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Tributes to ‘unassuming’ former Governor

The Queen with The Rt Hon Lord Waddington in 1994 arriving at the airport (Photograph by David Skinner )

Lord David Waddington, Governor of Bermuda from 1992 to 1997, has died, aged 87.

Lord Waddington, who was at the helm during former Premier Sir John Swan’s bid for independence in 1995, was previously a key figure under Margaret Thatcher in British politics.

Born in Burnley, Lancashire, he attended Hertford College, Oxford, where he became president of the Oxford University Conservative Association, and was Called to the Bar at London’s Gray’s Inn in 1951.

A member of the Conservative Party, he served as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons from 1968 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1990, and was then appointed a life peer.

Lord Waddington was Conservative Home Secretary at the time of the poll tax riots and the Strangeways prison disturbances in 1990, later serving as leader of the House of Lords.

In a statement reported in the British media, Prime Minister Theresa May paid tribute to his “long and distinguished career in public service”.

Ms May said: “He combined the sharp intelligence of a Queen’s Counsel with the wit of a proud Lancastrian.”

Last night Brian Gonsalves, who served as Lord Waddington’s Aide de Camp between 1994 and 1996, led tributes to the former Governor.

The former Regiment Commander described Lord Waddington and his wife Lady Waddington as “unassuming, kind people, who always wanted to do what was best for Bermuda and Bermudians”.

“Lord Waddington was an extremely nice person to work for,” Mr Gonsalves said. “He and his wife were very easy going and down to earth.

“They did not like all the fuss and fanfare associated with the position, they would much rather just slip in without being noticed. They both had the ability to get on with people very well and did a lot of work with the local charities.

“Lord Waddington himself was very politically savvy and it did not take him long to figure out the undercurrents and problems in Bermudian politics. He was always concerned in doing what was best for Bermuda and Bermudians.

“I was extremely sad to hear of his passing, and obviously send my condolences to his family.”

In a review of his friend and one-time political colleague’s 2012 memoirs, former Gibraltar Governor Richard Luce said Lord Waddington’s long experience with constituency work as a British Member of Parliament served him in particularly good stead when he was appointed Bermuda’s Governor.

“Constituency experience as an MP is a good grounding for being a Governor,” said Lord Luce in his review of what he called a “very readable, very frank and colourful” autobiography.

“David was consequently very interested in the 70,000 or so people of Bermuda and mixed with them in a relaxed fashion.

“He was sensitive to the mixed racial background on the island and handled with care, for example, senior appointments in the police force.

“One issue that preoccupied him was the intense debate and proposal for a referendum on the independence of Bermuda. But at the end of the day he judged that the majority, in the 1990s at least, realised that independence could lead to a decline in standards and a withdrawal of many commercial investment services. However, he did face some difficulties with the Legislative Council when, at one stage, they even threatened to reduce his salary!”

In a Bermuda anecdote he related in his book, Lord Waddington recalled the appointment of St David’s islander Eddie Lamb, who went to become Commanding Officer of the Bermuda Regiment Band and who is now Commissioner of Prisons, as the Government House aide-de-camp (“a fine choice he turned out to be”, noted the former Governor).

“Everyone in Bermuda will tell you that those who come from St David’s are very different from anyone else,” said Lord Waddington.

“In the old days St David’s was very cut off from the rest of Bermuda and there was a good deal of intermarriage between the comparatively few families with roots there. The best known surnames on the island were Fox and Lamb and it was said that St David’s was the only place in the world where fox lies down with the lamb.”

When the ADC suggested the Governor visit St David’s, Lord Waddington happily obliged.

“As we were driven in the Daimler towards the centre of St David’s there were quite a few people on the side of the road waving merrily,” he said. “Eddie sat proudly in the front seat helping us to wave back, and it seemed patriotism in St David’s knew no bounds.

“Then we began to pay attention to what the crowds were shouting. ‘Hi, Eddie,’ they cried as they welcomed home their favourite son.”

When the Government House party arrived at St David’s Primary School, events followed a similar pattern.

Lord Waddington recalled: “The head teacher asked one child: ‘Now, Raymonde, you have your hand up. What would you like to ask the Governor?’ and Raymonde replied: ‘I don’t want to ask him anything. I just want to say ‘Hi, Uncle Eddie’.”

In a statement yesterday, Governor John Rankin, said: “I am sorry to learn of the passing of Lord Waddington, whose portrait hangs proudly here in Government House.

“I know he will be remembered fondly by many in Bermuda, where he served as Governor between 1992 and 1997. Those who met him will recall his fine qualities and distinguished service to which Prime Minister Theresa May has referred in her statement.”

Lord Waddington is survived by his wife Gillian and their three sons and two daughters.