Aunt Julia dies aged 106

| 30/11/2015 | 19 Comments
Cayman News Service

Julia Hydes

(CNS): There was an outpouring of tributes across the Cayman Islands today as the sad news broke regarding the death of the national cultural icon, Aunt Julia. Aged 106, Julia Hydes was one of the oldest people in the country when she passed away Monday morning. Given the esteem she was held in the community, the premier ordered flags across Cayman to fly at half-mast as a mark of respect. Speaking from London, Premier Alden McLaughlin said, “We have truly lost a national treasure and a national icon in the Cayman Islands.”

Recalling Aunt Julia’s 106th birthday party at the Harquail Theatre in January, the premier said he had been “so hoping to help her celebrate her 107th birthday in a few weeks”.

Aunt Julia, who lived in West Bay her entire life, was the youngest of 12 children. She was born on 25 January 1909. It was not just her longevity that had led to her fame throughout the islands but her musical skill. A talented drum player and song writer, she received her first sticks made of guava wood from her cousin, master fiddler Leighton “Duxie” Ebanks.

“I remember in an interview she gave a while back that she said she felt a great sense of joy when she held those sticks. She never took lessons, just watched, paid attention and made up her own style of drumming,” the premier said in his tribute to Aunt Julia. “With the passing of Aunt Julia we have lost the last living member of the traditional Caymanian music fraternity. I am sure she is now in heaven joining in a Kitchen Band and playing her drums and singing with Duxie, Boyd Hydes, Radley Gourzong, Cleveland Ebanks, Montgomery Albert and Reid Green.

Acting Governor Franz Manderson’s Statement on the Death of Aunt Julia Hydes

It was with great sadness that I heard of the death of Julia Almeria Hydes today. 

‘Aunt Julia’, as she was known by us all, had, in her 106 years, become one of Cayman’s most beloved icons.  The contribution she has made to Caymanian culture and history cannot be overstated.  It is this cultural heritage which forms the foundations of Caymanian society today and we must not forget that, or those who built it.

Aunt Julia was a singer, a songwriter, and famously, a drummer.  She was a pioneer of Caymanian folk music and was duly recognised in the National Heroes Day celebrations 2014 with an Early Pioneers Award, and also in 1996 when she was presented with the Cayman Islands Certificate and Badge of Honour.

Aunt Julia’s music continues to provide inspiration to our young musicians and artists and I know that the Cayman Islands folk singers will continue to take forward her legacy, through performing her much loved songs.

I offer my condolences to Aunt Julia’s family. Our thoughts are with you all. 

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Comments (19)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Every year for the past 20 years or so I quietly celebrated her birthday with the rest of the Cayman Islands,it was a joy to see her celebrate another year of life each year, she was a great inspiration to our little island nation and her name will be cemented in our history books…… May her precious soul rest in peace.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Can’t help but be saddened to hear of her death notwithstanding having never met her. Just feels like our good and great are leaving us.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Wow. What a blow. May she rest in peace . What a life well lived!

  4. Sarah says:

    Born at the start of the 20th Century and living into the 21st – what an amazing, beautiful and also frightening transition humanity has made in this time. It’s not just her longevity that is being honoured here but her contribution to Caymanian history and culture.

  5. Anonymous says:

    “Singer, songwriter, and famously, a drummer” . “Continues to provide inspiration to our young musicians and artists”. Seriously? She was a marvellous old lady and God be praised for her long life but I have yet to hear any youngster in Cayman influenced by her very very old intuitive type of music.

    • Anonymous says:

      Condolences to the family and friends of this grand old lady. Yes , many youths in the primary schools have been tutored in her drum style by Randy Chollette who also makes replicas of her drums to teach them on.

    • Anonymous says:

      Nah hurd ’bout Swanky, eh? Poor you

  6. Sharkey says:

    Mr Premier, your thoughts for Aunt Julia is a little bit overboard and disrespectful to other Caymanians that have died and you didn’t order the flag to be flown half mast . Not saying that her passing should not be respectful.

    • Anonymous says:

      Poster 7:38pm you are the disrespectful one. Least you don’t know or remember Aunt Julia was a “native” centurian and the oldest native Caymanian, the very last of a special breed of people. Cayman should not only fly the flag at half mast they should set aside a week to celebrate her life. Condolences to her family.

      • Anonymous says:

        Of course appropriate condolences are due. However the oldest resident probably dies every 2-3 years on average. So the concept of it being of significance outside immediate friends and family needs to be tempered by a sense of proportion.

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh, c’mon!

    • Anonymous says:

      You are right. It was an unnecessary and inappropriate reaction. But in the modern age many have lost all sense of proportionality and protocol.

    • Anonymous says:

      What a grouch you are!! When you live as long as she has, done half as much as she did, your casket will be wrapped in the Cauman flag, the British flag and the US flag. Is that enough for you ?

  7. Marcia says:

    RIP aunt Julia. She ran a long race and she ran it well. I understand that she leaves behind a childhood friend and first cousin, another centurian, Ms. Lillian Connor Pierson, 102 years old. They remained close over the years and Ms. Lillian, a godly woman is no doubt preparing to be with her beloved cousin in heaven one day where they will never part again. May God bless the family and the people of the Cayman Islands who once found favour with the Creator evidenced by the longevity of many of the citizens. Please people of these beloved isles read and obey 2 Chronicles 7:14 and this includes the Hon. Alden McLaughlin.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Bless her!

  9. Sharkey says:

    This is ever so sad to hear of Aunt Julia , I give the family my condolences. I will never forget her, or all the good entertainment she made. Those were days never to be forgotten. RON EBANKS.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Truly treasure has been lost

  11. Rhett says:

    Rest In Peace. Condolences to family and friends.

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