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There are little more than a dozen coats of arms around the world that include the pineapple and in that number are Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin

Published 25th October 2018, 12:0am

Good evening and welcome. Thank you for joining me tonight to Celebrate Cayman! This year we are observing the Diamond Jubilee of our Coat of Arms and herald the return of a very special part of our history, the Royal Warrant, which was conferred by her Majesty the Queen on 14 May, 1958. Celebrate Cayman will continue into 2019 as we observe the Diamond Jubilee of our first Constitution, issued on 4 July, 1959. And as we examine our Coat of Arms, we cannot forget the ties that bind us to Jamaica. There is little more than a dozen coats of arms around the world that include the pineapple and in that number are Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. For its inclusion in the Cayman Islands Coat of Arms, it points to our ties with Jamaica. Traditionally, pineapples symbolize the intangible assets we appreciate: warmth, welcome, friendship and hospitality. Tonight the pineapple is being used to not only celebrate our link to Jamaica, but to whet our appetites through the pineapple-infused menu as we do our part to celebrate the Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s Restaurant Month here at the Wharf and celebrate our Coat of Arms. Our 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 mythical phrase, “the Islands time forgot”. Caymanians eked out a hardscrabble existence based on subsistence farming, fishing, turtling and seamanship. During these early years, our people endured many hardships, challenges and difficulties the likes of which I pray future generations will never experience. There were many who saw little by way of a future here and chose to migrate, whether in Central America, Isle of Pines, Cuba, the United States or Jamaica. But many others remained, determined to stay and tarry on while bravely facing the most difficult of circumstances. At this time we were constitutionally a dependency of Jamaica, which was itself a British Colony or as I often say, we enjoyed the lowest form of constitutional existence - being the dependency of a dependency. 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. Caymanians received direct support from Jamaica in the form of medical professionals, teachers and pastors. Furthermore, many Caymanians went to Jamaica for medical care, further education and employment. And so you have a very concise picture of where Cayman stood until the late 1950s, when a man of vision arrived, Commissioner Major Alan Hilliard Donald. Major Donald came from Basutoland, a British Crown Colony in southern Africa, known today as the Kingdom of Lesotho. He served as Commissioner (equivalent to Governor) from 1956 – 1960. During his administration great strides were made in many aspects of life in the Cayman Islands. Commissioner Donald is recognised for his central role in the development of the Cayman Island’s first national symbol – the Coat of Arms. While history does not clearly record an underlying reason, Commissioner Donald would have seen first-hand the independence and ingenuity of the Caymanian people, despite their constitutional link to Jamaica and recognised that Caymanians 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 the 3 April, 1957. 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. 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. At the top the shield features the Lion of England 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 the pineapple. With the granting of a Coat of Arms, Cayman would never again be the same. The winds of change began to blow as the region was fraught with discussions of decolonization, federation and independence. Cayman found itself with a number of choices to make and once again our community and its leaders rose to the occasion, putting into motion a number of watershed moments in our history, including the right of women to vote and stand for public office, the first Constitution in 1959, the Companies Law, the choice to remain part of the United Kingdom following Jamaica’s decision to become independent in 1962 and the introduction of Cayman’s own currency in 1971. These milestones were fundamental to the development of the Cayman Islands that we know and love today and were built on the foundation of the Coat of Arms. Today the winds of challenge and change are once again blowing and just as our forefathers and previous legislators blazed the trail for future generations, it is now our time to write this chapter of history. I am confident that with God’s divine providence, we will successfully navigate through these uncharted waters. I commend the members of the Celebrate Cayman team: Executive Chairman Alfonso Wright, Deputy Executive Chairman Marzeta Bodden, Project Coordinator Kara Coe and events manager Kristy Watler. Thank you for all your hard work and thank you for this evening. Thank you and God bless you, and may God continue to bless and prosper the Cayman Islands.