A yearlong celebration of Cayman Islands culture kicked off Monday morning on the front lawn of the Glass House.
Under overcast skies, about 300 people attended the outdoor event marking the 60th anniversary of Cayman’s coat of arms. Shade banners with the colors of the national flag – red, white and blue – rippled overhead. The speakers, who included Premier Alden McLaughlin and Governor Anwar Choudhury, were backed by a large illustration of the 60th anniversary logo.
Deal Ebanks helped set the tone by giving three blasts on a conch shell. The signal, he said, was a traditional announcement for the return of the islands’ fishermen. “It lets people know that there is fish available,” he told the crowd, “but it also announces their safe return.”
Monday’s event recounted the story of the coat of arms and the history of the Cayman Islands at that time. Mr. McLaughlin called it a “celebration of our incredible journey as three small islands that have emerged from relative obscurity onto the world’s stage.”
He said it was appropriate to recognize the coat of arms as “our first internationally recognized symbol of identity.”
He added that before 1958, when the coat of arms was adopted, the Cayman Islands was known as “the islands that time forgot.” He recounted the country’s progress from a relatively undeveloped society to where it is today.
Governor Choudhury helped to present a recently reproduced Royal Warrant, which was unveiled by Captain Owen Farrington. The original warrant, which authorized the production of Cayman’s coat of arms, was destroyed by fire in 1972. The replica was prepared by Garter King of Arms at the College of Arms in England.
“It’s vital we remember our history,” Mr. Choudhury said.
The event ended with a newly recorded rendition of the national anthem. Lisa Scott – granddaughter of the song’s composer, Leila Ross-Shier – and her husband Dan Scott, had the piece scored and recorded by a full orchestra, with Ms. Scott singing, in Seattle, Washington. They have gifted the recording and the sheet music to the government.
As the crowd lined up for a traditional Cayman lunch that followed the program, Mr. Ebanks talked about what he sees as a critical juncture for recalling the islands’ history.
“We are a young culture,” he said. “A lot of people say we don’t have a culture. We need to know our culture before we lose sight of who we are. If we don’t do it now, we’re going to lose it.”
The next big event in the yearlong schedule is the Summer Festival on June 23.