In 2004, my brother, Paul Marsden, left the UK and the Thames Valley Police to join the Bermuda Police Service.
During his time on your beautiful island, he became a regular player for the Bermuda Police rugby team. Rugby was a game that he loved.
On January 22, 2006, having returned from a trip to New York, Paul was playing for the Police team against Mariners at the National Sports Centre.
Not long after going on to the pitch, Paul collapsed.
Efforts to save him were unsuccessful and, sadly, Paul died at the age of just 36, having suffered a cardiac arrhythmia.
As a mark of the tremendous respect and affection people had for Paul, the game has since been known as the Paul Marsden Memorial. A beautiful trophy — I seem to remember this was made by Alan Gorbutt — is presented each year as the Paul Marsden Fair Play Award.
This tradition also demonstrates that Bermuda has compassion and respect at its heart, something we as a family learnt very quickly after this tragic event.
For several years, myself and members of our family were able to travel out each January to see the memorial game and to meet and catch up with many of Paul’s friends and colleagues.
As time has gone by, this has not been possible and so it has been several years since we have been to the island.
This brings me to the point of my letter.
As a family, we feel some guilt in not being able to show in person each year just how much we appreciate everything that is done to keep Paul’s memory alive.
But just because we cannot be there, this in no way indicates any lessening of our gratitude for this tradition being upheld.
It’s important for us that those people who are in any way involved in this annual memorial recognise the gratitude and love we have for them in keeping such an important memory alive.
I could name many groups and individuals who have helped us along what has been a very difficult road since losing Paul, but there are so many that I know I will miss some out:
•• Paul’s amazing friends on the island for making us so welcome and looking after us whenever we visited
•• The Bermuda Police Service for taking care of Paul — and us — and repatriating him with such unfailing dignity, and for escorting him so respectfully to his memorial service
•• The housekeepers at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, who held our hands and prayed for us
•• The passport control staff member who recognised who I was, from my surname, several years later when arriving on the island
•• Lawson Mapp for making the memorial plaque, which is displayed at the National Stadium
I could go on and on.
And, of, course the Bermuda Police rugby team.
I’m sure most of today’s team would never have met Paul, but we want them to know that they always have our support and unwavering respect and gratitude for playing the Paul Marsden Memorial every year.
It is such an important act of remembrance and, for that, we thank them sincerely. We’ll be cheering them on from the UK on January 19.
Lastly, a personal thank-you to Pc Colin Mill, a true friend to our family who has kept in touch with me regularly over the past 14 years and who will never know how much his support means to us.
So thank you, Bermuda. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You should be very proud of yourselves and your beautiful island.
I’ll return one day soon to pass on the story of my big brother and best friend to my young son, and the story of the wonderful, welcoming place that is Bermuda.
St Agnes, Cornwall