West Bay residents reflect on Christmas

On a recent Thursday morning the Compass headed to West Bay, looking for residents to interview about Christmas in Cayman. The first stop was Hell, and perhaps unsurprisingly, George Nowak, better known as Barefoot Man, pulled into the parking lot soon after. A devil had come home to roost. 

The troubadour, who was looking to replenish his CD stock in the gift shop, was greeted by Ivan Farrington, resident Beelzebub. 

“How the hell are you doing?” Mr. Farrington asked, a vision in his red cape and horns. 

Mr. Farrington has owned the nearly 100-year-old gift shop in Hell since 1987, and over the 28 years he has spent there, he has entertained visitors and residents with his endless puns and historical tales. 

The story of Hell’s beginnings, as printed on several of its postcards, is amusing, yet probably more anecdotal than truth. 

Supposedly, in the early 1930s, a commissioner from the U.K. visited West Bay and shot at a bird among a large patch of pointy black rocks. He missed the lucky creature, exclaiming “Oh hell!” at the same time. The name stuck, and remains to this day. 

According to Mr. Farrington, postage stamps were originally sold at the location from 1962, when Jeanette Parsons would sit at the window and the few tourists on the island would buy them from her. 

In 1985, Captain Theo Bodden built the post office and gift shops, and then gave them to the Cayman Islands government. Mr. Farrington brought his own gift shop to the location in 1987, and has run the place ever since. 

On the day the Compass was there, tour buses were arriving, bearing tourists eager to see the black limestone rocks that dominate the area behind the shops. 

Mr. Farrington straightened his horns and got into character for the army of visitors heading his way. 

We asked several West Bayers what Christmas means to them, and these are their responses. 

April Wright, craft artisan‘I just love being with my huge family, sharing a good time. I cook dishes, like Cayman-style beef (my favorite) and for dessert, it’s corn bread and cassava cake.’

April Wright, craft artisan‘I just love being with my huge family, sharing a good time. I cook dishes, like Cayman-style beef (my favorite) and for dessert, it’s corn bread and cassava cake.’

Winston Russell, taxi driver and tourism ambassador‘Christmas is when family members get together, have fun and are reunited. It’s a wonderful time of year.

Winston Russell, taxi driver and tourism ambassador‘Christmas is when family members get together, have fun and are reunited. It’s a wonderful time of year. My favorite dish is roast beef and curry goat.’

Kenny Phillips, service station attendant‘Family, friends and food. That’s what Christmas is all about for me. I like to party on Christmas Day because I don’t have to work. My favorite food?

Kenny Phillips, service station attendant‘Family, friends and food. That’s what Christmas is all about for me. I like to party on Christmas Day because I don’t have to work. My favorite food? Everything!’

Amil Stewart, landscaper ‘Christmas for me is all about giving and receiving, being with family and going to church.

Amil Stewart, landscaper ‘Christmas for me is all about giving and receiving, being with family and going to church. My favorite food is usually Chinese food, but in the season, it’s got to be turkey and ham.’ – Photos: Vicki Wheaton

The Hell gift shop building is nearly 100 years old.

The Hell gift shop building is nearly 100 years old.

George Nowak

George Nowak, aka Barefoot Man, musical artist, visitor to West Bay ‘I like Christmas because if they ask me to work over the holidays, I get double pay. I do have to burn up my credit cards, however, to buy gifts for my wife, two daughters, son and horse.’

Ivan Farrington, resident Devil at Hell ‘I get with my family and have lots of good food, but most of the time I’m working right up to Christmas.

Ivan Farrington, resident Devil at Hell ‘I get with my family and have lots of good food, but most of the time I’m working right up to Christmas. The dish I most look forward to is beef, Cayman style, and turkey.’
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