The Coat of Arms is our first internationally recognised symbol of identity. Its rich imagery tells the story of who we are, our history, our culture, our earliest industries, our constitutional relationship and our faith.
Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin
Published 29th January 2019, 1:42pmI extend a warm Caymanian welcome to everyone and thank each of you for joining me today on this National Heroes Day where we are “Celebrating the Creation of our Coat of Arms”. I must admit, my heart was filled with pride as I watched those precious children walking past while waving flags and hearing our National Anthem, God Save the Queen. These are meaningful symbols of who we are as Caymanians, as is our Coat of Arms. It was the conferral of our Coat of Arms that began our incredible journey as three small islands in the Northwest Caribbean Sea that have emerged from relative obscurity onto the world’s stage. Last year we observed the 60th anniversary of our Coat of Arms and heralded the return to these islands of a very special part of our history, the Royal Warrant, which was conferred by her Majesty the Queen on 14 May, 1958, but had been lost in the fire that had destroyed the former government administration building in the 1970’s., When we examine the storyline that bridges the gap between Cayman’s earliest settlement and our rapid ascension to becoming a world class leader in financial services and tourism, the conferral of the Coat of Arms arguably represents the seminal event that provided the catalyst that put the Cayman Islands on the path to modernity. It is indeed my distinct honour to share the story of how our Coat of Arms came into existence and pay homage to the many individuals who contributed to its development. The Coat of Arms is our first internationally recognised symbol of identity. Its rich imagery tells the story of who we are, our history, our culture, our earliest industries, our constitutional relationship and our faith. Up until 1958, life in the Cayman Islands was summarised by the legendary phrase, “the Islands time forgot”. There were many who saw little by way of a future here and chose to migrate, whether to Central America, Isle of Pines in Cuba, the United States or Jamaica. But many others remained, determined to stay and tarry on while bravely facing the most difficult of circumstances. You see, these hardships forged generations of Caymanians, steeling their spirits and uniting their hearts in a commitment to succeed while producing legendary iron men and women. It is important to note that at this time we were constitutionally a dependency of Jamaica, which was itself a British Colony. Whilst domestic affairs were managed locally and trade routes existed with other countries, the administration of the country was overseen by a Commissioner or Administrator who himself reported to the Governor of Jamaica. Then in the late 1950s a man of vision arrived: Commissioner Major Alan Hilliard Donald. Commissioner Donald is recognised for his central role in the development of the Cayman Islands first national symbol – the Coat of Arms. Commissioner Donald would have seen first-hand the independence and ingenuity of the Caymanian people despite their constitutional link to Jamaica and recognised that Caymanian people clearly distinguished themselves from their neighbours to the Southeast. Commissioner Donald put forward a proposal to adopt a Coat of Arms for the Cayman Islands, which was approved by resolution of the Legislative Assembly of Justices and Vestry on 3 April, 1957. In what could have been one of Cayman’s earliest examples of a public consultation exercise, on 11 April, 1957, Government notice 33/57 was issued requesting all interested persons to submit design ideas and illustrations for the Coat of Arms. A deadline of 1 May, 1957, was set. One design was submitted by an American residing in Cayman named James “Jimmy” Ford, of the Yacht Club/Port of Call (now the Wharf). This submission assisted in the final design for the Coat of Arms. It is also believed that Commissioner Donald chose the motto “He Hath Founded it Upon the Seas” from Psalm 24 as it reflected the Christian faith of the Caymanian people. On 5 February, 1958, a resolution was moved in the Legislative Assembly by the Commissioner to approve the selected design of the Coat of Arms and to send to Her Majesty’s Government for approval. It gives me great honour to recognise Mr. Linberg Eden and Capt. Owen Farrington, the two living Vestrymen who would have been serving at the time the resolution was moved in the Legislative Assembly. There were three key features the people of the Cayman Islands placed great value on and wanted represented in the final design. Those were: ● The representation of the British connection ● The representation of the sea as the home of Caymanians ● Something to symbolise the three Islands Additionally, it was noted that for sentimental reasons Caymanians desired to retain the thatch rope as part of the final design. The chosen design for the Coat of Arms for the Cayman Islands features a shield, crest and motto and incorporates important historical and indigenous features of the country. The shield features blue and white wavy lines representing the sea. Three stars of green, lined with gold, lay atop the lines, depicting our three Islands. The top the shield features the British lion, symbolising the Cayman Islands’ connection to the United Kingdom. Above the crest are the arms elements of the Coat of Arms. The green sea turtle is a prominent feature, representing the Islands’ original name “Las Tortugas”, given by Columbus, as well as the turtle fishing industry. The turtle sits on top of intertwined bands of blue and white silk, representing Cayman’s thatch rope making tradition. Above the turtle is a pineapple, which represents the connection the Islands have had with Jamaica. At the base of the shield is the motto “He Hath Founded It Upon the Seas”. On 14 May, 1958, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II assigned the Armorial Ensigns to the Cayman Islands, bringing to life the first key symbol of national identity for Caymanians. The granting of the Coat of Arms began the process of formally distinguishing the Cayman Islands from Jamaica and Cayman found itself at a crossroads with many choices to make. Once again our community and its leaders rose to the occasion, putting into motion a number of watershed moments in our history. The legislation that was adopted, the choice to remain part of the United Kingdom when Jamaica chose independence, the receipt of our first constitution order, the granting of the right of women to vote and stand for election and the introduction of our own currency were just a few of the milestones fundamental to the development of the Cayman Islands that we know and love today; all built on the foundation of the Coat of Arms. To commemorate the 60th anniversary of our Coat of Arms, Cabinet commissioned the Celebrate Cayman team to plan and bring to life the cultural celebrations over two-years, beginning in 2018. Members of the Celebrate Cayman team are Executive Chairman Alfonso Wright, Deputy Executive Chairman Marzeta Bodden, Project Coordinator Kara Coe and Events Manager Kristy Watler. I thank them for their passion and commitment to preserving and promoting our heritage. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, this is just one of the many events giving us another opportunity to Celebrate Cayman. Throughout the remainder of this year and until July 2020, Celebrate Cayman will host many other events and educational campaigns focused on teaching the public about the Cayman Islands’ important historical achievements. Before I close, I want to let you all know that at Heroes Day 2020 we will honour those who involved in shaping our first written Constitution in 1959. Our Pioneers in Maritime Heritage will be recognized at Heroes Day 2021. Thank you and God bless you, and may God continue to bless and prosper the Cayman Islands. Please enjoy the day.