An appreciation for the life of William Rattray

Editor’s Note: The following is a tribute read during a private celebration of life in December at One the Bay, North Side.

On behalf of the Cayman Islands Government, the Portfolio for Internal and External Affairs and especially HM Prison Service:

It is impossible for any of us who are gathered here this afternoon to sum up in just a few words all that we would like to say – and all that could or should be said – in tribute to and appreciation for Dr. William Rattray.

Many of us knew him as Bill, of course – even though we always thought of him too as Dr. Rattray. That blend of the personal and the professional was one of the first things which struck you about Bill. His firm handshake and ready smile, his evident desire to get to know you and to share himself personally was finely blended with the smartly-dressed, elegantly-groomed professional, who loved his work, cared deeply about his fellow workers and was totally focused on getting the job done – and doing it right!

Bill Rattray moved to the Cayman Islands three and a half years ago in August 2006 to take up the new position of commissioner of corrections and rehabilitation. When advertised, this new position attracted a huge amount of interest. Some very senior prison and probation officials from the English and Scottish Prison Services applied for the job.

When the top candidates arrived in Cayman for interviews, Bill could not resist pointing out that the majority of them came from his native Scotland. For Bill this was no accident as he loved and promoted all things Scottish. He was thrilled and humbled to be asked to fill the position and he eagerly moved to Cayman to begin work six weeks later.

His task as commissioner of corrections and rehabilitation combined oversight of the Prison Service with building strong relationships between the prison and government agencies, NGOs and private sector organisations and individuals to promote the vital work of rehabilitating prisoners.

Dr. Rattray immersed himself in his job from the moment he arrived. His goal, which he often liked to repeat, was summed up in two words: reducing reoffending. In other words, doing all that could be done to make sure that prisoners coming out of prison do not reoffend and return to prison.

This is a highly complex and difficult task. If we are honest, most of us would admit that we understandably shy away from the work of the criminal justice system. We hope that other people – competent and dedicated people – will fix the problems arising from crime and criminals.

Bill was the opposite. It was the very challenges facing Cayman that made him want to work here.

All those who worked with him – whether in the government or the private sector – can testify to the energy, dedication, knowledge, skill and optimism he brought to every aspect of his work. I say optimism, because Bill was fundamentally an optimist. Whatever the problems were, there always was a solution that could be found – if we were willing to work together to find one

Dr. Rattray was heart and soul a prison professional. He rose through the ranks of prison officers in Scotland to be governor of Aberdeen and Peterhead prisons, where his success led to his appointment as director of the Scottish Prison Service Training College – the position he held for five years prior to coming to Cayman.

It is fitting, then, that I read this brief tribute written by his fellow professionals in HM Cayman Islands Prison Service:

‘HM Cayman Islands Prison Service will be forever grateful for the hard work and support we received from Dr. Rattray, a true professional, a committed leader and a true friend in every sense of the word.

‘He fought diligently to sensitise and educate all those he came in contact with about the work of the service and the challenges we face. The department truly salutes our late Commissioner of Corrections and Rehabilitation.’

Aside from his professional gifts and accomplishments, we will treasure other memories of Bill. He was through and through a family man. Even if you had not met members of his family, chances are you felt you had met them because Bill was always talking of them and bragging about their successes.

He had a buoyant sense of humour. Even in the midst of an earnest discussion he could unexpectedly point out the funny side of a problem.

Bill devoured books and was very well read. History was a particular passion of his. When he moved to Cayman, he eagerly added Caymanian history to his repertoire. He must be one of the few people to have read the whole of the standard history of Cayman – Founded Upon the Seas – even before he started his contract!

He was fascinated by Caymanian culture and his relentless curiosity about it led to some entertaining conversations about the latest news on CNS, the latest controversy on KY Crosstalk, or the latest rumour on the Marl Road.

Bill also loved the outdoors. He was always talking about the beauty of Cayman’s unique natural environment and its unending sunshine – especially if he had just received a call from his native Scotland in the depths of winter. Soon after he arrived, Bill took up kayaking, and in time went on to develop a keen appetite for sailing and a deep love for the Caribbean Sea.

Bill Rattray fully embraced Cayman during the three and a half years he lived and worked in these islands. We are grateful for all that he achieved professionally and we will treasure the memories of all that he was personally.

On behalf of the entire Cayman Islands Government, let me say to his wife Margaret, his children Lewis and Kirsty, and his brother James, and to all his many friends and colleagues here and abroad – ‘We are so grateful that Bill traded the highlands and cold of Scotland for the clear, warm waters and bright sunshine of the Caribbean for the past three years. We believe we enriched his life as he did ours.’

We share your loss and trust God’s peace will go with you as you return to Scotland.