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We heard many heartfelt stories. It took 3 years to gather the names.

Mrs. Suzanne Soto

Published 10th January 2007, 2:31pm

As part of the ongoing preparations for National Heroes Day, the Seamen's Memorial Statue on Harbour Drive was moved this week to a it's new permanent location in Heroes Square in central George Town. National Heroes Day 2007, which takes place on 22nd January, will see the official unveiling and rededication of the Cayman Islands Seamen's Memorial Statue, whose official title is 'Tradition'. The statue has been relocated to its new and permanent home in Heroes Square where it will enjoy increased prominence, befitting of its significance to the people of the Cayman Islands. It was originally erected in 2003 as an enduring symbol of national pride, which celebrates a history of the love between generations of Caymanians and a life on the water. The statue was dedicated by T.R.H. The Earl of Wessex, during a ceremony which paid respect to those lost at sea. Also on display will be four new granite plaques, which honour the names of Caymanian seafarers whose lives were lost at sea. The Plaques are divided into sections which include: Rangers and unknown ships, dating back to the 1800's; Wars and Merchant Ships; and Caymanian built Schooners, crews, and passengers (also dating back to the 1800's). Anyone with an interest in local history will be intrigued to learn that the plaques also carry the names of Captain Smiley and his wife, Eunice, immortalised in the Martha Hodes novel, 'A Sea Captain's Wife'. The book tells the touching love story of Eunice, a working-class Boston widow in the 1800s, who married Captain William Smiley Connolly of East End before following him home to the Cayman Islands where the couple, along with their three children, eventually found long-awaited happiness after trying times. The Memorial Statue is referenced at the end of the book. Mrs. Suzanne Soto of the Memorial Statue Committee, who was instrumental in researching the names which appear on the monument, also worked with the book's author to research the names of the couple's children. Mrs. Soto was keen to explain that the names, which appear on the plaques, were the result of a significant research undertaking, and carry great importance to the people of the Cayman Islands as they serve as a poignant reminder of local history. She said, "We did all the research with the cooperation of the National Archives, where I spent many hours. The rest were phone calls to all Caymanian families with the same last name until the information was confirmed. Out of this we heard many heartfelt stories. It took 3 years to gather the names, which grew from the original 175 to over 475, all confirmed." The statue, which represents father and son on a ship's deck, was sculpted by Simon Morris of Vancouver, Canada, whose award-winning work of predominantly marine and maritime sculpture, is held in private and corporate collections the world over. This piece was made possible by the research and work of artist Leslie Bergstrom, support from the Memorial Statue Committee of the Cayman Maritime Heritage Foundation and the generous contributions of local donors, which included: Esso; Robert Soto MBE, Cert. Hon.; Louis Massicotte; General Motors; Texaco; Rex Crighton; Bodden Holdings; Caribbean Marine; N.C.B. Consulting, The Dart Family, Thompson Shipping, and the Cayman Islands Government. The National Heroes Day celebrations officially commence at 10am on 22nd January 2007, in Heroes Square in George Town. Guests are reminded to be seated by 9:15am. More information about the event can be found at www.heroes.gov.ky.