About Montserrat

History of Montserrat

Island of MontserratThe recorded history of Montserrat began in 1493 when the Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus sailed past the island and named it Santa Maria de la Montserrate (11 November, 1493 he sailed along the coastline).

Montserrat first developed as a British agricultural colony where an agrarian economy and society shaped the island’s history and culture. Over the past 511 years Montserrat has become an island characterized by well established villages that are deeply rooted in the sugar plantation history. Village name like Cork Hill, Kinsale, Riley’s Farrell’s, St. Patrick’s Amersham, Dagenham, Plymouth, St. John’s Salem and St. Peter’s remind us of the strong Irish and English influences on the island’s past. Village life included culture such as masquerade dancing and string band music (an early form of Calypso and Soca), religion and education. First stage of education was provided by churches including Anglican, Methodist and Catholic Churches.

Montserratians are a migrant people and were part of the great West Indian emigration episodes to Panama and Cuba in the early 1900’s, the USA in the 1910’s through 1924, to England in the 1950’s and 1960’s, to the USA again from the 1960’s and to England after 1997. The ability of Montserratians to succeed tin the modern world can be traced to a tradition of valuing hard work and education.

Montserrat VolcanoRecent economic development in Montserrat helped to transition the island from an agricultural economy to services such as tourism and real estate. When volcanic eruptions began in 1995, many of the villages were destroyed and Plymouth, the capital was covered with ash and pyrocalstic deposits. Over 75 percent of the population left for England, the USA and other Caribbean islands including Antigua. The two fastest growing villages are Look Out and Davy Hill. A new airport has been developed.

Here are some of the highlights of the history of Montserrat:
1632: Montserrat settled by Irish Catholics from St. Kitts, Virginia, New England and British Isles.
1676: 44 years after being settled by Europeans, one-third of Montserrat’s land had been cleared for agriculture.
1768: 17 March – Planned rebellion by slaves to capture power, declare freedom failed. Plantation owners forewarned and suppressed the uprising. Nine ‘ringleaders’ executed and 30 more imprisoned.
1833: Emancipation Act passed by the British Parliament provided for the freedom of slaves in Montserrat.
1834: August 1st is Emanicipation Day and former slaves are now free. Emancipation includes an apprenticeship period wher former slaves continue to work for plantation for small wages up to 1837.
1907: New Government House built in Plymouth.
1924: Hurricane destroyed over 900 homes and left over 5,000 people homeless. Most of the damage in villages in the east of the island: Bethel, Harris, Farms etc.
1946: Montserrat reaches its maximum population, 14,333. Government of Montserrat takes over administration of all schools with the exception of the Catholic school.
1952: Montserrat is granted a new constitution by the UK with universal adult suffrage, a majority of the Legislative Council to be elected and the formation of legislative districts.
1963: Radio Antilles, a division of West Germany’s Deutshe Welle Radio, begins broadcasting from Montserrat.
1963: Montserrat celebrates its first Christmas Festival (Carnival). Calypso King and Carnival Queen crowned.
1979: The American University of the Caribbean (AUC), a US offshore medical school opens at Amersham.
1982: Montserrat born Soca entertainer Arrow releases the world famous song – ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’.
1995: Volcanic eruptions begin on July 18.
1997: Plymouth and 17 villages destroyed in series of volcanic eruptions. Emigration to England and other countries begin. Montserrat loses over 75 percent of its population.
2002: Montserrat celebrates the 40th Anniversary of Festival. Over 4,000 people return home for the event.
2005: Construction of Gerald’s Airport is completed.
2008: The Gerald’s airport is renamed the John A. Osborne Airport, because he is the long standing Chief Minister.
2010: Joseph Meade former Speaker of the House and Soca star Alphonse "Arrow" Cassell passed away.
2011: Former Chief Minister John Osborne passed away.
2012: 50th Anniversary of Festival was celebrated in Montserrat.

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