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Unbreakable bond between brother and sister

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Taking care of each other: siblings Deanna Perry and Jimmy O’Connor (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Some siblings fight tooth and nail growing up, but not Deanna Perry and Jimmy O’Connor.

Perhaps it was because they only had each other to play with on the tiny island off St David’s that they grew up on, but they quickly learnt how to get along.

Fishing was the one thing they disagreed on.

Mr O’Connor, 74, hated the regular trips with their father Campbell, a ferry boat captain who loved the sport.

“I wanted to be with my friends, I didn’t want to be out on the water with him all day,” he said. “We’d be out there and I’d see it was getting dark and I’d say, ‘Is it time to go in?’.

“He’d say, ‘What are you talking about? We’re just getting started.’ When the fish were biting you fished.”

Mrs Perry, 77, was just the opposite.

“I liked to haul up the nets and the fish pots,” she said. “I’d have a lot of fun. We’d go so far out you couldn’t even see Bermuda.”

Despite that difference, they knew they could rely on each other.

Mrs Perry, who struggled with epilepsy, often had seizures while a student at St George’s Grammar School.

Mr O’Connor would be called up from the lower grades to help.

“I would put a spoon in her mouth to stop her swallowing her tongue,” he said. “Then I’d have to take her home. Deanna was always sick throughout her childhood. In contrast, I never got sick.”

He remembered St David’s as a loving and neighbourly place.

“When someone built a house, they’d put a bucket of beers out,” he said. “Cousins and brothers and friends would come and help you build your house. Now I don’t think people help as much.”

Their extended family and community was racially mixed. As such, their mother Jessie wouldn’t tolerate racism.

“She loved everyone and didn’t like people talking about colour,” Mr O’Connor said. “If you said something about a black person, she went berserk. She saw people as people.”

But there were definitely times when racism intruded.

Mr O’Connor remembers joining a junior football team run by the St George’s Dinghy Club.

A short time after, he went on the field for the first time and the coach came and told him the club didn’t want him to play.

“In protest my coach took all the boys off the field,” Mr O’Connor said. “He said if I couldn’t play, none of the other boys would either.”

Eventually the club relented saying they didn’t know that the St David’s Islander was white.

“There was a big meeting about it and my father was quite upset,” Mr O’Connor said. “My father wouldn’t let me play for that team after that. I played for a different team.”

Mrs Perry left school at 15 because her epilepsy prevented her from focusing on her studies.

The neurological disorder also kept her from finding permanent work.

“I would try to clean for some friends and as soon as I did, I’d have a fit,” she said.

A year later she met the love of her life, Arthur Perry.

“His father took him out of school when he was 16 to work for the Bermuda Telephone Company,” she said. “He came to my mother’s house to put in a phone.

“He said, ‘Girl you’re pretty’. I said, ‘Who are you talking to?’.”

She didn’t really understand what he was up to when he asked to meet her father, but she happily introduced them.

They were both surprised when Mr Perry asked for permission to date her.

The couple’s wedding, in 1960, was a happy event.

“He had family in Florida so for nine years we lived there,” Mrs Perry said. “We had a house in Tampa. I loved living there. His family were very nice.”

They decided to move back to Bermuda after her husband took ill, sometime around 2010. He died a year later.

Mr O’Connor was a musician for many years, playing guitar and singing with The Fugitives, The Savages, The Bermuda Jam and The Happening here and overseas.

He met his wife Jill while practising with her brother Paul Muggleton, who was also a guitarist.

Her first words to him were: “You’re singing the wrong words.”

He was.

“I had a really bad memory,” he said. “I’d often make up the words to songs while I was playing. Sometimes I even forgot the words of songs I’d written.

“The band would say, ‘That doesn’t sound like the song you sang yesterday.’

“Sometimes I even sang in French. Of course, I didn’t speak French; it was just garbage.”

The pair married in 1968. In the 1980s he took a break from music to run a boat tour company, Jessie James Cruises, with his wife.

“We had about five boats at one time,” he said.

He fully retired five years ago after he suffered a stroke while on a cruise in the Caribbean.

“They had to take me off the ship in Curaçao,” he said. “That slowed me right down. I had to adapt to taking pills. I’d never taken any before in my life.”

Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Tuesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com with their full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

Guiding hands: Deanna Perry with her mother, Jessie O’Connor, and her brother Jimmy in St David’s in the late 1940s (Photograph supplied)
No rivalry: siblings Deanna Perry and Jimmy O’Connor (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Mother’s love: Jessie O’Connor with her children Jimmy and Deanna in St David’s in the late 1940s (Photograph supplied)