Located off Sea View Road, past East End Primary School, John McLean Drive, once known as “Up on the Hill” runs up a steep hill leading from the coastal Sea View Road. Many residents of the district have sought refuge there from storms over the years.
John McLean Sr. put through the road after he was elected as the Member of the Legislative Assembly for East End in 1976. Members of the community requested that the road, which was approved in 1977, be named in Mr. McLean’s honor.
Today, several roads lead off John McLean Drive to the East End coastal road, which gives residents quick and easy access to high ground in the event of an emergency.
In 2014, district community activist Edney McLean and a group of volunteers spent several weekends making improvements to a local footpath off Fiddler’s Way. The group built 15 concrete steps on a steep cliff face footpath that made a popular shortcut safer.
Residents of the area say they believe that several lives were saved during Hurricane Ivan because someone had the foresight to create a makeshift escape route from East End’s main coastal road to John McLean Drive.
People tied a rope from the Church of God Universal on Sea View Road to a car parked on John McLean Drive to guide themselves up the hill to the Civic Centre as Hurricane Ivan blew through their homes.
Resident Wardley Connolly said he believes that the rope leading to higher ground is what saved him and his family during the storm.
Getting up the steep hill was once a challenge for residents who lived on the hilltop years ago. Back then, it was home to six or eight families, and was famous locally for cattle rearing and crop growing.
Today, more than 200 homes occupy the hilltop after a road was put in by government. Now, there are churches, a civic center, shops and restaurants, and many access ways and businesses can be found in the area.
“Getting up and down the cliff was a journey done by foot by residents years ago,” said 69-year-old Alvin McLaughlin. He remembers there being no hand railings or support as residents carefully made their way up and down the steep paths.
“When I was growing up, I think [there were] maybe four or five paths that made their way down to the coastal road. The biggest and widest footpath came off the cliff in front of the old Hurley’s Supermarket on Sea View Road, which was totally demolished during Hurricane Ivan in 2004,” he said.
“All the people that went inland and came out with donkey loads of produce had to use this road because the others were too steep,” he said.
A second footpath came out by the Heritage Playing Field, adjacent to Captain George Dixon Community Park. Another was between the homes of Johnnie McLean and Quiznell McLaughlin, located just before the East End Public Library, while yet another came out in front of the Church of God Universal in an area known as “Point.”
Mr. McLaughlin said the area around John McLean Drive was mainly used for farming and rearing cows. It also contained a water well known as “Miss Evelyn,” which was located down a dirt road known as Fig Tree Lane, across from Huswell Rankin’s house, and which all the local residents used for drinking, watering plants and feeding animals.
This article is one in a continuing series that explores the stories and history behind some of Cayman’s road names.