Bruce Dinwiddy, Governor of the Cayman Islands who co-ordinated aid and rescue after Hurricane Ivan struck – obituary

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Bruce Dinwiddy: meticulous and imaginative in his work – though virtue never precluded a twinkle in his eye
Bruce Dinwiddy: meticulous and imaginative in his work – though virtue never precluded a twinkle in his eye

Bruce Dinwiddy, who has died in Esher aged 75, was Governor of the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean when, on September 12 2004, the area was hit by Hurricane Ivan.

This was both a dramatic and disastrous event: gusts of wind up to 160 mph; waves 30 ft high; storm surges of sea water sweeping across the islands; and much of Grand Cayman, where Bruce Dinwiddy presided, left without power, water, or sewerage.

The miracle was that, while 80 per cent of buildings on Grand Cayman suffered greater or lesser damage, only two people were killed. Across the islands as a whole the cost of repairs was estimated at more than $3 billion.

As Governor, Bruce Dinwiddy was responsible for directing the recovery, and co-ordinating the aid and rescue programmes.

Fortunately, having already been in the Cayman Islands for two years, he was well in command. For two weeks, however, he was obliged to work from a corridor in the Westin Hotel, as his offices and residence had also suffered damage.

The first imperative was to establish supplies of clean water, and to resist the spread of disease, challenges which were speedily and successfully met.

By the end of November power supplies had been restored. 26 armed police arrived from Bermuda to help keep order. A minor disturbance at the prison was quickly suppressed.

Thereafter, the chief task was to clear up the overwhelming mess. By the time Bruce Dinwiddy’s Governorship ended in 2005, it was again possible to be optimistic about the future of the Cayman Islands, not least because of the measures taken against future hurricane attack.

Overcoming such a disaster was the crowning achievement in Bruce Dinwiddy’s career. “The people of the Cayman Islands will always remember him,” declared the Premier, Alden McLaughlin, after his death.

The tribute might be extended. At once meticulous and imaginative in his work, Bruce Dinwiddy always looked to serve others before himself – though virtue never precluded a twinkle in his eye.

Manners really did make the man. The sharpest criticism that he ever allowed himself was to venture that so-and-so was perhaps not his favourite person.

Bruce Harry Dinwiddy was born in Epsom on February 1 1946, and educated at Winchester, where he emulated his two elder brothers in becoming Senior Commoner Prefect – the first time in the school’s history that a fraternal trio had achieved this distinction.

Along with his sound academic performance, Bruce carried off the Queen’s Medal for English Speech, and was captain of both squash and golf.

In 1963 his father Tom Dinwiddy, a Master of the Supreme Court, wrote to the Tutor for Admissions at New College, Oxford, of which he himself was an alumnus, to give notice that Bruce would be following his two brothers in coming up the next year, to read Politics, Philosophy and Economics.

New College returned, somewhat unsportingly, that the boy would be required to take an entrance exam. Such trials, however, never troubled Bruce. At Oxford he was able to combine a respectable Second Class degree with captaincy of the university’s golf team.

After coming down in 1967, he joined the Overseas Development Institute as a Nuffield Fellow, and for three years worked as an economist in Swaziland.

Back in London, he was a research officer at the ODI. These early experiences forged an enduring concern for environmental issues.

In 1973 Bruce Dinwiddy moved to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Next year he published Promoting African Enterprise.

His first overseas posting, in 1975, was to Vienna, where he assisted in talks aimed at the reduction of military forces.

Curiously for so peaceable a character, Bruce Dinwiddy’s subsequent postings abroad were dogged by drama.

In 1981, shortly after his arrival as Head of Chancery in Cairo, President Sadat was assassinated.

Hardly had he taken up his position in 1989 as Counsellor in the Bonn embassy than the Berlin Wall came down.

In 1998, his installation as High Commissioner in Tanzania coincided with al-Qaeda’s deadly bomb attacks on the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.

Bruce Dinwiddy’s residence was also considerably damaged, fortunately without loss of life. He and his wife were obliged to move into the Sheraton Hotel for six months while repairs were being carried out.

Even his arrival in Great Cayman proved fraught. On the route into Georgetown, the new Governor’s Rolls-Royce collided with a dumper truck, and was damaged beyond economic repair. Thereafter his transport was a more prosaic Cadillac.

Only his spell as Deputy High Commissioner in Ottawa from 1992 to 1995 passed without significant incident.

At home, after a spell as Assistant Secretary in the Cabinet Office (1986-88), Bruce Dinwiddy played a key role in a review of Foreign Office personnel.

From 1995 to 1998 he was head of the Africa Department (Southern), in which capacity he developed fresh policies towards South Africa, recently liberated from apartheid.

One of his tasks was to help to arrange President Mandela’s state visit to London in 1996. The great man never seemed much troubled with formality. “Give my love to Lizzie,” he told Bruce Dinwiddy, who correctly deduced that he was referring to the Queen.

Bruce Dinwiddy retained his interest in, and concern for, the Cayman Islands, visiting them several times after retiring from the Foreign Office in 2005. From 2006 to 2015 he was chairman of the Wider Caribbean Working Group.

Bruce Dinwiddy enjoyed a particularly happy family life. He retained his enthusiasm for golf, especially at Aldeburgh and then at Royal Wimbledon, while tennis gradually took the place of squash. On all his postings he was accompanied by his piano.

The advent of cancer afforded a final opportunity for Bruce Dinwiddy to display his humanity, forever thinking of others before himself. Just before his death he was dictating letters of thanks to the doctor and nurse who had looked after him at Kingston Hospital.

He was appointed CMG in 2003.

He married, in 1974, Emma Llewellyn, whose father, Sir David Llewellyn, served under Winston Churchill in 1951-52 as Under-Secretary of State in the Home Department.

Bruce and Emma Dinwiddy had a daughter and a son.

Bruce Dinwiddy, born February 1 1946, died April 1 2021

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