Cayman 100 years ago

Anyone who has lived in Cayman for a reasonable period of time can agree on at least one thing – the pace of development has been rapid and there has been a lot of change.

Most of this change occurred when Cayman started to evolve into a jurisdiction for the financial services industry back in the late 1960s and at the same time, tourism, construction and real estate sectors also started to really take off.

So what was Cayman like before anyone can remember?

One hundred years ago, the U.K. Government produced the first in a series of reports on the Cayman Islands.

The contents of the report were written by Yorke Slader.

Slader was the Acting Commissioner for some months prior to the death of the Commissioner Sanguinetti.

Below we reproduce word-for word some of the contents of the Report for the year 1907 on the Cayman Islands, at the time the total population of the three Islands amounted to 6,000:

‘The low percentage of illegitimacy in the Cayman Islands, when compared with the rates obtaining in Jamaica and other West Indian Colonies, is indicative of the character of the people.

‘On the 1st October, the debt of the Dependency amounted to 570 pounds and nine shillings ($1,000)…the entire debt was paid off during the year without any undue strain on the finances or without neglecting any public works or roads.

‘The supply of labour is very indifferent, the peasantry are exceedingly independent, and they will not work except at high rates of wages; consequently very few people can afford to employ labourers. There are no coolies in the Islands. The cost of living is very cheap.

‘There is a small hospital kept for the purpose of isolating infectious diseases, but, ordinarily, it is not used. The Medical Officer resides at George Town, and periodically visits the outlying districts.

‘During the year there was never more than one prisoner in confinement, and then just for a day or two.

‘The (Police) force consists of a sergeant and ten district constables; the latter get paid whenever they do duty.

‘The mosquito season begins in April, when these insects swarm in myriads, and render life a torture to man and beast. Every house has a smoke fire from 4pm and everyone sits close to it enveloped in a blinding smoke…Other forms of insect life abound and are intensely disagreeable.

‘There are about 40 miles of roads in Grand Cayman, and 15 miles in Cayman Brac, kept up at a cost of 240 pounds ($400) per annum. There is very little wheeled traffic.’

‘There are no banks in the Islands. There is a fair amount of gold in the possession of the people here. The currency is principally English sterling, but American, French, Spanish and the gold coins of other countries are in circulation; there is also a good deal of American paper money and English silver.’

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