12. The first piece of land is bought - Saint Ignatius Parish


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12. The first piece of land is bought

Resources > Parish archives > 50th Anniversary Magazine
With a growing Catholic population (maybe 10-15 Catholics) and women such as Loressa Webb (nee Frankson) and Marguerite Wight (nee McTaggart) marrying and getting baptised in the church, the time had come to look for a real church.

Mass was being celebrated on front porches and in a dance hall and bar in George Town that were rented from the proprietor.

7 June 1952: Father McHale makes an offer to buy land about 60 feet from Shedden Road. It belongs to Michael Chisholm, who was living in New Orleans at the time. Miss Hillary Thompson has power of attorney for Mr. Chisholm; Mr. Val Anderson assists Father McHale. The price is 1,650 pounds or about $4,537(Ja?) and it is planned to have the Bishop send a draft for that amount.

Two days later, Father learns that a will leaving the land to Mr. Chisholm describes it as "22 fathoms on N.E. S. & W, making considerably less than half an acre, to be exact, two-fifths of an acre. I had been told the lot was about an acre. This is a serious matter."

The next was a bit more reassuring, as Father received a copy of the conveyance of the property which named the adjoining landowners fairly well. The lot is surveyed satisfactorily and Mr Anderson agrees to make a small strip of land available for an entrance 12 feet wide. Otherwise, "We are encircled."

Two days later, Father took pictures of the Chisholm house and paced the boundaries. He estimated the lot to be over one acre, but was still worried about the "22 fathoms square" and the ownership of the southwest corner. "What am I forgetting?" he wonders.
Finally it is agreed that two Justices of the Peace will meet on the spot with the Clerk of Court. They sign a paper testifying to "ownership by undisturbed possession for 20 years" by the woman who had willed the land to Mr. Chisholm.

9 June. "I held evening instructions for a dozen children only. Rain. Mosquitoes. People are very reserved," he wrote.

One entry packs a lot of Cayman history into a few short sentences. In material provided from the Archdiocese of Kingston, this is the first mention of a Catholic priest presiding at a marriage ceremony. "11 June. Performed Jennings-Jackson marriage at the Town Hall. Big crowd. Compromise hymns O.K., except last. Picture at Coe’s. Reception at Webb’s. Dance at Town Hall. Dispenser Rose was Toast Master. Met Actg. Com. Panton at marriage."

14 June Fr. McHale returns to Kingston and eventually to Boston in the US. The land purchase was evidently completed after Fr. McHale’s departure. In October 1952, he wrote to Bishop McEleny from Boston: "I received your letter with the welcome news of the satisfactory conclusion of the land negotiations in Grand Cayman. I look upon it as an act of Divine Mercy upon a spiritually destitute corner of the world."
1953 Pat Henderson tells Father McHale that his wife has suggested selling their whole property to the church. Their property is between Shedden Road and the property the Bishop has purchased from Michael Chisholm.
28 January 1954 Letter to Bishop from Denis T. Tobin SJ (?) Father Tobin recommended buying Mr. Pat Henderson’s house and land because it fronted the church property. He also pointed out: "The present place where Mass is said is not acceptable to many people. It has an unsavoury reputation."
Then came the great day in 1955 as Father Jackmaugh came as the first resident priest. The home of Pat Henderson on the Shedden Road property was converted as the first St. Ignatius Catholic Church. The first mass was celebrated on Christmas Day, 1955, using a door on trestles as the altar.
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