The Cayman Islands Seafarers Association held a service of remembrance and appreciation on Sunday at Elmslie Memorial Church.
Although a sombre occasion, it was also a time for just pride.
‘The past is the backbone of our present,’ pointed out Mr. Anthony Eden, Minister for Health and Human Services and former seaman.
‘Cayman’s seafarers, who earned their living on dangerous waters, and the women who maintained the households and communities in their absence provided the foundation on which the current financial development of the Cayman Islands rests,’ Mr. Eden said.
He was referring to a long history of men going to sea, but especially the years from World War II until the mid 1980s, when Caymanian seamen were sought by international shipping lines and showed themselves capable of virtually any task on board.
Programme participants illustrated that point well. Mr. Eden, for example, served in the officers’ mess. Master of ceremonies was Captain Owen Farrington.
CISA president Mr. Astor Ebanks was a pump man, while immediate past-president Mr. Rudy Garvin was chief engineer.
Rev. Ransford Reid, who led the prayer, and Mr. Laten Bush who led the choir, were both chief stewards.
Scripture was read by Mr. Andrew Eden, a chief engineer, with the sermon given by Rev. Harry Bodden, a junior engineer. Mr. Edmond Hydes, who gave the vote of thanks, was a fireman.
Mr. Bennie Parsons, the son of a seaman, sang two songs, accompanying himself on the guitar. Ms Zoe Bodden, sister of Captain Churchill Bodden, played the organ.
Rev. Bodden told the seamen that their work was not over. They had helped lay the foundation of this country, but now they were needed to continue building, maintaining and repairing walls of Godliness, communication, relationship and discipline.
There were several poignant moments during the service. The first came when Captain Farrington announced that Mr. Gurney Panton, who had been scheduled to chair the service, was absent because of the death of his sister, Christine, the previous day.
Gurney (a ship’s wireless operator), Christine and Colin are the children of the late Albert Colonridge Panton, who not only served a Commissioner during World War II but also helped recruit seamen and look after them in the process.
The other especially thoughtful moment came when a wreath was presented by widows of seamen, one from each district. Taking part were Mrs. Laurel Ryan, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman; Mrs. Alicia Hydes, West Bay; Mrs. Milly Merren, George Town; Mrs. Domitila Wood Powell, Bodden Town; Mrs. Emelina McLaughlin, East End; Mrs. Rosemary Anderson, North Side.
Earlier, Mrs. Janilee Clifford brought words of welcome on behalf of the 106 widowed members of CISA.
Persons in attendance included the Governor, Mr. Stuart Jack and his wife, Mrs. Jack; Chief Secretary George McCarthy and Mr. Alden McLaughlin, Minister for Education. Ms Jennifer Grant-McCarthy, associate administrator of Cayman HospiceCare, received a donation for that organisation from the seamen.
Mr. Eden remarked that the Governor, by his presence, had shown his desire to understand Cayman.
Certainly everyone in attendance received a lesson in history, nation-building and courage in doing one’s duty.