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Maude Bassett (1919-2022): a ‘West End warrior’

Maude Bassett, a former deputy headteacher at Somerset Primary School (Photograph supplied)

A teacher born and raised in Somerset was praised as a “West End warrior”.

Maude Bassett, who has died, aged 102, was the deputy principal at Somerset Primary School but was devoted to West End Primary, where she started her teaching career in 1943.

Ms Bassett, the daughter of an immigrant couple from St Kitts, grew up before the advent of cars in Bermuda.

She attended the West End Flat Top School on Scott's Hill and later the Berkeley Institute.

Getting to Pembroke by ferry for school meant cycling across a ramshackle wooden bridge to the ferry stop, where the sea showed through the gaps in the planks.

She told The Royal Gazette in an interview for her 100th birthday in 2019: “I took a drive to Dockyard a little while back and I couldn’t believe it was the same place.

“Everything is nice now. I don’t know how people are still complaining – in my day, it was hard.”

When Ms Bassett was 18 during the early years of the Second World War, she went to Shortwood Teacher’s Training College in Jamaica on a scholarship.

Her first trip off the island was on board the Lady Somers, with the vessel on alert for attack by German naval forces.

Ms Bassett told author and historian Cecille Snaith-Simmons that she had a “monstrous” workload as her government scholarship only covered two years of a three-year course.

Ms Bassett returned to Bermuda in 1943 with one week to prepare for teaching at West End Primary School, where she was known for discipline and a fondness for mental arithmetic.

West End relied on outdated textbooks from Sandys Grammar School and its students were sent to collect old desks and chairs from the more privileged school, which catered to White students during segregation.

Ms Bassett decided to broaden her experience and went to teach in England in 1965.

She said her pupils in Britain had never seen a Black person except on television and that she was often asked if she was related to the singer Shirley Bassey.

Ms Bassett later became the acting head teacher at Boaz Island School before she joined Eileen Gladwin, the principal at Sandys Grammar, when the two were merged into Somerset Primary School.

She became deputy headteacher and held the job until she retired in 1980.

Ms Snaith-Simmons said Ms Bassett remained “sharp as a tack” in her old age.

She added: “When asked of her opinion on the proposed removal of the West End Primary School from the educational system, her opinion was clear.

“Governments always follow through with their plan whether the citizens approve or not.

“She hastened to add that this should never prevent us from fighting for what we strongly believe to be fair and just.”

Melvyn Bassett, Ms Bassett’s nephew, said she left behind “a host of family” across the Douglas and Bassett families, including three grandchildren.

Mr Bassett added: “Regrettably, she outlived her two sons, Barry and Howard Bassett.”

He said: “She was a grand old lady, a good Christian woman and member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.”

A funeral service is being arranged.

· Maude Gwendoline Bassett, a former deputy headteacher at Somerset Primary School, was born on May 26, 1919. She died on March 14, 2022, aged 102.

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Published March 22, 2022 at 1:32 pm (Updated March 22, 2022 at 1:32 pm)

Maude Bassett (1919-2022): a ‘West End warrior’

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