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Contortionists, clowns, choral singers … Felicite fed them all

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Felicite Davidson enjoying her garden (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Felicite Davidson and her dog Tully enjoying her garden (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

In 2011, Felicite Davidson was drafted to host a last-minute dinner party.

On the guest list was an eclectic mix that included the contortionists, jugglers, clowns and acrobats of the Moscow Circus, a hot ticket in that year’s Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts.

With the help of festival volunteers, the group ate and partied at Mrs Davidson’s Warwick home until just after dawn.

“Everyone put their shoulders to the wheel,” the 75-year-old said. “Then we drove them to a hotel bus that took them to the airport.”

Entertaining Bermuda Festival performers was, by then, par for the course for Mrs Davidson and her husband Ian. The couple were there in January 1976 when the curtain rose for the very first show.

Both theatre buffs, they were drawn by the event’s big names: Yehudi Menuhin, the violinist and conductor, and his sister, Hephzibah, the pianist.

Getting tickets was no easy task - with only 30 per cent available to locals, there was high demand for the limited number on offer.

“The organisers thought it would draw visitors from overseas,” Mrs Davidson said.

“Bermuda was a bit culture-starved at that time. I remember queuing. It was hot and I was pregnant.”

Over the years the couple donated money to the charity; Mr Davidson joined the board and served as chairman from 2010 to 2018.

Mrs Davidson often lent a wheel to things, transporting performers in her car.

“I was doing that up until the last [in-person] festival two years ago,” she said. “I am so happy we are putting it on again this year.”

Keen gardeners, the Davidsons spend a lot of time caring for the acres of land surrounding their 18th-century farmhouse.

The grounds are filled with begonias, roses and less usual plantings such as the fat pork tree, which is native to Barbados. An ancient limekiln is one of many historic features.

“It probably once serviced the neighbourhood,” Mrs Davidson said.

The Davidsons have hosted hundreds of performers over the past four decades. Aside from the Bermuda Festival performers, they often played host to groups from Roads Scholars, a global touring company that organises educational trips for people over 50.

“They are always very interesting people,” Mrs Davidson said. “They like to travel and like to know about the history of the island and history of where they are going.”

She is proud of Bermuda and always happy to showcase what the island has to offer.

Mrs Davidson grew up in Bexley, Kent, in what is now a suburb of south-east London.

In her late teens she went to a secretarial college and then to London to work.

“London was not very glamorous,” she said. “I lived with several flatmates, and even then rents were high. But I enjoyed my job.”

However, her friends were travelling and, after five years, she too dreamt of seeing the world.

“I thought maybe I had been in the same job too long,” she said.

A newspaper ad for a position in Bermuda caught her eye.

“I did the interview and then they called me back for a second interview,” she said. “When they asked me back for a third interview, I thought, ‘I’d better think about this.’”

Mrs Davidson arrived in Bermuda in 1970, hired as a secretary for Richard Pearman, a partner at what was then called Conyers, Dill & Pearman.

“I came in June and it rained every single day,” she said.

“I only intended to stay a few years.”

Then one of the partners introduced her to Mr Davidson, an accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers who retired as a partner.

In those days the nightclubs in Hamilton were busy but that was not their scene.

The pair preferred to go sailing on Mr Davidson’s small boat.

“We worked hard, but life was quieter then,” she said.

They married on July 15, 1972 and have two sons, Andrew and Tim, and four grandchildren.

“I retired from work when the children came along,” she said. “I was fortunate to be a stay-at-home mother.”

In the early years of their marriage, they lived along the coast of Wreck Road in Sandys.

“Gardening up there was a bit different,” she said. “There was a lot of wind and it was very sandy.”

Early on, she had to abandon ideas of growing flowers she had loved in England.

“Tulips, for example,” she said. “In Bermuda, you have to put them in the fridge for a certain time before you plant them and they don’t last long. So I enjoy those things when I go to England. I have learnt you have to grow what suits the conditions.”

A neighbour, Vivian Burland, invited her to join the Garden Club of Bermuda. Mrs Davidson threw herself into the club participating in various committees and eventually serving as president.

They moved to their current home in Warwick about 20 years ago.

“I spend as much time as I can outside,” she said. “I have not been doing that as much recently because I have not been well but I am looking forward to getting back into it.”

Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Wednesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

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Published March 30, 2022 at 7:30 am (Updated March 31, 2022 at 8:03 am)

Contortionists, clowns, choral singers … Felicite fed them all

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