Sybil Ione McLaughlin, MBE, JP
Mrs. Sybil Ione McLaughlin, MBE, JP, who continues to be an active member of society and a living example of the noble qualities towards which Caymanians, especially our young women, can aspire.
Early life and eduction
The Hon Mrs. Sybil Ione McLaughlin, MBE, JP, was born on 24 August 1928 in Mobile, Alabama, USA, to Captain Charles Christopher Bush and his wife Lottie Verona Bush. On the death of her father, Sybil came to the Grand Cayman with her mother, sister and brother when she was two years old. Sybil spent some time in Nicaragua with her Aunt Mrs Ella Bush Lopez where she attended Kindergarten. She returned to Grand Cayman and attended the only Government School in George Town. Sybil returned to Nicaragua and attended the Baptist College in Managua where she graduated fluent in Spanish as well as having 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 etc for the Assembly.
In 1949 Sybil married Delworth McLaughlin of East End who was at that time a Sergeant in the Police Force. In 1987 Delworth passed away leaving to mourn Sybil and their two sons Christopher and Gordon.
In 1959 when the Islands received its first written constitution, Sybil was appointed the first Clerk of that body. 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 an attachment to the Northern Ireland Parliament in Stromont in 1966 and attachments to the Parliaments of Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago in 1971. Sybil retired as Clerk of the Legislative Assembly in 1984.
In her capacity as Clerk of the Legislative Assembly Sybil became the first Secretary to the Cayman Islands Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association from 1965 to 1984 and travelled extensively as Secretary to delegations from the Legislature attending Conferences within the Caribbean and outside.
Among her outstanding achievements was her appointment as 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 (see the Official Hansard Report 15 February 1991) having consulted and received the advice of all Members of the Assembly.
In 1996 Sybil received the country’s highest honour of National Hero in recognition of her contribution to Cayman’s parliamentary development as well as to community life.
Sybil continues to be an active member of society. She is a member of the Moravian Church and serves as organist and teacher of the adult Sunday School class which she enjoys tremendously.
She was one of the founding members of the Business and Professional Women’s Club and the Rotary Sunrise Club.
Sybil was also one of the founding members of the Cayman Islands Tennis Club and played a lot of tennis in her younger days. She now enjoys watching tennis matches on television.
Sybil is a Justice of the Peace and assists many people by signing and translating documents.
Honours and awards
Mrs. McLaughlin received the country’s highest honour in 1996, in recognition of her contribution to Cayman’s parliamentary development, as well as to community life.
Her hobbies are music, reading and keeping in touch with family, grandchildren and friends by email.