National Heroes day is a great day for celebrating all the wonderful people who have built Cayman’s society over the years, making the country the shiniest jewel of the Caribbean. Caymanian people never cease to amaze with their great achievements – whether it is captains of huge ships who started as engine-room wipers, to sports men and women who gain high accolades in international events.
This year, a total of 316 honours were bestowed on Cayman’s sporting pioneers: nine in the ‘Early Pioneer’ category, 79 in the ‘Pioneer’ category, and 26 ‘Emerging Pioneers. There were also ‘Long Service’ and ‘Memorial Scroll’ categories.
Each of the ‘Pioneers’ was invited onto the stage at Heroes Square in George Town, to receive their special Heroes Day insignia, and be greeted by Hon. Dwayne Seymour MLA Minister for health, Environment Culture and Housing, and Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, who was a notable track and field talent when she was younger, and who received an award herself during the proceedings. Ms O’Connor-Connolly spoke warmly of “Coach” Gerald Harper Jr, who coached and encouraged students on Cayman Brac, who fought against the odds (including competing in bare feet!) to gain several accolades in sport, both locally and internationally. Mr. Harper was also presented with a Pioneer award.
But this year’s ceremony began with something very special: A citation award for bravery for a 16 year old boy, Beha Hanson and a marine conservation officer, Alan Mackay who jumped into the sea to save two snorkelers who got into difficulties off North Side last year. Although one of them died, the other one was saved.
Pioneers were not only recognized for participating in sports, but also for their efforts in starting and running sports clubs, or for promoting sports, both at home and overseas. Among them was Jerris Miller, who not only distinguished himself by participating in sailing for many years, but also by acting as president for many different sports clubs and organizations over a span of several decades.
Renard Moxam was recognized, as being the nation’s first professional football player as well as boxer Charles “Killer” Whittaker who helped Cayman on the international boxing map – and there were many, many others, too many really to try and list.
Premier Hon Alden McLaughlin MBE, said: “We chose sports as the 2018 theme because of the positive effect it has on our people’s health, our community and our economy. We have many in the sports arena who have excelled as athletes, coaches, mentors and staff to help the youngest of our athletes grow and achieve to become some of our most celebrated sportsmen and women on the world stage.”
Mr. Seymour said: As Minister for Culture and a keen sportsman myself, it gives me double pleasure to celebrate this year’s chosen subject. We are shining the spotlight on sports and the many great achievements and contributions our people have made to the development of this facet of our society.
Every single person who is being honoured today is truly deserving or our recognition.”
The National Heroes Commemoration, honouring the nine national heroes of the Cayman Islands, was delivered by Isaiah Whittaker, Prospect Primary School’s 2017 head boy, and Jamie Ebanks of Clifton Hunter High School. A visual presentation then highlighted great Cayman Islands sporting moments.
Led by Cabinet Secretary Samuel Rose, JP, wreaths were laid in tribute to all of the Cayman Islands’ national heroes and nation builders, after which a moment of silence was observed.
At the end of the proceedings, Mr McLaughlin announced that the National Heroes Day 2019 theme will be maritime heritage, celebrating the Cayman Islands’ great seafaring past.