Getting to know you: Governor Martyn Roper

From assisting with turtle nest translocation, to sampling local delicacies and joining roadside Batabano spectators, Governor Martyn Roper has truly settled into Cayman life since arriving late last year.

His previous diplomatic career had taken him all over the world, exposing him to a variety of experiences and culminating, for the moment, with his post in Cayman.

Behind his extensive career experiences and prestigious title, is a friendly family man from Halifax, West Yorkshire, keen to interact with the communities in which he serves.

Governor Martyn Roper emerges from the waters off Seven Mile Beach back in February. – Photos: Taneos Ramsay

What made you want to become a career diplomat?

I loved learning languages and wanted to travel to see the world.

Where did your career take you before Cayman?

Iran, Hungary, Mozambique, Kuwait, Iraq, Pakistan, France, Brazil, Algeria and China.

What has been the most challenging post of your career?

Algeria where the security situation was difficult and as ambassador I had a four-man military protection team 24 hours a day. While I was there, in 2013, there was a major terrorist attack on a BP gas installation and I led the UK crisis response to that incident. David Cameron, the then prime minister, also visited as we were coming out of crisis.

How did you and your lovely wife Elisabeth meet?

She was working at the British Embassy in Hungary so it was an office romance.

Have your children expressed an interest in following your career path?

Matthew (26) is a speech and language therapist in the UK NHS and Jessica (23) has just started work for the Foreign Office in London. She never showed any interest in being a diplomat as she grew up but decided she would give it a try.

You seem to have immersed yourself in Cayman life, and have attended many cultural events since arriving in Cayman. Do you have any favourite moments so far?

Learning the steel pan with Earl La Pierre and then performing ‘Yellow Bird’ and ‘Chariots of Fire’ at the Queen’s birthday party was certainly one. I have no musical talent at all so Earl is a true genius.  Everywhere I go I now get asked to play including at John Gray High School end of term.  It was a bit daunting, but I very much enjoyed learning a new skill and will try to keep it going.

The governor enjoys exercising along Seven Mile Beach.

You are also very active on social media. Have you always been?

I started on Twitter and Facebook as ambassador in Algeria and saw its power in being able to connect with Algerians who otherwise would have no contact with an ambassador. I think it breaks down barriers and builds connections. When I got to Cayman I was told I had to use Instagram. I had no idea what it was but now use it daily and it is growing faster than my Facebook and Twitter pages. 

Was there anything about Cayman that was different to your expectations?

I knew the islands were one of the best-run Overseas Territories but I was surprised by the quality of the infrastructure, our tourism offer and financial services sector. The extent of services provided in such a small territory is also impressive and I have seen some great examples of excellence and customer service. There is more to do on cutting bureaucracy, changing aspects of the culture and a faster pace to delivery but our excellent deputy governor’s vision of a world-class civil service is going in the right direction. The people make a place special and Lissie and I have both been overwhelmed by the genuinely warm Caymankind welcome. The respect and affection for HM The Queen, Royal Family, and for the role of governor, is also much greater than I was expecting.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time and have you picked up any new hobbies since being in Cayman?

It is a very busy role with many social commitments. I really enjoy those and I am keen to be accessible. When I have downtime I just like to relax. I keep fit and try to jog frequently. I have also purchased a paddle board and enjoy going out on that, though the police seem to be anxious every time I do so.

What is a typical day for you? Or does that not exist?

It does not really exist as the role is so varied and can cover many different activities and issues. In my first year I have sought to get out and about as much as possible e.g. visiting civil service departments to thank staff for the excellent job so many of them do or visiting schools and hospitals and going out on patrol with the police. Many people ask to call on me in my office and I have received visitors from all walks of life. Tuesday morning is always Cabinet, which I chair so that does provide some routine. I have a weekly meeting with the Premier on a Thursday. I work closely with our excellent Deputy Governor so we see each other frequently.

Looking back, what advice would you give your younger self?

Always step back more and see things in a bigger perspective, which I think happens naturally as you get older.


What items do you never leave home without?

A positive mindset and my mobile phone, of course.

Favourite song, style of music or era of music?

I love the ’80s, so Simple Minds, Tears for Fears and U2 were amongst my favourite bands, and more recently, Coldplay.

If you could invite anyone to a dinner party who would it be?

That is a difficult one! Perhaps someone who had really inspired me in life e.g. a former languages teacher at my grammar school in Halifax or the best leader and manager I worked with in the Foreign Office. I might just invite my wife, Lissie, who has given me incredible support over the years.

Favourite time of day?

I like to rise early and that is my favourite time of day. You also have some incredible sunsets.

Favourite food?

I eat anything but particularly like seafood. I have been struck by how food is a big part of our culture on the islands. I recall a visit to Cayman Brac where I was fed every hour at each different stop and got to taste lots of different heavy cakes.

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