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Bermuda’s male nursing pioneer

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In the second of a series of profiles to mark Nurses Month, Cecille Snaith-Simmons tells the story of Edward Dyer, Bermuda’s first male nurse

The young Edward Dyer, who was Bermuda's first male nurse before forging a successful career in HM Prisons (Photograph courtesy of Edward Dyer)

Edward Dyer was one of seven children born to Kathlyn Dyer and Leslie Dyer, a well-respected electrical contractor from Spanish Point, Pembroke.

The young Edward Dyer, who was Bermuda's first male nurse before forging a successful career in HM Prisons (Photograph courtesy of Edward Dyer)
Edward Dyer stands proudly with his Colonial Prison Service Long Service Medal (Photograph courtesy of Edward Dyer)

It came as no surprise that Edward wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. It was for this reason that he and his brother, Charles, left Bermuda in 1957 to further their education in Bristol, England, where their aunt, Lorraine Dyer-Bizek, resided. Their aunt was a well-respected nurse who was instrumental in encouraging many Bermudians to study nursing in England. She convinced Edward to change his career path for a career that Bermudian men had never considered — nursing.

Cecille C. Snaith-Simmons SRN, SCM is a retired nurse, writer and historian

In 1958, he began his training at Digby Psychiatric Hospital in Exeter, Devon. After receiving his Registered Mental Nurses designation, he inquired about job opportunities at home. Simon Fraser, the Chief Medical Officer, recommended he complete his general training before returning to Bermuda. This, he felt, would give him greater options for employment. Edward enrolled in the Frenchay General Hospital and, upon receiving his State Registered Nurses qualification, remained for two extra years to complete postgraduate work. From there, Eddie, as he is often called, moved to Glenside Psychiatric Hospital in Bristol, where he was employed until 1965 when he returned to Bermuda to work at St Brendan’s Hospital, since which renamed Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute.

Edward Dyer returned to Bermuda just as Parliament was debating the creation of medical clinics within the prison system. He secured a position at St Brendan’s Hospital but was there only briefly before the creation of the clinics was approved. He transferred to the newly created position within HM Prisons, where he was employed as a Divisional Officer. Barry Whaley, the new Chief Medical Officer, now held responsibility for the prisons. He recognised Eddie’s potential and gave him total responsibility for the setting up of medical clinics within the three male prisons — Casemates (now renamed Westgate Correctional Facility), the Prison Farm and the Senior Training School, which was then located in the Town of St George. Today this facility is located at the Co-ed Facility next to the Prison Farm. His ability to set up and expand medical clinics within the prison system saw his promotion in 1971 to Principal Officer.

Dr Whaley arranged to send Milton Pringle and Edward Dyer to visit various prison facilities and services in Britain. Later, Mr Dyer returned to England to interview three nurses to cover the work he had begun. Of the three, Aldwyn Savoury was selected to be in charge of the prison nurses. These nurses assumed the position of Specialist Officer and Mr Dyer was promoted to Chief Officer, thus moving from the medical side of the prison system to the disciplinary side.

In 1973, Mr Dyer was appointed Chief Officer and oversaw Casemates prison.

There was a review and reorganisation of the prison service in 1977, which resulted in the position of Warden and Deputy being abolished and changed to Commissioner. All officers were encouraged to apply for specialised training. Milton Pringle and Edward Dyer were successful and accorded the title of Supernumerary Chief Officer. They were sent for training under the Home Office in London. They trained in Bermuda for three months and in England for three months. The Home Office then sent them for three years to the Prison Staff College in Yorkshire and various specialised training facilities in Britain. They completed the course in two years and, upon their return to Bermuda in 1978, Milton Pringle was promoted to Deputy Commissioner and Edward Dyer to Commissioner of Prisons. Edward’s nursing qualifications, specialised training and management skills had placed him in an ideal position.

In 1988, Edward Dyer was appointed Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Health until Mr Pringle resigned as commissioner in 1992. This led to the reappointment of Mr Dyer to Commissioner of Prisons.

Before this, he had served on the original planning team for the new Westgate Correctional Facility and was tasked with the responsibility to bringing the new prison online.

Edward Dyer retired in 2001 after a distinguished career in HM Prisons. For his exemplary service, he was awarded the Colonial Prison Service Long Service Medal and Clasp (renamed the Overseas Prison Service Long Service Medal in June 2012).

During the early 2000s, he travelled on three occasions to Tanzania as a member of the Adventures in Health, Education and Educational Development team organised out of the United States but managed in Bermuda by local orthodontist Deborah Tuzo.

Joan Simmons invited him to join a group of AME Church members travelling to Mozambique to correct the electrical supply to a new school that the group was funding. This presented a challenge, as the high-table water level in the area did not permit conduit or wires underground. Eddie described this as a most interesting and rewarding experience.

Now in his early eighties, Eddie remains busy. He loves boats, has constructed two punts, sailed his own J24 sailboat and has taught sailing at the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club. To the great delight of his wife, Nadine, he used the carpentry skills learnt from his father and two uncles to redesign their kitchen. For this superior work, he received the Do-It-Yourself Award from Gorham’s.

For 24 years, he volunteered in the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital blood bank and has for the past ten years worked part-time as the facilities manager at Charities House.

Eddie is the proud father of five.

It is with great pleasure that I share with you, during this month dedicated to honouring nurses, the distinguished career of Bermuda’s first male nurse, Edward Dyer.

Cecille C. Snaith-Simmons SRN, SCM is a retired nurse, writer and historian

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Published May 11, 2022 at 7:51 am (Updated May 11, 2022 at 7:51 am)

Bermuda’s male nursing pioneer

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