(CMR) National Hero Sybil Ione McLaughlin, who dedicated years of her life to serving the Cayman Islands in various capacities, passed at the age of 93.
Mrs. McLaughlin, MBE, JP, was born on the 24th of August 1928 in Mobile, Alabama, USA. After her father's death, she came to Grand Cayman with her mother, sister, and brother when she was two years old.
As a young child, she spent some time in Nicaragua with her aunt before returning to Grand Cayman and attending the only Government School in George Town.
She later returned to Nicaragua and attended the Baptist College in Managua, where she graduated fluent in Spanish and completed a commercial course.
In 1945 she returned to Grand Cayman and was employed in the Commissioner’s Office as Clerk-Typist. She worked with the then Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Justices and Vestry, Mr. Ernest O Panton, ISO, MBE, JP, typing bills and other documents for the Assembly.
In 1949 Sybil married a police sergeant Delworth McLaughlin of East End; he predeceased her in 1987. They had two sons, Christopher and Gordon.
In 1959 when the Islands received its first written constitution, Mrs. McLaughlin was appointed the first Clerk of that body, and she was also the Clerk of the Executive Council (now termed Cabinet). Following further constitutional advancement, Sybil became the full-time Clerk of the Legislative Assembly and the first woman to hold this post in the Commonwealth.
She served a six-month’s attachment to the House of Commons, London, as did most other Caribbean Clerks, as well as an attachment to the Northern Ireland Parliament in Stromont in 1966 and attachments to the Parliaments of Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago in 1971.
As Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Mrs. McLaughlin became the first Secretary to the Cayman Islands Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association from 1965 to 1984. She traveled extensively as Secretary to delegations from the Legislature, attending Conferences within the Caribbean and outside.
Mrs. McLAughlin retired as Clerk of the Legislative Assembly in 1984.
Among her outstanding achievements was her appointment as the first Speaker of the Legislative Assembly on 15th February 1991. She served as Speaker until she retired in 1996. Prior to 1991, Commissioners and Governors presided in the Legislature. Her appointment was made by the then Governor Alan James Scott, CVO, CBE, by way of Proclamation No. 3 of 1991, having consulted and received the advice of all Members of the Assembly.
In 1996 Sybil received the country’s highest honor of National Hero in recognition of her contribution to Cayman’s parliamentary development and community life.
Over the years, she continued serving her community as an active member of society. She was a member of the Moravian Church and served as organist and teacher of the adult Sunday School class which she enjoyed over the years.
She was also a Justice of the Peace and assisted many people by signing and translating documents.
Mrs. McLaughlin was one of the founding members of the Business and Professional Women’s Club and the Rotary Sunrise Club. She was also one of the founding members of the Cayman Islands Tennis Club and played tennis in her younger days. She enjoyed watching tennis matches on television.
She also enjoyed music, reading, and keeping in touch with family, grandchildren, and friends by email.