By Christopher Tobutt
Members of the Cayman Islands Government including the hon. Premier Wayne Panton marked the International Day of the Seafarer by renaming Harbour Drive, as well as sections of North and South Church Street, ‘Seafarers Way,’ on Friday 24 June. It was a great day to celebrate and be proud the generations of seafarers who built the foundation of modern Cayman, by travelling all over the world and by sending home money, month after month, to the families they left behind.
Pastor Winston Rose opened the ceremony with a prayer: “Today as we celebrate this wonderful occasion, we are mindful that none of this would be possible without your grace and favour. Father we are grateful for the many ways you have poured out your blessing on these three small islands. We pray that your goodness to us will motivate us to serve you all the days of our lives,” he said.
In his opening remarks, Cabinet Secretary Samuel Rose said, “As we continue to ‘Celebrate Cayman,’ we set aside our differences and agendas to focus on the things that unites us and binds us together as Caymanian People, so I want to pay homage to the past administration for setting this policy, and renaming this road, and this new administration for seeing the renaming of this road through to completion.”
Celebrate Cayman Executive Chairperson Alfonso Wright acted as MC, introducing former seafarer Mr. Richard Arch, MBE who told many stories about Seafarers, and especially the schooners that Caymanian men not only sailed, but also built. He told of the merrymaking at their launch, as well as swimming in hog sty bay, right next to where the celebration was taking place.
Next, Nasaria Suckoo Chollette read a poem, “Allotment Day,” written by her mother, Virginia Suckoo. It was all about the time when the women of Cayman waited patiently for their money to come through, from their husbands at sea, working for National Bulk Carriers. “Where are all these women going dressed up, fans in hands, church shoes and church hats? Its Allotment day on the 20th. They are all lining up at the front of the shop, jostling for the front of the line, listening to hear if their names will be called…”
In his address, Hon Premier Wayne Panton described the huge impact that seafarers have made to the life and culture of the Cayman Islands: “Thank you for joining us today again as we continue to pay tribute to our islands’ very rich seafaring history. I would hazard a guess that every local multigenerational family has stories about grandfathers and fathers, uncles, brothers and sons who went away to sea, and also of grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters and daughters who ardently took up various jobs as part of their duties; handling household tasks, raising families, socializing with sometimes vexing relatives and indeed running the affairs of the country, all the while coping with the emotional ups and downs that came as a result of their loved-ones being away.
“One of those women was Miss Gwendoline Bush, the Matriarch of Cayman Seafarers. Miss Gwen worked for my Grandfather at Pan-Carib Agencies that was the agent for National Bulk Carriers. After his untimely death she continued to work for my uncle, Colin, who at that time was a young man thrown into a business he had little knowledge of. It was Miss Gwen who received the telegraph from the shipping companies, stating which seafarers were needed, and it was she who told the men that they had gotten the call. At any given time there were hundreds of Caymanians at sea, and to Miss Gwen they were all her boys.”
“Lloyd Brown, a seafarer for five years, said: “I went all over the world,” he said. “It’s nice, because to build a house, you have to start with the foundation. If we didn’t go to sea, Cayman wouldn’t be here today.”