Tim Hodgson: ‘An Exceptionally Gifted Writer’

December 3, 2019

An exceptionally gifted writer, a talented journalist, and a man with encyclopedic knowledge are a few of the terms being used to describe the late Tim Hodgson, who recently passed away at the age of 57.

Tim’s career spanned decades and encompassed a myriad of contributions to the island’s journalism scene, most notably as an editor of the Mid-Ocean newspaper, editorial consultant to the Royal Gazette, freelance contributor to Bernews and providing numerous other written contributions to various entities over the years.

Jonathan Bell, a friend and senior reporter at the Royal Gazette, said, “Tim Hodgson was about to turn 31 when he hired me as an intern at the Mid-Ocean News in 1993, which is young in editor years, but I was amazed at the depth of experience he already had under his belt at the newspaper. Working with Kevin Stevenson in the mid-1980s, Tim had exposed the storage of nuclear depth charges at the United States Naval Base in Bermuda when he was fresh out of the University of Toronto.

“Journalism was second nature to him. He had an innate understanding of how to structure a story, especially the all-important opening, and I was to test his patience for many years on that front. His volcanic temper was legendary. I was 18, and I loved it – I felt as though I was working for an editor out of a comic book, who chain-smoked and barked orders and slammed down the telephone. But I was also struck by his sensitivity for ordinary people. Tim was spectacularly well read, with literary ambitions, but he had a great eye for a simple community story.

“He loved popular culture, from hokey horror movies to comic books and TV shows, and he had a knack like no other for tracking down the Bermuda connection, whether it pertained to silent movies or Albert Einstein. His memory for facts was dazzling. He was forthright – there was no guile with Tim Hodgson; you knew where he stood on an issue. And he was fantastically aggressive when we were onto a good story.

“More than any other journalist I knew, Tim saw the writing on the wall with online reporting. He seemed made for that 24/7 news that the rest of us had to catch up with. It suited his quick mind. If Tim found his place in the newspaper world as a younger man, he found it all over again with social media, where he posted ‘Bermuda Short’ pieces of local history and arcana. It attracted a huge following. Tim knew things about Bermuda and the island’s place in history and popular culture like nobody else, and he was all too happy to share it. His final contributions, through the simple medium of Facebook, were fantastic, and will be very deeply missed.”

Chris Gibbons, a former journalist and friend who worked with Tim at The Royal Gazette and Mid-Ocean News, said, “Although I knew Tim had not been in the best of health these last few years, I am deeply shocked to hear of his passing and saddened that Bermuda has lost one of its finest writers far too young.

“Tim was an exceptionally gifted writer and one of the few working Bermudian journalists who could authoritatively and entertainingly bring historical context to so many current subjects and issues, not to mention an encyclopedic knowledge of music, film and all things Mark Twain. It was no surprise that he was a vital member of our three-time Brains of Bermuda winning quiz team in the 1980s. He was erudite, curious and witty, and conversations with Tim were never dull.

“He was, to say the least, a complex and often misunderstood personality. His volcanic newsroom outbursts were legendary but he was, at heart, a decent man who was rarely credited [not that he ever sought any] for his quiet acts of kindness. At one of the lowest and darkest period of my life when I could neither find nor afford a place to live, it was Tim who, out of the blue, offered me a temporary place to stay and refused to accept a cent in return.

“Tim was editor of the Mid-Ocean News when I was the paper’s Sports Editor. Tim knew nothing about sport and happily admitted that he cared even less, so we had a good working relationship as he left me to my own devices! We later worked together on Clarence Terceira’s biography, Tessi’s Highway [2013] which he wrote and I edited. It is sad that not only are that book’s subject and author – both true Bermudian originals – no longer with us but that Tim’s prodigious talent did not result in the publication of many more books. He will be greatly missed.”

The irony strikes that when writing about someone who was an exceptionally talented writer, not only is it hard to find the best words to describe him, but that I [Patricia - Bernews founder/editor] will break grammatical rules and move to first person in the middle of an article, something which would result in an outburst from Tim, who might perhaps charge I should be demoted to writing nothing more than grocery lists, which was one of his more colourful ways to complain about a writing standard.

Among Tim’s many contributions to the world of media was a significant contribution to the development of Bernews and to my own career. He reached out and offered assistance back when Bernews launched back in 2010, and contributed hundreds of articles over the years, generally focused on Bermuda history, culture and entertainment – his three big passions.

He continued to contribute over the years, with his only rule being he wanted to stick to his passions, and that he did, often producing extremely interesting articles, spanning everything from local entertainment to little known facts about Bermuda’s history.

As many have noted, he had an encyclopedic knowledge about the island, and was exceptionally well read, and while much of his public writing was of a serious nature, Tim was also an extremely witty person.

He also had an extensive vocabulary that was second to none, and on quite a few occasions I had to ‘Google a word’ simply to fully understand his emails or interrupt him mid-conversation to ask the meaning of a long and esoteric word he had used.

Tim provided invaluable assistance and advice as I started my career in the media field, and despite the fact he was a substantially better writer than I am, or ever will be, he was always uplifting and encouraging, providing writing advice in a thoughtful manner, and often in a rather amusing one.

He became a good friend over the years, and I knew him as a self effacing man of great wit, who was a fountain of knowledge, that deeply loved Bermuda and wanted the stories of our history and culture to be told.

His contributions are countless, and he will be missed.

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