North Side seeks seamen’s names

Seafarers’ monument back under construction

Anderson, Bodden, Brown, Carson, Challenger, Chisholm, Connolly, Douglas, Ebanks, Forbes, Frederick, Greene, Groves, Hurlston, Manderson, McCoy, McLaughlin, McLean, Miller, Pouchie, Powell, Powery, Range, Rankin, Rivers, Smith, Tatum, Whittaker.

The laundry list of these names conjures images of lithe young men bidding farewell to their families and the shores of North Side, Grand Cayman, to embark on what would become uncharted lives of adventure on life’s sometimes harsh and other times calm seas.

The listing is by no means inclusive and there may be names that are still missing.

It includes former and current seamen from North Side and will be added to the North Side memorial to seamen.

“The purpose of the memorial is like a looking glass into the past, a reflection of who we are, a symbol to acknowledge our forefathers,” said Kenny Ebanks, one of the members of the North Side memorial committee.

But while committee members are still trying to work out the finer details of the monument, they are soliciting help from the public.

The listing of the names of North Side seamen has been posted at Chisholm’s Supermarket, Over the Edge restaurant and Jack’s gas station – all in North Side – so people can add names and fill in the blanks of when the seamen were born and when those who have died passed on. It’s estimated that North Side produced about 230 seamen, but the figure could be higher. Even those who no longer lived in North Side will be included if the information is made available.

“We’ve had that list going around since before Ivan’s time,” said committee member Paul Ebanks.

Hurricane Ivan hit Grand Cayman in September 2004 causing widespread destruction.

And when Ivan struck, the work on the monument ceased.

History

The Caymanian Compass carried an article about the seamen’s memorials on 30 March, 2004.

We interviewed retired sea captain Owen Farrington who was president of the Seafarer’s Association when the monument idea sprouted in 2003.

“We were all from the sea and the economy of this Island started to grow with the seamen,” he said back then. “We seamen were taken for granted; we weren’t out there sharing a lot of stuff we knew.

“All of a sudden, we realised we were a group of senior citizens who don’t have a lot of time left.”

At the time, the idea was to have families and friends pay to have their loved ones’ names on a single monument, but as the idea grew, it was decided each of the five districts on Grand Cayman would have its own monument.

“When I became president, I wanted to see if I could find a site in George Town near the waterfront. I searched and tried and I was really getting discouraged, and one night I was lying awake and thought ‘why can’t we have one for each district?’”

Mr. Farrington went to the Seafarer’s Council and they approved the idea.

Sites for the memorials were pegged in North Side, East End, Bodden Town and West Bay.

Work has commenced only on the North Side monument.

In the 2004 article, John Smith, who was overseeing construction of the North Side monument, was prophetic when he said: “We’ve been working on this one a year. I don’t know when we’ll finish.”

Future

The Seafarer’s Association agreed seven years ago that fundraising would be integral to getting all the monuments built, and it’s a concern for the North Side committee today.

While there isn’t a dedicated amount to finishing the monument, committee members know it will take thousands of dollars. There are some fundraising ideas, but those have to be approved by the association and will be announced later.

Fundraising began on National Heroes’ Day on 24 January when North Side residents turned out for an afternoon ceremony to get an update on the status of the monument. On the day, more than $5,000 was raised through donations and pledges, but that is a drop in the ocean compared to what will be needed.

To help raise money and get names of former and current North Side seamen, committee members will turn to Facebook and a web page. Both are still in the design stages.

As for the memorial itself, a viewing platform has been constructed and is awaiting railing. Granite will grace the face of the monument and a fibreglass dome is envisioned for the top.

“Our idea of doing the dome was to have half a globe to keep it nautical with a catboat weather vane on top,” said Paul Ebanks. The half globe is to show that Caymanians sailed all over the world and the catboat is a major part of Cayman’s heritage. All three Islands are to be highlighted.”

For more information on the North Side Seafarers Monument or to learn how you can help, contact John B. Smith at 916-1934, Paul Ebanks at 
916-0701 or Kenny Ebanks at 916-6610

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From left, Burke Ebanks, John Smith, Harold Ebanks and Ashton Smith.
Photo: Tammie C. Chisholm