(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.
Category: Local News