Jackie Correia (1933-2022): Swizzle Inn matriarch ‘lived life on her own terms’
The “matriarch” behind one of Bermuda’s classic pubs was a “larger than life person” who delighted in seeing people enjoy her food.
Jackie Correia ran the Swizzle Inn at Bailey’s Bay in Hamilton Parish alongside her husband, Johnny, for more than 30 years.
Her son Jay Correia, now owner and manager of the Swizzle, said his mother was the toughest person he had ever known.
“She was gregarious, strong, and boy, she had a mouth on her,” Mr Correia recalled. “She was the right person to be in the pub business.”
Mrs Correia “enjoyed the thrill of a busy restaurant” and her trademark wit and fiery red hair “kept customers entertained and coming back”, he said.
The Swizzle Inn was little more than an East End watering hole in 1962, when Mr Correia took over the establishment and moved his family in upstairs.
“Dad had a vision of building a restaurant,” Mr Correia said. “Tourism was booming and he knew it was going to get big.
“It was 1973 when the restaurant opened and it was a hit from go.”
Mrs Correia, a cashier until that point, threw herself into cooking and the operation of the restaurant.
“Her masterful command of the most colourful words in the English language was always put to good use, and with regularity.
“She did not suffer fools gladly and did not hide her feelings – ever.”
Despite her toughness, he said Mrs Correia was respected by employees and liked for her sense of humour.
Jacqueline Correia was born in Toronto to descendants of Northern Irish immigrants and went to work after graduating from high school.
Nicknamed “Red” by her parents, she grew up in a working-class Irish neighbourhood called Cabbagetown – but moved to Bermuda on a whim in 1950, aged 18, with $10 in her pocket.
Two girlfriends had spoken well of their jobs at the Hamilton Princess Hotel and Ms Correia was taken by stories of oranges as large as grapefruit growing on the island.
She ended up working alongside John Correia at the hotel, and the couple fell in love.
As well as their son, Jay, the Correias had a daughter, Cindy.
Jay Correia said his father had grown up farming but was set on a hospitality career, while his mother had worked at a bank in Canada and had a head for numbers.
Early jobs in Bermuda included working at the old Bermudiana Hotel.
Initially, Mrs Correia managed the Swizzle Inn’s books but “jumped right in” when the restaurant opened, including adding her recipes to the menu.
Although some were sceptical of the idea, Mrs Correia “100 per cent backed dad on the idea and said we had to do it”, her son said.
“It took a while for locals to understand it had become a restaurant. When I took over in 1990, I was struck at how many people still asked if we served food there.”
Mrs Correia smoked Salems, enjoyed a drink with her customers and could “swear like a sailor” when required.
She was the first to spot the potential for merchandise and was responsible for putting the slogan “Swizzle Inn, Swagger Out” on T-shirts that proved a winner with customers.
Eventually, the family was able to move from upstairs at the Swizzle to their own home on McGall’s Hill in Smith’s.
“Buying that house was their crowning achievement,” Jay Correia said. “They worked hard, seven days a week, going years with no vacation, and they were finally successful enough to buy a magnificent piece of property on the South Shore.
“What my father lacked in education, he made up for with hard work.”
Mrs Correia had a wide variety of pets, especially dogs, and was the first to bring the Akita breed to the island.
The couple were keen golfers, avid card players, and enjoyed hosting players for the yearly World Rugby Classic.
After her husband died in 2000, Mrs Correia gradually wound down her involvement in running the business.
Her son described her as someone who “didn’t fit into social norms – she was not a woman of that time”.
“She lived life on her own terms and lived it large.
“Her vitality, kindness, sense of humour, generosity and toughness are what I will remember about her.”
· Jacqueline Cecilia Margaret Correia, who ran the Swizzle Inn with her husband Johnny, was born on January 25, 1933. She died on April 23, 2022, aged 89.