House pays tribute to pioneer weatherman

First Chief Met Officer was a ‘true nation-builder,’ premier says

Members of the Legislative Assembly stood for a minute of silence on Wednesday morning, paying tribute to the late Frank Ellsworth Roulstone Jr., who headed Cayman’s weather service from the early 1960s until his retirement in 1988. Mr. Roulstone died at his home in West Bay on Oct. 26 after a long illness. He was 85.

Speaker of the House McKeeva Bush read a brief biography of Mr. Roulstone, which traced the history of the development of the weather service. He added his memories of the weatherman’s connection with and provisions for Caymanians who worked as caretakers for operations in the Swan Islands, Honduras.

Minister Tara Rivers said recognition of Mr. Roulstone was well deserved. She spoke of the involvement his family and hers had in the development of tourism.

Premier Alden McLaughlin recalled Mr. Roulstone’s care about those less fortunate in the community, his humanitarian service, and the expertise and enthusiasm with which he carried out his work. He said he mourned the loss of Mr. Roulstone, whom he called “a true nation-builder” of the Cayman Islands. Deputy Governor Franz Manderson expressed thanks for all Mr. Roulstone had done in the civil service and in the country.

Mr. Roulstone first arrived in Cayman from Tampa, Florida, in 1955 for a two-week vacation to visit his parents. “He met Caymanian beauty Elizabeth (Beth) McTaggart on that trip and he knew then Cayman would be his home for good,” said Mr. Bush, who related details of Mr. Roulstone’s life.

“Mr. Frank’s parents [Frank Sr. And Dorothy] ran the Seaview Hotel and, during the early 1950s, the U.S. government wanted to establish weather stations throughout the Caribbean to assist in tracking storms that might ultimately threaten the USA. Cayman was strategically located. Being closest to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, it would essentially have the last word for Miami before storms moved up into the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic coast.

“Some of the early ‘weathermen’ in Cayman were staff of the U.S. government who stayed at the Seaview Hotel on short rotations. It was those weathermen who convinced Frank that he should consider taking over the weather operations on a full-time basis.

“Frank returned to Tampa, Florida, to complete his education then returned to Cayman to work at the Weather Bureau, training under the Americans who had established the station. He took over the permanent position of meteorologist in 1963. During these early years, Caymanian men were still earning their livelihoods at sea and so Frank had the enviable position of having only women to help him staff the Weather Bureau.

“These brilliant, hardworking Caymanian women were: Floris [Polly] Thompson, Alice Anderson, Lillimae Bodden, Kadie Ebanks, Helen Hislop, Gilda Panton and Sharon Ebanks.

“These ladies and Mr. Frank were a dedicated, hard-working team. Their daily routine, which became round the clock as storms approached, included multiple daily balloon launches for tracking upper-air conditions coupled with equipment on the ground, including the big radar in the famous white dome at Owen Roberts. These allowed Mr. Frank to relay local weather conditions to the National Weather Service in Miami; to aircraft using Cayman’s airspace and; generally to anyone in Cayman who had an interest in weather conditions, usually fishermen and dive operators.

“In 1976, the Cayman Islands government, recognizing its own need to have full time weather operations, jointly with the U.S. government, formed the Cooperative Upper-Air Station. Frank became its first Chief Met [Meteorological] Officer. When Radio Cayman was born that same year, Frank provided daily forecasts and tide tables to a much wider grateful Cayman public.

“Fondly known as the ‘Weatherman,’ Mr. Frank faithfully carried out his duties to the U.S. and Cayman Islands governments for almost 30 years. Frank was a devoted public servant as well as a friend to so many people in this community. May his soul rest in peace.“

1 COMMENT

  1. I would like to make a correction as to the original four ladies who worked with Mr Roulstone at the weather bureau. They were Floris (Polly) Thompson, Lilly Mae Bodden, Alice Anderson and Elizabeth Banks.

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