William ‘Billy’ McLaren dies at 84

William “Billy” George McLaren, a longtime resident of the Cayman Islands and a former member of parliament in Jamaica, died Nov. 1. He was 84.

Mr. McLaren “sported a pearl-handle revolver and wore a cowboy hat … but never rode a horse,” according to a tribute from a fellow parliamentarian in the Jamaica newspaper The Gleaner.

“North East Manchester Member of Parliament Audley Shaw said the man who served in Parliament between 1967 and 1976 was not only a colorful personality, but also a representative who served his people well,” the article says.

“Mr. McLaren [is] to be ranked among those who not only were good politicians, but by any standard of measurement were very effective political representatives.”

According to The Gleaner, Mr. McLaren was a businessman and potato farmer who contested and lost the 1962 general election, but ran again successfully for the Jamaica Labor Party. He served two terms before migrating to the Cayman Islands in the 1970s in the wake of political violence in Jamaica.

In 2008 Mr. McLaren was conferred with a Jamaican national honor of distinction in recognition of his dedicated service to Parliament and agriculture in Jamaica, where he was minister of rural lands.

During his tenure he established 13 new land authorities to represent each parish in the island and they overproduced domestic food crops to such an extent that for the first time they started to export, Mr. McLaren told the Caymanian Compass in 2008.

He received the Order of Distinction, Commander class, by the governor general on the advice of Jamaica’s then-Prime Minister Bruce Golding.

“He was flamboyant, not intimidating, and he was able to relate to all layers of rural Jamaica,” said member of Parliament Peter Phillips.

Mr. McLaren was born and reared in Coleyville, in the Manchester region of Jamaica, the west-central area, and made his living from farming.

“I was Jamaica’s largest Irish potato grower. I produced up to 520 tons of potatoes on my farm in a year,” he told the Compass.

In 1976 he retired from politics and moved to Cayman full-time.

He owned and sold various businesses over his time here, including a chicken farm. Later he opened Billy McLaren Construction.

“My time here has been good,” he told the Compass in 2008. “Cayman has been extremely good to me.”

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