Celebrating our seafaring heritage – Heroes Day 2021\
By Christopher Tobutt
National Heroes Days 2021 celebrated Cayman’s seafaring heritage at Heroes square on Monday. It was something of a record-breaker, with more than four hours to celebrate and honour Cayman’s seafaring heroes by presenting hundreds of awards, both directly to those living, as well as to their relatives if they have already passed into glory. “He hath founded it upon the seas,” the motto on Cayman’s Coat of Arms, itself tells the story of how three tiny islands in the middle of the sea have become so well established that today they play significant role in the world’s economy. It was because of the seafarers who, generation after generation, built a solid foundation for the Cayman we have today.
Because of covid 19 Heroes day was actually split into three different days, with the awards for Sister Island honourees on Saturday 23rd of January, and for the districts of East End and Bodden Town on Sunday 24th, with the biggest meeting (focused on honourees from George Town and West Bay) on Monday.
Mr. Deal Ebanks sounded the conch shell, alongside Miss Arriane Ebanks, heralding the start of the ceremony. Sounding the conch shell in days-of-old meant that the fishing schooner was coming into port, and there would be plenty of fish for all. The Premier, Hon. Alden Mclaughlin said, “I am extremely proud to be part of the programme honouring these men and women in my last term as Premier. This year is also special to me because eight new people have been admitted to the Order of the Cayman Islands and are being recognized.
“Given the importance of seafaring in the Cayman Islands, it is right that we not only recognize our seafarers during Heroes Day, but celebrate our seafaring tradition over the course of 2021. For well over a century, seafaring and shipbuilding were the true backbone of the Cayman economy.”
Hundreds of presentations, awards and honours were divided up into several sections. The very first section belonged to the presentations of the Order of the Cayman Islands. To be an Officer recipients included: Ms Heather Bodden for “Devotion to sustained and selfless voluntary service within the community,” Dr. Gerald Smith for “Longstanding contributions to the medical field,”Mr. John Ebanks for “Contributions to the improvement of the lives of others,” Nurse Shirline Henriques for “Contributions to nursing practice, leadership, and education.
To be a Member recipients included Mrs. Suzy Soto for “Contributions to the preservation of Caymanian culture and the development of the tourism industry,” Ms. Reba Dilbert, for “Outstanding work in arts and culture,” Pastor Randy von Kanel for “Outstanding charitable work and Christian Leadership,” and Dr. Delroy Jefferson for “Outstanding and dedicated service throughout the covid 19 pandemic.”
The next section was composed of awardees for seafarers, and was divided into “Early Pioneers,” “Pioneers,” and “Excelled at Sea,” with large numbers in each category. The final sections included “Women in Seafaring,” “Friends of Seafarers,” and the Memorial Scroll. This year, too another Hero was officially recognized, Leila Elberta Ross-Shier.