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A spotlight on nurses who contributed to our community by enhancing the practice of nursing in Bermuda

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Primary Contributor:
Cecille Snaith-Simmons S.R.N., S.C.M


Cecille Snaith-Simmons received her early education at the West End Primary School, the Berkeley Institute and the Immaculate Conception High School for Girls in Jamaica, W.I. In 1965 she qualified from St. Mary’s Hospital, Portsmouth, England as a Registered Nurse and Midwife. She has completed courses in Adolescent Fertility Management and Family Planning Administration at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica and a course in The Techniques of Family Planning at the Marie Stopes Clinic, London. At the Bermuda College she has completed courses in Supervisory Management and Facilitating Adult Learning.

In 1967 she returned to Bermuda as the District Nurse/Midwife for Smith’s Parish and later as a Community Health Nurse within the Ministry of Health working mainly in the Maternal Health Clinic and Health Education in the school system. Over the years she has worked at Lefroy House, KEMH, MAWI and several Doctors’ offices and as the administrator of The Matilda Smith Williams Senior’s Home. In 1994 she was selected as the Administrator for the newly renovated Packwood Home. Over forty years ago Mrs. Simmons was a part of a small group of black nurses who successfully lobbied for the successful unionizing of nurses within the Department of Health and also a member of the group that negotiated the amalgamation of the two racially segregated Nurses’ Associations which today forms the Bermuda Registered Nurses’ Association.


In 1990 she was the Research Coordinator for Government’s Study on the Needs of the Elderly. She has been a member of the Bermuda Nursing Council and Chaired it Credentials Committee. She has served as Chairperson of Age Concern, President of the Friends of the Bermuda Library and President of the Sunshine Garden Club.

In 1982 she published the Bermuda Cook Book and for 30 years volunteered as a researcher of homes of architectural importance for the Bermuda National Trust. She writes columns for the Bermuda Registered Nurses’ Association’s website as well as the Royal Gazette and conducts workshops on Gathering Your Families’ History.

In 2022 she was awarded the Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour for her contribution to the Culture of Bermuda.

In February 2024 she was honored by the Somerset Cricket Club for her contribution to Nursing and awarded an Honorary Fellow of the Bermuda College in Recognition for Honourable Service to the Community and in the Cause of Learning.

She has been married for 55 years to Lionel Simmons, former MP for Sandys North and is the mother of Jamahl Simmons M.P and Alisha De Medeiros. They have four grandchildren.




Jane Anne Robinson was born in Prospect, Devonshire on the 5th August, 1901 to Charles and Estelle Robinson. She had three brothers. Her father was a private in the West Indian Regiment, often described as The Bully Roosters, because of their colourful uniforms.When the British Garrison was about to depart Bermuda in 1899, the 1st Battalion of the West Indian Regiment, a division of the British Army, arrived to replace them. They were men of color from many islands in the British Caribbean and arrived in Bermuda after service in the African Boer War. Many Bermudians assumed that because the were coming from Africa they were Africans and where shocked when they heard them speak English. In 1913 at the age of 37, Charles Robinson died. Jane’s mother Estelle Layne -Robinson died in 1944 at the age of 78.


Jane Robinson has been described as a quiet spoken, dark skinned, portly woman who wore glasses. She was kind and humble with a smile that put everyone at ease. She trained as a nurse and midwife at the Bermuda Nursing Home on Curving Avenue and devoted her entire life to midwifery and caring for the sick. In 1927 her name is recorded as the fourth midwife registered to practice in Bermuda and is credited with delivering hundreds of babies in the Devonshire and Happy Valley area. A report in the Bermuda Recorder noted that from the completion of her training she had been on call day and night to the entire parish of Devonshire and the surrounding districts.


A detailed description of Jane Robinson’s attire was gleaned from a recent conversation with Miss Ruth Thomas MBE. Nurse Robinson she said, was always immaculately dressed in a snowy white uniform with a white nurse’s cap perched securely upon her head and in the winter she wore a black cape with a red lining over her uniform. In her hand she carried a black medical bag in which she carried her bandages and medications. Upon her feet were perfectly polished black laced up shoes with a Cuban heel, often described as ‘believers.’ Her mode of travel was by foot or on her bicycle.


Many of her deliveries took place in the Zuill’s Range which was part of the North Devonshire Apartments commonly called, ‘The Incubator’ because of the congested living conditions occupied by the 12 tenants and the number of babies born there. The origins of this, now demolished building are unclear, but it is known that in the 1920’s it was owned by Eugenius Foggo Zuill who housed his agricultural workers in the building.

Delivering a baby in ‘The Incubator’ must have been challenging for Nurse Robinson as there was no plumbing until 1975 when basic plumbing was installed by Sir John Cox.


In 1930 a British Naval Officer and his wife were completing a tour of duty in Bermuda. They befriended Nurse Robinson and requested that she deliver their first child.

On the 5th August, 1930 she delivered their daughter at the Nursing Home on Curving Avenue. She was born on Nurse Robinson’s birthday and surprisingly, they named the baby Jane Robinson Montgomery and requested she be her God Mother. The family left Bermuda in 1933 but kept in contact. Twenty one years later, Jane arrived back in Bermuda to spend her 21st birthday with her God Mother and namesake. 

Jane Robinson Montgomery, the daughter of Lieutenant and Mrs. W. Montgomery, was now living in Nashville, Tennessee and following in the footsteps of her Godmother, was training as a nurse in Jacksonville, Florida. Her father, who had been well-known and respected by the Bermudian community had died during the war in 1941. To celebrate their birthdays, Nurse Robinson held a dinner party and invited 30 of the young men and women of all races and nationalities whom she had delivered. It was a most auspicious occasion only marred by the fact that Miss Montgomery had to leave Bermuda the following day to return to her studies.


In 1940 she began employment as the Matron of the Devonshire Rest Home which at that time was housed in a walled in area beside The Incubator.  She was also on call throughout the parish for various illnesses and retained one room at the Home for delivering babies. She held that position for twenty years.


Mrs. Helen Wilkinson-Bartley, was delivered by Nurse Robinson in 1939 and recalled she had delivering all of her mother’s seven other children. In 1954 she was delivered of her first child in that special room in The Rest Home. Nurse Robinson delivered five of her nine children. Mrs Wilkinson-Bartley still fondly remembers the loving comfort, patience and care she received. She will never forget the unpleasant mixture of Epsom salts and orange juice administered as a laxative prior to every delivery. For anaemia she prescribed the drinking of Milk Stout as often as three times a day. After each delivery she remained in bed for 4-5 days with her abdomen bound with unbleached cotton. Once she was allowed up she was advised to wear a light weight girdle to support her muscles. She was able to go home after seven days but Nurse Robinson continued to check on her well being and that of the baby for several weeks.


Several of the women interviewed had been born in the early forties, either in that special room at the Devonshire Rest Home, in the apartment complex know as the Incubator or in the Happy Valley area. Many remember her genuine kindness, especially to the very poor; her cake making skills and the parties she held at The Incubator every summer for mothers and children whom she had delivered. She is also remembered for her love of flowers, her garden and her dog, Pugh.


Nurse Jane Anne Robinson, a Bermudian Treasure, of Friswell’s Hill, Devonshire , died of pneumonia in 1981 at the age of 79.


Contributed by:

Cecille Snaith-Simmons

For week 1 of Nurses Month, May 2023


With special thanks to Ruth E.Thomas MBE, JP; Helen Wilkinson-Bartley, Annette Simmons, Linda Abend and Ellen Hollis of the Bermuda National Library.



The Bermuda Recorder, August 195; 5th August 1966

Royal Gazette, 18 December, 1955             

Fame, April 1963

The Bermuda National Trust Architectural Series - Devonshire, 1995

Mosaic, July 2011 by Ruth Thomas MBE. JP           


Accordion Widget


Frances Iona Segar Trott-Robinson who was fondly called Peggy, was born on 3 February, 1921 at Willow Bank in Somerset. She was the first of two child born to Francis (Frank) Trott and Nellie Beryl Stowe Simons Trott.

Peggy attended The West End School before moving on to the Sandys Secondary School where she was described as an excellent student with a flair for writing. In the Educational Journal published by Dr. Kenneth Robinson in the 1940’s he remembered his former student and included one of her stories in the 1945 publication.


Her childhood dream was to become a nurse and as soon as she had passed her Cambridge School Certificate she enrolled as a student nurse at the Cottage Hospital Nursing Home in Pembroke. She was joined by two former school mates - Iris Davis and Leonie Harford. The Matron was Mabel White.


Sometime later she left Bermuda with her good friend Alathea Williams to complete her training at the Lincoln Hospital in New York City. When she returned to Bermuda as a fully qualified nurse she was barred, due to her race, from working at KEMH and so accepted a position in the offices of dentist Dr. Millard Cann DDS and his wife Dr. Donzleigh Hendricks Cann DDS. 


Dr. M. Cann first appears on the Bermuda Dental Register in 1935 and his wife Donzleigh, in 1936. They were graduates of Meharry Dental School in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Interestingly enough, Bermuda accepted black doctors and dentists who qualified in America yet they would not accept the American qualifications of nurses.

It was a very busy practice and needed the assistance of a competent assistant. Peggy Trott had all the skills to work with the team in an office located on Church Street behind the now, non existent What Not Shop on the corner of Washington Lane.


In 1949 Peggy married Maxwell Robinson and moved to Bridge Lodge. The new Mrs. Robinson became an integral part of her husband’s business - Robinson’s Boat Works and Shell Marine Station located at Somerset Bridge. She immediately assumed many rolls in the flourishing business. She moved competently from book keeper to gas station attendant and was frequently called upon to use her nurses’ training in attending to injured employees and customers. Her calm and organized demeanor put everyone at ease.


When her two children were quite young she joined The Women’s Home Club, a small group of mothers who went from house to house in Somerset sharing ideas to benefit mother and child.

 Mrs. Robinson not only involved herself in the family business but also in community service. She volunteered as a Pink Lady in the hospital that years before, would not employ her. She served as the secretary for the committee of Social Services and the committee for YHED now know as Teen Services. For many years she gave service on the Board of Governors of Sandys Secondary School.


Frances ‘Peggy’ Robinson died in 2001 yet is still remembered by the Somerset Community for her life of service.


Cecille Snaith-Simmons

Accordion Widget


I am truly honored to share with you the remarkable career of my friend, The Hon. Joan Dillas - Wright. MBE, JP. Throughout her entire life, she has exhibited the tenacity and determination to succeed yet remains so humble that even I, her friend of over forty years was unaware of her numerous accomplishments. Joan Dillas-Wright grew up in Ingham Vale, Spanish Point, where many families were related. Joan is the second of 6 children born to Eldon and Inez Dillas. She attended the West Pembroke School before moving onto The Berkeley Institute where her high school education was interrupted after one year due to the illness of her mother. During an unfortunate era in mental health care, her mother was diagnosed with Puerperal Psychosis, hospitalized and separated from the family for many years. At that time, the psychiatric hospital and staff lacked the medicine, training and capacity to adequately care and treat patients with this diagnosis, and mental illness generally.  Many family members offered to adopt the children individually but her father was determined to care for them himself . He was not only a loving father and disciplinarian but also an excellent cook and baker. Fortunately, his sister Edith lived in the family homestead next door and assisted him with the children.

Leaving the Berkeley prematurely did not stifle Joan as she was a voracious reader who was never seen without a book. Education was important to her parents and before long she was enrolled in Merle Brock-Swan’s Night School (now the Adult Education Center) where she studied Math, English and Typing. She also received extra tuition from Olga and Leroy Simons of Cobb’s Hill as well as Elizabeth Isaac to whom she is eternally grateful. To supplement the family income she worked many jobs, from child minding to cleaning houses to ironing clothes, particularly the suits and fatigues of the Kindley Air Force Base Officers and Airmen. At one time she worked in The Straw Factory on Angle Street. The straws, infused with strawberry, chocolate and vanilla were to flavor the milk as you sipped through them. The business was not a success and closed after 18 months. Joan had always harboured ambitions of becoming a nurse. Her cousin Helen Stowe-Lambe operated a nursing home at Cox’s Hill and she had often assisted her. Finally, there was an opportunity to work at King Edward Hospital as a maid on the Male Ward which she readily accepted. Two nurses, the late Jacqueline Lightbourne MBE who went onto become Chief Nursing Officer in the Department of Health and Barbara Wade, who was employed in 1958 as the first black nurse employed at KEMH, noted her interest in nursing and took her under their wing. She was encouraged to observe the dressing of wounds and the administering of injections. These nurses saw her potential, gave her the addresses of training hospitals in England and recommended she write Dr. Simon Fraser, The Chief Medical Officer, for permission to study in England. All her applications were successful but she selected King George Hospital because it offered the earliest placement in March 1961. Her father was delighted and assisted her financially every week in save for her ship’s passage from New York to England. She was due to travel from Bermuda with another nursing student but at the last minute the other student was unable to travel and Joan’s father was adamant that she not travel alone. Fortuitously, a cousin Lorraine Dyer-Bizek, a well respected and qualified Nurse/Health Visitor was at home on vacation. Joan’s father met with her and she became her guardian angel. She gave Joan all the skills needed to survive away from home - information on nursing and living in England. On the day of admission she accompanied her to the hospital in Ilford, Essex where her nursing career began. At King George Hospital she met another Bermudian - the late Sandra Allen who had begun her training three months before Joan arrived. They were the only Bermudians for the entire three years of training. Joan felt she would require additional course work as she did not possess a high school diploma. The instructors did not feel this was necessary and she excelled, receiving the Frank Warrener Shield for achieving first place in the Preliminary Training School. Determined to succeed, Joan maintained this level of excellence throughout her training. As a bonus she received £100 from the Bermuda Nurses’ Association, a division of the Friendly Societies.

Years later when she returned to Bermuda to work for the Bermuda Hospital Board she saw Merle Brock-Swan, her former teacher and mentor. She enthusiastically informed her that following the interview with Dr. Simon Fraser all those years ago, he had informed her that he knew she would ‘go far.’ In 1964 she became a registered nurse (SRN) and by 1965 had completed her midwifery training achieving her SCM from Rochford Maternity Hospital, Essex, England. One of her career plans was to work in Ghana and toward that end she completed several relevant courses while still maintaining full time employment. In 1968 she received a Family Planning Certificate from the International Planned Parenthood Federation while working as a Nurse/Midwife at King’s College Hospital, London. She held this position from 1966-1969 until she was appointed Senior Nurse/Midwife at Guy’s Hospital, London In 1972 she received a Certificate in Tropical Diseases from University College Hospital, London. During the period from 1972 - 1975, Joan was employed by St. Thomas’ Hospital, London as a Staff Nurse in the Intensive Care Unit. In 1975, her plans still revolved around employment in Ghana and she continued to prepare herself by adding a diploma in Parent Craft and Child Care from The Royal Institute of Public Health and Hygiene.  While finalizing her plans to move to Ghana, she decided to return to Bermuda in 1975 and assumed the position of Staff Nurse at Cedars Rehabilitation Unit which provided nursing and psychiatric care to long stay patients. This experience resulted in her desire to return to England to train as a Registered Mental Nurse (RMN). She entered the Claybury Hospital, Woodford, Essex and by 1976 added the RMN designation to the two others she already held. 

Ghana’s loss was Bermuda’s gain. She returned to Bermuda where her career developed from a Junior Charge Nurse to a Charge Nurse, then onto Mental Welfare Officer working in the Psychiatric Outpatient Department and Community to Chief Alcoholism Counselor/Administrator at KEMH.  In 1982, she married Professor Roy Wright, an Assistant Professor at Queen’s University in Canada where he taught Politics and Sociology. Following their marriage Professor Wright relocated to Bermuda where he served as the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science at the Bermuda College, until his retirement. Joan has an insatiable desire to be competent in whatever role she assumes and always prepares herself for the future. She holds a BA in Psychology from Queen’s University, Canada and a MSc in Counseling Psychology from Indiana University, USA; a certificate from Harvard Medical School, Boston in Health Maintenance Organization; a Certificate in Nursing Unit Administration, Toronto, Canada; a Certificate in Counseling Skills from North East London Polytechnic and a Certificate from the Institute in Supervisory Management, England. In 1995, Joan Dillas-Wright was appointed Director of Nursing at St Brendan’s Hospital which has since been renamed The Mid Atlantic Wellness Institute. Her initiative, drive, innovative ideas and organizational skills did not go unnoticed and her career continued to progress from Director of Programs and Support Services to Director of Programs and Administration both positions were at St. Brendan’s Hospital. In 1999 she was appointed Acting Chief Executive Officer of Bermuda Hospital’s Board and in 2000 she became a Consultant to the Chief Executive Officer of the BHB progressing to the position of Chief Executive Officer of the Bermuda Hospitals Board, the position she held until her retirement in 2006. Joan travelled to Buckingham Palace in 2008 where she was awarded the MBE for Service to Health Care in Bermuda. In 2008, to add to her numerous responsibilities, Joan Dillas-Wright was appointed by Governor Gozney as an Independent Senator to the Bermuda Legislature. Four years later she was elected Vice- President of the Senate by her Senate peers and today sits as The Elected President of the Bermuda Senate. In this capacity she has attended Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conferences in Seychelles and Ottawa, Canada. 

Joan is an active member of the Devonshire Anglican Church and in 2020 was appointed by Bishop Nicholas Dill as Chair of the Racial Justice Committee of the Anglican Church of Bermuda. She has dedicated herself to a life of service and over the years has given invaluable expertise as a member of numerous committees and boards. Her wide range of knowledge on various issues and needs within the community have enhanced every service these organizations provide. Unbelievably, she finds time to include moRe relaxing activities. She has travelled extensively and enjoys simple pleasures such as walking on the beach, gardening, reading, entertaining and dining out with friends. She has dedicated her life to her family, her career and the community. Despite her illustrious career, she has never failed to remember the struggles of her early life and remains empathetic to others. She is a humble woman who has not ‘lost the common touch.’ The Hon. Joan Dillas-Wright MBE, JP, SRN, SCM, RMN, BA, MSc is a phenomenal Bermudian whose perseverance, confidence and quiet dignity is an example of what can be accomplished when one strives to be the best. 

Contributor: Cecille Snaith-Simmons

Accordion Widget


1949 - 2023


The old time Bermudians would have described Janet Glasgow as ‘Dicty’ or a real ‘ Fashion Plate.’ And, so she was. Always immaculately dressed and making a fashion statement wherever she went. Hair perfectly coiffed with curls falling in a precise pattern over her forehead and shoes perfectly matched. That was Janet!


She attended the Ord Road School and Prospect Secondary Girl’s School before leaving Bermuda in 1967 to study nursing at Kings Lynn Nursing School founded in 1928 in Norfolk, East Anglia, England.


In 1973 she returned to Bermuda to begin a career at KEMH. She worked on Memorial Ward before moving to the Nursing Office. She then became the Evening and Night clinical manager. Retired Nurse Claudette Cann remembers her 3.00a.m. calls to get to the OR within 20 minutes to set up for an emergency.  In the late 1990’s she became a founding member of the Sexual Assault Response team which assists victims in the aftermath of sexual crimes. After 47 years with the Bermuda Hospital Board she devoted herself to the care of the residents at Agape House.


Janet will be remembered for the love of her cats, her ability to grow the most beautiful roses; her love of travel; her fascination with Auctions and her well known shopping expeditions. Above all she will be remembered for the concern she felt for others and her ability to make everyone feel valued and important. She was a true role model in her nursing career and in the community.

Those we love don’t go away

They walk beside us every day

Unseen, unheard, but always near

Still loved, still missed and very dear.


Author unknown


Cecille Snaith-Simmons SRN, SCM.

With thanks to nurses:

Michelle Barnett and Claudette Cann



Accordion Widget


kareen richards

The nursing community was saddened by the passing of one of it’s most prominent nurses, Kareen Richards. Her career at KEMH spanned a memorable forty years of change in the value and importance of nursing input. She was respected for her professional approach to what ever area she worked in. She was a cherished mentor to so many nurses who at times felt discouraged and disillusioned upon returning to their home land. Then there were others nurses who chose to leave their homeland to seek employment here, for them, she was a pillar of strength and encouragement. She knew the importance of harmony in the work place and valued the contribution of all. Kareen Richards began her education at The Central School and later The Berkeley Institute. In 1967, at the age of twenty, she made the brave move to leave Bermuda with her friend Eloise to study nursing at the King Edward Hospital, London, established in 1911. This hospital is now part of the Ealing Hospital. Two years into her training Michelle Barnett joined them and Kareen became her Big Sister when they all moved into a flat together. When they, and another friend Judy Smith returned to Bermuda, they made a fashion statement Bermuda was not quite ready for. They were wearing the latest rage in the UK - Mini skirts. So shocking was their revolutionary revealing attire, it was even reported to Bermudians studying in America!! At KEMH her professional career began. She rose through the ranks to Clinical Manager of Emergency. Later she became the director of the ER, PACU, the OR, Surgical Services and the Fracture Clinic. Leading up to her retirement she was the Clinical Director of Continuing Care Services. She was the chairperson of the Bermuda Nursing Council for several years and in 1990 was selected by her peers as Nurse of the Year. In 2002 she was appointed a Justice of the Peace by the Government of Bermuda. In 2013 after forty years of dedicated service to KEMH, Kareen retired. She was a dedicated member of St. John’s Anglican Church and is remembered for her competent attention to anyone in the congregation or at church functions who became unwell. She was also a member of the team who managed the Church’s Thrift Shop. On behalf of the Bermuda Nurses’ Association we send our deepest sympathy to her husband George, her son Yuri, her family and friends. Dr. the Hon. Ewart Brown described Kareen succinctly: ‘she raised caring and concern to a new level at KEMH. Cecille Snaith-Simmons SRN, SCM With special thanks to Nurses Michelle Barnett and Claudette Can

Accordion Widget


1934 - 1976



In June 1976, the Ministry of Health was delivered a devastating blow with the sudden and untimely death of our nursing colleague, Joycelyn. She was merely 42, the mother of two children in the prime of her life and nursing career.


It was difficult for us to move forward without her, until we all realized that her enthusiastic personality would wish us to be professional and move on. To always remember her, a plaque was strategically placed on a wall at the Victoria Street Clinic.


Joycelyn was born into a very politically motivated family. Her father Robert Austin Wilson, was a founding member of the Bermuda Worker’s Association, forerunner to the Bermuda Industrial Union.


Educated at the Central School and the Sandys Secondary School before entering the Mary Potter Academy in Oxford, North Carolina, U.S.A.- a boarding school for black children. Her brother, the late Jeweller, Woodrow Wilson as well as the Hon. John W. Swan, former Premier of Bermuda, were former students.


In 1953, Joycelyn went off to England to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse and midwife.


Upon her return to Bermuda in the late 50’s she worked briefly at K.E.M.H. before accepting a position within the Ministry of Health as a Public Health Nurse - a position she held for 15 years. She was the school nurse responsible for West Pembroke and the Victor Scott Schools. All school medical inspections at The Berkeley Institute and Northlands Secondary School fell under her responsibility as well. Additionally she worked in the General School Clinic at Victoria Street and the Infant Welfare Clinic at the Grace Methodist Church.

Just prior to her death she had applied to attend a post basic nursing course to upgrade her nursing skills.


Joycelyn was one of the first members of the Bermuda Registered Nurses’ Association at the time of its inception and an active member of St. Paul’s A.M.E. Church in Hamilton.


Although we missed her greatly we remembered that she always said she was happy, contented and thankful for all the blessings God had bestowed upon her.


Rest In Peace Joycelyn, for you have not been forgotten.



Cecille Snaith-Simmons

S.R.N., S.C.M.

Accordion Widget


 cynthia stovell

When I returned to Bermuda in 1967 I was invited to a nurses’ meeting at the home of one of our most senior nurses, Rena Smith. There were two separated nurses associations at that time due to the racial segregation that prevailed on this little island. All of our meetings were held in the homes of the older nurses. I was working as a district nurse and invited to Mrs. Smith home in Paget.

Suddenly another nurse arrived, slightly late and wearing the most fashionable spike heeled red shoes with handbag to match. This was my introduction to Cynthia Stovell. She was smiling and bubbly and added a whole new dimension to that meeting. I liked her immediately and we remain friends up until today.

In 1968 I was permanently stationed as the district nurse for Smith’s Parish. Cynthia was a working mother who lived with her husband Quinton in Town Hill. They had two of the cutest boys I had ever seen. Whenever there was a baby clinic in Smith’s I would collect them, along with their care giver to immunize them. I was single and looked forward to helping her.

Today, we are both retired with stories to tell and for this reason I have chosen my friend Cynthia as the nurse for this month.

Cynthia received her early education at the Central School and at the age of eleven went with her grandmother to spend six months in St. Kitts. During the voyage she befriended another girl, however, a terrifying storm arose and everyone was ordered to remain in their cabins. Cynthia’s grandmother temporarily left them in search of food and drink. During her absence the girls decided to investigate what was going on above deck, an experience she never forgot. The winds were vicious and waves cascaded over the deck making it impossible to find their way back. Her furious grandmother found them huddled on deck amongst the ropes.  Conditions in St. Kitts were quite different compared to her life in Bermuda but she enjoyed the experience even though there was a frightening earthquake while they were there.

When she returned to Bermuda she began her high school studies at the Howard Academy. At the end of her studies she was invited back as a teacher. She found this uncomfortable as the students were not much older than she and so, she resigned and went to work as a waitress at Stuarty Ingham’s Restaurant on Victoria Street next to St. Paul’s AME Church. This was not a pleasant experience and so she decided to study nursing. The Health Department was just across the street from her job and so she went to see Dr. Simon Fraser the Chief Medical Officer about a career in Nursing. He recommended she study nursing in England and in 1959 she left Bermuda for St. Giles Hospital in London where she completed her general SRN training.


Before returning home Cynthia and a German friend decided to hitch hike through Europe. It took them several weeks and she didn’t dare tell her parents what she was up to. They visited Stuttgard in Germany, the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Tuscany and later took the train to Rome. They visited many small towns including Viterbo, an ancients city surrounded by medieval walls built during the 11 to 12th century. Often they slept in trucks and washed up in horse troughs as they were too late to get into hostels .


She returned to Bermuda in June 1963 and by September she married the love of her life - Quinton Stovell. She had hoped to work in the Health Department but there were no vacancies. She did not apply to KEMH as her friend Barbara’Lovey’ Wade had been employed as the first Black nurse and it was a very unpleasant time for Barbara. They demanded that she have obstetrical training and off she went, on their recommendation, to Canada to complete this necessary requirement. When she returned Barbara was sent to work on a male surgical ward and never assigned to maternity. This offended Cynthia and she vowed never to apply for work at KEMH. Instead she decided to apply to St. Brendan’s, now named MAWI. She remained there until Dr. Simon Fraser contacted her about a position at the Health Department.


Cynthia worked within the Health Department as a school nurse for the East End Primary School, Francis Patton Primary, Central/Victor Scott and Purvis Primary School. She also worked in the school clinic, Dental Department and the Police Clinic. In the late 60’s she accepted the position as the supervisor of the Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinic, however, prior to moving into this position she was sent to The London Hospital where she studied for eight months.

In the 1980’s she attended courses on Sexually Transmitted disease at CAREC Epidemiology Centre in Federation Park,Trinidad.


Cynthia was heavily involved in the Bermuda Registered Nurses Association and in 1975 she was one of the organizers of the Testimonial dinner given for Nurse Sylvia Richardson for whom a senior care facility has been named. In 1986 she was named Nurse of the Year by the BRN Association.


After 34 years of dedicated service to health care, Cynthia Stovell retired


On ten occasions she travelled to Mozambique with Mrs. Joan Simmons as a health care missionary in a clinic previously run by a Dutch organization. Each day began with prayer. People would walk for miles to get there and often long lines were awaiting their arrival. She saw patients with coughs, colds and many minor ailments.


It took two to three days of travel to get to Mozambique. They flew from Bermuda to London then Johannesburg and on to Mozambique. Eventually there was a more direct route.


Church has always played an important and vital role in Cynthia’s life. As a child she attended St. Monica’s Mission with her parents and as a teenager, sang in their choir. In later years she became a member of St Paul’s AME Church where she has served faithfully as Steward, a choir member, a Sunday School and a Vacation Bible School teacher .


In recent months my friend has experienced health challenges that would have dampened the spirits of most but she remains joyous. She credits this to her faith in God, sincere friends and devoted children.


Cecille Snaith-Simmons

October 2022.

Accordion Widget


CORDELIA SIMMONS FUBLERPhotograph courtesy of Dr. and Mrs. R. Delmont Simmons


The Royal Naval Hospital in Ireland Island South, Bermuda, was built in 1818 for the sick and wounded seamen and marines of the H.M. Ships. It was also used for the artisans employed on Ireland Island. It was designed with four wards each holding twenty beds. Slave women, whose services were rented out by their owners, made up part of the care giving team.


In 1972 the magnificent building was demolished and along with it, the history of local nurses who were trained there.

Cordelia Simmons born in 1860, to Jacob and Frances Simmons, is the exception. She received her early education in the parish and in her late teens went to train as a nurse at the Royal Naval Hospital.

By the time Cordelia arrived for training in the late 1800s, the hospital had been enlarged several times. Her training, according to her late grandson, Vivian Simmons, was under the supervision of Dr.Robert Waller Biddulph of the Royal Navy and Dr. Richard Arnold Packwood of Somerset.


Dr. Biddulph was a Royal Naval Surgeon stationed at the Dockyard. As a matter of interest, Dr. Biddulph was mentioned in the Royal Gazette as a witness in the sensational 1879 murder trial of Edward Skeeters of Somerset.


Dr. Packwood was one of the first black Bermudian medical doctors to qualify in North America after the abolition of slavery. His medical practice and surgery was located in his home, near Scaur Hill in Somerset.  Today, the Packwood Home Seniors’ Residence, is located in that same building.


Together, Dr. Packwood and Cordelia Simmons became a formidable team. Cordelia was available for general nursing care but midwifery was her specialty. She travelled on foot and by bicycle. Her dedication and commitment was such that inclement weather and the darkest of nights did not prevent her from attending her patients.


Despite her busy career, Cordelia married Joseph Fubler, a farmer and operator of the parishes’ horse drawn hearse. They became the parents of six children. One of their daughters, Helena, graduated from the Frederick Douglass Memorial School of Nursing in Philadelphia, U.S.A. In September 1911, Helena Fubler placed an advertisement in the Royal Gazette to advertise her Midwifery business in Mangrove Bay, Somerset.


The Spanish ‘Flu pandemic of 1918 did not escape Bermuda. Records at the Bermuda National Library show that 139 people died, however, the population of Bermuda at that time was about 20,000. The first civilian case was reported in Somerset.


Cordelia Fubler worked tirelessly attending to the patients of Dr. John W. Cann Sr. and Dr. Packwood in the care of the infected residents of Somerset and the Dock Yard.  The sick were advised to stay at home and not to visit the doctors’ offices. The slogan, quite timely for today was, ‘Cover your cough and sneeze, if you don’t you’ll spread the disease.’   Cordelia Fubler, despite caring for the infected, survived the pandemic.


 1925 saw the formation of the Bermuda Welfare Society. In order to be employed, on the district, nurses were required to hold the qualification of Queen’s District Nursing Certificate. No Bermudian nurses held that qualification, therefore, nurses from England were brought to the island.


By 1927 the Bermuda government had passed the Midwives Act. It stipulated that in order to work, all practicing midwives had to pass an examination. The local midwives had acquired their skills from generations of older midwives who had not been formally trained. Sitting an examination was an unfamiliar skill and in the end, most were unsuccessful. Cordelia Fubler at the age 67, was the oldest applicant to pass the oral and written examination; but the failure of her colleagues had a devastating effect on the local midwifery business.


The Bermuda Recorder, on Friday, March 1, 1957, announced on its front page, that Bermuda had lost one of her most outstanding daughters. Mrs. Cordelia Fubler had passed away peacefully in her sleep at the age of 97. She was described as a fine Christian lady who spent the best part of her life in service to her community as a nurse. The report went on to add that she could always be relied upon to respond to any call that meant the uplifting of suffering humanity.


Cordelia Fubler was the great grandmother of Dr. R. Delmont Simmons, retired Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and Craig Simmons, Economist and Bermuda College lecturer.



Cecille Snaith-Simmons. S.R.N, S.C.M.


References from History of the Royal Naval Hospital, Bermuda by Christopher Harvey, Surgeon R.N. (TNS:ADM 104/156)

Photograph of The Royal Naval Hospital courtesy of the National Museum of Bermuda

Photograph of Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Fubler courtesy of Dr.& Mrs. R. Delmont Simmons.

Sincere thanks to Edward Harris PhD and Linda Abend




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Seventy-five years ago, Nurse Iris Davis was my school nurse at the West End Primary School. Tall and professional, wielding needles followed by a candy to soothe our woes. Somehow, she always seemed to be a part of my growing up years. She was a friend of my parents and often came to lunch when she was attending the schools in this area.


I attempted to interview Miss Davis over the years, but she would not consent as she said the memories were too painful to recall. Finally in 2105, one year before her death, I was successful.


Little did I know then the struggles she survived to be a much loved and respected nurse in our community.

Miss. Davis was born into a family known as masters of cedar craftsmanship and union involvement.

 She was the youngest of six children born to William Alexander Davis and Isabella Churchill Davis on 19th October 1921. Originally, they lived in Spring Hill, Warwick but the family later moved to White Hill in Somerset Bridge. She attended the West End and Sandys Secondary School, where she excelled.


Like many young women from Somerset, she aspired to become a registered nurse. The only local training ground for black nurses was at the Cottage Hospital Nursing Home. She applied, was accepted, and went on to complete the three-year training program.

Ms. Mabel White was the Matron and lived in a wooden building adjacent to the Nursing Home. She was a perfectionist and terrorized the probationers. The Assistant Matron was Mabel Crawford.

There were four beds for probationers. They were responsible for sluicing dirty linen and watching over patients who died in the night to keep insects from crawling over them. They were also responsible for preparing the bodies for collection by the undertaker. Miss Davis recalled an incident when she and another probationer - Peggy Trott-Robinson decided that instead of bringing the trolley down the ward to remove a deceased patient, they would use a side door closer to the bed.  Lacking in experience, they attempted to lift the body, wrapping it in a sheet. They did not realize the weight of the dead. When they began to lift, the middle of the body began to sag and eventually they lost control and the person fell to the floor. As you can imagine, they were in a lot of trouble, and had a lot of explaining to do.


The Cottage Hospital Nursing Home had beds for seven women in one ward and another ward with two semi-private beds as well as a room for one private patient. There were four beds for men.

Women with Eclampsia and fever were wrapped in thin blankets which had to be placed in boiling water and rung out by using large sticks. The patient was then wrapped in these sheets and blankets. Glass bottles were brought from home by the staff to be used for urine collection. Specimens were sent to KEMH.

Children under sixteen were not allowed into the hospital. One patient had a young son who came every day to play his guitar and sing to his mother. He just wanted her to know he was there. She also recalled with sadness caused by the death of a fifteen-year-old girl who exhibited the most beautiful temperament. Her body was in a cast because she suffered severely from some form of bone disease.


In 1944 Miss. Davis went off to Lincoln Hospital with Leonie Harford, and Madelyn Burchall to complete an additional year which included midwifery. This additional year was sponsored by the Bermuda Government, but they had to repay them. She returned to Bermuda, sat and passed the required Midwifery examination which enabled her to practice Midwifery.


Miss Davis went into private practice delivering babies in the community and in her parents’ home in Sandys. Some of the cases were referred by Dr. E.F. Gordon. Occasionally he came out to perform a necessary episiotomy. Her father prepared a delivery room in their home. He built blocks to elevate the bed so that she could deliver at a comfortable height. He also asked Dr. Gordon to purchase her instruments when he travelled to New York. They were brought in duty free. When I interviewed Miss Davis in 2015, she was still in possession of the bag with all the stainless-steel instruments.  Patients remained in her home for five days. The placenta was wrapped in newspaper and buried on the property near the house.


She recalled a scheduled deliver she had on Hog Bay Level. She remembered it being a large house with a circular lawn in the front. In the early hours of the morning, she grew concerned. The position of the baby was described as a transverse lie which would require a Caesarian section. She immediately contacted Dr. Raymond Nash who lived on Wreck Road. He arrived in his horse and carriage, the ambulance was called but Miss Davis refused to be left behind. After all, it was her patient. Dr. Nash took her in his carriage to KEMH where she protested being separated from her patient and demanded she be with her in the Operating Room. Finally she was gowned up and present when Dr. Nash performed the surgery. Many eye brows were raised that day as she was the first black nurse to grace the operating room.

Unable to get sufficient work to sustain her, she decided to retrain in the UK. KEMH at that time did not accept American qualifications. In 1956 she entered St Giles Hospital to redo her general training. They offered to reduce her training time by six months as she had already trained in America but she refused the offer, and completed her SRN in the required time and went on to complete Part 1 Midwifery. She completed Part 2 at North Hertfordshire Maternity Hospital in Hitching, England. 

Miss Davis travelled daily from St. Giles to Elephant and Castle where she trained in Family Planning. The Tutor had the distinction of being Gynecologist to the Royal Family.


Upon returning to Bermuda she joined the Health Department as a school nurse. Later she went on to complete a year in London at the Royal College of Nursing where she obtained her Health Visitors Certificate. 


Iris Davis or IAD as we fondly called her, had all the qualifications to assume the role of a public health nurse and was immediately employed as the second black nurse within the Government’s public health department and was later promoted to Senior Nursing Officer.

IAD was the consummate professional. Punctuality, professional behavior, proper attire and above all, attention to documentation of information was essential to working with her. We were never allowed to call each other by our first names. She was in charge and you knew it!!


She promoted Public Health through her weekly public health radio shows and encouraged nurses to provide health education in the schools. She is credited as the first person to start a Public Health campaign in Bermuda.


Miss Davis recalled a five-year-old child who died from both Pin and Tape worms. Scabies and impetigo were prevalent and treated with Peroxide and Sulphamul applied and left on the infected area for two days. She also discovered a five-year-old who was blind in one eye. Upon investigation she discovered the mother had been infected with measles during pregnancy,


Miss Davis obtained her Nursing Organization and Administration Certificate under the auspices of the World Health Organization. This qualification enabled her to Practice in zone 1 of the world which enabled her to work professionally in whatever areas in that zone deemed necessary.


After twenty-six years of devoted service Iris Amelia Davis retired as Senior Nurse of the Department of Health. Everyone thought she would retire and enjoy driving around in her powder blue 1961 Classic Austin Cambridge Car. To everyone’s surprise she accepted a security and staff first aid position at Trimingham Brothers where she remained for fourteen years.


She was a member of the Bermuda Registered Nurses Association, a member of the Gamma Sigma Bermuda Chapter of the Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. A member of the Business and Professional Women’s Club and the President of the Socratic Literary Club. Miss Davis was a keen gardener, an amateur photographer, and a devoted member of the Christ Presbyterian Church in Warwick.

In 2015 she was honored by the Department of Cultural Affairs and in recognition of her exemplary dedication to her profession and years devoted to the Health and Welfare of the community. She was also awarded the MBE and travelled to London to receive the honor from the Queen.


Iris Almeria Davis MBE, SRN, SCM, HV died in 2016 at the age of ninety-four.


Cecille Snaith-Simmons

November 2022

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