Biography of Margaret ‘Lizzie’ Powell

Born by the light of a flickering kerosene lamp, in the wee hours of 4 March 1937, Margaret ‘Lizzie’ Powell (née Ebanks) is the daughter of to the late Florence and Allen Ebanks.

Growing up in West Bay, she spent many a daylight hour jumping in the sea from the high rocks of the ironshore behind her home. Other childhood amusements included spinning homemade gigs (tops), skipping rope, and playing marbles with knickers from the cat claw plant, as well as with homemade marbles. The latter were made by pounding rocks, then wetting and moulding the dust to form balls which were then dried in the sun.

However, she also recalls the responsibilities she had as a child and the times spent assisting her mother. Tasks included trudging over sharp limestone rocks hunting for tops from the silver thatch trees, which were used for the twisting of strand to make rope. She spent a good deal of time in the ‘Land’ (an area of West Bay) helping with the ‘ground’ (Caymanians’ version of farmland). There she helped plant and tend to crops, used in everyday food provision for her family. Evenings were typically spent twisting strand for rope making while battling swarms of mosquitoes that were constant pests back then.

She attended the West Bay Town Government School, under the guidance of headmistress Miss Smith and teachers such as Miss Genevieve.

In 1962, she married James Powell Jr., and moved to Rush Pond Road (now called Powell-Smith Road). It was there that she was formally introduced to the Caymanian cultural art of thatch weaving (plattin’ as Caymanians call it) by Jimmy’s Aunt Isabel (Miss Issie) Powell and his cousin, Florence Tatum.

“Florence and I had the opportunity to attend straw basket-making classes in the old government compound behind the George Town Library. These were taught by Miss Harrison from Jamaica,” Mrs. Powell recalls.

Today she is an active member of the Wesleyan Holiness Church and Women of Faith Ministries. Through these ministries, she has been involved with the senior citizens of West Bay. Her assistance with seniors includes making home visits, shopping for them, and taking them to medical appointments, among many other acts of service. She considers it a blessing to be able to lend a hand to those in need. She also assists with the West Bay Seniors’ Fellowship at the John Gray Memorial Church.

Additionally, Mrs. Powell spends much of her time preserving the Caymanian tradition of thatch weaving. She takes pride in her work and makes a variety of products from her thatch platting. She maintains a strong desire to share this tradition with younger generations and visits schools demonstrating and talking about this fading Caymanian tradition. She has been recognised by the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands and Governor’s Conservation Award for her work in the preservation of this aspect of Cayman heritage.

Mrs. Powell continues to live in her native district of West Bay. She has two daughters and seven grandchildren, all of whom admire and support her as she demonstrates kindness towards others and a determination to continue Cayman Islands heritage through platting and straw work.

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