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Dr. Roy New National Hero

Dr. Roy New National Hero

The late Dr. Roy Edison McTaggart is the Cayman Islands’ newest national hero.

Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin, MBE, JP, MLA. made the announcement during the National Heroes Day celebrations today (Monday, 25 January 2016).

Dr. Roy, who died in 1983, is the first national hero to have been named since 2012 and the ninth to receive the award.

Describing Dr. Roy as a politician of the finest calibre, Mr. McLaughlin lauded his many attributes and achievements.

“As one of the founding fathers of our nation, it is truly fitting that we have chosen to recognise the late Dr. Roy as the ninth national hero of the Cayman Islands,” he said. “We have all benefitted from his many good deeds, undertaken during a long life spent serving this country with diligence and dedication.”

Also speaking at the event, Minister for Agriculture, Hon. Kurt Tibbetts, OBE, JP, said: “It was a joy to see the honour of National Hero bestowed on Dr. Roy. I encourage everyone to get to know the contributions of this outstanding character from the history of our islands.”

Born in 1893, Roy was a pioneering politician, businessman, dentist, cultural guardian and philanthropist.

Yet he is perhaps best remembered as the man who ensured the Cayman Islands remained a British Crown Colony when Jamaica became independent in 1962.

At that time, Britain gave the Cayman Islands the choice to move to internal self-government under Jamaica or to remain as a colony. Totally opposed to aligning with Jamaica, Dr. Roy canvassed the Cayman Islands and received more than 3000 signatures in support of remaining with Britain. *He made a passionate speech early in the Legislative Assembly debate, and after contributions by other MLAs, the house went on to vote unanimously for these islands to remain a colony.

The last son of Frederick S. McTaggart and Antoinette Marie Eden, Dr. Roy attended Presbyterian School in the Cayman Islands, in those days the only school in Grand Cayman, and which his father was instrumental in establishing. He then studied at Morrison’s Collegiate School in Jamaica, followed by colleges in Philadelphia and Washington, DC.

Qualifying as a doctor of dental surgery, he graduated at the head of his class at the age of 22, and became the sole dentist in the Cayman Islands at that time.

He married his first wife Rhoda Virginia Bodden in 1916. After her death in 1965 and being widowed for many years, he married Emily May Bodden in 1972.

A legislator for more than 35 years, as the second elected member for George Town Dr. Roy helped bring free education to the Cayman Islands, introducing the Compulsory Free Education Bill, which passed in 1931. He was also the first chairman of the former Cayman Heritage Council.

Dr. Roy started his business career in 1917 when, with his brother Dr. Malcolm “Mallie” McTaggart, he purchased F.N. Lambert & Co, a firm that had vessels in the shipping and turtling industry. He was also the first and only chairman of the Cayman Islands Shipping Company Ltd. that owned and operated the M.V. Cimboco, a vessel that was a lifeline for Caymanians during the Second World War.

In 1947, Dr. Roy ventured into real estate when he built the Sea View Hotel in George Town. He and an American associate later constructed Coral Caymanian, which was the first rental homes development in the Cayman Islands.

He also built the original Barclay’s Bank building in George Town, which was the first four-storey building on the island. In addition, he was a founder and managing director of the Cayman Weekly newspaper which was a forerunner of today’s Cayman Compass.

A generous man, Dr. Roy gave large contributions to the Pines Retirement Home and Prospect Youth Centre, and often performed dental procedures for free.

Dr. Roy was also part of the Caymanian leadership which opposed joining the ill-fated West Indies Federation in 1957. This move triggered constitutional changes which came into effect in 1959.

His family home was on South Church Street, where Ugland House is now located. Dr. Roy’s Drive is named in his honour, and there is a plaque on the wall of Elmslie Memorial Church which also bears his name.

Dr. Roy now joins the ranks of national heroes Hon. William Warren Conolly, OBE, JP; Hon. James (Jim) Manoah Bodden; Hon. Thomas William Farrington, CBE, JP; Hon. Sybil Joyce Hylton, MBE; Hon. Ormond L. Panton, OBE; Hon. Desmond V. Watler, CBE; Hon. Mary Evelyn Wood, Cert. Hon.; Hon. William Warren Connolly, OBE, JP; and Hon, Sybil McLaughlin MBE, JP who is only the living recipient of the award.

*This sentence has been amended to avoid any implication that on the day of the Jan. 1962 vote Dr Roy was initially the only MLA to support a continued relationship with Britain.

For further information contact: Suzette Ebanks