Former Clerk of the Legislature John Gilbert, who was deeply versed in parliamentary procedure and became a keen historian in retirement, has died at the age of 90.
Stepping down in 1989 after 14 years at the post, Mr Gilbert went on to serve as executive director of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bermuda and then secretary of the Bermuda International Business Association.
But Parliament and what it represented was seldom far from his mind.
On retiring, he published a historical account of the House of Assembly, A Tale of Two Houses, which was followed in 1995 by the companion Whither Now Bermuda, at a time when the island grappled with independence simultaneously with the departure of United States forces from their local bases.
“Party politics have to be put on the back burner and all our politicians must pool their collective wisdom,” Mr Gilbert said on that occasion.
Aside from leading tours of the House of Assembly in his later years, Mr Gilbert remained a tireless observer of political affairs.
He endured as a resource for MPs and the press alike on the sometimes arcane matters of procedure.
“He was astute and forthcoming on procedures and practices relating to Parliament,” recalled Sir John Swan, the former premier.
“Bermuda had worked through a difficult period of redefining its economic base, and was dealing with social and environmental issues. The process of Parliament was one of trying to pass legislation that gave people rights and benefits. Parliament had to find the appropriate economic basis and also work with fiscal responsibility. It’s not what we want — it’s what we agree upon.”
Mr Gilbert was a notorious stickler for decorum as well as the rules, and in 2004, dissatisfied with the standards of debate, he recommended new MPs take training courses at Westminster.
He was educated at Saltus Grammar School and went on to study at the University of Toronto and Cambridge University. He served in the British Overseas Administrative Service in Ghana before returning home to Bermuda.
In retirement, he served as a volunteer at the Hospitals Auxiliary of Bermuda and Friends of Hospice, as well as writing a column for the Bermuda Sun.
“John was first class, as a person and as a clerk,” said former MP and minister Quinton Edness.
“He was brilliant in managing the House, with matters such as all the letter-writing that had to be done. He was brilliant as a clerk when it came to what could and couldn’t be done with parliamentary procedure.
“You have really got to have a special kind of nature to do that. It’s not an easy job. He became one of the best clerks you would ever hope to have. He was a scholar, very academic, and respected throughout the Commonwealth system. He used to attend conferences all over the world.
“He was very good at assisting Members and also kept up the parliamentary library. I just want to extend condolences to his family, and wish them comfort during this difficult time.”