Advancing one bite at a time
Newton Adcock was at the Bank of Bermuda when he heard a scream. “I turned around and could see a man in jeans and a white T-shirt run out the door with a bag in his hand,” the 73-year-old recalled, 21 years later.
Realising that a robbery was in progress, Mr Adcock, a former triathlete, took off running after him.
“I chased him down roads and lanes, and sometimes through traffic all the way to near the tennis courts at Bernard Park,” Mr Adcock said.
As he ran by people on the street, he told them to call 911. Finally, a police car pulled up beside him and a police officer got out.
“He said they had a police car waiting for the guy at the end of the road,” Mr Adcock said. “The police later told me the guy was so tired by the end of the chase, that they did not have to arrest him. They just opened the car door, and he sat down inside with the bank bag, exhausted.“
At 52, Mr Adcock received a citation for bravery from Police Commissioner Jonathan Smith.
Chasing a bank robber is just one of the many stories he tells about his life in his memoir, How Does One Eat an Elephant.
He chose that title because ‘one bite at a time’ has always been his approach to hard times.
“I always get through things by working them out,” he said. “I have taken on some difficult memories, and have written everything down.”
In the book, he called the process both enjoyable and terrifying. “I have had to relive both the best and worst times in my life, not knowing if I was emotionally ready,” he said. “Sometimes it was overwhelming.”
He grew up in Jew’s Bay, Southampton. His mother, Mary, was an American who worked for a shipping company, and his father, John Adcock, was an engineer at the Bermuda Bakery in Pembroke.
When he was six, his father built him a punt, triggering a lifelong passion for boating. When Mr Adcock grew a little older, he would often help Southampton fisherman Arthur Moniz.
“He taught me how to drive the boat, fish properly, make fish pots and how to tie the ropes and buoys for the pots,” he said.
In October 1962, Mr Adcock was scheduled to go night fishing with Mr Moniz and four others in a leaky, wooden boat called Pearl.
At the last minute he could not go because he had to serve as an acolyte in church. Pearl and its crew disappeared that night never to be seen again.
“It was thought that they were run over on the South Shore by a larger boat,” Mr Adcock said. “People said it might have been another fisherman, angry because he stole other people’s fish pots.”
Mr Adcock took the loss of his friend badly, especially since his father was now getting sicker by the day with lung cancer. He was 15 when his dad died.
“I never cried at his funeral,” Mr Adcock said. “I had to grow up quickly and be the man of the house.”
It was only years later in counselling for depression that he realised how unhealthy that was. Writing the book turned out to be therapy.
“The first time I ever cried about losing my dad was when I was putting this book together,” he said. “I was OK when I was writing it. It was when I went to read it to my sister that I started to cry. I have always had this suppression of feelings.”
He lost his way a bit after the death of his father. He dropped out of Saltus Grammar School and went to work for Bermuda Motors.
“I think I was suffering from undiagnosed depression, because of my father’s death,” he said.
Eventually, he signed up for classes at the Bermuda Technical Institute, where he did well. The principal there, George Henderson, urged him to go back to Warwick Academy to get his GCSEs. Mr Adcock took his advice and again was academically successful.
Plans to go to university were cut short when his future first wife became pregnant.
It wasn’t until 1983, that he was able to complete a bachelor’s degree in psychology through a long-distance programme at the Bermuda College.
In the 1970s his passion for the ocean led him to speedboat racing.
“My good friend, Eddie Roque, was interested in it,” he said. “He knew that I was knowledgable about boats.”
The two split the price of a 16-foot power boat. Mr Adcock raced throughout the early 1970s. When his competitors grew faster with better boats and engines, he pushed his own vessel, sometimes too hard.
“I had to drive faster, didn’t I,” he said. He barrel-rolled his boat twice before he knew it was time to quit.
“I’m so glad I was not injured,” he said. “I had a lot of fun with it, but I felt unclassed.”
His memoir also covers the three months he spent in Casemates prison in Dockyard in 1976. “It is a period of my life, I am not proud of,” he said.
He was caught driving a car while disqualified.
“The cycle policeman who knew me, actually came by as I was parked in my car waiting for my wife to finish work,” he said.
The Magistrate who heard his case was known for giving harsh punishments. The next day’s headline in The Royal Gazette was: ‘Power boat racer sent to prison for driving offence’.
Mr Adcock protested the harsh sentence by going on a hunger strike. He refused to eat or drink for five days. The prison guards encouraged his family to send letters telling him to eat.
“I was put into solitary confinement for several days while they monitored my eating habits,” he recalled.
He started eating again to appease his family. When he finished his sentence, he was fortunate that his employer, airline BOAC, held his job for him.
“I worked in construction with my father-in-law for ten years driving a truck in the morning,” he said. “I worked for BOAC in the late afternoon and evening until 1985.”
His experience in the construction industry later got him a job at BF&M in the claims department.
“I studied every insurance course and worked in every general insurance underwriting,” he said. When he retired in 2020, he was a senior underwriter.
He will sell copies of How Does One Eat an Elephant on December 9, 16 and 23 from 9am until noon at Warwick Academy.
• Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every week. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or email@example.com, with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them