The Clark Gable of Bermuda politics

  • This charming man: Quinton Edness could decline to answer or evade tricky questions with a joke and a smile

When I arrived in Bermuda in late 1983, Quinton Edness was Minister for Works and Housing. I had given one of my new Bermudian colleagues at The Royal Gazette a lift home and gratefully accepted an offer of a cup of tea in payment from her mom. And there, half-sprawled in an armchair in the family room, was a big, handsome man, somehow oddly familiar, shooting the breeze with my workmate’s father. I didn’t know him then, either, but Walwyn Hughes and Quinton both worked for the Government.

Of course, as an ambitious young reporter, fresh off the plane, this seemed too good an opportunity to miss — a member of the Cabinet and the Director of Agriculture and Fisheries relaxed and in off-duty mode — but any hopes I had of a scoop, or even a minor indiscretion, were quickly dashed. The man asking all the questions was Quinton, not me. He wanted to know how long I had been on the island, whether I was homesick, what I was doing there, where I was living, what I thought of Bermuda so far, what I wanted to do with myself. He wanted to know about my family, and, in not so many words, what my intentions were towards my passenger, Dr Hughes’s daughter, Winifred.

This last inquiry was embarrassing, as I had known her for only a few weeks. But Mr Edness and Dr Hughes laughed uproariously. I joined in nervously, avoiding Winifred’s gaze. Two years later, when he gave a speech at our wedding, Quinton told everyone he had known my intentions before I did.

By then I knew him better, too. Like his friend, Sir John Swan, then the Premier, he was a garrulous, friendly politician even to a young reporter like me whose ignorance about the island must have been all too obvious. A visit to Quinton’s office always seemed to yield a story — although usually not the one you had been hunting. He could decline to answer or evade tricky questions with a joke and a smile, and seemed able to glide gracefully away from most controversies. But there were compensations for a newshound. Like all good Bermudians, Quinton loved to gossip and would often send you away with a new rabbit to chase (albeit a rabbit on someone else’s patch).

For all his charm and good humour, he was a very skilful politician: one who genuinely liked people, and the feeling was mutual (I remember how long it would take to walk from his office to lunch ... his progress along Front Street hampered constantly by folks coming up to greet him and have a chinwag). He was a highly effective and idealistic member of the Government and a patriot in the noblest sense of that word. In a long career in journalism, mostly spent away from Bermuda, I have met prime ministers, presidents and princes, but I never met a politician I liked more.

As I looked sadly at the photograph of Quinton in The Royal Gazette last night, I realised, finally, who it was that he had reminded me of all those years ago: the great Hollywood star Clark Gable.

It was not just the moustache. Or the clothes so elegantly worn. There was something in that confident smile, the mischievous twinkle in the eyes.

How he would have laughed at the comparison. How I wish I could hear him do that today.

Keith Blackmore worked at The Royal Gazette and Mid-Ocean News from 1983 to 1985 and was Editor of the Bermuda Sun from 1985 to 1988. Since then, he worked at The Times in London and is now Managing Editor of BBC News and Current Affairs