Dr. Hortor honored with unveiling of headstone

Attending the unveiling of Dr. Hortor’s headstone in West Bay Cemetery Monday evening were, back row, from left, Brittanni Seymour, Jonathan Welds, Jones Welds and Grace Wright; front row, Kenrick Welds and Betty Ebanks. - Photo: Ken Silva

An official viewing was held Monday to unveil the headstone that marks the resting place of Dr. William Alfred Conrad Hortor, who was one of Cayman’s first medical doctors and served here from the mid-1930s to his death in 1960.

Only six people showed up to the unveiling in West Bay Cemetery, but all of them were directly or indirectly impacted by Dr. Hortor.

“Each one of us have had personal experiences of his treatments. He saved my life because I had blood poisoning – what’s now known as sepsis – and I became unconscious,” said Betty Ebanks, who helped spearhead the efforts to obtain a headstone for Dr. Hortor. “That’s when I was about 8 years old.”

Kenrick Welds, who helped Ms. Ebanks with the initiative, said that Dr. Hortor stitched his eye once after he was hit by a cyclist on his first day of school. Mr. Welds’s brother, Jones Conrad Welds, said he was delivered by Dr. Hortor.

The Welds brothers and Ms. Ebanks were just a few of the hundreds treated by Dr. Hortor, who was appointed as the government medical officer in December 1936 and was the jurisdiction’s only doctor at the time.

Dr. Hortor made sure everyone on the island was cared for, Ms. Ebanks said. He lived in West Bay and often walked between the districts to make house calls, she said.

About twice a month, a clinic would be held in East End and Dr. Hortor would be driven there. He often stayed there until midnight to make sure everyone was seen, Ms. Ebanks said.

Along with those treated by Dr. Hortor, others never met the man but nevertheless have had their lives impacted by his efforts.

Brittanni Seymour, for instance, had a great grandmother who was trained to be a nurse by Dr. Hortor. Ms. Ebanks explained that Dr. Hortor helped get Cayman’s first set of nurses certified.

“She wouldn’t have been a nurse without his training,” Ms. Seymour said of her great grandmother, Geraldine Grant.

Kenrick Welds said he was happy to honor Dr. Hortor, but was disappointed that it took some three years to raise roughly $3,100 for the headstone – Churchill’s Funeral Home also made a donation and placed the headstone at Dr. Hortor’s grave about two weeks ago.

“I thought it was going to happen in less than six months because of how well known he was,” Mr. Welds said.

The engraved words on the headstone read: “His memory lives on through the sharing of his medical expertise and his undivided devotion to the people of the Cayman Islands from 1936 until his death. He fulfilled the call to ‘serve one another in love.’”

Dr. Hortor, who hailed from England, was among the early pioneers of medicine who was honored in the 2015 Heroes Day. His name is also included in the Wall of Honour in Heroes Square in George Town, which was unveiled during the Cayman Islands Quincentennial celebrations in 2003.

He arrived in Grand Cayman in 1936 on board the Cimboco from Jamaica. and remained in Cayman for the rest of his life.