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Published 3rd August 2022, 3:4pm

We at the National Archive pride ourselves in releasing historical information which can be supported with evidentiary records. As such, and further to Monday’s  FaceBook post, our diligent Archive team looked further  into when the Cayman Islands first started observing Emancipation Day as a Public Holiday. As Cayman was once under the Jamaican Government, we examined Jamaica and Cayman laws from the late 1800s to early 1900s for public holiday laws, and unearthed additional details, as follows.

Jamaica Law 11 of 1895 The Public General Holidays Law, 1895 – the Schedule states “5. The first day of August unless it falls on a Saturday or a Sunday then the following Monday.” Of note: this 1895 Law repealed “Section 8 of Law 18 of 1877” entitled The Customs Consolidated Law, of which the relevant section noting public holidays, with 1st August not listed. 

The Cayman Islands Law 7 of 1913 entitled “Public Holidays Law” for which the Schedule includes “The 1st August, or when the 1st August falls on a Sunday, then the following day.” This law was “Passed [by] the Assembly this 30th day of January, 1913. 

Jamaica Law 7 of 1913 A Law to declare the Public General Holidays Laws of no force in the Cayman Island” – stating that the various laws for Jamaica’s public holidays are no longer in “effect in the Cayman Islands”. This law was dated 15th July 1913, and “would come into operation on a day to be named by the Governor in a notice published in the Gazette.” Of importance: the Cayman Islands Law 7 of 1913 was passed BEFORE the Jamaica Law 7 of 1913.

With these documents, it appears that Emancipation Day was first celebrated in Cayman on the 1st August 1895. Additionally, this new information helps to showcase the determination of our forefathers to self-govern with the development and administration of their own laws.

Sources: the Laws of Jamaica (1845 to 1967) can be found in the Florida International University (FIU) College of Law eCollections https://ecollections.law.fiu.edu/jamaica/index.4.html. We have since identified and include a photocopy of the Cayman Law 7 of 1913, which was obtained from The National Archives in the UK [formerly Public Record Office].