Little Cayman’s tourism pioneer passes

| 04/08/2010

Samson “Sam” McCoy, 16 September 1930 to 9 June 2010: In June this year Little Cayman lost a true visionary and an icon of the Sister Islands, who saw the wonder of the beautiful reefs around the island and, together with Bob Soto, pioneered the diving industry on what remains one of the most loved diving destinations in the Caribbean by those who make the journey to Cayman’s smallest island. A hard working Caymanian, a son of the soil and a man of the sea, with a passion for the land and marine environments, Sam made an indelible mark on the development of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.

Samson Sylvester McCoy was born in Spot Bay, Cayman Brac on 16 September 1930. He was the third child and first son of James and Enid McCoy. Mr Sam, or Sammy as he was affectionately called, was a man of many visions.

He was united in Holy matrimony to Mary Delrose Scott on Wednesday, 17 October 1956, in Spot Bay, Cayman Brac. Sam and Mary were blessed with a loving family – Maxine was born in September of 1958, followed by five sons, Craig in 1961, Carl in 1962, Chris in 1966, Croy in 1967 and Charles, or Chip as you affectionately called him, in 1970.

Sam lost his father in the 1939 hurricane, so that left him then a young head of the family of 5 siblings along with his mother, Enid. At the tender age of 14 he left on the SS Tanner for Jamaica and then was dispatched on the SS Ore Titan beginning as a messman. He worked hard for the next 8 years, sending money home to his mother to help raise his other siblings. On his last voyage on the SS Ore Titan Sam decided that he had had enough of the sea and wanted to be back in Cayman Islands nearer his family.

In 1966 he met Dr Logan T. Robertson of Ashville, North Carolina, who was interested in hiring someone locally who could build a fishing and duck hunting club on Little Cayman. Sam was a man of many trades, carpentry being number #1 on the list. He was also a mechanic, plumber, electrician and cook – he was the local man who could accomplish everything Dr Logan needed in order for his dream to become a reality in Little Cayman, so Sam was hired.

First, he helped expand the already established Southern Cross Club, which would become world famous for many years, being the “members only” club for fishing and duck hunting in the Caribbean. Then he helped with the hiring of other men to work for Mr Lloyd Rhian Sr to build Head O’ Bay (the Rhian’s private residence). And finally, the last project Dr Logan wanted was the building of his own very Pirate’s Point.

Sam with Mary and their growing family of one daughter and five sons, together with Mary’s father Pastor Carl E. Scott, worked together on the construction of Pirate’s Point. This was Dr Logan’s own private home where he could visit anytime he wished. Those were the days that Little Cayman was infested with mosquitoes and sand flies, and in order not to be eaten alive he used to spray the screen around Pirate’s Point with diesel oil and burn coconut husks.

The only electricity that was available was by generator for about 6 hours a day for the basic necessities – no air conditioning, only ceiling fans were churning hot air and an AM radio tuned to Jamaica radio stations, RJR or JBC, was Sam’s company a lot of the time.

The only telephone on island was the battery operated one at Ms Eleanor Bodden’s home which was located in Blossom Village, South Hole – the site of Little Cayman’s District Officer’s Office and Residence today. Sam would visit in the evening with Ms Eleanor, Mr Joe Grizzell, Mr Christie, Ms Nada and Mr Guy Banks and his family. This is the time that he would use the telephone to call his wife and children on Cayman Brac. Every weekend, Easter and Christmas holidays, Sam would take his wife and family to Little Cayman in his boat, which he called “Wompa”. Most weekends Sam would travel to Cayman Brac for much needed supplies and to see his family. He transported gas, diesel and propane between the islands for anyone in need. He also served at one time as the customs and immigration officer for Little Cayman. So it was only natural that when the opportunity arose for him to start his own business, Little Cayman was the place Sam chose to establish Sam McCoy’s Fishing and Diving Lodge in 1983.

Sam McCoy’s Fishing and Diving Lodge Ltd was known for never disappointing a visiting fisherman or diver. Sam’s hobbies were a natural fit with his newly founded venture – snorkelling, free diving and spear-fishing. This was how he found out about the beauty of Bloody Bay & Jackson Wall on the North Side of Little Cayman. Many days he would venture out into the awesome beauty of the sheer wall and blue abyss and was able to provide a tasty meal for his family and guests from his knowledge of the sea. By that time he had also learnt to dive with scuba tanks and he named some of the dive sites on the north coast and attributed their names to a particular historical happening or unusual circumstance during the dive, such as “Marylyn’s Cut” and “Bus Stop”.

He decided to contact his friend Mr Bob Soto, who was at the time active with his own scuba diving adventures in Grand Cayman. Bob told him that this could be a lucrative business for both of them in the diving industry. Sam laughed and told “Bobby” that they would probably starve to death before that would happen, but he persevered anyway. Over the years Sam agreed with Bob that he was right in that the dive industry was profitable.

Sam and Mary wanted to give their family what they did not have themselves and that was the opportunity for a good sound education. Through dedication and hard work, with Mary by his side (and with the earlier contributions of the children atvarious times) they worked for many years building a solid business which not only supported his family but also helped many others who later founded businesses and homes on Little Cayman.

Sam’s dream had become a reality and when he passed onto his heavenly home on Wednesday, 9 June 2010, he had lived a great life and seen his vision come true for Little Cayman, including a part of the North Coast road being named Sam McCoy’s Drive in his honour.

Sam envisioned Little Cayman to be as it is today and lived his life to the fullest each and every day. He was a sincere, hard working, happy man, who always had a smile on his face. He loved taking care of the environment, above and below the sea. He was honoured by the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism and Mr Jean Michel Cousteau as the “Pioneer for Tourism in Little Cayman” in 2003 when he was inducted into the Scuba Diving Hall of Fame.

Sam made everyone happy just being in his presence and he will be missed both locally and abroad. His memory will live on in the minds of those who were blessed to have been able to meet and talk with him, listen to his stories under the “Hammock Shed” and enjoy the pristine wildlife, fishing or diving, in Little Cayman.

Left to mourn his passing are wife of 53 years, Mary; daughter Maxine; sons Craig, Carl, Chris, Croy and Charles; daughters-in-law Dorita McCoy, Annette McCoy, Yolanda McCoy and Nicoela McCoy; three granddaughters Vicki, Arianna and Natalia; nine grandsons Miguel, Arrowe, Diego, Xavier, Rhyann, Kyle, Arren, Paxton, and Nathan; two great grandsons Jovian and Kai; one step great grandson James McLean; his sisters Nerissa, Enid, Evry and Nadia; lots of family and friends in the Cayman Islands and around the world.

In lieu of flowers the McCoy family wishes for donations to be made to the Seaman’s and Veteran’s Association of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.

May he rest in peace.

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  1. Trevor Ebanks says:

    Uncle Sammy, Rest in Peace

    Your death is a great loss to the family and to these islands. We miiss your smile and your love.


  2. Ken P says:

    Thank you Mr. Sam for your great contribution to Little Cayman you were a pioneer for tourism and promoting Caymanian culture. Regards to Ms Mary, Maxine and the McCoy family.

  3. Lisa Hunter says:

    Rest in Peace, Uncle Sammy.  We miss you…

  4. Anonymous says:

    RIP Sambo!