The turnout at the Harquail Theatre on June 9 could have indicated the performance of a hit play. From applause during the program and the line of autograph seekers afterward, the evening was a hit all right.
The star was not an actor and, in fact, spent little time on stage. But either John Lemuel Hurlston is a very popular man or else the local population is hungry for a story about a Caymanian growing up in Cayman and recounting his life in the context of these islands’ development in the last half of the 20th century.
Mr. Hurlston formally launched his autobiography, “A Life That Counts,” with the same attention to detail and minute-by-minute planning that he employed as a senior civil servant when he was charged with responsibility for a royal visit. When he thanked the participants, he expressed regret that traffic and parking delays had prevented Rev. Mary Graham from offering the opening prayer “precisely at 5:59 p.m.”
His audience laughed at the humor and truth of that remark.
Their good mood may have been encouraged by a slideshow presentation of family photos and old Cayman scenes that helped set the ambiance of the event and kept people entertained as they awaited the late arrivals.
Austin Harris served as master of ceremonies and provided a glimpse of how Mr. Hurlston’s book came to be. It was originally intended to be shared with his children and grandchildren. One story led to two, two stories led to 10, and the family encouraged him to put them together in a book.
Excerpts were read by Roy Bodden, president of the University College of the Cayman Islands, and Jenny Manderson, former principal secretary.
Mr. Bodden concentrated on events in 1988, when he was an MLA for Bodden Town and Mr. Hurlston was the Third Official Member of the Legislative Assembly; when Jim Bodden, later Cayman’s first National Hero, died and some people wanted a state funeral for him; when Hurricane Gilbert struck and HRH Princess Alexandra visited a few weeks later.
Mrs. Manderson shared the exhausting schedules of a chief secretary and an acting governor – both positions Mr. Hurlston held at times in his 26-year career.
Featured speaker was Rt. Rev. Robert Thompson, Bishop of Kingston, who came to Cayman specifically for the book launch.
He referred to the apparent paradox of Mr. Hurlston’s life as a leader in governance and business being undergirded by a life of service. Leadership requires a certain amount of toughness, he pointed out, while servanthood is shaped by tenderness and love.
“Lemuel made a difference, and continues to make a difference, because the offering of self remains at the heart of his identity,” Bishop Thompson told the audience, “I hope that as you read the text you may find something in it to inspire your own story in life’s journey – making it a life that counts.”
In his brief response, Mr. Hurlston thanked the many people who had helped him with the book, especially his wife, Marcia, and their family. Specifically, he hoped that the decision to publish his memoir “may become an inspiration to others to do likewise.”
Mr. Hurlston will be signing books at the Civil Service Co-op Credit Union (which he helped found) on June 30 from 12:30-2:30 p.m. He will be at the Credit Union Cayman Brac Branch on July 1 from 10-11 a.m.
‘A Life That Counts’ is available at Book Nook and Books & Books.