First Cayman Islands governor turns 100

Cayman Islands Governor Martyn Roper wishes the islands' first governor, Athelstan Charles Long, a happy 100th birthday on Wednesday. - Photo: Alvaro Serey

Cayman’s first governor, Athelstan Charles Ethelwulf Long, celebrated his 100th birthday Wednesday at his villa at The Pines Retirement Home, the senior care facility that has been his home for the past few years.

Mr. Long was treated to birthday cake and tea, greetings from fellow residents, birthday cards, hugs, kisses, and visits from members of the Cayman Islands Veterans Association and Cayman’s current governor, Martyn Roper.

“Congratulations on getting to 100. Well done,” Governor Roper told Mr. Long as he presented him with a birthday gift.

Mr. Roper laughed and chatted with Mr. Long over a cup of tea and told him he was grateful to have met him. Mr. Long thanked the governor for the visit and the gift and said he did not know of anything more he wanted for his birthday.

Andrew McLaughlin, president of the veterans association, said he and his fellow veterans were happy to be celebrating with Mr. Long.

“He is a long-standing member of the Cayman Islands Veterans Association and holds the prestigious title of the first governor of the Cayman Islands,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

He said Mr. Long had been a prisoner of war in World War II, enduring harsh conditions that never broke his spirit. Among his many decorations, he was awarded the Burma Star, his most treasured memento of his years of service to the Crown.

“It was a very special moment as the two governors shook hands,” said Mr. McLaughlin, who joined fellow veterans, friends, family and caregivers in celebrating Mr. Long’s birthday.

Cayman’s first governor, Athelstan Charles Long, reads a birthday card greeting as he celebrates his birthday at The Pines Retirement Home on Wednesday.

When he was reminded by everyone that he was 100 years old, Mr. Long said, “Oh, very good.”

Mr. Long served as the Cayman Islands’ last “administrator,” from 1968 to 1971, before that title was changed to governor, after which he served as Cayman’s first governor for just a few days. He was sworn in as governor on Nov. 3, 1971.

He said at the time, “It is a great honor to me to be the first person appointed to this post, even if only for some nine days.” He left Cayman at the end of his three-year term on Nov. 12, and was replaced by Governor Kenneth Roy Crook. Mr. Long moved back to the Cayman Islands about five years later, according to his son.

Born in 1919, Mr. Long was educated at Westminster School of Brasenose College, Oxford. After serving in World War II, during which he was a prisoner of war for three years, he worked in the Burmese civil service from 1946-47, and in northern Nigeria from 1948 until 1961, after which he was appointed deputy commissioner in Swaziland.

During his swearing-in as administrator of the Cayman Islands on Nov. 12, 1968, Mr. Long said the reputation of the islands had spread very far and was a credit to the local people. In a prescient comment, considering he is still in Cayman more than 50 years later, Mr. Long said at the time, “I feel sure that we will be very happy here. First impressions are frequently correct ones and if that is anything to go by, my wife and I feel very happy today.”

Former Governor Athelstan Charles Long celebrates his 100th birthday in the company of family, friends and Cayman’s current governor, Martyn Roper. – Photos: Alvaro Serey

After retiring from government service, Mr. Long continued to make a huge contribution to the Cayman people.

According to his son Charles, after leaving the post of governor, his father took up several posts. He served as chairman of International Management Group, chairman of the Public Service Commission, and deputy chairman of the Public Service Pension Board from 1992-96, after which he retired.

Smiling from all the attention Wednesday, Mr. Long said he was well.

“It’s nice to see all you people here,” he said of his visitors.

His son Charles presented him with a birthday card that read “Color Your World Happy Today.” Mr. Long was all smiles reading what Charles had written inside, as he took his time to savor the movement.

“He can still read without glasses,” Charles said.

Everyone took pictures, sang happy birthday and enjoyed his company for a while.