History must be preserved

Is nothing sacred?

The marl road has it that developers are actively seeking to purchase the Elmslie Memorial Church building and land.

Hopefully the rumours are just that. If not, then we must hope that the Church can resist the temptation of easy money.

Nevertheless, the mere possibility that the property could be sold highlights the urgent need to protect, by legislation or other means, the remaining few structures of national and historic importance on this island that by some miracle have survived the onslaught of development of the past few decades.

It may be that, over time, the Elmslie Memorial Church site has developed certain practical limitations. However, I would submit that the owner of an historic building such as this has, at the very least, a moral responsibility to the country to maintain the property for its intended purpose and to safeguard it from those who harbour less than worthy designs.

The significance of the property as a place of worship, hallowed burial ground and war memorial cannot be understated and the prospect of removing the graves or desecrating a memorial to those who gave their lives in service of country raises all sorts of ethical questions.

Furthermore, the Elmslie Memorial Church, one of a number of block structures built by Capt. Rayal Bodden in the early 1900s, was the first building in Cayman to be made of concrete blocks, hand poured by Capt. Rayal himself. Capt. Rayal was also responsible for the magnificent woodwork inside the building and as the Church’s own website points out ‘Capt. Rayal being a naval architect designed the roof in the form of a ship’s hull turned upside down, which can be seen in its strength and beauty’. It is sadly ironic that one of the last and best remaining examples of Caymanian shipbuilding skill is to be found on dry land under the roof of the Elmslie Memorial Church.

This wonderful building is irreplaceable and must be preserved in its original state and at its current location. The same goes for the Town Hall, Library and Post Office buildings in George Town, as well as the similar block buildings in the other districts (including the Webster Memorial Church in Bodden Town and the old Town Hall buildings in the other districts, many of which are now used as community libraries).

It will be a monumental disgrace if the Elmslie Memorial Church building is tampered with or taken down in the name of development and greed.

Those who would seek to do so should hang their heads in shame.

Andrew Reid

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