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Bermuda ‘royalty’ saluted at high tea

Hats off to them: from left are Lady Lully Gibbons, Olga Scott and Florenz Maxwell (Photograph by Ed Silvia)

Florenz Maxwell has been dealt the surprise of finding herself “royalty”, alongside Lady Lully Gibbons and Olga Scott, in a tribute by Project Action.

“I thought I had passed the stage where anybody could pull something over me,” Ms Maxwell told The Royal Gazette.

She spoke in the wake of the sold-out Bermuda Royals High Tea at the Hamilton Princess.

Traditionally, the fundraiser has taken its cue from British royalty.

This year “the board decided to look at Bermuda”, co-founder Cindy Swan said.

Dressed in their finery, attendees young and old gathered for the occasion, including some of the seniors who depend on Project Action for friendship as well as transport.

Mrs Maxwell was taken doubly off guard — as she had come to present on behalf of Lady Gibbons, wife of the late former premier Sir David Gibbons.

A quiet benefactor, Lady Gibbons “stayed in the background helping to make the community a better place”, she said.

“If we had more people like her, Bermuda would not be so divided.”

When the Bermuda Youth Library lost its old premises, Mrs Maxwell found herself in despair trying to secure a new home.

In a chance meeting with Lady Gibbons, she happened to mention seeking a Church Street building held by the Stop and Shop business. To her amazement, Lady Gibbons repeatedly petitioned a reluctant Sir David — and the library obtained a new home, where it remains today.

Lorielle Burch also spoke of Lady Gibbons’s kindness as a godmother, as well as stepping in as a sponsor of her education.

Zindziswa Swan, meanwhile, saluted Mrs Maxwell as an author and freedom fighter who became her “hero” after she learnt of her role in helping to organise the Theatre Boycotts of 1959 that proved instrumental in ending segregation in Bermuda.

Her godmother has become “part of my family and one of my biggest supporters”, she added.

And the tribute to Olga Scott, wife of former premier Alex Scott, was delivered by Robert Horton, who called her “a lady of impeccable style and great dignity — a role model for the ages”.

Recounting how she happened upon an advertisement for a social worker in Bermuda, Mr Horton told of her arrival in 1967 to lead a pilot project to serve teenage mothers — flourishing into giving decades of service. As well as dedicating herself to the programme that became Teen Services, Mrs Scott has served with the Bermuda Housing Corporation, the Department of Financial Assistance, and children’s causes supported by the Continental Society of Bermuda.

Mr Horton listed Mrs Scott’s high-level volunteer positions from the Bermuda Association of Social Workers to the Charity Commission. Her work has also been recognised by the Queen with the awarding of an OBE.

Directors were “ecstatic” with the fundraiser’s attendance, Mrs Swan said.

“I view it as a social community event, where all sectors of the community come to tea as one,” she added — including junior hostesses McKenzie-Kohl Tuckett, Moa Currin, Ayanna Peniston and Zenji Washington. Centenarian and special guest Leona Thompson was unable to attend.

Mrs Swan also thanked corporate sponsors, including Hanover Life Re, Bermuda Healthcare Services, XL Catlin, Gibbons Company and Ageing and Disability Services.