Gil Tucker, left, and Ted Staunton look back in time at a picture of Henry Hallett, who was headteacher when Mr Tucker became the first black student to attend Saltus Grammar School. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Gil Tucker, left, and Ted Staunton look back in time at a picture of Henry Hallett, who was headteacher when Mr Tucker became the first black student to attend Saltus Grammar School. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14: The first black student to walk through the gates of Saltus Grammar School has been appointed chairman of the Board of Trustees.

Gil Tucker was just 11 years old when he switched from Harrington Sound School to go to Saltus in 1966.

His arrival signalled the end of segregation in the island’s schools, but he had to wait a year before he was joined by other black students at Saltus.

“Coming to Saltus at that time was a very interesting experience,” he said.

“My parents did not make a big deal about it, they just said, ‘Get up and go to school’.

“So I took the bus to school every day, and for the first year was the only black child in school.

“I probably spent a lot of my time just trying to fit in rather than worry about my academics.

“My parents would never allow race to be an issue. I was never allowed to use it as a crutch or excuse.”

Memories

Mr Tucker was a talented sportsman and represented the school in rugby, cricket and soccer.

And despite the odd brush with authority when caning was still a form of punishment, he went on to become Head Boy in his final year.

“I made some life-long friends in my time at Saltus and have some great memories,” said Mr Tucker.

“I always enjoyed sport and I never felt that I was not treated fairly.

“In fact the administration bent over backwards to make sure I was treated like every other child.

“I was the school’s working diversity programme and always pushed to the front. I got in trouble like all the other boys.

“I remember the headteacher had half a dozen canes to choose from when he gave out the punishments, compared to when I was at Harrington Sound and we had just one.”

Mr Tucker performed all the duties of the Head Boy, including laying a wreath on the grave of Samuel Saltus. He said: “There was a 50-50 split as to whether I should do it.

“After all, the school had been built for the education of white boys.

“But my father’s views prevailed and he told me, ‘If you take a job you do the job’.”

When he left Saltus in 1971 Mr Tucker headed to the US to pursue his accountancy qualifications.

He studied in Boston and settled in the US until 1987, when he and his family returned to Bermuda.

Mr Tucker said: “I guess I had lost touch with Saltus a bit, although I kept in touch with a few individuals.

“Then a funny thing happened in 1996 and I was asked to make a speech to the graduates on the 25th anniversary of my own graduation.”

Soon afterwards, Mr Tucker became a Trustee for the school and has worked in that capacity ever since.

His son Rodwyn and daughter Alaina also attended Saltus in the 1990s.

Change

Mr Tucker officially took over the reins as chairman of the Board of Trustees at the beginning of this school year.

He said: “I’m very excited about the opportunity and looking forward to the year ahead.

“You just have to take a walk through the school to feel the vibrancy, and I feed off it. The place is alive and it feels good to come here.

“Change is a given these days — we have to make sure we are in the best place to give the students the knowledge and the ability to deal with that change.

“We will be looking to increase the work we do with the students that have left school now and to keep those links with former pupils at home and abroad alive, as they are important to the school as a whole.”

Ted Staunton, headteacher at Saltus, said: “Having a man like Gil as chairman means a great deal, especially to me as head.

“He is very committed and has all the right values and knowledge to support the school.”