Rotary Sunrise praises Ms Sybil

Members of Rotary Sunrise are proud that Miss Sybil McLaughlin is a founding member of their Rotary club. She is the only living Cayman National Hero and in a special ceremony led by fellow member Andrea Bryan they presented a floral tribute and outlined her amazing career.

“Next Monday is National Heroes Day and we have decided to mark the occasion with a tribute to Ms Sybil,’ said Ms Bryan. ‘As a measure of our own affection for her we have chosen to use the name by which she’s affectionately known.

Simply put Ms Sybil is the Cayman Islands’ first living National Hero and was named national hero in October 1996. She was born in Mobile, Alabama in the USA and joined the Cayman Islands’ civil service in 1945 as a clerk/typist. Ms Sybil later became Clerk of the Legislative Assembly and then the first Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, in 1991.

Ms Sybil is the daughter of Master Mariner Charles Christopher Bush of South Sound and his wife Lottie Verona Bush nee Morton of Cayman Brac. Two years after her birth Captain Bush passed away and Mrs. Bush brought her young family home to Grand Cayman. However, Mrs. Bush soon returned to the US to seek better employment opportunities but had to leave her daughters Elizabeth and Sybil in the loving care of their grandparents.

In 1934 she was taken to Nicaragua to live with her Aunt in Bluefields. Sybil spent two happy years there before returning to Cayman in 1936 to attend George Town Primary School.

She returned to Nicaragua in 1942 and attended the Baptist College in Managua where, amongst other things, she learnt shorthand and typing.

After graduation in 1945 she returned to Grand Cayman and was recruited to work for the Cayman Islands Government as a clerk/typist though her duties were many and varied. They included decoding of messages (this was war-time) as well as the very unpleasant task of counting dead parrot and rabbit heads, for which a bounty was then paid. Her salary was 100 pounds sterling a year. Nevertheless she enjoyed her job tremendously, riding her bicycle to and from work.

In 1958 she was appointed as Secretary to the Commissioner (akin to today’s Governor in many respects) and started taking overseas correspondence courses. In 1962 her vigilant study paid off and she passed all her exams at the Jamaica Commercial Institute. She took up typing the minutes of the meetings of the Vestry (today’s Legislative Assembly) and this sparked an interest in law. She then took up a correspondence course in law from La Salle Extension University of Chicago which she completed in 1964.

In 1959 when the new Cayman Islands Constitution came into effect she was appointed to the new post of Clerk of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council. In 1967, the work of Government having grown considerably, the Executive Council duties were reassigned and Ms Sybil continued as Clerk to the Legislative Assembly. She held that post until her retirement from government service in 1984. During the intervening years she had earned the respect and admiration of all with whom she came in contact. Ms Sybil was in a key position during some very significant developments in government e.g. the first Constitution in 1959; the West Indies Federation and the move to Crown Colony status in the early 60s, and the new Constitution in 1972. Those were very interesting years and, although the work was demanding, Executive Council meetings often extending to 7 or 8 o’clock at night, she enjoyed it all very much.

In 1967 the regional conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association was held on Grand Cayman and Ms Sybil was awarded the MBE for her work in organizing the conference. Ms Sybil has travelled to over 15 countries in connection with her work for the CPA.

She was asked in 1982 by the Governor, Peter Lloyd, to plan the celebrations for Cayman’s 150th Anniversary of Parliamentary Government. To mark the occasion she researched and wrote a brief history for the occasion entitled ‘150 Years of Parliamentary Government’ which was published.

In 1991, recognizing her unique qualifications for the post, she was appointed the very first Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. In 1996 she was named National Hero.

This ends with a well-known saying – ‘History is not made by presidents and kings, but by ordinary people doing extraordinary things’.

Congratulations to you Ms Sybil, we are very proud of you.”

Rotary SUNRISE is the newest Rotary Club in Grand Cayman, 65 members, mostly young professionals, from Cayman and 14 other countries who meet every Wednesday at the Grand Old House for breakfast. Their emphasis is Service to the community and they are currently deeply involved in a project with the other two Grand Cayman Rotary Clubs of building a million dollar ‘IVAN’ recovery fund to help those who have lost their homes or suffered serious damage in the storm.