The Great Achiever

CANON THOMAS NISBETT

Thomas Nisbett is a soft spoken, gentle, God fearing man. He is the son of Eli and Adina Nisbet, who emigrated here from Nevis in 1923. There were eight children from this union. Thomas celebrates his birthday on 24th. October 1925. His elder sisters, Mavis and Laurette, travelled to Bermuda with their parents. The Senior Nisbett’s were married in St. George Church in Nevis, where his grandfather was a Superintendent of the Sunday School and his father soon succeeded in his footsteps. Eli Nisbett was the carpenter who built the organ loft in St. George Church in his home town, Nevis. Thomas and his brother David Ifor apparently inherited the gift for the profession of carpentry. They built their home in North Village, and there the Nisbett family began to make their presence felt. During the early school days of Rev. Nisbett he attended the Band Room School under the Supervision of Mr. Edward Robinson, and then at Central School the early classes there were not co-ed at the time but they did participate together on sports days. Thomas spoke affectionately about some of his teachers some who remained outstanding for him were Mrs. Edna Jackson Thomas , Mrs. Elizabeth Smith, Mrs. Ainsley Hodgson and Dr. Kenneth Robinson. Thomas related his days spent at Central School was the best he ever spent. Central School was a place where everyone was like one big family and although the name may now be changed to Victor Scott, for North Villagers, Central School will never die. As a young man he worked with Miss Rebecca Williams delivering the monthly church magazines around the parishes of Devonshire Dock Hill to North Village Government Gate now know as St. Monica’s Road. Like a rainbow taking its rest upon the earth, Thomas Nisbett’s life was being moulded by the spiritual consciousness of his father who was a devout Anglican when he arrived here in Bermuda. However, on being informed that no black people were allowed to worship at the church of St. John The Divine, he joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and there he became a Sunday School Teacher a position the Senior Nisbett held until his death in 1951. The children attended various Sundays which seem to be a local tradition. They attended St. Paul A.M.E. , Heard Chapel A.M.E. The Pentecostal Church, and St. Monica’s Mission.

Thomas became the first Altar boy at the Mission at age 8years. By age 16 in 1941 he became the first server. Mother’s Day in 1946 he preached his first sermon, his text being “I am the vine, and ye are the branches.” From 1946- Palm Sunday of 1947, he had preached some 60 Sermons. He became a much loved and appreciated Minister at the Mission. He later attended Codrington Theological College in Barbados, where his dedication to God’s work was not an easy road. He faced many injustices and many stumbling blocks were set in his path, but because he was rooted firmly in his belief he pushed on.

Thomas was a boy scout and honourary member of the North Village Band. In January 1945, he was called into the Bermuda Militia Army, and this interrupted his ministry. He trained in the B.M.A. but served in the Bermuda Militia Infantry. Some of his time he spent at St. David’s and some at Darrell’s Island. He was the first to serve as Chaplin to the Governor and Rector of Christ Church in Devonshire. He married Winifred Smith a Somerset girl and of that union had two sons Michael who is a Nurse and Thomas Jr. who resides overseas.

Awards and Citations: Kiwanis Award-1974; Certificate of Honorary Membership-North Shore Band; Past President Bermuda Ministerial Association; Governing body of the Sunshine League; Secretary of Anglican Alliance; Member of the Apartheid Committee; Citizen of the Year Award; African Heroes Service Award-1986 Ordained Deacon in 1962; and Priest in charge 1963.

Without any doubt, Canon Thomas Nisbett was divinely chosen to serve his people. The North Villagers are proud to know that he branched from our community of Pembroke Parish. No matter the battle he will continue to walk with his hand in God’s hand and his face toward the sun.

Researched and interviewed by Joy Wilson-Tucker See book ‘Lest we forget They Paved the Way’ Written by Joy