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Governor's Tribute to Sir Vassel

Sir Vassel Johnson, photo by Patrick Broderick.

Tribute to Sir Vassel on his passing

By His Excellency the Governor, Mr Stuart Jack, CVO

Today is a day of great mourning for the Cayman Islands with the passing on of Sir Vassel Johnson, Cayman's first and only knight. He passed away yesterday evening at the age of 86 years. Born in Jamaica, he came to live in Cayman via Cuba in 1934 at age 12 with his parents and siblings.

He served his adopted country well.

As one of the architects of modern Cayman, especially its financial industry, Sir Vassel guided the steady growth of these Islands as the first Financial Secretary. His remarkable vision set the foundation for the prosperity and economic stability of these Islands.

Without his input, Cayman might well have remained the islands that time forgot. Indeed, he helped place the Islands firmly on the world map.

What we take for granted today may not have come to pass if this man of great integrity had not helped to establish the Cayman Islands as an offshore centre. Even more so, he helped Cayman maintain its edge as a financial centre at a time when many other jurisdictions were going the same route. It is no exaggeration to say every man, woman and child in Cayman owes him a debt of gratitude.

Sir Vassel rose from humble beginnings to a greatness that he himself never made much of. Joining the Cayman Islands Government as a clerical officer, he moved steadily upward, putting his accountancy education to the best advantage of these Islands. He became the government official who held the Islands' purse strings firmly, for the betterment of the people.

A quiet, gentle family man and a church elder, Sir Vassel received many accolades, including the OBE and the CBE. His crowning moment was being knighted by Her Majesty the Queen in front of the Legislative Assembly on 26 February 1994. As the Queen tapped him on each shoulder, a huge crowd jostled to get a glimpse of the honour being bestowed upon him. It was an extraordinarily proud moment for the country.

Following his knighthood, Sir Vassel was quoted as saying, "I was grateful because my adopted home has been good to me. At the same time, I trust that I have been good for it."

Mariko and I join the people of the Cayman Islands in extending our deepest condolences to Sir Vassel's widow, Lady Rita; and all his family. We will always cherish his memory - for who he was as a man, and for what he did for the country.

For further information contact: Bina Mani