Engraver leaves his mark on sailing glory

  • Keith O'Connell with the Challenger trophy (Photograph supplied)
  • Keith O'Connell hand engraving the trophy at Club AC (Photograph supplied)
  • The America's Cup Challenger Trophy (Photograph Supplied)
  • Keith O’Connell engraving the trophy at Club AC (Photograph supplied)
  • Keith O'Connell and Chilly Pereira in Bermuda. (Photograph supplied)

Keith O’Connell and Chilly Pereira had long talked of a trip to the island.

Their home is scattered with pictures of her ancestral Bermuda family, but the keen travellers let other voyages take precedence over their dream trip.

And then Louis Vuitton invited Mr O’Connell here to engrave the America’s Cup Challenger Trophy.

“The honourable NT Butterfield, who founded the Bank of Butterfield in Bermuda, was [Chilly’s] great-great-great-grandfather,” said Mr O’Connell.

“We had only last year discussed visiting Bermuda to see where it all started. Little did we know that we would be invited out a short time later.

“Two days before we came there, I got [the] call.”

The couple spent a few days here last week. The short trip, and even shorter notice, meant they didn’t get to speak with any of Ms Pereira’s relatives but they have since been in touch with local historians John Adams and John Cox.

“Her grandmother was Rosalie Constance Gray, whose father — Chilly’s great-grandfather — was Lewis Gray. Rosalie’s great-grandfather was Charles William Gray who married Rosalie Tucker Butterfield, daughter of NT Butterfield.

“She’s got all the family trees here. The letters from the bank, letters from family in Bermuda.”

The 59-year-old, who splits his time between England and India, retired in May after 45 years of hand engraving.

“O’Connell’s Engravers in Mayfair has been a longstanding company for years,” he said. “My father taught me; I taught my son. It’s a family business.

“My father and I were in partnership for many years. We did Princess Di’s wedding rings when she married Prince Charles. We did all the top jewellers — Bond Street Jewellers, Asprey. We did all the stars — Eric Clapton and Patty Boyd — you name it, we’ve done it.

“It’s been a lifelong tradition.”

His son now runs the store out of Harrods.

“Of course, three weeks after I retired I got a phone call saying, ‘Can you come to Bermuda?

“I don’t mind doing that sort of work,” he laughed.

“We both fell in love with the island.”

‘That sort of work’ includes engraving the FA Cup every year at Wembley and the Rugby World Cup, The Webb Ellis Cup.

Sailing was a new one for him.

Louis Vuitton commissioned silverware experts Thomas Lyte, with whom he has a long-established working relationship, to design and make the Challenger Cup. The trophy was awarded to Emirates New Zealand after they defeated Artemis for a place in the finals.

“We’ve done some very good jobs and it’s been exciting on and off, but now I’m taking a bit of a back seat to travel and I can do the nice engraving jobs that I like. I’m lucky I see the FA Cup every year,” he said.

The guitarist is also taking time to focus on his music. He’s part of an acoustic trio called Back to the Fray and also lends his voice to a five-piece band.

He and Ms Pereira are setting up a music room in their house for recording.

“I’m slightly moving away from engraving although I’m picking up work already. The retirement isn’t really happening at the moment,” he laughed.

“It’s a different way of working and it’s so much better than travelling up to London on the trains and tubes.”

The former Londoners now live in Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset.

“I’ve lived in London all my life, but Chilly moved down 20-odd years ago,” Mr O’Connell said. “I just moved down four weeks ago, so I’m now living in Somerset and India, which is lovely.

He said their home in Goa gives them a good starting point to travel Asia. They’re already thinking about their next trip to Bermuda.

“We definitely want to look into more of Chilly’s ancestry as well because that was fascinating. To see Constance Gray and all the Grays and the Tuckers, all direct descendants — it’s quite amazing.