, but just months later was appointed deputy premier and tourism minister by Sir David Gibbons, the Premier at the time.
When the UBP was unseated in the General Election in 1998, Mr Woolridge held the shadow ministry of works and engineering, where he had been minister until the Progressive Labour Party swept to power for an historic first time.
Mr Woolridge was qualified as a dental technician, but made his mark as a sportsman and sports broadcaster.
David Burt, the Premier, said Mr Woolridge was “a genuine public servant and a giant of this community”.
The Premier, who is off the island, added Mr Woolridge came to “symbolise the era over which he presided in Bermuda’s tourism” through his strength of character.
Jeanne Atherden, the Leader of the Opposition, said Mr Woolridge was “an outstanding and astute politician who worked tirelessly on behalf of Bermuda”.
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Acting Premier, said flags on all government buildings would be lowered to half-mast today and on the day of Mr Woolridge’s funeral.
A Book of Condolence for public signing will be available at the Cabinet Office on Front Street from tomorrow until the day before Mr Woolridge’s funeral, which has yet to be announced, between 10am and 4pm.
Michael Dunkley, a former premier, said Mr Woolridge had nurtured his political career and mentored him after the early death of his father, Henry “Bill” Dunkley.
Mr Dunkley said: “When I became part of the Government, then premier, we had a poignant conversation.
“He said ‘Your father is looking down and, when I see him, I will tell him Uncle Jim did the job I promised.’
Mr Dunkley added: “When I think of Bermuda shorts, I think of Jim Woolridge. He went around the world talking about Bermuda and selling this country.
“Jim is one of those people responsible for Bermuda today, and we should never forget that service. He did it for life and we must remember his legacy. There is a big void to fill.”
Jamahl Simmons, the tourism minister, said: “Today, Bermuda has lost one of our most admired and revered tourism ambassadors.
“Jim Woolridge’s legacy will be his spirited and unwavering support of the island’s tourism and hospitality industry.”