‘Our party has lost a great man’
Political leaders past and present lined up yesterday to pay tribute to Progressive Labour Party stalwart Reginald Burrows — whose vision was to unite the island and make “Bermuda a better place”.
Family, friends and colleagues described Mr Burrows, who died yesterday aged 83, as dependable, sincere, academically gifted and with a strong social conscience.
His wife, Sheila, told The Royal Gazette: “We had a good life, we travelled extensively and he was excellent with the children.
“He was a dedicated husband and a father. Before his illness, he cooked every day.
“He loved history, we would sit and talk at the dinner table and he would tell the grandchildren about what went on back in the day.”
She added: “He was a sportsperson and he loved golf. Every day golf — he was a member of Riddell's Bay Golf and Country Club. We had our little ups and downs like most people. The old-timers say Reg was very bright, academically.”
David Burt, the Premier, led political tributes to Mr Burrows.
Mr Burt said: “He was a PLP stalwart when it was unpopular to be so and he stood firm when many retreated.”
Mr Burrows served as MP for Southampton East for 35 years from 1968 until 2003 and later sat in the Senate.
Mr Burt extended the party's condolences to Mr Burrows's family and said: “After retiring from frontline politics in 2003, Reggie remained an integral senior party member whose counsel was frequently sought and advice considered.
“Our party has lost a great man and we will feel his loss immensely.”
Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Opposition leader, said few MPs could equal Mr Burrows's ability for “reaching across the aisle and commanding the respect of both sides — he was a gentleman's gentleman and a fine statesman”.
Mr Burrows's contribution to Bermuda's political life and his rapport across the political and social spectrum were marked by a minute's silence at yesterday's session at the House of Assembly. Alex Scott, PLP premier from 2003 to 2006, said Mr Burrows played a huge role in the continued success of the party.
Mr Scott added: “Mr Burrows was respected in his district of Southampton and that respect transferred to the party. His advice and counsel on grassroots matters kept us in touch with the community that we served.”
Mr Scott said he valued Mr Burrows's advice and political expertise so much he asked him to sit in the Senate after he stepped down from the House of Assembly.
He added: “I have lost a friend, I have lost a valued colleague and obviously our sympathies go out to Mrs Burrows. The families are the ones who make the quiet sacrifice for the public servant.”
Sir John Swan, United Bermuda Party premier from 1982 to 1995, had longstanding ties with Mr Burrows and his family and praised his commitment to progress in a Bermuda scarred by segregation and economic deprivation.
Sir John said: “His father was a good client of mine when I first got started in business and his present wife worked for me when I first got my business started.
“My political career diverted from his but our friendship always remained strong.
“He was always doing things for people that very few people knew about — trying to help people in their times of need.
“When he spoke in Parliament, he spoke of the greater good of Bermuda. He recognised the need to embrace each other and made a big difference in helping to move the party and the political process forward by being reasonable and rational about things.”
Sir John added: “He had some financial means and was quite a philanthropic individual. When people got short, Uncle Reggie was the person they went to and he never sought any recognition.”
Stanley Lowe who was Speaker of the House from 1998 to 2012 and Mr Burrows's cousin and running mate, said Mr Burrows had “an outstanding personality”.
He added: “Even if he was mad with you he wouldn't stop speaking to you.
“I regard him as one of Bermuda's finest politicians. He spoke well and sometimes with gusto.
“He was a very sincere person and wanted nothing but the best for his island home.
“We were running mates for over 30 years. He was a wonderful friend, he always had my back. I can remember not so long ago one of my colleagues was going to challenge me for the speaker's position — he got wind of it and of course came right back and told me and he said: ‘You'd better get back to work'.
“I think Bermuda is definitely a better place because of him. When we first all went to Parliament there was a great divide. I think today, while we have some divide it is nowhere as bad as it used to be.”
Veteran trade unionist and PLP MP Ottiwell Simmons and former Progressive Labour Party deputy leader Walter Roberts were among Mr Burrows's closest friends. Mr Simmons said: “He will be remembered as very dependable, honest and a promise-keeper.
“Reggie's personality was one of good humour and he was full of facts.”
Mr Roberts first met Mr Burrows when they were both at the Berkeley Institute
He said: “He was a very kind person. I don't think he had one enemy in his life even though he was a strong party person.
“We just gelled with one another. We grew together and we talked about the party activities. I will miss him — it's not going to be the same without him.”