More than 100 residents of Cayman were honored for their achievements at the National Heroes Day ceremony on Monday.
Hundreds of people gathered in the heart of George Town including ministers, honorees, invited guests, and the general public, to celebrate Cayman’s cultural heritage.
In his opening remarks at the 90-minute ceremony, Premier Alden McLaughlin told the audience, “It’s because of these people, the true nation builders, that the Cayman Islands is one of the best places in the world to visit live and work …. Most of all, because of our caring and loving people who embrace and cherish our cultural heritage.” He continued, “We must embrace our cultural heritage so that we remember the attributes we have inherited individually and as a country from past generations.” The premier also noted in his address those who contributed to Cayman’s cultural heritage were, “not just those who were born of this soil but many who have come here and helped us to recognize how precious many of our cultural traditions are … who have helped us to preserve, promote, recognize, acknowledge, and to respect the culture of these beautiful islands that he hath founded upon the seas.”
National heroes remembered
Mr. McLaughlin also lauded the national heroes of the Cayman Islands. “Today we also pay tribute as we always do, to our national heroes, there are eight of them now… We must not forget our national heroes.”
The premier also noted the 105th birthday of Julia Hydes and the attendance of the only living national hero – Sybil McLaughlin. “Today we still have with us, praise be to God, Mrs. Sybil Ione McLaughlin, and she is present with us this morning. Miss Sybil, as most of us know her, was honored for her contribution to the development of the parliamentary development in Cayman and to community life. Among her outstanding achievements was her appointment as the first clerk of the Legislative Assembly [in 1959] and she was also the first woman to hold this post in the Commonwealth,” he said.
A national hero is defined as, “A man or woman [the Governor] considers to have provided exceptional and outstanding service to the islands and the people of the islands,” according to the National Heroes Law (1998 Revision).
Cayman’s other seven national heroes, all deceased, recognized for their service were: James Bodden; the first national hero; William Warren Conolly, the founding member and deputy-president of the National Democratic Party; Thomas William Farrington, known for holding his seat in the Legislative Assembly for 55 years; Sybil Joyce Hylton, known for developing the scouting movement in the Cayman Islands; Ormond L. Panton, the first politician to win an election as a party leader; Desmond V. Watler, Cayman’s first treasurer in 1969, a position known today as financial secretary; and finally, Mary Evelyn Wood, the first woman elected to the Cayman Islands Legislature and the first to serve on a jury.
The premier and government minister Osbourne Bodden presented bravery citations to Edward Azan, Charles Ebanks, and Ray McGuire for their bravery following an armed robbery at the Blackbeard’s liquor store in Grand Harbour in May 2012. Two police constables, Manley Berry and Khalesiah Barboram, were also recognized for their bravery during an armed robbery at CashWiz store in Bodden Town, also in May 2012.
Cultural Heritage pioneers
The theme of this year’s National Heroes Day was “Honouring Cultural Heritage,” and, in keeping with the theme, a special tribute was made to Cayman’s “Cultural Heritage Pioneers.” Nominated by the public for their “significant contribution” to the promotion and preservation of Cayman’s culture and heritage, these pioneers received awards in the following categories: Early Pioneers, Pioneers, Emerging Pioneers, Memorial Scroll, and Long Service Award.
The cultural pioneers awards were presented by Mr. Bodden, and Jennifer Ahearn, the chief officer in the Ministry of Health, Sports, Youth and culture.
Of the 16 early pioneers recognized, Nell Connor who was awarded for her contribution to the promotion and preservation of the Cayman Islands’ cultural heritage prior to 1960.
The 54 pioneers included such local talents as the late Gladwyn Klosking Bush, known as Miss Lassie; Wray Banker; Daphne Louise Ackermon-Orrett; George Nowak, also known as the Barefoot Man; Margarito Chantilope; and Frank McField.
The emerging pioneers were defined in the program as a “person who has made significant contribution from 2003 to present to the promotion and preservation of the Cayman Islands’ cultural heritage.”
The ceremony recognized 22 emerging pioneers, including Roy Bodden, Keino Daley, Karla Reid, and Alexander Urquhart.
Mr. Bodden touched upon the importance of Cayman’s younger generation in keeping local cultural heritage alive.
“As we remember the good old days, let us remember that our youth has also played an important role in keeping our culture alive and some are already busy doing this … Nowadays, we have young filmmakers, artists, musicians, and they helped to build up the strong and modern, yet culturally rich society,” he said.
Mr. Bodden added, “I truly believe that this young and brave generation will one day make a greater change, and further strengthen and promote our islands’ culture, making this a better place to live for many years to come.” Seven deceased individuals were honored for a “Memorial Scroll Award” and family members collected the awards on their behalf. Another 32 people were recognized for their support of Cayman’s heritage for 10 years or more in the “Long Service Award.”
Mr. Bodden also encouraged the public to “love and be proud of our culture” and to “celebrate those among us who work to promote our cultural heritage.”
Following the formal ceremony, the celebrations continued with heritage displays at the Town Hall.