Log In

Reset Password

Dedicated carer with a hint of mischief

First Prev 1 2 3 Next Last
Rachel “Beth” Miller

May is the month dedicated to our heritage and our nurses. There are few of us remaining from my generation of nurses, and so I write with haste to remind Bermuda of those departed nurses who worked to educate the public in an effort to ensure that we maintain our health standards.

Rachel Miller, better known as “Beth”, will be always remembered as the jovial school nurse who saw the humour in almost everything. The Department of Health staff room would be filled with laughter as she recounted her daily encounters. Schoolchildren loved her and mothers who attended her Well Baby clinics left feeling more able to cope than when they entered.

Beth grew up on Radnor Road, Shelly Bay. She attended The Central School, where her mother, Celeste, was a teacher, and later transferred to the Ord Road School, where her father, Gerard Bean, was the principal. From there, she went on to The Berkeley Institute, where she excelled in academics and athletics.

In Nellie Musson’s book, Mind the Onion Seed, Beth is described as an all-round athlete who participated in almost every available sport open to women. Mrs Musson wrote that she could outrun, outjump and outcatch everyone. She did not enter the Olympic Games in 1958 because, as she said, she enjoyed sport but did not consider herself a keen competitor. In the 1960s, there was no promotional activity designed to prepare Black athletes to become performers on the world stage and so the thought of entering a global games never entered her mind. Her love of all sport, mainly track and field, cricket and football remained throughout her life.

St Giles' Hospital, in Camberwell, London

She left Bermuda in the early 1960s to study general nursing at St Giles’ Hospital in Camberwell, London. St Giles’ closed in 1983 and the circular tower of its structure is now a Grade 2-listed building, which has been converted for residential use.

In 1964, she married Barbadian Ezra Keith Miller in England and returned to Bermuda, where they raised their two children, Fiona and Fitzgerald.

Beth began her local career at Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute when it was known as St Brendan’s Hospital. From there she moved to the Department of Health, where she is remembered as one of the nurses who successfully fought for union representation. She was also part of the team that amalgamated the two racially segregated nurses’ associations now known as the Bermuda Registered Nurses’ Association.

She was the school nurse for Dellwood, The Central School and The Berkeley Institute. She was responsible for the Brangman Home and had a particular soft spot for Ms Brangman and the children under her care. She could not bear to see seniors isolated, and often took them for rides and grocery shopping. To be clear, Beth had a passion for caring for anyone in need. Towards the end of her career, she was a district nurse, then branched out into relief work at Lefroy House, the Packwood Home and in the doctors’ offices of Ewart Brown, Terry-Lynn Emery and Constance Richards.

I met Beth when we were students at Berkeley. She was always up to some sort of mischief, which usually led to her being reprimanded. Somehow, this never changed her adventurous streak. Years later, we met again as members of the Bermuda Graduate Nurses’ Association. At that time they met monthly at the homes of the older nurses and, as we were the two youngest, we usually ended up in the kitchen washing the dishes — a frightening experience when Beth was involved. The china was of the most delicate variety and dishwashing was definitely not one of her skills. At work, she never failed to do something to upset our senior nurse, Iris A. Davis or “IAD”, as Beth fondly called her behind her back.

Twice a year we were allowed new uniform shoes selected by Ms Davis from H.A. & E. Smith’s. If you knew Ms Davis, you would know that her choice was not aesthetically pleasing. They might have been comfortable, but they certainly had no style.

One particular summer, Beth decided she would exchange her shoes for something a little more sporty. She singled out an unsuspecting young sales associate and quickly exchanged them. The manager immediately contacted Ms Davis regarding Beth’s unauthorised exchange and there she was, ready to confront Beth about her unexplained absence from work and the unauthorised shoe exchange. Hoping she would not be missed, Beth raced back to the health department, where she made an error in judgment, struck the kerb and burst a tyre.

Now she was in far more trouble. We never got to see her personal shoe selection and like the rest of us, she was resigned to wearing those “Kaddidle Hoppers”, as she described the official government-supplied shoes.

In the 1980s, Beth completed a public health school nursing course at the Colorado School of Public Health. Another course she found most fascinating was in Carville, Louisiana. This was the location of the first and only leprosarium in the United States exclusively devoted to the care and treatment of Hansen’s Disease, more commonly known as leprosy. I am unsure as to why she was sent on this course, as the last reported case of leprosy in Bermuda was in 1950.

In retirement, she joined the Sunshine Garden Club, became a caregiver for her mother and was involved in the activities of her grandchildren.

In 2018, my dear friend and colleague, Rachel Elizabeth “Beth” Miller, died in King Edward VII Memorial Hospital at the age of 75.

Cecille Snaith-Simmons is a retired nurse, historian, writer and author of The Bermuda Cookbook

Cecille Snaith-Simmons is a retired nurse, historian, writer and author of The Bermuda Cookbook

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published May 27, 2024 at 7:58 am (Updated May 27, 2024 at 7:28 am)

Dedicated carer with a hint of mischief

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon