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Former expat workers return to Bermuda for family reunion

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Bermuda-bound: Anne Porter, centre, and daughters Nicky, Amy, Sarah and Zoe. Mrs Porter and her husband, Robert, will return to Bermuda, the country where they met, with 15 members of their family (Photograph supplied)

In April 1981, Anne and Robert Porter “sadly left beautiful Bermuda” and returned to England. The couple have been back several times since, but their trip next month is a special one. Coming with them on July 13 for a week’s stay at Grotto Bay Beach Resort & Spa are 15 members of their family.

For the Porters, who met on the island in 1970 only months after they relocated here for work, the vacation is “the fulfilment of a dream” of having their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren together in “the beautiful place where their story began”.

“The beaches and the reefs and the water … They've seen photographs and heard our stories and they're just really excited about all of that and about getting together too, because we very rarely all get together because there's so many of us,” Mrs Porter said.

Their hope also, is that they are able to reconnect with old friends.

“We can't possibly get in touch with everybody. We don't even know who’s still there apart from the few that we've kept in touch with. It would be great to meet up with a few of them, especially people I used to work with that I've lost touch with completely.”

One fateful meeting: Anne and Robert Porter, centre, at the celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary. The couple had arrived in Bermuda separately in September and October 1970, met at the Police Christmas Carol Concert that December, and got married in 1972 (Photograph supplied)

Bermuda was her first stop on an intended world tour that she planned to finance through her work.

She joined the Pathology Department at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital in September of 1970 and in December, met her husband at the Police Christmas Carol Concert.

Mr Porter had arrived from Portsmouth, Hampshire, that October to work as a policeman. World travel was also on his mind, but after the Christmas concert, that all changed.

Bermuda sojourn Anne and Robert Porter have fond memories of the decade they spent in Bermuda (Photograph supplied)

The couple married in 1972 and had children soon after. “We continued to work there and our two older daughters were born in Bermuda and that was really as far as we got in working our way around the world,” Mrs Porter said. “Nicky was born in 1973 and then Amy was born in 1976.”

In 1979 Amy suddenly became ill. “She had a seizure and almost died, and then was diagnosed with a possible brain tumour,” her mother said.

Mrs Porter, who had been raised in a Christian household, realised she “couldn't get through it all without God”.

A nursery schoolteacher who knew of Amy’s health scare asked if she’d thought about “surrendering all you know of yourself to all you know of Jesus”.

“She said, ‘If this is what you want to do I’ll pray with you’,” Mrs Porter said.

She accepted the invitation. It led to a change in her that her husband thought was “so amazing” - he decided to do the same thing.

“He became a Christian in November of 1979 and in February of 1980, we were both baptised together. I think it was at Jobson's Cove, but it might have been at the little cove at the end of Horseshoe Bay.”

In the middle of all that came great news: Amy’s tumour was gone.

“We believe that God healed her,” Mrs Porter said. “I was still working at KEMH and they had just started the nuclear medicine department there at that point.

“My friend, Sue, did the first scan. The next time they did one, it had disappeared. She's never had another seizure and she's 48 now.”

As much as the family enjoyed Bermuda, Mr and Mrs Porter eventually felt the call of home.

“We just felt as if God wanted us back in England, not knowing any special reason. But to that effect we left in April of 1981.”

Family unity: Anne Porter, third from left, with members of her family (Photograph supplied)

A dream the couple had always had was to live on a farm and be self-sufficient.

The opportunity came in 1985 through a property owned by a Christian trust. By then the couple had added two more daughters to their brood.

“We were given the responsibility of looking after the animals and planting the garden and things like that.

“We did that for a few years, and then we were invited to join the ministry in upstate New York, in the Catskills, to do a similar sort of thing. It was a farm where they held Bible camps and summer camps,” said Mrs Porter.

“Their main focus was encouraging kids to do a gap year in the Third World. And so they would come over after uni or before they went to uni and we would teach them how to milk a cow, plant a vegetable garden, raise some pigs and things like that so that they could be practically useful as well.”

Five years later the Porters’ visas ran out and they returned to England. But Bermuda was never far from their minds.

Reconnecting with friends: Englishman Robert Porter, right, with friend Frankie Foggo on a past visit to Bermuda. Mr Porter was a policeman here throughout the 1970s (Photograph supplied)

The couple visited whenever they could, housesitting for old friends. Their last trip was in 2019.

“The last time we were there, I think we were on Clearwater Beach, and I just thought: I really want my grandkids to see this.

“I sent up this silent prayer, never thinking it could ever be possible, really, that we could all get there, but then circumstances somehow made it possible for us all to come this year.”

The Porters arrive from the UK as a group of 14 on July 13. They will be joined by their daughter Amy, her husband James and their son Sean, who all live in New York.

Mrs Porter thinks it will be the first time that most of the family has been together since her youngest daughter Zoe’s wedding in 2011.

“There's one little branch of the family that's not going to be there, which is unfortunate, but they just can't manage it. And that's our oldest granddaughter, Lauren, who's Nicky’s daughter.

“She and her husband live in Moldova, working for a charity out there, rescuing women from being trafficked. So unfortunately they can’t make it but maybe another time.”

The Porters will be in Bermuda from July 13 to 20. Anyone who would like to get in touch should send an e-mail to anne.porter53@ntlworld.com

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Published June 24, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated June 25, 2024 at 8:10 am)

Former expat workers return to Bermuda for family reunion

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