Family matters: John Barritt Senior, third from the left, is seen here with his wife, four children and their spouses. *Photo  supplied
Family matters: John Barritt Senior, third from the left, is seen here with his wife, four children and their spouses. *Photo supplied

“Dad worked hard his whole life to give us what he never had.”

This was the fitting tribute from John Barritt’s children last night as the island mourned their father’s passing.

The popular and highly respected MP, who served as Speaker of the House for 10 years, died at his Devonshire home yesterday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.

While community leaders praised Mr Barritt’s contribution to his country, two of his children spoke of their father’s devotion to his family as well as the people of Bermuda.

His daughter, Jennifer Johnson, told the Sun: “Dad was the third eldest of five children, and even though he had a scholarship, his parents could not afford for him to continue at school.

“So he left school at 16 and began work as an office boy sweeping floors at Powell and Company Ltd on Front Street.

“He later went to secretarial school and was the only male in the class learning manual typewriting and shorthand.

“My dad just educated himself by reading and writing and he took classes in public speaking too.

“He worked at Powell and Company for many decades and gradually worked his way up the ladder to the position of partner before entering the political world.”

His son, John Barritt Junior, added: “Dad always valued a good education and it was the one thing he wanted for all of his children.

“He was very much a self-taught man; he did a lot of courses and a lot of reading. He had many sayings and one that I remember him telling us as children was ‘the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary’.

“For most of his life he worked damn hard to get us that education that he did not have.”

Mr Barritt Snr was brought up in the Spanish Point area of Pembroke along with his three brothers, Robert, Leon and Howard, and his sister Joan.

He married Hilary Pantry in 1944 and the couple had four children: John, Jennifer, Mark and Martha-Jane.

Mr Barritt Jnr said: “He was a very good father. I was always amazed by the breadth of his knowledge.

“He was a great judge of a man and character and he could quote some passages, not just from the Bible, but Shakespeare too.

“He would work long hours and when he got involved in politics, we lost more of him to that because he was such a committed man.

“The people I have spoken to have described dad as a ‘true gentleman’.

“Dad taught us that your reputation is what you earn and what you stand by.”

Mrs Johnson, added: “He was a wonderful friend and such a wise man.

“He was full of sound, good advice.

“He was very caring and a man of great faith.

“Dad was old school. He was very well-respected and honest, and he could be brutally honest at times.

“I remember as a child him picking me up from school on a Thursday and putting me on the handle bars of his bike and taking me to the movies.

“That was what we did every Thursday.”