Cayman’s seafaring heritage will have new landmarks to honour its contributions to the development the islands. Premier Alden McLaughlin announced Monday that Harbour Drive will be renamed and a new public park will be developed to honour the country’s rich seafaring legacy.
McLaughlin, addressing attendees in Heroes Square on the final day of weekend celebrations for National Heroes Day, said Harbour Drive will be transitioned to Seafarers Way in the coming months to “celebrate and highlight our seafaring heritage and the points of significance along the George Town harbour front”.
Additionally, he said next month government will break ground on Seafarers Park in the capital.
“The park, to be located on the site of what was known as the Tower Building, will create a downtown public space where the community can gather, play and be inspired by our Seafaring Heritage through design and installations. These will include a bust of Miss Gwen Bush in recognition of her contributions to our seafaring legacy,” he said.
The cost of the development was not disclosed.
On Monday, government honoured seafarers from George Town and West Bay. The celebrations started Saturday on Cayman Brac to honour seafarers there. Another celebration was held at Pedro St. James Sunday evening to celebrate seafarers from the eastern districts.
McLaughlin also named a new national hero Monday, poet and composer Leila Ross-Shier.
“This honour recognizes the significance of her contributions as a patriot and nation builder. Not only was Mrs Ross-Shier renowned for our national song, ‘Beloved Isle Cayman’, but she was also the author of many poems that reflected the Caymanian people, our spirit and our life,” he said.
Ross-Shier first penned ‘Beloved Isle Cayman’ in 1930, which was later recognized as the Cayman Islands official song in 1993.
The song, he said, is treasured as the national song not only because of its unique style but “the words also engender much pride, emotion and patriotism in the hearts and minds of all Caymanians and everyone who calls our beloved Isles home”.
“I know that I am filled with a sense of pride every time I hear our national song.”
New busts of national heroes Ormond Patton, William Warren Connolly and Evelyn Wood were also unveiled Monday at Heroes Square.
In his speech, McLaughlin said seafaring “remains stitched into our very being”.
“We are reminded of it everywhere, in the stories still repeated at family gatherings; and even in our national symbols. Our Coat of Arms with three stars, representing our three Islands, resting on blue and white ‘waves’ above the words from Psalm 24 ‘He Hath Founded It Upon The Seas’ remind us of it,” he said.
The premier said that during the so-called ‘Southwell Years’ over 2,000 Caymanian men sailed every sea and ocean in the world.
Culture Minister Dwayne Seymour and Opposition Leader Arden McLean commended the seafarers who shaped the foundation of the Cayman Islands.
McLean also read profiles of Captain Anderson Radley Scott and Gentry Lee Tatum, the last known Caymanian seafarers who are actively at sea carrying on the “great tradition” of seafaring.
Recipients of the Order of the Cayman Islands were also honored at Monday’s event.
The relaunched Order of the Cayman Islands is bestowed on members of the community for service in various fields. The new award scheme recognises individuals across three levels – ‘Members’, ‘Officers’ and ‘Companions’.
Former MLA Heather Bodden, Dr. Gerald Smith, John Edward Ebanks, Nurse Shirline Henriques, Suzy Soto, Reba Dilbert and Dr. Delroy Jefferson received honours. Pastor Randall von Kanel was off-island and unable to collect his award.
Seafarer’s Association President Denniston Tibbetts welcomed the honours bestowed on all seafarers in Cayman and the new landmarks.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said, adding that seafarers have built a long legacy in the Cayman Islands.
He said honour must also be given to all the frontline health workers helping to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
At all events, the conch shell was blown and the bell was rung eight times to mark the significance of the homage to seafarers.
All seafarers and relatives of those who have passed were presented with certificates and a special commemorative insignia.