Arguably Bermuda’s greatest supporter of the arts, Dick Butterfield has spent a lifetime as ambassador, patron and benefactor, but perhaps his greatest gift (and challenge) – the Bermuda Performing Arts Centre – is still to come.


Sitting in the living room of his ancestral home, Durham, Richard Darrell Butterfield, better known as Dick by his family, friends and colleagues, ponders a question. He is surrounded by antiques inherited from family and by fine furniture, some of which was made or restored by Bermudian woodworkers: a beautiful cedar music stand, for example, by cabinetmaker Fred Phillips, and a coffee/bridge table by Andre Hubbard. As befits a Commandeur of the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin whose hobby is wine, he has two wine cellars, one below his kitchen, another in a cottage outside. Outside, too, is his avocado tree orchard, which he, his wife, Susie, and his then gardener, Evaristo Viera, created out of a former tennis court and which is testament to another hobby, plant propagation. 

The question: “What achievement are you most proud of?” It is no wonder he takes time to answer, because as a former partner of Coopers and Lybrand Bermuda, he has been a driving force behind just about every organisation that has enriched Bermuda’s business and social environment. Indeed, in 1977 he was awarded the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal by Canada, and, in 1986, he received the OBE for his service and generosity to the community.

Eventually, he answers: “My involvement with founding the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bermuda [ICAB].” He explains that as founding president of the ICAB from 1973 to 1976, he had gone to the U.K. to ask if they would train local accountancy students. “They weren’t interested. Then Donald Lines, secretary to the ICAB, was going to Canada on business to meet with his former partner Lancelot Smith, president of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants [CICA] at the time. Donald had the brilliant idea we should become part of the Canadian Institute.”

The affiliation ensued, with the ICAB becoming a provincial institute of the CICA. “I’ve often wondered whether Bermuda’s insurance world would have developed as fast as it did without the founding of the ICAB,” says Butterfield. “It had a very important effect on Bermuda’s prosperity. We weren’t bookkeepers in a little backwater anymore.” Bermuda’s accountants could be recognised for the high standards demanded by the CICA. In fact, Butterfield received an award of merit from the CICA for his outstanding contribution to the chartered-accounting profession in Canada and Bermuda. He was only the eighteenth person to receive the rare award.

Important though the ICAB is, many people in Bermuda might be surprised by Butterfield’s answer. For them, his name is synonymous with his commitment and generosity to the arts in particular and to Bermuda’s culture in general. He is a patron or supporter of many arts and cultural organisations in Bermuda, including the Bermuda National Gallery, the Masterworks Museum, the National Museum of Bermuda, the National Dance Foundation and the Bermuda National Trust. In addition, he and his wife host social events in support of these organisations; the yearly wrap-up buffet evening for the Dance Foundation’s summer programme, where guests receive Bermuda gifts, is one example.

He is well known as the one person responsible through his passion and financing for keeping alive the hope of a Performing Arts Centre. Certainly, he is the first person to admit he has always had a deep and abiding love for the arts, one that goes back to his youth. Indeed, once he graduated from university, he spent his first five working years in the field of performing arts.

His interest is surprising at first glance, since his parents had no particular interest in the arts. To go back to the beginning, Butterfield was born in Bermuda on September 7, 1929, the second son of Sir Harry Durham Butterfield, who for many years headed the Bank of N. T. Butterfield, and of Florence Blair Heyward from Massachusetts. His childhood days were halcyon in more ways than one – he grew up with his older brother, Harry Chester, known as Chet, and his younger brother, Nathaniel Blair, in Halcyon, the Butterfield family home off Old Slip Lane in Pembroke Parish. His mother had come to Bermuda for a visit with her mother when she met her future husband.

“She was a very gentle soul, a very good mother who didn’t get upset about much,” says Butterfield. He has early memories of going to the dock on the property and threading a line with a bent pin to catch his breakfast, usually yellow grunts. He also remembers driving his white pony, Pinocchio, or Nocchi, for short. “My mother bought him from William Orr, who had lived on an island near Riddell’s Bay. When the Second World War broke out, he went back to the States. She also bought from him two traps. One was a hunting trap, a two-seater that was stout and sturdy, and the other a governess cart, which was like a basket with two seats.”

Another memory concerns a bachelor called John Hill Darrell, who Butterfield called Uncle Toby. “He worked in finance but he was also a painter. He had a studio in his house up the hill – he wanted his northern light. The rest of the house was very Spartan. He would have a bath in a tubful of water in the middle of his garden.” Butterfield smiles at the thought: when he and his brothers were outside, perhaps flying kites as they loved to do, they couldn’t help noticing the artist’s ablutions. His paintings were Bermuda land- and waterscapes, and years later, some would hang on Butterfield’s walls as part of his art collection.

Schooling began at Saltus Grammar School for boys, then under the helm of Bobby Booker, who Butterfield remembers as “a tall, upright headmaster who was strict but with a sense of humor.” One teacher he remembers with much affection and admiration was Frank Rogers, nicknamed Buck, who taught Latin and English. “He was a very skilled teacher, strict, but with a sense of humour, and he loved every one of his students. He taught me the structure of language and gave me a love for it.” He also gave Butterfield a lifelong love of Latin, which he believes should still be taught in schools, since it is the basis of many European languages.

Rogers also exposed Butterfield to drama, particularly the works of Shakespeare, analysing plays in such a way that students “could understand their essence.” While at Saltus, however, Butterfield never took part in the school’s theatricals for one very good reason: he had a stutter. ‚ÄúIt started when I was very young. Mr. Gibbons, a very tall man who fought in the war, used to keep a boat around here and would use our dock. I used to paddle him out to his boat. He stuttered, and some people thought I caught it from him. I could sing in the choir. Everyone can sing without stuttering, but I did not act in plays.”

Ironically, coping with his stutter later motivated him to act in a school play. In 1942, he left Bermuda to attend Trinity College School in Ontario. His father arranged for him to meet with a speech therapist in Toronto, who advised him to seek as many opportunities for public speaking as possible. As a result, he signed up for reading in chapel and debating. Then he courageously took the lead in the school play. “The play was called Captain Applejack,” he remembers, “and I managed to get through the whole thing without stuttering. That was my first introduction to the theatre, and I took to it like a duck to water.”

At the University of Toronto, Trinity College, he continued to participate in theatre, becoming a member of the Hart House Theatre, often dubbed “the cradle of Canadian theatre,” where the outstanding director Robert Gill served for over 20 years. Bu
tterfield acted in more plays during his four years at university, but he also became interested in other aspects of drama, such as costume and stage design. During his third year, he became president of the dramatic society, which was in debt. He decided the society should do better financially under his presidency. Thackeray’s Vanity Fair was one of the required texts in literature classes, and Butterfield knew seeing the play would be a godsend for students who had not read it. He found a dramatised version and asked Herbert Whittaker, an excellent theatre critic and director, to direct it. Whittaker agreed, and Kay Hawtrey – who was also a student at Trinity and would become an established actress – took the lead as Becky.

“It sold out, because so many students were studying the text and because the director was so well known,” says Butterfield. “It got very good reviews and we made a profit of $630 – absolutely unheard of!”

Butterfield’s interest in theatre administration continued once he graduated with an honours B.A. in French and Spanish and returned to Bermuda in 1951.

The Bermudiana Hotel, located on Bermudiana Road where the XL Building is now, had converted its ballroom into a repertory theatre whose weekly plays both hotel guests and locals enjoyed. He became the manager for a year, bringing to Bermuda two companies from Canada. Kate Reid, he remembers, was the leading lady. But his experience at the Bermudiana Theatre made him fully understand, possibly for the first time in his life, the unpleasant realities of Bermuda’s racially divided, discriminatory society. Though black entertainers sometimes performed there, black guests were barred from attending. Every night, dressed in his dinner jacket, he would greet members of the audience. Sometimes a black guest would arrive as a gesture of protest, and Butterfield had to turn him away because the theatre “was a private club.”

“I felt worse and worse about it,” he says. In 1952, he returned to Canada and spent two summers training in the Canadian Army Reserve. When not training, he again mixed with actors and members of the theatrical world in Hart House and Ottawa. It was through his theatre connections that in 1952 he worked a season as a stage carpenter building scenery for the Canadian Repertory Theatre in Ottawa, which performed in La Salle High School’s auditorium. He also was given the ghostly role of Hamlet’s father. He did not stay with the repertory theatre long. “Way, as Robert Frost put it, leads on to way,” explains Butterfield.

The previous year, British ballerina Celia Franca had come to Canada to found the National Ballet of Canada. The company’s general manager was Walter Homberger, a German impresario who had left Germany before World War II, arriving in Canada in 1940 and who would eventually become managing director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. “He needed a good company manager,” Butterfield explains, “and someone at Hart House recommended me. He and Celia came to Ottawa and interviewed me in a cafe.”

The interview was successful and a lifelong close friendship with Homberger began. David Haber, who had been stage manager at the Canadian repertory, also joined the company, again as stage manager. “He was brilliant,” Butterfield remembers. Together, travelling by train, they took the company from coast to coast and into the U.S. “It was fun. I learned a lot about ballet, how to recognise a good performance.”

Two years later, in the spring of 1954, Homberger mentioned that the newly founded Canadian Stratford Shakespearean Festival needed a box-office and theatre manager following an unsuccessful year employing amateurs. “I went to Stratford on the train,” Butterfield remembers, “and was interviewed. Tyrone Guthrie was the director; the previous year he had directed Alec Guinness in Richard III to great success.” Butterfield was duly hired and spent two seasons putting in place a new, more efficient box-office system he had devised himself after studying those used at the Edinburgh Festival and at theatres in Stratford-on-Avon in the U.K.

The Canadian Stratford Shakespearean Festival is so well established it is difficult to imagine that in its early years before the theatres were built performances took place under a circus tent. “I got to know the tent master, Skip Manley, very well. It was a very important position. Raising and dismantling the tent attracted thousands of people who would come and watch the spectacle.”

After two seasons, he decided it was time to leave. “I told Tyrone I’d had a marvellous time but I wanted to leave. I knew all about the theatre, and I thought if I wanted to stay in theatre administration I should learn more about the business side.”

He joined the accounting firm Coopers and Lybrand in Toronto as a student in 1956 and quickly rose through the company. By 1959, he had gained his CA and by 1961 had become a partner. In the meantime, he married Lillian Jarvis, a dancer he had met during his time with the National Ballet. In 1960, they had a son, Mark, who is now a doctor in California and the father of Kiara.

During Butterfield’s time at Coopers and Lybrand, a chance encounter with a doctor who was treating his father in a Toronto hospital led to a change in his life. The doctor noticed Butterfield’s stutter and asked whether he would like to meet a therapist known to have a good success rate. He agreed and for a year or so embarked on an unorthodox treatment. He was told he must promise to stutter deliberately on every word he spoke. Every week, the therapist’s graduate technician would ask Butterfield to role-play different scenarios; for example, she accompanied him on a streetcar where he was required to pretend he was a visitor to Toronto asking for directions from the driver, and to stutter on every word. Sometimes the requirement to stutter was embarrassing, when he had to make a presentation to shareholders, for example, or at his office party. Astonishingly, this approach worked. During his final appointment the doctor said, “You don’t need to stutter anymore.” Indeed, Butterfield did not. To this day, he has no trace of a stutter.

Lillian continued to dance and travel with the National Ballet, and her professional commitment put a strain on their marriage. In 1963, they divorced. He decided to return to Bermuda with their son, and after some years, they moved into Durham, a house built by his grandfather in 1892. He joined the accounting firm Cooper and Lines. “Kirk Cooper and David Lines had formed a partnership in 1962. I asked them, ‘Would you like a partner?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ I had a lot of experience in Canada. I knew I could make an important contribution. They knew the Bermuda scene, so the three of us made a very good team.” Together they formed Coopers and Lybrand Bermuda, which would eventually merge with and become PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) after Butterfield’s retirement in 1994.

Butterfield would never again work professionally in the performing arts. He had a successful business career while contributing voluntarily to Bermuda’s rise as an insurance centre. For example, in addition to founding the ICAB, he served as a director of the Bermuda Monetary Authority, chairman of the International Business Association (BIBA) and chairman of the Bermuda Government Public Funds Investment Committee.

Tom Miller, who joined Coopers and Lybrand in 1984 as audit manager and is now a partner at PWC, became a protege. “My first impression of Dick was how professional he was,” says Miller. “The other thing that surprised me was the great grasp of the law he had. He would look at legal documents and comment on how badly they were worded and put together. Written communication was a blind spot for me, but it was very important to him and he helped me improve mine. He taught me how much more professional I needed to become in order to present myself in a fashion that would be acceptable.”

Buck Rogers would surely have approved. He would also have approved of Butterfield’s continuing interest in the arts; he
spent much of his time outside Coopers and Lybrand supporting many organisations devoted to them. He was an auditor for the BMDS (in fact, in 1946 he had directed, produced and played the lead in the first play the BMDS had supported, Belinda, by A. A. Milne), and he became a founding member of the Bermuda Festival’s executive committee.

The Bermuda Festival was Governor Ted Leather’s brainchild; he had been a director of the Menuhin Foundation in Bath. He invited a group of people to Government House to discuss the possibility of starting a winter Bermuda Festival. Given Butterfield’s experience with the Canadian Repertory Theatre, Canadian Ballet and Canadian Stratford Festival, the governor must have found Butterfield’s contribution invaluable. John Ellison was elected the Festival’s first chairman in 1976, with Butterfield succeeding him for a brief period in 1981. However, he had so many other responsibilities he says his partners were concerned he was spending too much time on community work. He stepped down as chairman but he continued his support on the committee. “The Festival was very short of money. I don’t know how I did it, but I got significant sums of money – about $150,000, maybe $200,000 – into the kitty. I put a lot of time into it.” Today, of course, the Bermuda Festival is so well established few people can imagine there was a time without it.

During the 1970s, he met his future wife, Susan (Susie) Masters, at a New Year’s Day open house held by her mother. “We had probably met before that,” he says. In addition to his other activities, he served on the Royal Yacht Club’s management committee. “I began racing in 1963 in the International One Design (IOD) races on Thursday afternoons. Susie used to crew for her father.” Ironically, he first saw her when she was 7, performing a dance with another girl in a fundraiser held at the Bermudiana Theatre around 1950. “I was looking at my future bride!” They married in 1978 and have a son, Richard.

Susie shares her husband’s love of theatre, music, opera and ballet and his commitment to the arts. In the 1980s, a new project appeared on the horizon. Around 1985, Bobby Barritt, a Government minister, went to John White, owner and head of AAC (now AAC Saatchi and Saatchi) and asked if he would form a committee tasked to create a cultural centre for Bermuda. Butterfield, of course, joined the group. He remembers that John White said the group would raise the money to build it if Government gave the money to run it. “The silence was deafening!” Butterfield recalls.

Ruth Thomas, Bermuda’s first cultural officer, clearly recalls Butterfield’s involvement at this stage. “At some point, Government said it didn’t want any part of it. Dick started a new group and started meeting with us. There were about a dozen of us including Louise Jackson and John Gardner. We’d meet periodically. Dick invited us to lunch at the Yacht Club and brought in consultants at his expense. He was always so generous.”

They agreed that the new project would be called the Performing Arts Centre, and a theatre architect was hired to look at the City Hall Theatre to see if it could be improved. He advised they should start from scratch. They spent years looking at various sites, including the City Hall car park, but as Thomas puts it, “The years went by and there was not much headway.” She remembers the present recession beginning. “Dick called again and we started again. He’s very tenacious. He has never wavered from this dream he has for Bermuda. He is convinced that the Centre is what the island needs.”

Butterfield decided the project needed someone to lead it. Through Susie’s work as chair of the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, he met Gordon Johnson and was impressed by him. “In 2005, I asked him if he would like to join the project as a part-time consultant.” Johnson’s reply was disconcerting. Butterfield chuckles as he remembers it. “He said to me, ‘May I interview you, using the appreciative enquiry process?’ So he did interview me, and I thought, ‘This is it.’ Appreciative enquiry is a question-and-answer process that makes you look at opportunities and ways of developing them rather than as problems to solve. The difference is crucial.”

They were not getting the funds, he realised, “because we hadn’t consulted the community though we thought we had.” In 2009, at his own expense, he rented an office in town and hired Johnson to take over full-time. Since then, some 700 people from a cross-section of the community have been interviewed. “We’re now at a point where we need money to hire an architect and designer.” The Centre, he envisages, will house half a dozen flexible performing spaces with one lobby serving those spaces. And the site? Ideally, it will be part of the redeveloped Hamilton waterfront.

Thomas points out that Butterfield is passionate about what the Centre will do for the island. “He listens to everyone and he respects their views,” she says.

The days of turning people away from the Bermudiana Theatre may still burn in his memory, but the realities of discrimination on grounds of race, age or gender are over. “The people of Bermuda want with all their hearts to come together,” he says, “and they see this Centre as an opportunity.”

His financial generosity to Bermuda arts and culture is not limited to the Performing Arts Centre. He has appointed Dr. Edward Harris as trustee for a Bermuda Cultural Map Trust he is financing. (UNESCO recognizes cultural mapping as a vital tool in preserving a country’s cultural assets.) Eventually, the map will be incorporated into the National Museum of Bermuda.

He and Susie have also established a trust for all the arts that helps young people and arts organisations. One beneficiary is Malachi Simmons, who recently won the Chancellor’s Award during his second year at Edgehill University in Ormskirk, Lancashire, U.K., where he is studying for a B.A. in dance. Another is mezzo-soprano Kerri-Lynne Dietz, who is currently studying at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Both Susie and her husband have been enthusiastic patrons of Marjorie Petit’s St. John’s Choir, of which Dietz was a member. Butterfield also sang in the choir for many years. “The Performing Arts Centre might be the bigger thing. It’s important, but supporting Malachi, for example, is very important as well,” Butterfield says. “It’s a young man’s life.”

Another young man also benefitted from Butterfield’s attention: his godson, Nahge O’Brian, who tragically died of leukemia this year. Butterfield had given him sailing lessons every summer at the Yacht Club as a birthday present. “He loved sailing, and after four years of lessons went on to sail with the Spirit of Bermuda.” In his godson’s memory, Butterfield set up a trust enabling one new “companion” every year to take sailing lessons at the Yacht Club for as many years as that person wants, and another “companion” for the Bermuda Sloop Foundation with the same conditions. One such companion is Ciara Burrows, who loves sailing and working on the Spirit of Bermuda. “She writes me beautiful letters,” Butterfield says.

Ruth Thomas should have the last word: “What Dick does is not for personal glorification. He loves his island home, and he believes that art nourishes the spirit. He believes there’s a lot of talent on this island, and he wants it nourished.”