The “Bobby in the Birdcage” on Front Street in Hamilton was said for many years to be the most photographed police officer in the World, and was without doubt a popular duty for young single constables during College Weeks!
We have a number of photos of constables directing traffic at the junction of Front Street and Queen Street long before the birdcage existed as can be seen in the first photographs below. It's more then likely that constables have been directing traffic there since at least the early 1950's as shown in the photo of young constable Douglas "Red" Hebberd who joined the Bermuda Police Force in 1949.
Another young constable, then P.C. Hubert Simmons, joined the Police Force in 1950 and quickly gained an international reputation for his unique style of directing traffic at Heyl's Corner as can be seen in this article published in the Royal Gazette on 5th August 1951. Hubert 's photos were flashed around the world and tourists would stop and marvel at his balletic performances. Unfortunately, we don't as yet have any photographs of Hubert in action other than this image in the Royal Gazette even though we are aware that he was also filmed. We are making every effort to locate photos or film of Hubert in action and would greatly appreciate any assistance in this regard.
We were aware that the then Hamilton City Engineer, Geoffrey "Dickie" Bird, came up with the idea of providing a fully raised platform with a cover over it for constables on point duty. We were not sure exactly when the "birdcage" was installed so we contacted Dickie's wife, Jean, who recalls that it was his idea to build a structure that would give both shade and shelter to the police officers directing traffic at Heyl's Corner. Jean says that once he had designed the structure it took just a couple of weeks at most to construct. We were later able to confirm that it was installed in 1962.
This was completed in August 1962, and could there ever have been any doubt about what it should be called! Naturally, it immediately became known as the "birdcage", and all of us who have performed traffic duty in it are eternally grateful to Dickie Bird because it made directing traffic there so much more comfortable, especially during College Weeks!
It was badly damaged some time later and a strengthened replacement took several months to build but was no doubt much safer for the constable on duty there. Since then it has been upgraded but its shape and name remain the same. Sadly, this icon of Bermuda is hardly used these days despite the fact that it was an extremely popular tourist attraction for decades.
However we know that literally hundreds of Bermuda police officers will have fond memories of directing traffic in the birdcage while being photographed, and we are hoping that many those officers will have photos in their own collections and will send them to us.
P.C. John Francis (Ian "Crash") Kane directing traffic at the
junction of Reid Street and Queen Street circa 1954.
Note that Queen Street was two-way in the early 1950's
Front Street, Hamilton 1964. P.C. Alex Forbes directs traffic in the birdcage
at Heyl's Corner while P.C. Roger Sherratt chats with a Customs Officer.