The Life of a Scilly Sergeant
Review by Jon Mackenzie
Aficionados of the popular Isles of Scilly Police Facebook page will know that Sergeant Colin Taylor often writes with a degree of impish irony but making light of serious issues while managing to convey the underlying point requires great skill. Colin is a master of this art.
About a year into Colin’s placement I wrote an article on the local police team for The Islander magazine where he told me how policing the Isles of Scilly was a specialist role, no less than any other within the police service.
This view was echoed by one of his colleagues, Mat Collier, who said, when asked if he had much to do, “You’ll be surprised”, to which I said, somewhat with tongue in cheek, “I’ll be bloody amazed” and he duly delivered a series of anecdotal evidence pertaining to the variety of the work undertaken by the police on the islands.
The Life of a Scilly Sergeant brings these scenarios to a wider audience and provides the reader with a much broader sense of perspective on the role of the police officer and the difficulties they encounter, particularly when they live and work within the community they patrol.
While there is a distinct lack of burglary and car theft to deal with, there is a great deal of community engagement. This is laudable in itself but because it is their own community, where the officers live with their families, it requires a level of tact and understanding that I don’t believe can be taught. You either have it or you don’t and that is why some officers fail on Scilly and others, like Colin and the aforementioned PC Collier, succeed.
We discover how a police officer on the Isles of Scilly wears many hats, and we’re not just talking peaked caps and custodian helmets. Our local bobbies find themselves more often than not working alone when on shift and being on call when off shift, performing the role of traffic police, CID, customs officer, the drugs squad and the bomb squad (yes, the bomb squad!).
Then there are the times when it is necessary to hunt down criminals on a borrowed child’s bicycle and all while trying to provide additional services such as wedding transport and ensuring you don’t lock yourself in the cells – another of the potential perils of working alone.
The reader also gains a greater appreciation of not only what the police do, but what they must be ready to do at a moment’s notice, whether they are dressed as Santa Claus and his elf or sinking ignominiously on a shoddily built raft of their own design in St Mary’s Harbour.
This is not a policeman’s autobiography and if you are looking for a printed version of the Isles of Scilly Police Facebook page you won’t find it here. The Life of a Scilly Sergeant is more Bill Bryson than Old Bill anecdotes or memoirs; it is a travelogue that embraces the history and culture of the islands and celebrates their beauty and their inhabitants.
It comes from the uniqueness of a policing perspective and is delivered with good humour, empathy, compassion and an indubitable love for the archipelago which will only draw the reader into wanting to visit the Isles of Scilly as soon as possible.
The Daily Express refers to The Life of a Scilly Sergeant as "The best tourist guide to the Isles of Scilly one could wish for” and I have to agree with that summation but for those of us who live here it is a reassuring companion that reminds us we live in a very special place and can rest easily in our beds at night.
The Life of a Scilly Sergeant belongs in the travel section of all good book shops and I cannot recommend it highly enough.