Waking to an old tradition

At 9am every weekday morning, tourists strolling through the George Town waterfront might be startled by a somewhat unfamiliar sound. To Caymanians, the sound of a conch horn being blown on the steps of the National Museum will be much more familiar.

Conch horn

Conch horn

Although the weather did not quite play along for inaugural blowing last week, Doss Solomon, acting director of the Cayman Islands National Museum was not deterred.

‘We can’t let the weather stop tradition,’ he said.

The man behind the conch horn is Deal Ebanks, a man with a passion for conch. He does not limit himself to merely blowing the conch horn though.

‘I am the champion conch fritter eater as well – I just love conch,’ he said.

Mr. Ebanks has been researching the role the conch horn played in Cayman’s past and is a fount of knowledge on the matter.

According to Mr. Ebanks, the conch horn played a very important part in Cayman’s fishing tradition.

‘The fishermen would come in and need help putting up the boats, so they would blow the conch shell,’ he said.

Each fisherman would have his own style of blowing the horn to let his people know that he was on his way in.

The fishermen would also use the horn to indicate which type of fish they had caught.

‘They would have a different blow for a different type of fish,’ Mr. Ebanks said.

Different districts also had different ‘dialects’ when it came to blowing the conch horn. Mr. Ebanks has been gathering information on this over a number of years and hopes to keep some of the tradition alive through preserving this knowledge.

‘I find out the particulars of how they did it. There was also a signal for when they saw the schooners coming around the point,’ he said.

Mr. Ebanks also believes it is very important for traditions such as conch horn blowing to be passed down to the younger generation. His son, Deal Ebanks Jr. is also an accomplished blower. Mr. Ebanks relates how his afternoon nap was once rudely interrupted by his son blowing a conch horn right next to him.

‘I woke up in tears, I can tell you that. For a moment there I thought it was Gabriel coming,’ he laughed.

According to Mr. Solomon, the blowing of the conch horn adds another facet to the museum’s activities.

‘We are hoping to create a long-standing tradition and at the same time share some of our past history with visitors to our islands,’ he said.

The steps of the museum presents the perfect opportunity to keep the tradition alive, look out over Hog Sty Bay from the oldest building on the waterfront.

‘There isn’t a better location in the world,’ Mr. Ebanks said.


Dale Ebanks blows the conch horn.