January 27, 2022

Cayman Islands premier pays tribute to the late Thomas Russell at Memorial service

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Former Governor Thomas RussellMemorial service remarks for the late Thomas Russell

By Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin, MBE, JP, MLA

8 a.m., Thursday, 4 August, 2016

Lawn of the Glass House

Good morning.

Thank you for joining me as we remember with fondness and love former Governor of the Cayman Islands Thomas Russell who died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Scotland at age 96 on 5 July.

As we remember him here today his family and friends in Melrose, Scotland, are sharing their memories at his funeral there. Our representative in London, Eric Bush, is on hand to share our condolences.

I knew Former Governor Russell very well and I have always held him in the highest regard. I was extremely saddened by the news of his death.

When Governor Russell was appointed to the Cayman Islands in 1974 none of us knew that he would become our country’s longest serving governor. It was a critical time in the early development of the offshore financial industry as well as tourism. He kept the office for seven years and was then invited to establish the Cayman Islands Government Office in London, which he duly did in July 1982. He took his second retirement in 2000 at the young age of 80.

Most of you would know that the Cayman Islands London Office provides diplomatic links between the Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom and aims to build relationships and enhance our interests over there. Governor Russell helped to found the UK Overseas Territories Association, which today is a very thriving organisation, and was heavily involved in setting up two Overseas Territories Conferences in 1993 and 1998.

Governor Russell’s formal working connection with the Cayman Islands lasted for 25 years, virtually the same time he spent in the Solomons, and he developed an equally great affection for the Cayman Islands; he loved its people and its gentle way of life. He made many friends in Cayman and in later years he returned here regularly for holidays over the Christmas and New Year periods. Following retirement he kept up to speed with developments in the territory and was always well informed. He had a remarkable public service career spanning 52 years – a record unlikely to be surpassed given today’s strict rules on retirement age – and his knowledge and understanding of Overseas Territories were not only invaluable in his role as head of the Cayman Islands London Office, but also to the Foreign Office.

In 2001 the Governor returned to live in his family home near Melrose but remained very active, making frequent visits to London, France and to the Cayman Islands. He continued his long-standing interest in veterans’ affairs through the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League.

He was by far one of the most respected and favoured governors of the Cayman Islands.

Before he came to us Mr. Russell served his country in World War II. He joined the Black Watch in 1939 and later became attached to the parachute regiment. He fought in Algeria and Sicily. He was involved in the Allied landing in Taranto, Italy, where he was shot in the leg by a German machine gunner during heavy street fighting and taken prisoner.

The future Cayman Islands governor spent the remainder of the war in a German prisoner of war camp in Poland.

The Cayman Islands is one of the many overseas areas where he served the Crown subsequent to his release from active military duty following World War II.

Mr. Russell was also a long-time Veterans Association’s representative at the Royal Commonwealth Ex-services League Headquarters in London and in November 2012 was honoured by the League’s Grand President His Royal Highness The Prince Philip with the appointment as Vice President for Life of the RCEL.

Since retirement he served the Cayman Islands Veterans Association, of which he was a founding member in 1978, and the RCEL with distinction in several capacities. I thank the members of the Cayman Islands Veterans Association for remembering Mr. Russell in a service at Elmslie Memorial United Church last month.

Mr. Russell was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1963, the Commander of the British Empire in 1970 and the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George in 1980.

In 2003 Mr. Russell published an autobiographical account of his years in the Colonial Service, I Have the Honour to Be.

I give condolences to all of Mr. Russell’s remaining family members, his close friends, and all those who benefited from his contributions over the decades.

With his passing the Cayman Islands has indeed lost a true friend.

May his soul rest in peace.


IMAGE: Thomas Russell


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