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EDITORIAL. Honouring our Heroes: Dr Roy McTaggart, Cayman’s 9th National Hero

The late Dr Roy Edison McTaggart was declared as National Hero of the Cayman Islands by Premier Alden McLaughlin in 2016.

“Although he passed away in the 1980s, many of the older generation will remember Dr Roy well, while the younger generation will certainly know his name. We have all benefitted from his many good deeds, undertaken during a long life spent serving this country with diligence and dedication. It is truly fitting that we have chosen to recognise one of the builders of a modern Cayman Islands,” the Premier said in making the announcement during National Heroes Day celebrations in George Town.

“Dr Roy was a pioneer in the development of a modern Cayman, erecting the first four-storey building; he was the country’s first and only dentist at the time; a pioneer in tourism; founder of a newspaper; a staunch member of the Legislative Assembly; a businessman; cultural guardian; philanthropist; and former president of the Chamber of Commerce – all at a time when the Cayman Islands was at a crossroads,” Mr McLaughlin added.

The Premier said Dr Roy is perhaps best remembered as the man who helped ensure the Cayman Islands remained a British Crown Colony when Jamaica chose independence in 1962.

“At a time when Britain gave us the choice to go with Jamaica, Dr Roy opposed the move,” Mr McLaughlin said. “It was a tense time in the Cayman Islands with the decision to stay with Jamaica or with Britain polarising Caymanian opinion, greatly raising the temperature of public debate and throwing party alignments into disarray.”

At the time, residents of the Sister Islands threatened to seek separate Crown Colony status under Britain, if Grand Cayman opted for Jamaica rule.

“Governor Kenneth Blackburn, after listening to the impassioned plea of Dr Roy and the applause that followed that fateful evening in the George Town Town Hall, declared that the British case had clearly won. The next day, the Assembly unanimously passed the resolution to keep the Cayman Islands as a British colony,” Mr McLaughlin noted.

Describing Dr Roy as a politician of the finest calibre, Mr McLaughlin recalled “one of his most significant achievements during that time was to help bring free education to the Cayman Islands by introducing the Compulsory Free Education Bill, which passed in 1921.”

Dr Roy was the first and only chairman the Cayman Islands Shipping Company Limited that owned and operated the MV Cimboco, a vessel that was a lifeline for Caymanians during the Second World War. He also built the Seaview Hotel on South Church Street, where Ugland House now stands and was one of the first Caymanians to build homes for rent. Among his other contributions to Cayman society included serving as the first chairman of the Heritage Council and a general philanthropic spirit.

“Dr Roy was a generous man and gave large contributions to The Pines Retirement Home and the Prospect Youth Centre. He often performed dental procedures for free as well and helped fellow Caymanians in any way he could,” Premier McLaughlin noted before committing him to perpetuity as an official National Hero of the Cayman Islands.

Also speaking at the event, Minister for Agriculture Kurt Tibbetts said: “It was a joy to see the honour of National Hero bestowed on Dr Roy. I encourage everyone to get to know the contributions of this outstanding character from the history of our islands.”

Dr Roy’s Drive in George Town was previously named in his honour.

Cayman’s other national heroes are - James (Jim) Manoah Bodden, Thomas William Farrington, Sybil Joyce Hylton, Ormond L. Panton, Desmond V. Watler, Mary Evelyn Wood, William Warren Connolly, and Sybil McLaughlin – the only living national hero.

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