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West Bay Heritage Committee Members Reconnect

Local News 30 Oct, 2023 Follow News

West Bay Heritage Committee Members Reconnect

By:  Flynn Bush

On a cool morning, with the sky threatening rain, a very special group of people gathered at a small venue close to the sea.  They came together to fellowship and catch up with each other, and to even reminisce a little.  Together, their years of life measured well over a thousand; but their joy and youthfulness still flowed like that of a preteen, and their eyes still sparkled.  On this day,    Saturday, October 21, 2023, it was not just about some mature individuals meeting to have some fish and fritters at the Heritage Kitchen restaurant.  It was about what connected this group of people; what they had in common.

They were all Past West Bay Heritage Day Committee Chairpersons and members namely Dalkeith Bothwell, Mario Ebanks, Mitchell Welds, Arden Parsons, Loxley Banks, Waldo Parchment, Lewie Ceto Hydes, Abrana Banks, Erna Jane Ebanks, Charlie Farrington, Rolphie Braggs, Alice Mae Coe, Leonard Ebanks, Rob Bennett and Kenneth Ebanks representing the period 1977 to early 2000. 

The Pirates Week Festival was initiated in 1977 and, although, it was meant to be a means of boosting tourism to our islands, this small group of individuals recognized it as an opportunity to display our culture and heritage. They worked to organize and run the West Bay Heritage Day during the early period and through to the year 2000.  The traditional way of living was to be highlighted.  Everything was to be on display - From the wattle and daub houses and the ways of keeping the sand-and-conch shell yards; the thatch plaiting and rope making; sewing, cross-stitching, dressmaking, the Miss Heritage Queen and the Baby Show contests, and Traditional Old-Time games for the children.  The Traditional West Bay Sand Yard Wedding next to the wattle and daub house and kitchen.  The demonstration of the smoke pot and its usage to deal with the plague of mosquitos in the early days; On the District Heritage Days, the caboose was in use for our fish fry and fish tea so visitors could experience a taste of our traditional method of cooking including Turtle Meat, Corn Turtle, Salt Beef and Beans, Salt Fish, and Cayman Fish Stew (Fish Run down) etc.; salted fish was on display hanging in the old-time kitchen.  The smells from the rich flavors and styles of our cooking emanated from those outdoor kitchens. There was also a section for the demonstration and the use of medicinal plants that cure certain illnesses.  The art of sailing, turtling and all things nautical as a nod to our seafaring heritage including the demonstration of turtle net knitting; and the building of turtle kraals for holding live turtles was also on display.  The presence of the cat boat and personnel on hand to talk about its usage at the Moskito (Mosquito) Cays to harness turtle, or to transport people and goods between the districts in Cayman.  The art of thatching our house roofs; our religious beliefs and worship practices; and so much more.

These fine folks made it all come to fruition, and not just that first year, 1977, but they ensured that it grew from strength to strength each year.  Former committee chairman, Mr. Dalkeith Bothwell stated, “These people worked tirelessly, and without compensation, to make the Heritage Day what it was supposed to be.  They gave freely of their time, knowledge, money and sweat to ensure that everything that was needed was done and they have never asked for any recognition.” During this period, a large number of Caymanians from overseas also made it their business to visit family and friends, which was a boost to our Tourism product.

Prior to the Breakfast event, several meetings were held to discuss and to identify persons within the West Bay District who they considered would meet the criteria to be nominated to receive the 2024 National Heroes Day Awards – Celebrating our Cultural Artists and Creatives.  Mr. Dalkeith Bothwell remarked, “We are happy to confirm that through our group efforts sixteen persons from the West Bay District were identified to be nominees for the 2024 National Heroes Day Awards, and only one is from our committee.”

So, on October 21, 2023, it was a regrouping of sorts for all those who were instrumental in the early years of this important cultural event, i.e., Pirates Week Float Parade and District Heritage Days; and through it, the preservation of our culture was highlighted.  It should be noted that, over the years, there have not been very many accolades given to this group, or similar groups from other districts who facilitated our art and culture to be on display, by our authorities or governments.   It is regrettable that for some honorees, it will be their children who will collect the award as they themselves are no longer with us.  Those same children were invited to represent them at the Morning Breakfast on 21st October 2023.

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