UPDATED: Longtime East End MLA John McLean dies

John Bonwell McLean Sr., one of Cayman’s most prominent politicians and a former Member of the Legislative Assembly, passed away on Saturday.

He was 69 and had been unwell for a short time.

The stalwart member of the East End community served in the Legislative Assembly from 1976 to 2000. Twelve of those years were spent on the ministerial level.

Opposition lawmakers expressed condolences to the McLean family and recognised McLean’s contributions to the development of the country and in particular, his home district of East End.

“While we are saddened to hear of his passing, we pause here to pay tribute to his many years of service to our country and in particular his contribution to our development. We share in this loss to his family, friends and people of East End,” an opposition statement read.

When McLean held his first political meeting in Leanise Conolly’s front yard in 1976, he was 27 years old with an infant son. He worked with Kirkconnell Brothers at the time.

A powerful figure in Cayman’s politics in the 1970s, McLean unseated Warren Conolly for the district seat in East End in 1976 and went on to represent the East End constituency for the next 24 years.

McLean was born in February 1950 to Vella and the late Berkley McLean. His father died when he was just 6 years old.

He received his education at the primary school in East End and the Cayman Islands High School in George Town.

McLean said he owed his success to his brother Joseph McLean who supported him in school.

When he graduated in 1968, he went to work with the Royal Bank of Canada as a filing clerk, rising to the post of assistant accountant.

In 1973, he joined the staff of Northwestern Bank as operations manager, but left a year later to work in the accounting department of the Kirkconnell Brothers.

He had three children with his wife Stephanie, nee Miller.

McLean later remarried and continued expanding his family.

He was East End’s political star.

Although he had originally wanted to become a lawyer, McLean entered politics with the needs of East End at heart. He felt his district was being kept back and lacked greater investment.

While seeking election in East End, McLean aimed to encourage investors in the district and to revive the construction industry. He felt government should offer aid to improve the International College of the Cayman Islands and said he would seek the people’s advice before seeking a seat on the Executive Council, if elected.

McLean went on to serve on that council, and in his role in the Legislative Assembly, he advocated for the development of roads and infrastructure projects.

The East End road that bears his name, John McLean Drive, once known as ‘Up on the Hill’, was built in 1977 after he was elected. Members of the community had requested the road and decided to name it in McLean’s honour.

He was instrumental in the development of East End’s two civic centres, which have proven vital in times of emergency.

His efforts first brought telephone service to his district. McLean also established an investment and management consulting firm in 1981 with the late Desmond Seales, founder of the Nor’wester magazine.

McLean was one of Cayman’s biggest farmers and won numerous trophies and awards during the Agriculture Show.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now