Many homes in Cayman were built because seamen sent their salaries here, Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush reminded his audience on Tuesday evening.
So it was fitting, he told the seamen, that ‘Tonight you have your home.’
Mr. Bush was speaking at the official opening of the Cayman Islands Seafarers’ Association Building, located on the corner of Shamrock Road and Victory Avenue.
Seamen, their family members and well-wishers enjoyed an hour of fellowship and refreshments outdoors before the programme began. After the national anthem and dedication prayer, CISA president Andrew Eden christened the building much as a ship is traditionally christened, with the breaking of a bottle across the front.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Lindbergh Eden then cut the ceremonial ribbon across the double front doors. Guests filed in and filled every chair.
In his president’s remarks, Mr. Eden noted that the association got started around 1992, with Mr. Walsham Connolly the first president. The group was formed so that members could help each other and also create a museum for someone to carry on the memory of Caymanian seamen.
The building was to have been opened in October, but Hurricane Ivan intervened, Mr. Eden said. He paid special tribute to Mr. Bush and Mr. Eden ‘because without these two men we certainly wouldn’t be here. Through Mr. Bush we had an anonymous donation which got us a long way. And without the extremely generous donation from Mr. Lindbergh Eden, we couldn’t have done it,’ the president reported.
Both men received plaques presented with the seamen’s gratitude.
Later Mr. Seth ‘Boosie’ Arch, contractor and CISA member, received special recognition for his role in converting the former church building to the association’s purposes. Mr. Arch headed up the ‘redrafting and remodelling and then doing it all over again after Ivan,’ Mr. Eden said.
Mr. Bush was the featured speaker. Having been made an honorary CISA member, he expressed his gratitude. He said he was humbled that people he regard so highly had taken the time to show their appreciation to him.
He repeated a story he has enjoyed telling on other occasions. He said he always wanted to go to sea, but his mother wouldn’t let him. Her words were: ‘I can’t allow him to go. They would throw him overboard first trip for his mouth.’
Mr. Bush said seamen will be credited in history for having carved this country’s foundation through their ambition, hard work, honesty and integrity. Caymanians rose to the challenge, leaving a close-knit community for unknown shores.
But a career at sea afforded an education like no other, Mr. Bush pointed out. The men got to observe the way things were done in the world and they brought that knowledge home, greatly contributing to Cayman’s present state of self-sufficiency.
Mr. Bush said Caymanians had to stick together because ‘we are too small to be separated.’ CISA concerns for members’ welfare would always have his ear, he pledged.
Mr. Bush saluted seamen and told them they were ‘numbered among the truest of unsung heroes’.
As out-going president, Mr. Eden presented plaques to CISA officers and council members: Paul Hurlston, Roy Mitchell, William Buddy Wood, Trevor Watler, Percival Ebanks, Astor Ebanks, Gurney Panton, Rudolph Garvin, Godfrey McLean, and John Douglas. Consuelo Ebanks received an award for her role in the planning and organisation of the evening.
Mr. Bush and Minister for Culture Roy Bodden then assisted with the presentation of medals to seamen who sailed with National Bulk Carriers during what has come to be known as the Southwell era, and who registered during the drive to compile a comprehensive list.
The evening concluded with entertainment by the North Side Kitchen Band.