Bermuda Calling
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 12 Dec 1974, p. 149-159
Leather, His Excellency Sir Edwin, Speaker
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Item Type
Various gifts and presentations to the Joint Chairmen of the meeting (Sir Arthur Chetwynd and Mr. Kenny of The English Speaking Union) and to both clubs from the speaker on behalf of Bermuda. A history and description of Bermuda. Bermuda in a global context. The speaker's responsibilities in his country. What Bermuda has to offer the tourist.
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12 Dec 1974
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Full Text
DECEMBER 12, 1974
Bermuda Calling
AN ADDRESS BY His Excellency, Sir Edwin Leather, K.C.M.G., GOVERNOR OF BERMUDA
JOINT MEETING The Empire Club of Canada and The English Speaking Union
CHAIRMAN Sir Arthur Chetwynd, President, The Empire Club of Canada


Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: The year 1963 marked the sixtieth anniversary of The Empire Club of Canada. Arthur J. Langley was president during our Diamond Jubilee celebrations that season. Arthur was to be at the head table today, but unfortunately he is confined to a sick bed.

One of the jewels in our diadem of speakers that season was Sir Edwin Leather. He spoke to the Empire Club on March 12, 1964. No doubt many of you in this room will remember Sir Edwin's remarks at that time.

I am deeply honoured that I should have the opportunity of welcoming Sir Edwin for a second visit after a ten-year absence, this time to a joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and the English Speaking Union. In 1964 he was Sir Edwin Leather, M.P. This time he is still Sir Edwin Leather but with many added personal honours, most particularly as the Queen's representative on the island of Bermuda.

A reference to the Empire Club Yearbook of the 1963/64 season carries the text of Sir Edwin's speech entitled "What Use is the Commonwealth?" I believe he could well have repeated that speech here today with effect.

Here are some quotes from that speech. "We live in troublous and trying times--the world is full of horrors and the great thing about our age is that you can now see most of them right at home on television." "Have you ever thought that the modern Commonwealth, is in fact, very much the handiwork of Canadians?" "I wonder if all the pundits diagnosing Canada at the moment are really so much wiser than the Fathers of Confederation?" "A devastating challenge faces the rich countries of the western world."

Our speaker is one of that distinguished group of Canadians some of us in this room can remember--for example, Sir Bonar Law, Lord Beaverbrook, Sir Beverley Baxter, Lord Thomson--who went to Britain and took with them to the Mother of Parliaments the scent of pine forests and some of the glory of the maple leaf. The net effect, I think, has not been to make Canadians more British--but rather to make the British more Canadian. In any event, they have oftentimes provided a most useful voice for Canada abroad, because although they lived and worked in Britain, their hearts were in Canada, and they continued to think in terms of a stronger Canada in a unified and continuing Commonwealth. They are a part of that group which has added a mid-Atlantic accent to world affairs.

Sir Edwin was born in Toronto, but moved to Hamilton at an early age, and was educated at Trinity College School and the Royal Military College. During the war years of 1939-45 he served with the Canadian Army in the United Kingdom and Europe. Much taken with the country of his forebears, he remained in England after the war and took up a busy life in politics and commerce. During the years 1950 to 1964 he was Member of Parliament for North Somerset.

His business activities have included directorships of William Baird Ltd., William Baird Textiles, Hill Samuel and Co. Ltd., Leather Cartage Company, his family firm in Hamilton where he was on the executive committee, British Commonwealth Producers Organization, British Caribbean Association (Chairman), Horder Centres for Arthritics.

He served on the Central Board of Finance of the Conservative Party, 1963 to 1970, and was chairman of that board in 1969-70. He was the Canadian Legion representative on the executive committee of the British Commonwealth Ex-Servicemen's League from 1954 to 1963, and received the Medal of Merit of the Royal Canadian Legion.

In cultural affairs he has served as Deputy Chairman of the Yehudi Menuhin School and the Menuhin Orchestra. He was Chairman of the Bath Festival Society from 1960 to 1965. He is a musician in his own right. He is a lay reader in the Church of England and an experienced broadcaster and writer for television.

As is known to many of our guests today, Sir Edwin served as Deputy Chairman of the English-Speaking Union in 1973. He was knighted by Her Majesty in 1962, made a Knight of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in 1974, and earlier this year had bestowed upon him the high honour of the KCMG, Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George.

With a lifetime of experience in government, the military, the arts--and just plain working with people--it is easily seen that his appointment in 1973 as Governor and Commander-in-Chief to the then troubled Island of Bermuda (where his predecessor Sir Richard Sharples was assassinated) was a propitious one.

He has chosen as the title of his address "Bermuda Calling". The British are known for their traditional reserve and economy in communication. To illustrate this there is a story that in the course of an argument, a Canadian informed an Englishman that the inhabitants of the old country were much too reserved. "Oh nonsense," replied the Englishman. "Why, years ago, when I was in the Cambridge Eight I knew all the other fellows quite well . . . that is, all excepting one, and he was away up in the bow."

I am sure that story is less true now because of the flamboyance which our guest speaker brings to his lifetime tasks. I expect that we shall find his Bermuda call a siren song hard to resist as he recounts some of his experiences and tells us something about the wonderful place where he now lives and continues to serve the Crown.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honour to introduce to you His Excellency the Governor of Bermuda, Sir Edwin Hartley Cameron Leather.


Sir Arthur, ladies and gentlemen: Thank you for that glowing introduction.

When one has had so many odd things happen as I have, introductions are a bit of a hazard. But believe me, being the Governor of Bermuda does not present anything like so much introductory hazard as that of a good friend of mine who is the Governor of the American Virgin Islands. He stood up on an occasion very much like this and heard himself introduced: "Ladies and gentlemen! Pray silence for the Virgin of Governor's Island!"

Now, Sir, before I go any further, I would like to make two presentations-to you, Sir Arthur, and to Mr. Kenny, as the joint chairmen, and for your kindness in asking me here I wish to confer on you certain decorations.

By virtue of absolutely no authority whatsoever, and entirely on my own initiative, and without permission of Her Majesty (my boss), I am pleased to bestow on you both the distinction of Knight Commander of the Most Happy Order of Bermuda. This is the insignia of your rank.

For the benefit of those who cannot see, that is not a fish hook on there, it is a map of Bermuda, surmounted by the Royal Crown. It is my private Order which I invented for the distinction of those who have rendered unique service to the people of Bermuda--by asking their Governor out to lunch! I am to tell you that it conveys on you a distinction which holds good even in Canada. You are now hereafter, for the rest of your lives, entitled to write after your names the letters KCOB, but be careful how you write it or there might be some misunderstanding.

And also I would like to present both of your clubs, if I may, with these documents. They are maps, actually-maps of Bermuda. They are rather special ones and rather interesting. They are reproductions of the original map of Bermuda which was drawn by a young English surveyor called Richard Norwood in the year 1616. It was the first survey that was ever made on the western side of the Atlantic. In 1965, Bermuda was surveyed for the second time. It was discovered that Richard Norwood, working with the primitive tools of 1616, in surveying the whole islands of Bermuda, was precisely 3/16 of one inch out!

I would like to present these maps to you. They bear the Great Seal of Bermuda. They are signed personally by the Governor. I thought you would like to know I can write! It tells you all about them on the back. It's written in Latin, so you'll both be able to understand it quite clearly.

Now, Mr. Chairman, thank you for your wonderful luncheon. There really isn't much that I can say, because in my present position I am forbidden to talk politics. I have it in command from Her Majesty that I am not to tell you what she thinks about Mr. Harold Wilson, or Mr. Edward Heath, or any of the distinguished people who govern Canada, and I certainly am not allowed to comment on the politics of Bermuda. I'm sure Mr. Michener will understand my predicament. He, of course, is an old hand at it and I'm just a beginner. Whether John Robarts would be so sympathetic with my dilemma I don't quite know. But in fact you see before you, my friends, a very sad sight. A speechless politician!

But I can just say at least one sentence, which I shall get off my chest right now. I am sure it is historic. I'm quite certain it has never been said in Toronto before, and I hope it will interest you. "I bring to Toronto, and the people of Toronto, greetings, good will, admiration and friendship from the people of Hamilton . . . Bermuda!"

Having gone from one Hamilton to another, you will understand that I am inclined to get my Hamiltons muddled up. I would not dare say that in front of Mayor Vic Copps. He might misunderstand-and he's got to listen to this same speech tonight.

I might say, for Toronto, you are getting the cleaned-up version. Quite frankly, when I spoke to the Empire Club ten years ago, it was a stag lunch, and I didn't realize that today I would be surrounded by so many charming ladies. So I've been busy crossing out the more lurid passages.

Of course I bring you all a special greeting from the Bermuda branch of the English-Speaking Union. I'm glad to hear the ESU is thriving here in Toronto. In fact I'm glad the English language survives at all here in Toronto. I wonder how much of the credit for this unlikely achievement must rest with Professor Marshall McLuhan, who addressed this Club not long ago? I read that speech with the utmost interest. I noted he said, "It is important for survival to understand that the simultaneous data of the omnipresent information environment is itself structurally acoustic." I'm all for survival, and I'm sure the professor is absolutely right. But I'm darned if I understand what he meant!

Communications. we are so often told, is one of the great creations of our age. Perhaps it is true, but some of the most profound remarks ever made on the subject that I know of were said many years ago by men who were both in their seventies at that time. That great Canadian wit, pillar of the York Club, and dear friend, Leonard Brockington once wrote, "According to the latest figures issued by the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, over 90% of the world's newsprint is made in Canada. May God forgive us!" And it was way back in 1928 that Will Rogers defined an optimist as a person who had not seen a newspaper for three days! Today I reckon it would take five or six but the principle is the same.

Being a bit of a Gordon Sinclair addict myself--you know, when I did Front Page Challenge recently Mr. Sinclair was so nice to me he didn't even ask me what my salary was--I believe in homespun philosophy. But, news? I'm sure we would all be happier without most of it. I'm a warm-hearted chap, I am genuinely sorry if they have floods in Bangladesh, and revolutions in Chile, and terror raids on the borders of Israel, but it's really not my fault, and I'm darned if I believe it is good for my soul that all the world's horrors should take place in my living room. I'm told that out at Toronto airport these days one dare not say "Richard Rohmer" out loud without starting a panic! Everyone thinks the United States Marines are coming down the runway, and my old classmate Pierre de Gaspe may not be there to meet them.

Communications, news, noise, we are deluged with it. And most of it in English. Or what today passes for English.

Most of it is initiated by the two countries whose geography and history have impinged most greatly on Canada, as on Bermuda, Britain and the United States. The destinies of these countries, whether we like it or not, have done more to influence the development of the entire world so far in this century than any others. Two great countries, as George Bernard Shaw said, joined together by the Atlantic Ocean and irretrievably separated by a common language! I read of a NATO press conference in Brussels just a short while ago where a German newspaperman put a long complicated question to two of the Staff Generals. The English general said, "Quite". The American general said, "I think you can definitely quote me as saying that the Pentagon could go along with that provided there is no major change in the strategic environment of the infrastructure." I suppose they both meant the same thing.

But let me tell you about Bermuda. To start with the Bermuda Government Tourist Office is at 85 Richmond Street West, right here in Toronto. Our Toronto General Manager is Ron Bassett. Air Canada will get you there in a little over two hours, and Howard Kennedy and Ron Williams are right there with plenty of Bermuda time tables--be sure not to leave this room without getting your free copy! They have both been stationed in Hamilton and can vouch for every word I say!

We are only twenty-six miles long and one smile wide. We have the highest average net income in the world, but we limit motor cars to only one per household and the speed limit is twenty miles an hour. We are the only country in the world where you can see bank chairmen peddling to their offices on scooters. We exist just to serve all you nice Canadian and American tourists who come down and leave all those lovely dollars behind you. Frankly, we would all starve if you didn't. Some 80% of our income depends on tourism.

We like to be as close to you as we can get, but alas, the path of Newfoundland is quite impossible for us. Dearly as we love Canadians and Americans, you both indulge in a barbaric custom called income tax! When I asked a good friend of mine, a real salt of the earth old Bermudian fisherman, what he and his friends thought about income tax, he replied loud and clear, "No way, man!" It is certainly not for the Governor to enter into party political controversy, thank Heaven, but it is only reporting the facts to say that many Bermudians strongly resent the phrase "tax haven". They reply simply, "We have built the highest living standards in the world without income tax. Maybe you people could learn something from little Bermuda?" And that could lead on to a joyful Canadian party political controversy which I have no intention of getting mixed up in either.

To be the only Canadian Colonial Governor in history, so far as I know, is, I admit, a fascinating situation. To be Governor of Bermuda must be just about one of the most delightful jobs in the world, as any of you will understand who have ever visited our paradise archipeligo. To those of you who haven't I can only say you have one of life's most pleasant and happy-making experiences still to come. And that is nowhere near the end of my commercial!

Just in what precise way Bermuda is a "colony" is a subject only understood by advanced metaphysicians. Bermuda has in fact been self-governing a great deal longer than Canada; some 355 years to be exact. And Bermudians are very much, as Mr. Vincent Massey once pointed out about Canadians, the more British in that they passionately adhere to that most British of all human characteristics, the determination to do everything in their own sweet way!

We have a democratically elected House of Assembly and an Upper Chamber--and something that is unique about us, we are a completely intermixed bi-racial society. We are the closest thing to a 50/ 50 black/white society that exists anywhere in the world. There are countries like the United States that are 90% white and 10% black; many lovely countries like Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados have a population 95 to 98% black. In Bermuda we're very nearly 50/50. The Premier happens to b° black. I happen to be white. The Cabinet is roughly half black and half white. We have two Supreme Court Justices. It just happens that one belongs to each race. The boards and managements of our banks and our big public institutions are all racially integrated.

We have some people with racist attitudes. I know most of them. There would be about one hundred on each fringe--about one hundred radicals on the black side and one hundred real old troglodyte reactionaries on the white side. I have said in public that I wish we could revert to real colonial status for just one day--when the Governor had totally autocratic power. Because I know exactly what I would do. I would have the police round up the whole two hundred of them, take them out and stick them on one of our uninhabited islands and say, "There, you idiots! Sit and scratch each others' eyes out and let the rest of us get on with it!"

We have no barriers except ability and hard work. And our Treasury allows those who earn the fruits of hard work to keep them. Our Government's demands on Gross National Product, at some 20%, are just about the lowest in the world. But before anyone gets too excited I have to tell you that we also have very restrictive immigration laws. But we have ten tourists for every one resident.

According to the Constitution I have certain real, indeed heavy, responsibilities. I am responsible for the police, for internal security, for defence and for external affairs. But the functions of all the fine bodies of men and women so concerned are to carry out the laws of Bermuda. I don't make the laws of Bermuda. The elected House of Assembly does. My job is to ensure those laws are carried out.

What this really means in Canadian terms is that I act as the Prime Minister's Minister of Justice, and his External Affairs Secretary, and my office is the whole caboodle of communications with other Governments and innumerable international organizations. If I didn't do it they would have to hire others to do so.

Of course, we do not have serious foreign policy problems in Bermuda. We were not deeply offended to discover that we were not invited to the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks. We were never consulted on the cease-fire in Vietnam either. The permanently itinerant Dr. Henry Kissinger has not visited us for four years; and from the occasional references to us in the United Nations it is eminently clear that those distinguished gentlemen don't even know where we are!

On the other hand the myriad complications of international airline traffic, routing and communications, radio frequencies, postal regulations, the laws of safety at sea and shipping registration are all vital to our existence. The problems of pollution of the sea are of the most urgent concern to Bermuda, and you may be surprised to know that much a of the world's most fundamental research in this field is conducted in and around our islands.

We have several of the world's finest championship golf courses, unlimited year-round tennis and a temperature which rarely reaches above 90 or below 55. We have Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Red Cross, St. John's Ambulance and a Canadian Branch of the Salvation Army. There are over three hundred active charities and voluntary organizations amongst our 55,000 residents, including the English-Speaking Union, the Royal Commonwealth Society and the Canadian Club. We have one of the best Hotel Colleges in the world, a National Trust, Conservation Committee, Garden Clubs and six ex-servicemen's associations. And for the benefit of all other Tor-Scots and 48th Highlanders, I am the only living Governor who wears the kilt and can turn up with my own piper! We still have full official holidays on Remembrance Day and Queen Victoria's birthday. We have 235 square miles of the most beautiful reefs you ever saw and some of the safest and most exciting diving you can find anywhere in the world.

Mr. Chairman, you must forgive me. I could go on enthusing about Bermuda all afternoon. It was that well known, and not entirely uncommunicative Torontonian, Roy Thomson, who once told me the only difference between rape and rapture is salesmanship. I admit I'm rapturous about Bermuda. Just come and see for yourselves. I promise you there is no nicer place to spend Christmas, and though you will find Air Canada flights from now till after New Year are fully booked, if you ask them nicely to put on extra flights, I promise you we will give them extra landing permits.

Merry Christmas, God bless you, and thank you.

Sir Edwin Leather was thanked on behalf of those present by Mr. Melvin Kenny, President of the English-Speaking Union.

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Bermuda Calling

Various gifts and presentations to the Joint Chairmen of the meeting (Sir Arthur Chetwynd and Mr. Kenny of The English Speaking Union) and to both clubs from the speaker on behalf of Bermuda. A history and description of Bermuda. Bermuda in a global context. The speaker's responsibilities in his country. What Bermuda has to offer the tourist.