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Touchstone of class and beauty

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An iconic figure: Lady Swan was greeted with love and affection from people across the class divide

For 13 years she was the First Lady of Bermuda, entertaining royalty, prime ministers and presidents. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was on that list as was Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister and US President George H.W. Bush.

She welcomed them with grace and dignity, exhibiting poise and an unmeasurable touch of class. She also exuded a strength of character; an indomitable spirit.

Of course I am speaking about none other than Lady Jacqueline Swan, who died last week following a 15-month battle with lung cancer.

From an historical perspective, and by way of a brief comparison, what Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was to the United State of America, I shall without hesitation say that Lady Swan was to Bermuda. She was indeed iconic. She acquitted herself well as a woman of courage and dignity, walking shoulder to shoulder with her husband, Sir John Swan, the longest serving Premier of Bermuda.

Lady Swan was a teacher at Heron Bay Primary School for several years. She was also a dedicated mother to her three children, Alison, Amanda and Nicholas.

She was very active in philanthropic and charitable affairs; an active supporter of LCCA and the Hospitals Auxilary of Bermuda and an ardent supporter of the Packwood Home in Sandys.

Lady Swan was able to override the social dynamics of partisan politics; in Bermuda, a mosaic of rancour and class divide. She was greeted with love and affection from members of all social and economic classes across the political spectrum, and politely reciprocated in equal measure. Notwithstanding her stature and rise in life in the arena of public affairs, she maintained the common touch. She was indeed one of us who represented all of us.

To her family members and coterie of personal friends she was simply known as Jackie, a loving mother and dedicated spouse. Although she stepped away from public life more than two decades ago, Lady Swan will always be fondly remembered as the touchstone of class, intelligence and beauty.

MP with an incisive legal mind

Meanwhile, a host of glowing tributes were paid to Ann Cartwright DeCouto, former deputy Premier of Bermuda, on Thursday.

A service celebrating her life was held at St Anne’s Church in Southampton. Hundreds gathered to pay their last respects to the former United Bermuda Party member who represented Pembroke West Central in Parliament for nearly two decades.

Independent of her political career, most older Bermudians would indeed remember the late Mrs Cartwright DeCouto as a formidable barrister, one of Bermuda’s leading in matrimonial law.

Ann Cartwright, as she was professionally known, was called to the Bermuda Bar in 1970. She was the third woman, preceded only by Dame Lois Browne-Evans and Shirley D. Simmons. She practised law for nearly five decades and was able to attract a large section of clients from a broad spectrum of the community.

She had an incisive legal mind and was very keen in her articulation of the law. These intellectual qualities served her well in her political capacity as she was able to outwit many of her opponents during the cut and thrust of debates in the House of Assembly.

A pivotal moment in her career was her appointment as Minister of the Environment. She was instrumental in ruffling a few feathers, especially those of local fishermen, when she imposed the notorious fish pot ban in 1990 in a decisive attempt to protect stocks in Bermuda’s territorial waters.

Anne Cartwright DeCouto