A mother, a wife, a pastor and a nursing instructor: Hyacinth Rose is a woman of many vocations, all of which are her ways of serving God.
Born into a Kingstonian family that “put God at the heart of everything”, she was brought up in the ways of church life from early childhood. By her mid-teens she was already serving her congregation as a member of its youth arm, was a musician for Youth for Christ and a Sunday School teacher.
Guided by her Christian upbringing, her parents were equally committed to their faith and opened up their home to Church youth group meetings.
The young Hyacinth Webb knew that she wanted to pursue a career that would involve reaching out to people. “I’d always wanted to serve in a practical vocation,” she says.
She won a place in a nursing school in England, which took her out of Jamaica and her tight-knit family for the first time in her life. The transition to the cold, unfamiliar environment coming from the bright and sunny Caribbean was quite a shock.
“My initial reaction when arriving in Carshalton, Surrey was how very different even everyday things like the weather were,” she says. “I arrived in October and was shocked by how cold it was and commented about it to my fellow trainees, only to be told, that it was quite mild and that I should expect far worse.”
Training in the UK
While in England, she also undertook midwifery training in the East End of London, much to the shock of her nursing instructors. A solidly working class area, well known in the swinging sixties as an area of extreme urban deprivation, Rose saw first-hand the daily lives and conditions of the inner city poor. Though hard bitten and clannish, she nevertheless found them to be warm people who accepted her during her home visits while attending to pregnant women.
During her almost six years in England she was “adopted” by three families who took her into their hearts and homes.
“I didn’t enjoy English food at first, it was bland and so different from what I was used to back home but I soon realised that that was “canteen food.” Having proper English food prepared by English people in their own homes,” was a pleasant revelation to her.
“My favourite foods back then were shepard’s pie and roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and roast lamb with mint sauce,” she fondly recalls. She still keeps in touch with several of the families she met during her training and was even able to introduce them to her husband and sons.
“One year we went to England and my husband surprised me with a trip to see some friends. I learnt once we arrived that Auntie Gwen had spent the previous week baking and cooking,” for the visit,” she says. “My sons were particularly impressed with English high tea and for years after would ask me to make it for them -china tea cups, sausage rolls, cakes and all.”
On completion of her midwifery course, she returned to live in her childhood home in Jamaica and resumed her involvement in church life.
“My parents were keen that I did not rush into a job and so
I took my time to look round and see what I wanted to do,” she says.
“I took up part-time nursing jobs and taught the piano. I didn’t want to work full-time with the government nursing service because of the real possibility of being assigned to remote rural areas. I’d already spent more than enough time away from my family and wanted to stay near them,” she recalls.
While back home, she re-immersed herself in church life hosting youth group meetings in her home, some of which her parents spoke at, giving practical advice to the youngsters in their capacity as experienced adults and church elders.
“They were happy times, full of activities and fun,” she remembers.
Fate eventually stepped in to propel her further into nursing and to Cayman’s shores when she was contacted by the Principal Nursing Officer who worked in the Ministry of Health.
“You enjoy teaching piano and teaching at Sunday school. Would you like to become a nursing instructor?” she offered. The suggestion struck a chord with the young Kinstonian, who soon after leant that it was an opportunity normally given as a “reward for many years of service within nursing”.
Younger than her fellow students by decades, she had the unexpected distinction at the time of being the youngest nursing instructor in the Caribbean. She was “consumed by her studies” at the University of the West Indies and excelled on the course.
Fate steps in
During this time she met the man who was to become her future husband. Caymanian, Winston Rose had been sent to Jamaica for a year’s training by his employer Cable & Wireless. He was introduced to her through church and the pair soon became firm friends and their relationship blossomed.
The young couple married in Jamaica and looked forward to starting a shared life in Grand Cayman, helped by her acceptance of a secondment to the Government hospital. Her answer to its call for nursing instructors to teach at its newly-opened nursing school was the start for a nearly 40-year association with the Cayman Islands Hospital.
“Looking back, I suppose I’ve helped train hundreds of registered and enrolled nurses who have gone on to higher nursing education both locally and overseas,” she says.
Since 2007, she has been Chairperson of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, whose remit is to regulate nursing and midwifery practice in the Cayman Islands, both in the public and private health sectors.
“We are a young council and are working hard to be effective in setting and maintaining optimum nursing standards locally and determining codes of conduct to ensure best practice throughout these islands,” she says.
The bride’s move to the Cayman Islands was a huge transition for the young Jamaican. “A new husband, a new country, a new job; it was a very big upheaval for me,” she says and one which was smoothed in particular by her mother-in-law.
“She was a wonderful woman,” Rose recalls. “She taught me how to prepare dishes in the Caymanian way, so I learnt how to make rundown and many other local specialties,” she remembers.
“She would teach me things in the kitchen and I would teach her Jamaican dishes, too,” she says, admitting though that she never did quite master the art of making heavy cakes until years later.
The Roses settled in Bodden Town and were welcomed into the Church of God Chapel by the small and friendly congregation. Impressed by her husband, it was not long before church members approached him to be their pastor.
“We were newly married and were settling into married life… It wasn’t a decision to be taken lightly, especially considering that I had determined that I would never marry a doctor or a minister because they never seemed to be at home with their families. But, as with all major decisions, we talked it over. It was about three months before we accepted,” she says.
The pair had already decided that, on starting a family, Mrs. Rose would stay home to raise their children. “We are both firm believers that family life is central to our lives. My love for music came in great use as I was able to teach from home.”
As her husband’s helpmate at home and in the church, she enjoyed the challenges both brought, which she acknowledges helped her grow into mature adulthood. As a mother of three boys, she enjoyed being home when they came back from school and, even though her husband’s work often meant he got home late, she insisted on preparing dinner to eat it with her sons each night.
“I’m a disciplinarian and have always valued structure at home and the world beyond,” she says. “My sons each had their chores to do as they grew older and were taught at church and at home right from wrong.”
She also allowed plenty of room for them to play. “Although I’m strict, I enjoy a good laugh as much as anyone.” She insisted that when they came home from school, they change and go out to play. “In fact our home was a magnet for the local boys who would meet up and play basketball,” she recalls.
“My only rules were that they didn’t knock the ball up on the roof and that when I called my sons in for mealtimes, they responded promptly. If I heard the ball bounce once more after I’d given them their second call, then it would be taken away for a while.”
This brand of tough love was, however, tempered with a lot of maternal affection. “We’ve always been a close family who confide in each other, sharing the good times and the bad,” she says.
“We’ve brought our sons up practising the Christianity we espouse and have seen them grow up into sensible, committed and intelligent men.”
Throughout her married life, the church has continued to remain a dominant force and her role has always been to “minister to the women and girls in [her] husband’s congregation”.
In 2007, she formalised that role when she was ordained as a minister. “I’ve always helped my husband when it comes to church matters but now it’s on a more formal footing,” she says. She preaches periodically, counsels women and also assists her husband in couples counselling.
Over the decades, she has fused her ministry and raising a family with writing a regular family life column in the Caymanian Compass, as well as speaking on such issues on radio, television and accepting speaking engagements at local churches, youth groups and parent/teacher associations. She currently writes on the subject for Christian Life, a local magazine.
Still known by many as “The Family Matters Lady,” she is currently writing a book on family life, a subject which she describes as “the main part of [her public] life’s work.”
She still gets a tremendous amount of satisfaction from her job. A job so well done, in fact, that she was awarded the prestigious Certificate and Badge of Honour for her services to nursing and the community in 2007.
Laughter’s great medicine
And how does this advocate of family life, who is still training Cayman’s nurses, unwind? “I was brought up in a very musical family where everyone learnt at least one instrument… music has always been a great friend to me over the years. I also relish time spent with my extended family,” she says, which these days also includes seeing as much of her young grandchildren as her hectic schedule allows.
“Thank God for laughter! It’s such integral part of my life,” she says “I can’t live a day without it.”