When Beckie Seymour-Haye set out with her two daughters one Sunday evening to find a new fishing spot, she didn’t know that a few days later she would be looking for family members to claim a 48-year-old misplaced, misspelled tombstone.
Full of curiosity, she made it her business to find out how it got there and return it to family members.
“It was just lying there on the side of the dirt path off South Sound as I was making my way back to the car,” said Ms Seymour-Haye, an administrative assistant at the Cayman Islands Museum. “I stopped, read the inscription ‘Father and Grandfather, James Witmore Ebanks July 16 1899-Feburary 11, 1965’, I wondered what in the world it was doing there lying among the trash. It then occurred to me that my great grandfather went by the name Witmore Syms.”
After a few nights of nagging her husband, Ms Seymour-Haye knew she had to find his relatives and so she called the Recreation, Parks and Cemetery Unit. They told her it was not their issue and to call Environmental Health instead. Getting frustrated with the run around, Ms Seymour-Haye decided to launch her own investigation through the telephone directory.
“As we all know, Cayman has so many Ebanks, I did not know where to start,” said Ms Seymour-Haye. “I called South Sound resident Georgette Ebanks for help and she directed me to a cousin of hers who was 82.”
Finally she was guided to Captain Paul who knew the man as being from the West Bay area, not South Sound.
She took the tale of the misplaced headstone to her boss, Amanda Bush, at the Cayman Islands Museum. Ms Bush told her to contact the Caymanian Compass.
West Bay resident Tony Powell finally found the daughter of James Ebanks on Poinsettia Lane in West Bay.
Carolyn Watson said she was the daughter of the late James Whitmore Ebanks, not James Witmore Ebanks as the headstone stated.
“If it is the same headstone I first ordered from Buddy Bush in South Sound that came misspelled, I will gladly take it back to my home in West Bay,” she said. “It is strange that a headstone with my father’s name should turn up at this time because I know I placed one on his grave some years ago. I guess papa wanted it brought home.”
At her father’s gravesite where she was pulling weeds, her thoughts and words turned to him.
“I never came to fix your grave since Christmas and it does not look nice this morning, but I will get back to it as quick as possible and put another bouquet on it for you. I miss you very much and think about you often,” said Ms Watson. “It must have been urgent, daddy, if you had to bring the Compass.”
According to Ms Watson, in earlier years, there were mostly sandy graves at the cemetery as cement vaults were not popular. Her ancestors were buried in the sandy ground and no one kept the graves marked, so they have all but disappeared. That is why she had a headstone made for her father’s grave. “I’m not getting any younger and the family needs to know where ancestors are located,” she said.
James Ebanks was one of seven children born to Thomas and Annie Ebanks. James, a turtler and seaman, had five children of his own. When he was not looking for turtles, he stayed on land and did painting for others in the community. Carolyn, the oldest daughter, was 28 when her father died.