Peter Grimaldi, our current High Sheriff, has a fascinating story that includes almost 30 years as the Island’s consultant ear nose and throat surgeon, a happy family life with his wife Davinia and their three daughters, a love of croquet  – and a connection to David Niven.

He first came to the Island in 1947 when his father, Philip, was appointed the Island’s consultant ENT surgeon. Because he followed in his father’s footsteps, next year will be the 60th anniversary of a P. Grimaldi being in this role.

The first Grimaldi family home was Rose Cottage, Bembridge, which became a regular viewing spot for passing coaches. This surprised the family, until they discovered the reason for the tourists’ interest: Hollywood legend David Niven had spent many summers there, when his mother owned the property. Peter actually wrote to David Niven in Switzerland for some information on the cottage and got a personal reply. Rose Cottage is even mentioned in Niven’s well-publicised book “The Moon’s A Balloon.”

Peter’s maternal grandfather was a GP in Ventnor, so it was no real surprise that followed in the family health care tradition. Quite recently a patient of Peter’s told him that he had been treated by both him and his father – and been delivered by his grandfather.

Since 1984, Tyne Hall in Bembridge has been the Grimaldi family home. Many years earlier, Peter had visited the house to attend the High Sheriff’s party for Denys Peel, the previous owner. He could never have anticipated that he would live there himself one day, and be honoured with the very same post. This year he hosted the party.

Peter says he felt privileged to be nominated by a former High Sheriff, Anne Springman.

“You have three years to prepare. If you want to do the job properly, it does take that amount of time to get organised. If you wait until the actual year it’s virtually too late, as it is soon over,” said Peter.

The office of High Sheriff has existed in England for over 1000 years, spanning the reign of 40 monarchs. Here on the Island it’s been just 33 years. We subsequently obtained County status in 1974. The High Sheriff is the Queen’s representative in all matters relating to law and order.

One of Peter’s main projects is to help crack down on youth offending, which is a major concern.

“We are aware that 90{a9dddf1bd2af35332cd5613cac8e63e148b38f23ebed35c9943c32a7f65a9815} of the crime here is caused by a very small proportion of the youth population. If one can identify who these potential and actual offenders are and give them something useful to do, it might be that we can reduce youth offending.”

Enough money has been made via the IW High Sheriff’s Initiative to run courses for at-risk children, aged between 13 and 17, at the Island Youth Water Activity Centre, Cowes. The youngsters are given on-water experiences, in canoes, sail boats, motor boats and kayaks, to raise their self esteem and let them do things they wouldn’t otherwise have done.

Peter reveals that real progress is being made: “Some are definitely altering their behaviour. One has gone on to do a Duke of Edinburgh Award, some have found employment, and the truancy rate has fallen within the group.

Is there still a lot for young people to do today, when compared to the time Peter was growing up?

“I think there is probably a spectrum of behaviour amongst children. There are some who are highly motivated and they will always achieve. Sadly, due to social deprivation, poverty and poor parenting skills, there are a group of children who really do need to achieve their potential.

“Frankly, some have such awful home situations and they really start life with not much going for them. It’s often this group that is creating the crime.”

On other issues, Peter is also very concerned over the congestion problems on Island roads, particularly around Newport’s Coppins Bridge area. He feels a bridge across the River Medina, if affordable, would ease so many problems. He is not quite so positive about larger ferries and terminals, which will add even more to our current road transport problems, if it means even more cars on the roads.

Like many locals he is also concerned about retaining the Island’s unique character and charm.

“I do think a lot of tourists come to the Island for some of our slightly old world charm. If they find it full of modern utility buildings, superstores and lots of ruined villages, because of urban development, then maybe we will have done ourselves a great disservice.

“We have got to try and recognise that the Island has real charm and that charm can easily be damaged, irrevocably, if development goes ahead uncontrolled.”

Away from office, Peter now works just two days a week at St Mary’s Hospital. This is the beginning of the run-down until he officially retires. It’s a far cry from the first 15 years of the job, when he worked single-handed. That time proved to be one of the most stressful of his life. He was on call to perform operations virtually night and day, and says he found 2am in an operating theatre a very lonely place. In more recent years his department has been strengthened by the arrival of Bhupen Shah, an associate specialist, and a second consultant, Gamini Weli.

With three daughters, Alicia, Carina and Sophia, family life has always been a joy for Peter and he now shares Tyne Hall with his lovely wife Davinia and a flock of Jacob’s Sheep. The couple share a great love of gardening and ably assist Bob the gardener.

Peter is also the reigning Tyne Hall croquet champion. Thankfully, he didn’t offer me a challenge, which would have meant total humiliation. I could probably have got my revenge by beating him in a race around his 12 acres

He also loves boats and has his own Bembridge Redwing. He’s also been involved in the management of Bembridge Sailing Club and is a former Commodore.

There is no doubt that the endearing Peter Grimaldi is enjoying his High Sheriff role. He has only one concern – although he  is not losing any sleep over it.

Apparently, the punishment of execution is still in existence for high treason … which means that Peter would have to officiate at the public hanging!Peter, GrimaldiPete