September 25, 2020

Three Centuries of Forged History -Cayman Islands


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From CAYMAN ISLANDS NATIONAL MUSEUM : Three Centuries of Forged History
Almost three centuries of forged history is clearly visible, printed in indelible ink, in the annals of a 2003 Caymanian history book. Am I questioning the factuality of an impressive historical document? No, I am describing a recently repatriated three-hundred year-old wood object – a new acquisition at the National Museum.
“She had it sitting on her front porch with a potted plant sitting in it.” —
This object dates back to a time when Our Islands’ were known as ‘The Caymanas’; and, were largely unoccupied despite their geographical attributes. Or, when from neighbouring Jamaica received patents of crown land to settle here and develop the land. It certainly would have existed in a natural form while the case of Foster vs. Battersby was heard in the Jamaican courts in 1739 regarding matters of Caymanian mahogany. Perhaps, it was a victim during the pinnacle of our mahogany industry?
Documented on the fifty-first page of Michael Craton’s Founded upon the Seas… is this simple utilitarian vessel. A vessel not unlike that used throughout history by cultures ancient and present-day; near and far. A utensil standing over 24″ inches high; and is hand carved from a single Cayman mahogany log. In its lifetime it has fed seven generations of the McLaughlin and Watler family, ground corn and other wild grains. It has also been a talking point of many Michigan townspeople who were visitors to Everette Humphrey’s home.
“That old thing is no good any more. It is cracked and leaks.” Mr. Humphrey recollected Ms. Olympia stating in 1973 as he shared with her his desire for a Caymanian mortar to preserve for posterity. When questioned further about the origins of the mortar, “All she knew was that it had been in the family and used ever since her great (several greats) grandfather made it out of a log he cut in the “bush” in 1745.” This is what Mr. Humphrey related to Dr. Philip Pedley of the National Archive prior to 2003 on a return visit to the island.
When Ms. Olympia Watler (nee McLaughlin) sold her ancestral mid-1740s mortar for thirty-four United States dollars to a foreign visitor, she was happy to do so. Why? “Now I can buy some sugar and make some cookies for the chilens” Donor, Everette Humphrey, recounted Ms. Olympia stating. This is one of the most pervasive memories of Ms. Olympia; shared by her relative, Alvin McLaughlin and neighbour, Carmen Connolly – kindness, or, an innate willingness to share.
We are especially grateful to Mr. Humphrey for recognizing the importance of this object and for his love and dedication to preserving it. . Humphrey’s intervention, this piece of history would surely have been lost. Today, it is one of the oldest tangible objects from our early history.
The mortar is one of three objects donated by Mr. Humphrey. The Museum also acquired a pestle fashioned in 1973 for the mortar; and, a partial cart and wench from Ms Tooksie of Breakers complete with cob.
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