The last scoop: Having written thousands of stories covering every subject imaginable, Meredith Ebbin is finally calling it quits. *Photo by Ras Mykkal
The last scoop: Having written thousands of stories covering every subject imaginable, Meredith Ebbin is finally calling it quits. *Photo by Ras Mykkal
Corrupt politicians, dodgy businessmen and unhelpful press officers can breathe a little easier today. Meredith Ebbin has outlasted seven Premiers, more hurricanes and editors than she cares to remember and even the switch from typewriters to computers.
But after 30 years of reporting in Bermuda (for every newspaper), hosting a radio show and editing a magazine, she's moving on, to dedicate her time wholly to her Bermuda Biographies website.
During three decades as a reporter she has borne witness to some of the most significant events in the island's history.
When the country closed for business during the 1981 strike, when Bermuda celebrated its first Labour Day, when the PLP finally came to power, Meredith was there and Bermudians heard about it, if not always first, then certainly most definitively from her pen. It was 1978 - the year this writer was born - when Meredith first started at the Bermuda Sun's old office in King Street. John Barritt, now a UBP MP, was the editor.
She didn't get into the trade for the money - her first wage was $1,000 a month - but simply for the enjoyment of being there for some of the most profound changes in Bermuda's history.
"I've been a spectator to nearly all the major events in the last 30 years" she said.
"I don't think people realize how much Bermuda has changed. Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I think back to Jennifer Smith being a classmate of mine at Berkeley Institute.
"If you knew Bermuda in the 1960s you couldn't have predicted what would happen. It wasn't even on my radar screen that she could be Premier. I'm sure it wasn't on her radar screen either.
"I can remember a time when people in the PLP weren't exactly outcasts, but close to it. So to see her Cabinet sworn in at Dockyard (the temporary Government House) has to be one of the most momentous and memorable stories that I covered."
Ms Ebbin begun her working life in 1969. She studied nursing because it and teaching were pretty much what black Bermudian women aspired to back then.
  But after being given a part-time opportunity at The Royal Gazette in the mid 70s she finally made the switch to full-time hack with the Sun.
She can't remember her first scoop, only that it was about the hospital and that it displeased her former bosses.
"I learned early on that being a journalist means upsetting people. You write a story about someone and then you see them on Reid Street the next day.
"I did fall out with a lot of people or they fell out with me, but no-one holds grudges forever. You mend fences with people."
One of the pitfalls for any journalist in Bermuda is to report the story honestly without alienating friends or burning contacts.
But anyone who has worked with Meredith will tell you she is a past master.
It's a lesson to listen to her grilling some ineffective politician ("come on... don't give me any of that no comment nonsense... I pay your damn wages") for up to half an hour at a time, before signing off with that infectious booming laugh that says 'it's okay -we're still friends.'
Though she may have been a thorn in the side of the inefficient and the ineffective on both sides of the house, there are few who have a bad word to say about Meredith. Sir John Swan, whose rise to power and reign as Premier she covered extensively, remembers: "We didn't always agree but she was certainly someone you could trust - on or off the record."
Some of her fondest memories are of press get-togethers on Thursdays at the Lobster Pot in the 80s: Earth, Wind & Fire in the background, a Bacardi and ginger ale that the bartender Edwin 'Chicken' Robinson had ready to place in her hand and a pack of hacks sharing deadline day stories. From Gerry Hunt, the hard-drinking Royal Gazette News Editor, now at the Daily Mail, to former Mid-Ocean News editor Amanda Outerbridge and her Bermuda Sun editors Tom Vesey and Tony McWilliam, she has great affection for some of the characters she has worked with.
You even sense a grudging respect for David White - the conservative former Gazette editor with whom she had her fair share of run-ins - particularly about the lack of Bermudian journalists employed at the paper.
"He was a character and I will say for him that he could make a decision. Like firing - on the spot - the photographer who refused to come to work on the day that Hurricane Emily struck in 1987 'because it was his day off.'"
She has equally colourful tales of the characters on the other side of the Dictaphone. One of her favourites was Ottiwell Simmons, the 'firebrand' union leader of the BIU who was given the nickname 'president for life' because people thought he would never leave the post.
"He was painted as a radical but he was a pussycat really," remembers Ms Ebbin, who wrote a definitive profile of him for the Bermuda Sun when he did finally step down.
There were others: the late Lee Edmead, who held an annual birthday party for his dog Buttons; Skipper Ingham, a PLP member who was always very vocal about political issues, Reginald Ming, who organised the first Bermuda Day parades and was known as Mr. Heritage; Joyce Hall, the Anglophile and guardian of Bermuda's British heritage and David Allen, the PLP loyalist and spin doctor who had 'two left feet' on the dance floor.
It's been fascinating for her to see some of the PLP hierarchy, genuinely thought of as radicals in the early days, now sitting as cabinet ministers.
Pendulum has swung
"It's funny to see how the pendulum has swung. I remember in the '80s covering Dale Butler and his group of activists protesting on one of the private beaches calling for all beaches to be opened to the public. Now he's a cabinet minister."
She remembers the likes of longtime PLP leader Freddie Wade and on the other side Quinton Edness as great contacts with plenty of media savvy - prepared to co-operate with the press in a way that their modern counterparts aren't always known for.
 "I know the PLP and the mainstream media, particularly The Royal Gazette, are traditional enemies, but I would argue that the PLP can rightly claim credit for helping to bring democracy to Bermuda and a free and open press is part of that democracy. You have to take the bad with the good."
She's sceptical, though, about the power of day-to-day journalism to bring about change.
"I think people have short memories. It's tomorrow's fish wrapping."
There's some justification in that cynicism. Some of the stories she wrote in the '80s - Government (then the UBP) clashing with auditor general Larry Dennis; calls for the licensing of tradesmen; a new hotel in St George's - have been recycled again and again. Only the names have changed.
"Bermudian society has been almost totally transformed but sometimes I think the more things change the more they remain the same.
"There were some stories that were written about 30 years ago and still nothing's changed. We're still talking about education, bringing in experts from overseas, paying them millions to write a report and we still have a mass exodus to the private system.
"It's like déjà vu all over again."
There's no escaping history, though, for Ms Ebbin, or her passion for the characters that have made this island what it is.
She's leaving the Sun to concentrate her efforts on her website - Bermuda Biographies -  a collection of definitive profiles and pictures of the key players in the island's history.
"Black and white Bermudians alike don't know their history. Information about those who have had an impact in this country is available, just not readily accessible. With my website, they now have ready access to information about people who made a difference to this country 24 hours a day."



For more years than she'd care to remember, Meredith Ebbin somewhat reluctantly took her turn at what for years was a weekly feature in the Bermuda Sun - the man-on-the street straw poll. Here, James Whittaker turned the tables and asked some high profile figures what Meredith's reporting has meant to Bermuda.
Sir John Swan
Former Premier

'Meredith is a reporter of great integrity; you could trust her on or off the record. She never put words in your mouth or tried to sensationalise. We didn't always agree and she was a good prodder... She's a wonderful person to get along with and I have great respect for her as a reporter.'

Chris Gibbons
Veteran journalist

'Meredith combines a love of the history and parochial detail that makes Bermuda and its people so fascinating. There is a unique perspective, fairness and compassion in her writing. As a senior black woman journalist, she a role model in her own right.'

Dale Butler
PLP Cabinet Minister

'She excelled on historic subjects. In politics she took no prisoners and probed until her tweezers gave her the headline she was looking for. It's sad she's is leaving at her peak because Bermudian journalists are hard to find. I wish her well.'

Quinton Edness
Ex-UBP Cabinet Minister

'She has always sought the truth and she always fought for the underdog. She was always on my case, I'm sure she's on my case even today but we became very good friends. I hope she continues to enjoy life and I wish her well. She's going to be sorely missed as a journalist.'

Walter Roban
PLP Senator

'It's sad when any seasoned journalist leaves the job. There are so few journalists dealing with current affairs who have such a good local knowledge. I always found her writing kept you on the edge of your seat. She understands local personalities and events.'