Emily Seymour has a keepsake that has quite the tale to tell.
Officers from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service recently presented the 83-year-old Caymanian with a copy of a painting of the old downtown police station – the place where she was born.
Ms. Seymour had spotted the painting hanging on the wall of the present day George Town police station on Elgin Avenue while conducting business at the station. She began relating to duty officers how she came to be born in the old building before the new one took its place on the same site.
Her father Joseph Leopold Llewellyn was a police officer from St. Ann, Jamaica, who came to Cayman after being recruited by government. When he arrived in Grand Cayman, he moved into the living quarters of the police station.
He met and married Elizabeth Louise Anderson, the daughter of Gifford and Odena Anderson of Anderson Square in George Town.
Emily was born in the station in 1932. In those days, midwives delivered babies at home, as no medical facilities existed.
Describing the old building as her mother told her, Ms. Seymour said the upstairs was used as the police station and living quarters. Underneath the station, on the ground floor, was a storage area and a small prison. To the left of the police station, on the site of what is now the Glass House, was another two-story building where government business was carried out and where the commissioner lived.
Ms. Seymour said Kirkland Nixon’s great-grandmother cooked the food for the prisoners at that time.
“Prisoners never got what they get at Northward today. Prisoners in those days got stewed salt beef, breadfruit, cassava, sweet potatoes and dumplings,” she said. “If they did not eat it, they starved. In the morning, they got some bush tea and a flapjack.”
Ms. Seymour’s mother also told her that her father would visit all the districts to take statements, patrol the streets, answer house calls on foot, make arrests, transport prisoners on his bike, by foot or canoe, and fill out paperwork.
Whatever crime was committed – mostly petty crimes – the accused went to court, was tried by the Justice of the Peace and, if found guilty, was locked up in the little downstairs prison, she said.
Her father was a policeman in the district during the 1920s, and from what she learned from her mother in later years, he was well liked and respected by all. In those times, there were few problems of any kind; doors were left unlocked, everyone helped one another and Cayman was very safe.
“I am now 83. I saw many changes and was not saddened when the building was torn down but happy to see the island progressing,” she said.
There were no vehicles, so most police duties were carried out by foot. The police commissioner also walked or rode a bicycle. She said the island had one doctor. The prison was mostly empty and no guards were needed as prisoners were let out during the day to exercise in the yard or clean the roads.
The biggest crime her father processed was a murder in Cayman Brac and he had to go by boat to get a statement, she was told.
In earlier years, she said officers got the chance to talk to people and see what was taking place. Even the Jamaica-appointed commissioner (precursor to today’s governor) walked, traveling around the island, meeting residents, all of whom he knew by name, she said.
Times today are very different. “I have lived on this property for 64 years and I have not seen a policeman patrol the area on foot, stop and talk to people and just find out how are things are going in the area,” she said.
Ms. Seymour recalls a typical day on island as getting up early in the morning to do chores, cooking and housekeeping because there were no jobs at the time. Apart from that, there was nothing much else to do. The men went to sea and women stayed home to take care of the children. There was one school on the waterfront.
As a child, she attended school, played and did chores, like most other children. In her teens, she started making floral arrangements for weddings. She left school at 16 and married Ferdinand Seymour, a seaman.
Before that, she lived with her father and her mother and when her father died at age 42 from a heart condition when she was just 4 years old, her mother moved from the old station to live with her grandmother, who helped raise her.