By Christopher Tobutt
The Cayman Islands has been honoring its seafarers in each district with special Seafaring Heritage days across the Islands. The first one took place at the East End Civic Centre on Tuesday 15 November
The first district celebration took place at the East End Civic Centre on Tuesday 15 November. Mr. Alfonso Wright, Executive Chairman of Celebrate Cayman, welcomed everyone.
Mr. Wright explained that, Originally, Cayman’s seafarers would have been recognized as part of the National Heroes Day Celebrations in January 2021, but Covid got in the way, making it impossible to honor them properly. So, to make up for it, it was decided that each district would celebrate and honor their own seafarers, and their families. Only this time, because they are so important, every single seafarer found in the records from different sets of records would be put on the list and invited to the celebrations, enlarging the original list of just around 1000 to more than 3000 in total.
The new list didn’t just include captains and other seafarers who had risen high in seafaring ranks, either, but all of them, and regardless of how long they were at sea. That is because all of them contributed to building and transforming the Cayman Islands by sending home their money every month to their wives and families, who used it for whatever they needed, and would build houses for it, or use it to help with their children’s education. That is why the Cayman Islands owe them so much, and should never forget them or begin taking them for granted.
Ms. Carmen Conolly spoke forth a heartfelt prayer, not only for the Seafarers alone but for the Cayman Islands: “Thank you Heavenly Father for your blessings and for our Government, who has prepared this evening, to celebrate our seamen, and been through so much to make our seamen feel wanted and know that they have done the works to carry these islands through.
One of the seafarers being honored was East End’s Ednay McLean, who went to sea between 1972 and 1975. was one of the seafarers being honored. “I sailed on the Maracoona Conveyor, I sailed on the Imperial Isle, and the Ottawa, and we had a good time, they were good days. I’ve been all around the world, to Africa, Europe and America,” he said, “and this event is honoring all the seamen for their contribution to the Cayman Islands. We are the people who built these islands, because we used to get our money and send it home to our families.”
East End MP Isaac Rankine recalled listening to the men’s stories, when they came home. He had asked one of them what to do to prevent sea sickness, because he felt he would follow in their footsteps and go to sea too, but he was told, ‘No, times are changing. Don’t go to sea. There is something better for you now.’ The Seafarers had made a new path for him, as they made new paths and new futures for all Caymanians.
There was a quotation from one of the Seafarers: “Leaving my family behind, not knowing what lay ahead, leaving them in tears…I looked at the sky, I offered my prayers, I asked God for guidance and strength. But the simple beliefs of a simple man lay in his hand and on my head.”
There was a charming presentation from three girls from the East End Primary School, a dance and song, and then the names on the long list were read out by East End MP. Each of the seafarers was asked to stand, as their names were called, and they were presented with their certificates afterwards. Only a few of them that were on the list were present, but often sons, daughters, brothers or sisters stood up in their place if they could not be present.
Samuel Rose, Cabinet Secretary read the poem Allotment Day by Ms. Virginia Suckoo:
“Where are all these women going so dressed up, with bags in hand, church shoes and church hats. Something going on, that I never heard about? You never heard? Someone said, with a shout, ‘its Allotment Day on the twentieth,”
They’re all lining up at the front of the shop, jostling to get to the front of the line, waiting to hear if their names will be called. It is taking such a long time. Its Allotment Day on the 20th””