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Driving force behind Bermuda National Trust

  • Patsy Phillips
  • File photograph

Fondly remembered: Patsy Phillips made frequent Sunday trips around the island with donkeys Thelma and Louise

Mary Patricia “Patsy” Phillips, a keen horsewoman and former president of the Bermuda National Trust, has died. She was 85.

She led the Trust from 1990 to 1993 and supported the organisation in various roles, including as a co-ordinator.

Ms Phillips also assisted in running the Trustworthy shop, which she helped to set up in 1990.

The charity recognised her contribution with the creation of the Patsy Phillips Bermudiana Award, the Trust’s top accolade in the environmental category.

Mrs Phillips was a driving force in the modernisation of the Trust.

She brought in new rules to govern its operations and ran its fundraising efforts on business lines.

Ms Phillips told The Royal Gazette when she retired: “I really enjoyed the job.

“It was probably the greatest challenge of my life. I don’t think people realise what a challenge it is.”

Mrs Phillips added that she took pride in her hard-nosed approach to fundraising.

She said it was “vital for the Trust if it is to fulfil its mandate — to preserve open spaces and historic buildings.”

Ms Phillips was succeeded as president of the BNT by David White, then editor of The Royal Gazette and a good friend.

Bill Zuill, the executive director of the Trust, called her impact on the organisation “immeasurable”.

Mr Zuill, another former editor of the Gazette, said: “Patsy will be remembered by many for her extraordinary fundraising ability, which was shown to greatest effect in the very successful capital campaign she helped to oversee; the proceeds are still helping the Trust today.”

He added: “She was an inspiration to the Council and staff alike and her presence has been greatly missed during her long illness.

“We all offer our sincere condolences to Michael and Chris and their families.”

Mrs Phillips was an animal lover who was also president of the SPCA and defended the traditional local carriage horse industry.

She shared a philanthropic spirit and love of Bermuda’s open spaces and heritage with her late brothers, Sir David Gibbons, the former premier, and E. Graham Gibbons II, the late former mayor of Hamilton.

In particular, the family gifted Locust Hall in Devonshire to the BNT.

Her two sons were from her first marriage to veterinarian Paddy Heslop, who died in 2008.

Her second husband was the late John Phillips.

In her later years, Mrs Phillips was known to residents and visitors for her beloved donkeys called Thelma and Louise, who were stabled at home on Pitts Bay Road, Pembroke.

Complete with a vintage donkey trap, Mrs Phillips and her donkeys were a frequent sight during Sunday trips around the island.

Mrs Phillips spent much of her life at the Pembroke property, which included a barn and stables, although she spent some time in Britain and a year in Tanzania.

In 2006, she chronicled her donkey adventures in a 2006 children’s book The Escapades of Thelma & Louise.

Proceeds from sales were donated to the Trust.

Mrs Phillips was a strong supporter of the preservation of Bermuda’s green spaces and she warned in 2000 that there was “no greater issue facing us”.

She said then: “It is essential that we preserve these spaces because I believe it is important a child should grow up knowing what a cow looks like and to be able to see and grow fresh vegetables.”