Brief histories of the first clubs of

each geographic regions or countries

Rotary Club of GRAND CAYMAN, the First Club of Cayman Islands

Grand Cayman 


Rotary International District 7020


Part of our Rotary Global History in Central American/Caribbean Section



The section dealing with the history of the club has been drawn principally from the writings of Charter Member and Past President Harry McCoy (dec'd.), whose memory was legendary and to whom the club owes a great debt of gratitude.


The club's thanks are given to Past Presidents Larry Chomyn and Harry McCoy, Past Assistant Governors Jeremy Hurst and Donnie Smith, Past District Governors Bobby Bodden and Richard Harris for their contributions and support in putting this manual together and finally to Rotarian Mike Austin for proof reading it so thoroughly.


Jonathan Nicholson, Grand Cayman,  July 21, 2008


District 7020.


 The Rotary Club of Grand Cayman is part of Rotary District 7020, which is made up of 69 clubs in the following countries:

British Virgin Islands
Cayman Islands
St. Barths
St. Maarten
St. Martin
Turks and Caicos
U.S. Virgin Islands


The District Governor for 2007-08 was Rupert Ross of St. Croix, for 2009-10 Erroll Alberga (Jamaica), followed by Diana White who lives in St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands.

The District Governor has a committee to help him or her lead the district. In each country there is one or more Assistant Governors, who serve for a 2 or 3 year term. PDG Richard is the permanent Treasurer for the District. 


Our Club's Activities.

Major projects have included the construction of the Bonaventure Boys Home and the Frances Bodden Girls Home whilst major annual events organised by the club include the Senior Citizens Party and the Christmas Tree Lighting. In addition, the club has provided a kidney dialysis machine, a learning booth and 2 mobile dental units.


Our club sponsors a Christmas Party for Senior Citizens and Christmas Tree Lighting and gifts for the under privileged. Other projects have included the building of a Boys and Girls Home, painting the Pines retirement home, and a classroom extension for a day care centre. Many RI Community Service programs are designed to support club efforts in the following areas of concern: literacy; the environment through the Preserve Planet Earth; drug and alcohol abuse prevention; concern for the aging; hunger; conflict resolution; clean water; children; families; AIDS; and youth leadership training.


The earliest project of any significance, undertaken by the club, was the hosting of the first Senior Citizens Christmas Party in 1965, that would bring together a number of elderly persons from the various districts, and was born out of consideration for providing an opportunity for relatives and friends from the districts and those visiting from abroad at Christmas time, to meet and renew old acquaintances and to enjoy this association in an atmosphere of festivity and joviality, reminiscent of by-gone days.


It should be known that as recent as 1965, the means and the opportunities for elderly people to travel from one district to another were very limited. It was felt that such an opportunity would be very welcome and so it proved. Not only did the party become an annual event but it is regarded as the highlight of Christmas festivities for those of 65 years and older. The success of the Senior Citizens Christmas Party, catering to a relatively small segment of the island community, spawned the idea of a Community Christmas Tree to cater to a much wider cross-section.  This too has proved successful and has become a much looked for annual Christmas event.


The first fishing tournament (right) to be held in the island was also organised by the club, as a fund raising event. This is still held annually, and has become as well, a favourite pastime event. It was so popular that several others have jumped on the band wagon, to the point where there are now several fishing tournaments held each year, including the International Million Dollar Month Tournament.


The club also organized the first clean-up campaign along the entire seven-mile West Bay Road which was undertaken for two consecutive years.


The club's first major Community Service Project was the building of the Bonaventure Boys Home (left)which occupied the club from 1975 to 1977.  During this period funds raised were also used to fund such projects as contributing to the cost of the first Kidney Dialysis Machine for the hospital and painting the hospital. 


On completing the Boys Home and handing it over to Government, the club continued to show an interest in this project by donating sporting equipment and other aids for the boys.  Most importantly was the club's involvement in helping some of the boys who had the unprecedented privilege of being admitted to the famous Boys Town in Nebraska U.S.A.

Another fundraising effort launched by the club that became a favourite community event was a fireworks display. This was held at Governors Harbour each year.  Regrettably this had to be cancelled as fireworks became too costly to make the effort a viable one, but was recommenced in 1996 when the club held its Star Night Express fireworks display that raised over CI$20,000.


Before embarking on its next major project - the Girls Home - the club was involved in other community projects to the tune of over $50,000. Among these was (i) the furnishing with special equipment, of the Lighthouse School for the handicapped; (ii) providing all the sodium lights for the seven-mile West Bay Road, from the area opposite Pageant Beach to the West Bay Cemetery; (iii) assisting the Rotary Club of Kingston, Jamaica in one of its projects and (iv) making several donations to individuals in special areas of need, including building a small house for a very old indigent man.


It was the elegant launch of The Frances Bodden Girls Home Fund (below) established by the Caymanian Compass newspaper and supported by a good cross section of the Caymanian community.


The prominent firm of architects in the Cayman Islands, Messrs., Rutkowski, Baxter & Partners XE "Rutkowski, Baxter & Partners" , kindly offered to donate their services in the design of the Girls Home as well as supervising the on-going construction.

A local firm of contractors, Unit Construction Ltd XE "Unit Construction Ltd"., agreed to build the Girls Home entirely at cost.


Members of the Club, through their respective business interests, donated construction at cost, electrical work at cost, architectural and design services free of charge, quantity surveying services free of charge, and windows, doors and paint at cost.  In addition, Quality Concrete Ltd XE "Quality Concrete Ltd" . very kindly donated 100 cubic yards of cement for use in construction of the Home.


Construction of the Girls Home commenced in the Rotary year 1982/83 during the Presidency of James Walker. Although the Government provided the land on which to build the home, raising the necessary funds proved far more difficult. The demands of the Girls Home severely restricted the club's other involvements.


Construction of this ambitious project commenced in June 1982 and was completed at a cost of over $300,000 and handed over to Government in 1984 by the then President Steve Williams.


Even though building the Boys Home and the Girls Home were colossal projects for any one club, our club has not rested on its laurels. It continues to provide innovative fund raising projects which serve a dual purpose by also providing entertainment for the community.Top of this list is Batabano, a carnival event that was introduced in 1984 and each  year since has become more popular.Other projects undertaken by the club have been painting the Pines Retirement Home; donating an incubator to the hospital; raising $26,000 for the RI Polio Plus Programme; and collecting and supplying computers for the Deaf School in Mandeville, Jamaica.


It was in 1986 that the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman first became involved in the Soccer Camp (below).


Our club sponsored the camp for several years.  The club arranged airfares for the coaches, provided accommodation and transportation, and paid their allowances.  The club also organised food and refreshments for the children and coaches, and provided T-shirts and a professional football at the end of camp.

The camp ran for a two-week period, and registration was as high as 300 children.

The budget for this project amounted to some $35,000 annually, approximately $15,000 of which was donated by various firms - The Holiday Inn , Ramada Treasure Island Resort and the Hyatt Regency hotels provided accommodations, while local fast food operators Pizza Hut, Wendy's, Burger King, Champion House, MacDonalds and Beefers supplied food at discounted prices. Discounts were also given by Foster's Food Fair and Heston Ltd. The Grand Old House,managed by internationally known Chef Tell, and Sunset House also provided food free of cost.


Insurance was provided free by British Caymanian Insurance Co, while Cayman Airways offered reduced airfares for the coaches.


At a meeting of the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman on 24th July, 1986, Dr. Ronald Gordon in his address to the club confirmed that 50 percent of the school children on the islands had two or more cavities.


The need for the mobile dental clinic was first brought to the attention of our club by Dr. Ken Grant XE "Grant, Ken" , then the Chief Medical Officer at the George Town Hospital.

The project however actually started with a suggestion from Rotarian, Mr. Arthur Hunter who had proposed that an ambulance be donated for use in the districts.   


The dental clinics in the schools were proving inadequate and the cost of refurbishing several of them would have been enormous.  With a mobile dental clinic in an easily movable, self-powered configuration, it could serve all the schools, and could also be used in emergency situations since it would have its own power supply, kitchen and bathroom facilities.


The mobile clinic was prepared by the Central Funding Scheme staff for licensing and insurance. The mobile clinic featured the latest model dental chair, an X-ray unit, sterilizer, suction unit, high speed and low speed drills, and high speed tooth-cleaning equipment.

The clinic was a completely self-contained unit with its own power supply, its own compressor, propane stove and refrigerator, and boasted two air-conditioners, together with holding tanks for water and sewerage.


The unit was built by the dental supply company, Kemodent, that serviced the George Town Hospital, and was constructed using a 1986 Ford mobile home.  The total cost was in the region of $55,000.  It was brought to Grand Cayman from Miami, free of charge, by Barton Kirkconnell of Kirk Line, who was then a Rotarian.


In 1996, it was recognised that this dental unit was coming to the end of its useful life, having provided over 20,000 dental treatments since it began 10 years previously. 


Following a presentation by Government's Chief Dental Officer, Dr. Trevor Barnes, it was decided by the club's President, Alastair Paterson, that the club would provide upto CI$35,000 to purchase a replacement unit, which would be a dental caravan that would be towed from school to school.  The new dental caravan was made in Scarborough, England in 1997 and presented to the Health Services Department for the children of the Cayman Islands on November 4th, 1997.  The club has since taken back the old dental unit and donated it to the Rotary Club of Mandeville, Jamaica.

Meals on Wheels began when PP Sophia Harris was president and was largely spear-headed by Rotarian Jim O'Neill and was supported financially by Bank Austria.  Meals are delivered to the needy by Rotarians and friends of our club in George Town, West Bay and Bodden Town.


In all, the club has raised and donated well over one million dollars.


In the 42 years since its establishment, the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman feels that it can be justly proud of its achievements as a service club, both locally and internationally.

Its International and District achievements have included its contribution to the Rotary Foundation as evidenced by this club having over 150 Paul Harris Fellows - and the many District awards and Citations which the club has been presented with over the years. 

Planes are filled each year with members and their guests attending the annual District Conference and members attend the International Convention each year.


The club was the driving force behind the establishment of the Inner Wheel Club as well as a Rotaract Club, in additional to the Central, Sunrise and Brac Rotary clubs.


When inducted into our club, new Rotarians receive ‘Red Badges' These badges serve as a reminder to other members of the club that the member is new to Rotary and may need help and advice from time to time. 


In order for the member to get a "Blue Badge", the following have to be carried out:
1. Make Up at another club;
2. Invite a guest to a lunch meeting;
3. Lead the Grace;
4. Lead the Four Way Test
5. Act as Guest Greeter;
6. Do a job talk or provide a profile for the weekly newsletter;
7. Do a Meals on Wheels delivery;
8. Actively participate in a club project or fund raising event;
9. Attend a fellowship function; 
10. Attend the new members' orientation session; and
11. Familiarise yourself with the club's Rotary resources, particularly our Club and District Web Sites and this manual.


History of Our Club.


The Rotary Club of Grand Cayman was chartered on January 28th, 1966, having been sponsored by the Rotary Club of Boston the seventh oldest club, under the direction of Colonel Pirnie, a frequent visitor to the island.

At the time the club was formed there was no Rotary District in which Cayman could be placed. However, soon after this, a new District was created - District 404, later becoming 4040 and now 7020 which encompasses 69 clubs. 

The club has sponsored both the Rotary Club of Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman Central which received their charters in 1981 and 1986, and has provided three District Governors.

At the present time our club consists of over 100 members and is proud of its achieving over 150 Paul Harris Fellows.


The Rotary Club of Grand Cayman owes its origin to the foresight and altruistic spirit of a retired U.S. Army Colonel, who first came to Grand Cayman in the late 1950's and ultimately became a property owner and a part-time resident. He was Colonel Bruce Pirnie, a Rotarian of long-standing and a member of the Boston Club. 


Our club has the honour and the distinction of having been sponsored by this club.  No doubt it was because of his dedication to Rotary and what Rotary really stands for, and the fact that he saw tremendous potential for Rotary involvement in Cayman society, that he approached the late Ernest Panton, ISO, MBE, JP, who was then the Assistant Administrator, with the proposal of starting a Rotary club in Grand Cayman.  That was in the Spring of 1965.  Together with Ulric McNamee, MBE, a teacher and school principal, the machinery to establish a local Rotary club was set in motion.


 A wide cross section of businessmen, from all over the island, was invited to the first meeting, which was followed by other meetings, held at Petra Plantation (now known as The Grand Old House, the home of Colonel Pirnie.


These early meetings launched the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman, in the summer of 1965.


Charter Members


The old Sea View Hotel became the formal meeting place for the club and it was at one of our earliest meetings there that the first election of officers took place, as follows:

            Ernest Panton ................................................President

            Harwell (Harry) McCoy  ...............................Vice-President

            E. Ulric McNamee .........................................Secretary

            A. Lawrence Thompson  ...............................Treasurer

            Theo R. Bodden ...........................................  Sergeant-at-Arms

            James D. MacDonald .....................................Director

            A. Val Anderson ...........................................  Director

            Dalkeith R. Bodden........................................ Director

            Vernon L. Jackson .  .....................................  Director

            T. Edlin Merren ..............................................Director


The other charter members were:


James A. (Sonny Boy) Bodden               James M. Bodden, Jr.         

W. Wallace Bodden                                  William (Billy) Bodden

Robert Butz                                              Raymond G. Coke

Cardinal DaCosta                                     Benson O. Ebanks 

Timothy E. McField                                A. McNee McLaughlin  

William L. Nixon                                      Ormond L. Panton

Frank Roulstone                                      Norberg K. Thompson  

Esterly C. Tibbetts                                  Desmond V. Watler


On completing the formalities and following the procedures laid down by RI for establishing a new club, the club attained Provisional Club status and on January 28th, 1966 received its Charter at a well attended ball at the Inferno Club, located in Hell in West Bay.   It was on this occasion that Uncle Bill McTaggart and Arthur Hunter joined the club.


The concept of Rotary or of service clubs was very new to the Cayman Islands, since there had been no prior existence of either.  The new club therefore had the responsibility of translating the concepts of Rotary, as a community service club, into practical realism, without delay, if it was to earn the support and confidence of the community at large.


Therefore, very early after its establishment it embarked on various fund raising activities and while building up a fund it became involved in a number of small projects that were not financially burdensome but which served to indicate to the public the positive role of a Rotary service club.


Because of limited funds, its early involvements were limited, in the main, to assistance to individuals recommended by the Welfare Department of Government requiring overseas medical aid, passages, treatment etc. Home repairs were performed as well as other charitable gestures.  This was before the wave of prosperity now enjoyed by most, and when sources of help in the areas of need mentioned here, were very limited, including what the Government could do.


During Ian Kilpatrick's Presidency in 1994/95, the club admitted its first female member, Mrs. Alice Anderson the widow of Charter Member Val Anderson. Other women have since joined and they now make up over 10% of the club's membership and are some of the more active members of the club.


At the end of the Rotary year it is customary for the President, with input from the Board, to present awards to Rotarians at Change-Over Night to recognise individuals for their contributions during the year. The most prestigious awards that night are Paul Harris Fellows and Rotarian of the Year.


The membership of the club is a fair representation of the business community in Cayman with members ranging in age from their 20's to their 80's. 3 Charter members remain in the club, as do 24 of its Past Presidents and 3 Past District Governors .


This interesting expose was extracted from the 95 page Members' Manual (second edition, 2008) of the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman, authored by Jonathan Nicholson and provided by Derek Haines, QPM, CPM, 2008-09 President of the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman; edited by Greg Barlow



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