Former Cayman Islands governor dies aged 96

| 05/07/2016 | 27 Comments
Cayman News Service

Thomas Russell, Governor of the Cayman Islands 1974 – 1981

(CNS) Updated: Flags will fly at half-mast for the next two days to honour former governor Thomas Russell, who died in Scotland on Monday night at the age of 96 after a few months in hospital. Russell served as the governor of the Cayman Islands between 1974 and 1981. After he left the islands, he helped the Cayman government establish its London office and then served as the Cayman Islands Representative in the UK from 1982 until 1990.

Premier Alden McLaughlin described him as “by far one of the most respected and favoured governors”, who returned to Cayman often “visiting with friends and renewing acquaintances”.

The premier said he knew Russell very well and held him in high regard. “I am extremely saddened by this loss,” he said in a statement.

“Many Caymanians will remember Mr Russell with great fondness from his time here as governor. 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,” McLaughlin stated. “With his passing the Cayman Islands has lost a true friend.”

Russell was a long-time Veterans Association’s representative at the Royal Commonwealth Ex-services League Headquarters in London and was appointed as Vice President for Life of the RCEL. He was awarded the OBE in 1963, the CBE in 1970 and the CMG in 1980.

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

Statement by Acting Governor Franz Manderson:

His Excellency, the acting Governor Franz Manderson, joins the people of the Cayman Islands, United Kingdom, Scotland, France and around the globe in mourning the loss and celebrating the life of former Governor Thomas Russell, CMG, CBE, OBE.

Mr Russell, who was aged 96, was an exceptional man and model leader, who served the Cayman Islands faithfully and tirelessly for many years both here and in the United Kingdom.

Throughout his life, his thirst for excellence and passion for achievement were readily apparent to all those who knew him.

Mr Russell took up his post of Governor of the Cayman Islands in 1974 after years of service South Pacific where he served in numerous posts including Chief Secretary and Financial Secretary.  By the time he left the post of Governor of the Cayman Islands in 1982 he had been named a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (C.M.G.), which he received in 1980. He had already been honoured by Her Majesty The Queen with the award of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) in 1963, and Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) in 1970.

In the 35 years since he left these shores his kindness and empathy for his fellow human beings are still widely remembered by past and present civil servants.

Yet his good works also extended to members of the community who found themselves in need, from Caymanian students, businessmen and travelers during his two decades spent serving the Cayman Islands in the United Kingdom, to local and overseas veterans throughout the Commonwealth over the course of his life.

Mr Russell was fearlessly committed to helping others, and, in particular, to helping them to better their circumstances.

His warm-hearted personality ensured his welcome wherever he went, and we in the Cayman Islands were always extremely pleased to welcome him back during his frequent visits.

After his retirement he turned his focus from public affairs to supporting veterans in Britain, the Commonwealth, and the Cayman Islands. In 2012 he was honoured by HRH Prince Philip with appointment as Vice President for Life of the Royal Commonwealth Ex-services League (RCEL). I know his loss will also be felt deeply by members of the Cayman Islands Veterans Association whom he represented for years at RCEL Headquarters in London.

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

We know how deeply you must feel his loss and we share in your sorrow. The government and people of the Cayman Islands have lost a great friend. 

Flags will be flown at Half Mast for the next two days in honour of Former Governor Russell.

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Comments (27)

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  1. Very sad news. I met Mr Russell at The Caledonian Club in London where I worked. He was a thorough gentleman and highly respected by Members and staff alike. His passing is a great loss for the Club.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Russell, as a military man, would probably appreciate the correct terminology of flags being flown at half Staff – not half mast. The only time flags are flown at half mast is when they are nautical flags hanging from a ship. Thx.

    • Anonymous says:

      CNS can I suggest that you implement a “Pedant of the Week Award” for worthy posts like this?!

    • Ex-pat says:

      Half Staff is an American term. As Cayman is still a British Crown Colony, Half Mast is the correct term to use.

  3. Sucka Free Cayman says:

    Rest in Peace Mr Russell you were truly the only governor Cayman has ever had and a wonderfull man. Lowering the flag is the least we can do to honour Governor Russell.This island has lost one of its greatest patrons and his memory should be honoured. See you on the other side Governor cant believe you gone Sir ,my condolences to family and friends on this tremendous lost.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Russell was a true “Hero” of the Caymanian people. His memory will be cherished by all who knew him.

    May his soul rest in peace and light perpetual shine upon him.

  5. Just Watchin says:

    A good and honourable man who distinguished himself with his humility and accessibility. He was renowned for getting around Cayman in his own car and being accessible to Caymanians.
    Oh, how have Governors have changed – they whine for a Jaguar (Jack and Kilpatrick), get it (Kilpatrick) and use it to visit their select friends – usually of the same nationality.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Mr Russell was a really decent man and it is right that the flags be flown at half mast to reflect his passing. I wonder, though, how many of the posters saying things like he is ” the ONLY governor this country has had/best Governor Cayman has ever had” realise how different the “world of Cayman” was in Tom’s day to what it became afterwards.There were some of us who felt he was popular with the politicians and their supporters because he was far too close to Jim Bodden-drinking buddies here and on the Brac-and because he did not attempt to reign Jim in in some of his preposterous stuff like running Cayman Airways as a private Jim Bodden airline or allowing the Texans like Hadjecate and Lister to have too much say in Cayman. Tom left in, I think, 1981 and Cayman changed dramatically and not always for the better after that as Jim Bodden’s strata laws allowed the country to develop overnight into a place that was radically different from Tom’s Cayman. The National Team of 1992 have always made it clear that Tom was their favourite Governor. Is there anything significant in that?

  7. Anonymous says:

    No doubt about it, he was the Caymanian’s favorite Governor. Governor Russell became much more than the Queen’s representative; he became as one of us.
    He loved Caymanians and they loved him.

  8. Anonymous says:

    A true care-taker of the Cayman Islands and its people. RIP former Governor Russell.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like a brilliant bloke. Rest in peace, sir. Until that day…..

    • Anonymous says:

      Indeed he was brilliant. As we pass through life there will always be individuals who will stand head and shoulders above the rest. He was a gentleman and one that will be remembered for a long time. I believe he made his mark on the history of these islands.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Mr.Russell (“Good Old Tom”) embraced Cayman and its people in his role as governor like no one before or since. A truly beloved person whose humble and unassuming manner will always be of cherished memory. He truly did immerse himself into our culture quite naturally, and I do hope the government takes the necessary steps to ensure he is remembered for generations to come. Rest in peace, Tom.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Cayman needs to show gratitude and respect to the life of the only true and well respected Governor of these islands. Mr. Premier, please lower the flags to half staff in his honor and on behalf of the people that he loved and respected. RIP Governor Russell.

  12. Anonymous says:

    He was not only a governor but a wonderful human being. He will always be remembered.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Russell was one of the most Honorable Governor’s that ever came to our shores.

    He expressed his sincerity for our country in so many different ways, both locally and internationally. He never forgot the Cayman Islands we certainly will never forget him.

    Mr. Premier, we the Caymanian people would wish to see all Cayman Islands Flags be flown at half mast, at all government buildings ASAP.

    R.I.P. Mr. Russell – God rewarded you with a long and happy life because of all the good deeds you did for humanity.

    We the Caymanian people claim you as “One of Us Forever”

    Sincere condolences to Mr. Russell’s family and his many friends and acquaintances throughout the Cayman Islands and around the world.

    • Allar says:

      The two idiots that disliked this from 2:56 is just that idiots. Better you don’t read and respond to blogs

  14. Anonymous says:

    He will always be remembered at Christmas by the Fire Department for his attendance at their Christmas Parties. He was amongst the last to leave while his driver patiently waited for him. After returning home he did not forget to call the very ordinary Cayman acquaintances that he highly respected to wish them a Happy New Year while he was celebrating at home. Sincere condolences he will always be remembered.

  15. SKEPTICAL says:

    A man much loved by everyone, Caymanian and Expatriate alike. Looking back at his time as Governor, it is sad to see how the island has changed. It truly was a Caribbean getaway.

  16. Anonymous says:

    The government should lower the flags as a mark of respect to the best Governor Cayman ever had…RIP Governor Russell

    • Anonymous says:

      He sure was the best governor Cayman ever had. He had some very close people in the civil service at the time. Perhaps arrangement should be made for a delegation to attend his funeral in the UK. One person that I know was extremely close with him is the former Permanent Secretary of Personnel Ms. Jenny Manderson (The mother of the current DG). There were also many others that were close with him that may want to attend. Just a suggestion to pay our last respect.

  17. Anonymous says:

    RIP Governor Russell.. The only Governor England sent us that actually became one of us and did so much for Cayman. Well respected and a fine gentleman..I won’t forget him..

  18. Anonymous says:

    Probably the best Governor that we have ever had. Those who have followed have underperformed miserably by comparison.

    A true “Hero” of the Cayman Islands.

  19. annoymous says:

    This is such sad news for us Caymanians. He was our beloved Governor. Very sad. Blessing to his family and may he RIP.

  20. Anonymous says:

    He was one of us..a kind gentle soul and the best Governor Cayman ever had..

    Alden, would you consider lowering the flags to half staff as a mark of respect to this very honorable man, please?

  21. Anonymous says:

    The best Governor Cayman has ever had..RIP Governor Russell..

    • RIP Governor Russell says:

      He is the ONLY governor this country has had. He cared for Cayman and most of all he loved the people. All that have come since him have just been in name only. Maybe we should preserve the Glass House and name it in his honour and use it as a historical monument.

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