Meet newest National Heroes

Five new Cayman Islands National
Heroes will be formally recognised during this year’s National Heroes Day
celebrations on Monday, 24 January.

They are being lauded for
significant contributions to nation-building and community service in a number
of areas including aviation, nursing, politics and culture.

The five join the two
previously-named Cayman Islands National Heroes, the late James (Jim) Manoah
Bodden and Mrs. Sybil Ione McLaughlin.

The five new National Heroes (all
of whom are deceased) are:

 

Mr. Thomas William Farrington, 1900 to 1978

Named as a “Former Legislator and
Father of the House…”, Mr. Farrington was a great contributor to the Cayman
Islands community. Born in June 1900 to William Farrington and Elizabeth M.
Parsons, he became one of Cayman’s most outstanding citizens. He was a man of
immense wisdom, persuasiveness and sincerity, especially in matters involving
his beloved district of West Bay.

“Mr. Willie” as he was commonly
known, exemplified what Caymanians represent. He become a civil servant in 1921
and until today he remains the longest-serving representative in the
Legislative Assembly, having held his seat for 55 years. Mr. Willie was also
the first elected member to be responsible for finance.

During the 1940s, he supported the
establishment of what is today the John Gray High School. In 1959, he was among
the first to be elected to the Executive Council after the first constitution
was signed and in 1965, he became the first Caymanian to be honoured by Queen
Elizabeth II as a Commander of the British Empire.

As a pioneer in the Cayman Islands
Government, Mr. Willie led the House in legislation matters and was a founding
member of the Christian Democratic Party. He was named ‘Father of the House’
both for his lengthy continuous service and for the wisdom and insight he
displayed in matters of public interest. He was also a founding member of
Cayman International Airways and played a major role in the development of
Cayman’s first airport and in discussions regarding Cayman’s participation in
the West Indies Federation.

His name was heard and known in
every corner of the Islands because in the truest sense, he was a proud
Caymanian, one who played a major role in crafting the Islands into the success
story it is today. For his accomplishments as a husband, father, justice of the
peace, law agent, church elder and civic leader, he will always be honoured.

 

Mrs. Sybil Joyce Hylton, 1913 to 2006:

Remembered for “An outstanding
commitment to youth…”, as the daughter of Edward and Jane Russell and wife of
Wilfred Augustus “Conrad” Hylton, Sybil Joyce became Cayman’s first probation
and welfare officer As well as an extraordinary lifelong advocate for
disadvantaged young people.

Mrs. Hylton became the Islands’
sole probation officer in 1963, going on to serve as the first head of the
country’s Probation and Welfare Department until 1982. That was a role for
which she was particularly well-suited and she revolutionised her department’s
work. Her background and training included years of volunteering with the Jamaican
authorities, with whom she maintained a close relationship throughout her
tenure.

By the time of her appointment, she
was already lobbying government to rectify a number of inequities that confronted
the Islands’ youth. Her zest for championing issues such as the need for a
separate court for juveniles continued into her retirement, as did her lengthy
service on the Adoption Board.

And Ms. Hylton’s exemplary
commitment to young people extended to her private life; among other projects,
she helped to develop the scouting movement in the Cayman Islands. Presenting
her with a special award in 1972, the Nor’wester Magazine recognised her
numerous contributions to young people.

She received the Cayman Islands
Certificate and Badge of Honour in 1968 and was named a Member of the Order of
the British Empire 10 years later.

 

Mr. Ormond L. Panton, 1920 to 1992

 “A very special son of Cayman…,” Mr. Panton
was one of the most prominent political figures in Cayman’s history. He founded
Cayman’s first political party and was the first politician to win an election
as party leader.

As a member of the National
Democratic Party, he was heavily involved in politics and was the youngest
delegate to attend the West Indies Federation discussions.

His professional skills combined
with a relish for helping others and assured his success in many local trials.
Mr. Ormond was regarded as an outspoken attorney, one who also achieved many
firsts for his country.

In 1955 he succeeded in confirming
his right to a fair trial – a right now enshrined in Article 14 of the United
Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. He was also lead
negotiator between the UK and its Overseas Territories in discussions on independence.
The first Caymanian attorney to appear before the Privy Council in London, he
also introduced a motion to allow Cayman authorities to issue US visa waivers,
thereby facilitating merchant marine employment for Caymanians.

A member of the Cayman Bar
Association, Mr. Ormond also served as a director of Cayman Airways Ltd.
between 1980 and 1984. He was also one of the first chartered Rotarians of
Grand Cayman.  Honoured by Queen Elizabeth
II in 1984, he became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his
contributions to society.

Mr. Panton enjoyed working and
interacting with people of all backgrounds. Having participated in many areas
of community life, his biography described him as a ‘very special son of Cayman.’
His many outstanding qualities ensure that he will forever be honoured for his
legal, political and personal contributions to the Cayman Islands.

Mr. Ormond married Naomi Bodden in
1942 and they had seven children.

 

Mr. Desmond V. Watler, 1914 to 1994:

“His life stands as a sterling
example…” is the tribute paid to Mr. Watler – an exemplary citizen and
exceptional civil servant. Starting out as a 23-year-old clerk, his almost
four-decade career saw him rise through the ranks to become in 1969, Cayman’s
first treasurer, a title that was constitutionally changed to financial secretary.

Mr. Desmond became the first chief
secretary of the Cayman Islands in 1972. He served in the Legislative Assembly
for 32 years and was the first official member and chairman of the Executive
Council. He served in every area of parliamentary administration in the Legislature
and regarded the provision of proper communications and the writing of tax
haven legislation as being key factors in the progress of the Cayman Islands.

Equally active in the wider
community, Mr. Desmond became a chartered Rotarian of Grand Cayman in 1965 and
was a lifetime church elder of the Gun Bay United Church, conducting services
throughout all districts. He was honoured twice by Queen Elizabeth II, first in
1966 as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire and again in 1975 when he
became a commander of that Order.

Highly regarded for his soft-spoken
demeanour, he became even better-known as a role model regarding standards of
civil service integrity. His life remains a sterling example to today’s young
people, demonstrating that with hard work, dedication and commitment to
excellence, it is possible to reach the top of the career ladder.

Mr. Desmond was the son of William
Conwell Watler and Ursalina Valentina McLaughlin.  He married Wilma Ryder in 1948 and had one
child.

 

Ms Mary Evelyn Wood, 1900 to 1978:

“Dedication and selfless service…”
is how Ms.  Mary Evelyn Wood, is remembered.

A true pioneer, Mary Evelyn Wood
dedicated her life to bringing change to these Islands, for the benefit of the
Caymanian people. She was born to Charles and Julietta Wood and was the
youngest daughter in a family of six.

Miss Evie, as she was known, was
the first woman ever elected to the Cayman Islands Legislature and was also the
first to serve on a jury. Those ground breaking achievements and more were
products of her lasting commitment toward addressing the needs of the
community. 

With a level of dedication toward
others that was evident even at a young age, she was only in her early 20s when
she started a small school in her father’s home, serving as its sole
teacher.  Several years later, after
receiving training as a practical nurse, she changed vocations, entering what
was then known as private nursing. That entailed visiting the homes of new and
expectant mothers, in addition to sick persons around Grand Cayman. Her most
notable service undoubtedly occurred during the typhoid epidemic of the late
1930s when she provided tireless care.

By 1957 an interest in women’s
rights led her to join hundreds of other women in signing the petition for
female suffrage of that year, now commemorated in Heroes Square, George Town.
After women won the right to vote in 1959, she joined Ormond Panton’s National
Democratic Party as treasurer and chair of the Bodden Town Committee. In 1962
she became that district’s Legislative Assembly representative.

Aside from her participation in
social and political life, Miss Evie was also active in the church. Her
unstinting service to the community was recognised in 1965, when she received
the Cayman Islands Certificate and Badge of Honour.

Mr. Farrington

Mr. Farrington

Mrs. Hylton

Mrs. Hylton

Mr. Panton

Mr. Panton

Mr. Watler

Mr. Watler

Ms Wood

Ms Wood
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