Dr. Roy named as new national hero

Cayman’s newest national hero is the late Dr. Roy Edison McTaggart, a pioneering politician, businessman, dentist and philanthropist.

Premier Alden McLaughlin made the announcement at the National Heroes Day celebration Monday, an event which also recognized more than 300 pioneers in agriculture.

Dr. Roy Edison McTaggart
Dr. Roy Edison McTaggart

Dr. McTaggart is the first national hero to be named since 2012 and is the ninth person to receive the accolade.

“As one of the founding fathers of our nation, it is truly fitting that we have chosen to recognize the late Dr. Roy as the ninth national hero of the Cayman Islands,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “We have all benefitted from his many good deeds, undertaken during a long life spent serving this country with diligence and dedication.”

Dr. McTaggart, who was born in 1893 and died in 1983, is perhaps best remembered for his role in ensuring the Cayman Islands remained a British Crown Colony when Jamaica became independent in 1962.

He was the only one of the 18 MLAs at the time who was opposed to aligning with Jamaica, and he canvassed the Cayman Islands, receiving more than 3,000 signatures in support of remaining with Britain. After hearing Dr. McTaggart’s passionate speech, the House voted unanimously for the islands to remain a colony.

Dr. McTaggart was a legislator for more than 35 years, and he helped to bring free education to the Cayman Islands, introducing the Compulsory Free Education Bill, which passed in 1931.

Dr. McTaggart joins the ranks of national heroes James (Jim) Manoah Bodden, William Warren Conolly, Thomas William Farrington, Sybil Joyce Hylton, Ormond L. Panton, Desmond V. Watler, Mary Evelyn Wood, and Sybil McLaughlin who is only the living recipient of the award.

Following the installation of Cayman’s new national hero, Agriculture Minister Kurt Tibbetts and Leyda Nicholson-Makasare, deputy chief officer for Planning, Lands, Agriculture, Housing and Infrastructure, presented awards to the 325 pioneers in agriculture selected for recognition this year.

Awards were given to individuals, some posthumously, in five categories. There were 19 people honored as early pioneers, 38 honored as pioneers, 17 recognized as emerging pioneers, 109 placed on the memorial scroll, and 142 long-service certificates awarded.

Dr. Roy McTaggart, second from left, shares a laugh with Prince Philip in Jamaica in the 1960s.
Dr. Roy McTaggart, second from left, shares a laugh with Prince Philip in Jamaica in the 1960s.

“Their labors of love are the reason we are here today to celebrate their achievements,” Mr. Tibbetts said. “My personal appreciation of our farmers is well-known, and we still have many things to look forward to from this sector.”

“I can only encourage our young people to follow in their footsteps – with what are sure to be equally rewarding results,” he added.

The ceremony, held in Heroes Square and attended by Governor Helen Kilpatrick, was filled with pomp and circumstance, and featured a parade of unformed detachments of various services and community organizations. Later, 200 young schoolchildren walked through the square, waving the flag of the Cayman Islands.

After the presentation of awards, wreaths were laid in tribute to all of the Cayman Islands’ national heroes and nation builders, and the ceremony closed with a performance of the national song, “Beloved Isle Cayman” by Rudy Myles and Lisa Scott.

Following the ceremony, attendees could sample fare from local cooks at food stalls, or tour an agriculture display at the town hall. The display will run until Friday, Jan. 29, and features photos from the National Archives, farming artifacts, plants traditionally farmed in the Cayman Islands and more.