Published 21st June 2021, 2:47pm
Recently, the Cayman Islands observed the official 95th birthday of our Queen, Elizabeth II. Next year, celebrations for her Platinum Jubilee are expected throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. It will mark the 70th anniversary of the accession, which took place on 6th February 1952. HM Queen Elizabeth is the world’s longest serving Monarch.
We take this opportunity to look back at how the Islands celebrated the momentous occasion of her coronation that occurred a year after the accession, on 2nd June 1953. Well wishes were transmitted by telegram from the Commissioner of the Cayman Islands to Buckingham Palace on May 30th expressing “on behalf of the people of this dependency, their most loyal duty and affection, and to wish Your Majesty a long and happy and prosperous reign.”
Across Cayman, plans for the celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation had begun from March. Committees were established in each district to begin planning events for Coronation Week which was to be held June 1-5, 1953.
Two weeks before Coronation Week, Baby Shows and Beauty Competitions were held in each district of Grand Cayman. The winner and runner- up of each baby show, as well as their mothers, were given free transportation to George Town to enter the All Island Baby Competition which was held at the George Town, Town Hall on Wednesday, June 3rd. Similarly, the winner and runner- up of each Beauty Competition was also provided free transportation to George Town on that day where they entered the All Island Beauty Competition held during the dance at George Town. Cash prizes were awarded to the overall winners and runners-ups.
In each district of Grand Cayman, Coronation Week, June 1-5, was celebrated with the following events in common:
- Monday June 1st -Presentation of Coronation Flags and Souvenirs to school children
- Tuesday June 2nd, 10am -United Coronation Service at Churches (Presbyterian in Grand Cayman and Baptist in the Sister Islands)
- Tuesday June 2nd, 8pm - Fireworks Displays followed by lighting of Bonfires
- Thursday June 5th , 8pm - Dances at Town Halls
- Treats/Meals for the aged (Dates varied)
Additionally, there were several special events planned in various districts:
West Bay had a display of pictures and scenes of the Royal Family from the time of Queen Victoria up to Queen Elizabeth II for the public to view from Tuesday to Friday at the Co- Opt Hall. They also hosted a morning cricket match on Monday, June 1st.
Bodden Town had a bicycle Parade and Donkey Race.
North Side held their church service in the Town Hall followed by a parade of Scouts and Guildry, Drill display by the Company and a parade of trucks with school children singing National songs.
East End had a beach party following the fireworks and bonfire hosted by the Scouts and Guildry.
Savannah’s bonfire on Tuesday was held at Spotts Beach and the dance on Wednesday was at the School Room.
George Town On the Tuesday, there was a parade of uniformed groups outside the Courts Office before the service at Elmslie Church. Following the service, a cricket match took place at ‘Partner Ground’.
There was a parade of decorated motor cars on Wednesday morning 3rd June. The Aquatic Sports event in Hog-Sty Bay took place on Thursday afternoon, 4th June. This was open to boys and men of Georgetown as well as from the outer districts. It included: Swimming races (heats) for Boys and Men aged 12-20; tub races; diving races; dive board stunts; a canoe rowing race for girls. A boys and men’s greasy pole competition was also held. First, Second and Third prizes were given for each event.
THE SISTER ISLANDS
Cayman Brac and Little Cayman celebrated over four days from Monday June 1st to Thursday June 4th.
- Monday June 1st – Presentation of Coronation flags, pens and/or pencils to school children.
- Tuesday June 2nd – Morning Coronation services were held on both islands at 10 am. Evening Activities: Little Cayman- Residents of The Village enjoyed a free-for-all picnic feast plus ring games prior to the fireworks display and bonfire. Cayman Brac - Fireworks and Bonfire (Cotton Tree Bay beach). Dance held at Hanson Theatre.
- Wednesday June 3rd – An Island Wide Sports Day for young and old was held on both islands. In addition to the usual land based races popular back then, Little Cayman added on swimming, diving and boat races. The evening wrapped up with more fireworks on both islands. This display was held at the Warehouse Grounds in the Brac with the dance at the Creek Government School House.
- Thursday June 4th – Early morning gift parcels of fresh beef and other eatables were distributed to the poor and aged. Cayman Brac held its aquatic sports day that morning including a catboat race which was held opposite the Government Wharf at Creek. A greasy pole competition and a donkey race were also suggested.
All in all, it was a joyous week of celebrations for the patriotic Caymanians whose ancestors, in spite of living in ‘The Island that Time Forgot,’ had left a legacy of how to celebrate such events from the earlier coronation celebrations for King George V (1911) and King George VI (1937) respectively.
These celebrations were indeed remarkable for their variety, simplicity and for the way they embraced Caymanian values, heritage and culture. There was indeed something for everyone, from the youngest to the oldest, and as the old timers would say, “They sure knew how to throw a party!!” We hope this ‘look back’ at how we celebrated 70 years ago might inspire us as we 'look ahead’ to next year.
To learn more about this and other events, make an appointment to visit the National Archive's Reading Room- firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image courtesy: Cayman Islands National Archive Historical Collections, MSD/97
Medals were released in 1953 to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Over a hundred thousand coronation medals were issued throughout the Empire and the Commonwealth to selected members of the armed forces, various government ministers, public servants and officials, police etc. This image is of the accompanying letter from Buckingham Palace that was received by Miss Frances Bodden, a recipient of a medal.