Montserrat kids celebrating their national cultural festival
The Island which has over 92.4% of its inhabitants being people of black African ancestry from West Africa was originally inhabited by aboriginal Taino (Arawaks) and later indigenous Kalinago (Carib) people. The Carib people provided the first recorded name for Montserrat, they named the island “Alliouagana”, which is believed to mean “the land of the prickly bush”. In November 1493 Christopher Columbus passed Montserrat in his second voyage, after being told that the island was unoccupied due to raids by the Caribs. Columbus named the island Santa María de Montserrat, after the Monastery of Montserrat in the Crown of Aragon (today Catalonia, Spain). Today, Montserrat with its pear-shape is nicknamed "The Emerald Isle of the West (Caribbean)" both for its resemblance to coastal Ireland and for the Irish ancestry of some of its inhabitants. Montserrat is quite unique in that it is one of the few islands in the World where man co-exists with an active volcano.
Montserrat was first settled in 1632 by a British contingent from the mother colony of Saint Kitts. Although the original colonists were English and Irish, Montserrat quickly became a haven for Irish Catholics escaping from religious persecution. The Irish first came as indentured servants and later as slaves to work in the plantation system.
Later, Catholic refugees from Virginia came to escape from religious persecution. By 1648, there were one thousand Irish families on the island. The French occupied the country between 1644 and 1782 but ceded it to Britain in 1783. In 1649, Cromwell sent political prisoners to Montserrat, increasing the population and helping to preserve its Irish character.
Montserrat women wearing their African heritage dress
Montserrat has for some time been considering independence from Great Britain. It has a unique blend of Anglo-Irish and African cultures and thus is an example of a fairly successful blend of two very different cultures and races. Until recently, national self-image was a hot topic as a result of extensive out-migration. After Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the population dropped from 11,500 to slightly less than 10,000 people and later increased to 13, 000 in 1995. An estimated 8,000 refugees left the island (primarily to the UK) following the resumption of volcanic activity in July 1995; the population was 13,000 in 1994. After 1995, volcanic eruptions halved that number.
Montserrat people dancing at Carnival, Salem, Montserrat
As at May 2014 (http://www.geoba.se/), the total population of Montserrat was approximately 5,215. Out of this number over 92.4% are blacks of West African ancestry, and the rest constitutes mixed African-Irish descents (2.9%), Whites (3.0%; mostly descendants of Irish and British colonists), Amerindians and other minorities (1.0%).
Montserraqt people celebrating their cultural festival
The de facto capital of Montserrat is St. John’s, in the northern part of the island. Plymouth, on the southwestern coast, was the capital and only port of entry until 1997, when volcanic eruptions destroyed much of the town and the island’s most spectacular vegetation.
The national emblem is a carved Irish shamrock adorning Government House, and the island's flag and crest show a woman with a cross and harp. Other cultural survivals, such as a value systems, codes of etiquette, musical styles, and an Irish recipe for the national dish called "goat water" stew, are considerably more problematic as cultural legacies.
It observes St Patrick's Day with one public holiday, and three months later the Queen's Birthday with another.
Kids of Montserrat
The island of Montserrat is located approximately 480 km (300 mi) east-southeast of Puerto Rico and 48 km (30 mi) southwest of Antigua. It comprises 104 km2 (40 sq mi) but is gradually increasing in size owing to the buildup of volcanic deposits on the southeast coast.
The island is 16 km (9.9 mi) long and 11 km (6.8 mi) wide, with rock cliffs rising 15 to 30 m (50–100 feet) above the sea and a number of smooth bottomed sandy beaches scattered among coves on the western (Caribbean) side of the island. Montserrat has two islets, Little Redonda and Virgin, and Statue Rock.
The island’s rugged, volcanic landscape is molded by three mountainous areas—the Silver Hills, Centre Hills, and Soufrière Hills—which are in turn cut by narrow valleys and gorges known locally as ghauts. The Silver Hills, in the north, and the Centre Hills are forested at higher elevations but have secondary scrub on their gentler lower contours. Chances Peak, at 3,000 feet (915 metres) in the Soufrière Hills, was the highest point on the island until the mid-1990s, when the first volcanic eruptions in Montserratian history dramatically changed the landscape.
Beginning in July 1995, volcanic domes in the Soufrière Hills alternately grew and collapsed in a series of eruptions that killed 19 people in June 1997 and flattened nearly 2.7 square miles (7 square km) of forests, agricultural land, and villages in December of that year. Many of the domes rose higher than 3,300 feet (1,000 metres) before partly collapsing.
Topographic map of Montserrat showing the "exclusion zone" due to volcanic activity, and the new airport in the north. The roads and settlements in the exclusion zone have mostly been destroyed.
Montserrat has a narrow coastal plain. Its few beaches have mainly gray or brown sand because of their volcanic origins; the single white-sand beach is at Rendezvous Bay in the north. Coral reefs line parts of the northern shore. Though Montserrat’s most lush vegetation, in the southern highlands, was destroyed in the eruptions, the Centre Hills remain largely unaffected by the eruptions. Among the island’s rare and endangered animals are Montserrat orioles, galliwasps (lizards), and “mountain chickens,” which are edible frogs found in the highlands.
The climate is tropical and mild, and there is little seasonal variation in temperature or rainfall. Average temperatures range from lows of 70–76 °F (21–24 °C) to highs of 80–86 °F (27–30 °C). The warmest period is from June to November. The higher temperatures are experienced during the months of August and September, with January and February being the cooler months. Average annual rainfall is 1,143 millimeters (45 inches). Heaviest rainfall is experienced September to January. Low humidity and constant cooling breezes maintain a pleasant climate year round.
The island is often in the path of hurricanes; Hurricane Hugo in 1989 was particularly devastating.
Emmanuel Ryan, 2, looks to the darkened skies over Olveston, Montserrat, from his mother's arms, on April 8, 1996. The Soufriere Hills volcano erupted again, spewing ash up to forty thousand feet into the sky. (AP Photo/John McConnico)
Volcano, exclusion zone, transport
In July 1995, Montserrat's Soufrière Hills volcano, dormant for centuries, erupted and soon buried the island's capital, Plymouth, in more than 12 metres (39 ft) of mud, destroyed its airport and docking facilities, and rendered the southern part of the island (the "exclusion zone") uninhabitable and not safe for travel. The southern part of the island was evacuated and visits are severely restricted. The exclusion zone also includes two sea areas adjacent to the land areas of most volcanic activity.
A cloud of superheated ash and gas flows from the Soufriere Hills volcano, seen from Olveston, Montserrat, on January 8, 2007. The cloud reportedly shot up more than 5 miles (8 kilometers) into the sky. (AP Photo/Wayne Fenton)
After the destruction of Plymouth and disruption of the economy, more than half of the population left the island, which also lacked housing. During the late 1990s, additional eruptions occurred. On 25 June 1997 a pyroclastic flow travelled down Mosquito Ghaut. This pyroclastic surge could not be restrained by the ghaut and spilled out of it, killing 19 people who were in the (officially evacuated) Streatham village area.
Plymouth, the former capital of Montserrat, now sits as a ghost town, on August 21, 1997, as debris from a pyroclastic flow from the Soufriere Hills volcano enveloped the town. (Reuters/Colin Braley)
Several others in the area suffered severe burns. For a number of years in the early 2000s, the volcano's activity consisted mostly of infrequent ventings of ash into the uninhabited areas in the south. The ash falls occasionally extended into the northern and western parts of the island. In the most recent period of increased activity at the Soufrière Hills volcano, from November 2009 through February 2010, ash vented and there was a vulcanian explosion which sent pyroclastic flows down several sides of the mountain. Travel into parts of the exclusion zone is occasionally allowed, only by a licence from the Royal Montserrat Police Force.
Smoke and ash billow from the Soufriere Hills volcano, on August 19, 1997. (AP Photo/Kevin West)
The northern part of Montserrat has barely been affected by volcanic activity, and remains lush and green. In February 2005, The Princess Royal officially opened what is now called the John A. Osborne Airport in the north. As of 2011, it handles several flights daily operated by Fly Montserrat Airways. Docking facilities are in place at Little Bay, where the new capital town is being constructed; the new government centre is at Brades, a short distance away.
The Soufriere Hills volcano erupting on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, on January 23, 2010. Three weeks after this photograph was taken, the dome volcano dome experienced another major partial collapse, triggering hours of eruptions and pyroclastic flows.
(AP Photo/Wayne Fenton)
In recognition of the disaster, in 1998 the people of Montserrat were granted full residency rights in the United Kingdom, allowing them to migrate if they chose. British citizenship was granted in 2002.
A Fly Montserrat Airways crash occurred on 7 October 2012, killing the pilot and two passengers. A preliminary report revealed that a combination of engine failure and tainted fuel are thought to be the causes.
Smoke, steam and ash billow from the Soufriere Hills Volcano as seen from Fort Ghaut, on Montserrat, on August 4, 1997. A pre-dawn eruption sent people racing away from an old "safe zone", as the government ordered hundreds of people to evacuate. (AP Photo/Kevin West)
Montserrat, like many isolated islands, is home to some exceptionally rare plant and animal species. Work undertaken by the Montserrat National Trust in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has centred on the conservation of pribby (Rondeletia buxifolia) in the Centre Hills region.
Until 2006, this species was known only from one book about the vegetation of Montserrat. In 2006, conservationists also rescued several plants of the endangered Montserrat orchid (Epidendrum montserratense) from dead trees on the island and installed them in the security of the island's botanic garden.
Montserrat is also home to the critically endangered Giant Ditch Frog (Leptodactylus fallax), known locally as the Mountain Chicken, found only in Montserrat and Dominica. The species has undergone catastrophic declines due to the amphibian disease Chytridiomycosis and the volcanic eruption in 1997. Experts from Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust have been working with the Montserrat Department of Environment to conserve the frog in-situ in a project called "Saving the Mountain Chicken", and an ex-situ captive breeding population has been set up in partnership with Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Zoological Society of London, North of England Zoological Society, Parken Zoo and the Governments of Montserrat and Dominica. Releases from this programme have already taken place in a hope to increase the numbers of the frog and reduce extinction risk from Chytridiomycosis.
Montserrat is known for its coral reefs and its caves along the shore. These caves house many species of bats, and efforts are underway to monitor and protect the ten species of bats from extinction
beautiful beach of Montserrat
The official language is English, and a dialect of Creole language known as Montserrat creole is widely spoken on informal occasions. Monserratians tend to use standard English in formal contexts and creole English in informal contexts.
Montserrat woman in her carnival dress
Montserrat Creole is a dialect of Leeward Caribbean Creole English spoken in Montserrat. The number of speakers of Montserrat Creole is below 10,000. Montserrat Creole does not have the status of an official language.
children of Montserrat in thir traditional attire
The first original inhabitants of Montserrat were Tainos or Amerindians called Arawak who were believed to have come from Venezuela. However, recent archaeological field work in 2012 in Montserrat's Centre Hills indicated there was an Archaic (pre-Arawak) occupation between 4000 and 2500 BP. Later coastal sites show the presence of the Saladoid culture.
Whatever be the case, the Arawaks were later overrun and exterminated by the Kalinago (Carib) Indians. The Caribs left the island by the middle of the seventeenth century but continued to raid it. They named the island Alliouagana ("Land of the Prickly Bush"), perhaps after the aloe plant.
In November 1493 Christopher Columbus passed Montserrat in his second voyage, after being told that the island was unoccupied due to raids by the Caribs. Columbus named the island Santa María de Montserrat, after the Monastery of Montserrat in the Crown of Aragon (today Catalonia, Spain).
The island came under English control in 1632 when anti-Catholic violence in Nevis forced Sir Thomas Warner, the first British governor of Saint Kitts to dispatch a group of Irish transported from Ireland as slaves, to settle in Montserrat. More Irish immigrants subsequently arrived from Virginia. Plantations were set up to grow tobacco and indigo, followed eventually by cotton and sugar. The early settlers were repeatedly attacked by French forces and Carib Indians. A neo-feudal colony developed amongst the "redlegs".
The colonists built an economy based on the production of sugar, rum, arrowroot and Sea Island Cotton, cultivated on large plantations manned by slave labor. Plantations were also set up to grow tobacco and indigo.
The early settlers were repeatedly attacked by French forces and Carib Indians. The French took possession of the island in 1664 and again in 1667, but it was restored to England by the Treaty of Breda. French forces sacked the island in 1712 and captured it for the last time in 1782, but the Treaty of Versailles (1783) again returned it
Before the arrival of the Irish the colonists imported African slaves for labour, as was common to most Caribbean islands. Most of the Africans imported were from the coast of West Africa with the majority coming from Gold Coast (Ghana), Bight of Biafra (Nigeria), Dahomey (Benin) and other slave ports. Majority of the ethnic origins of the African slaves were Akans (mostly Fantes), followed by Igbo, Yoruba, Fons etc.
Slaves from Africa were probably first brought to Montserrat in large numbers in the 1660s. Their population grew to some 1,000 in 1678 and 7,000 in 1810, when they greatly outnumbered white settlers. On 17 March 1768, slaves rebelled but failed to achieve freedom. The people of Montserrat celebrate St Patrick's Day as a public holiday due to the slave revolt. Festivities held that week commemorate the culture of Montserrat in song, dance, food and traditional costumes
Montserratian-born actress Dionne Audain, has been racking up her acting credentials over the past decade.
Irish slaves, indentured servants and prisoners
In 1649 Oliver In 1649, Cromwell sent Irish nationals to Montserrat, increasing the population and helping to preserve its Irish character. Many Irish people were also transported to the island, to work as slaves, indentured servants or exiled prisoners; some were exiled during the English Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. The victims of Cromwellian transportation ranged from political and military prisoners, to those who weren't intimidated by Cromwell's alleged threat of to "Hell or to Connacht" and to anyone who's crime was walking the Irish streets after the war. With this latter "crime" possibly being a euphemism for Irish people made homeless by the violent invasion and conquest.
Montserrat’s plantation system declined after slavery was abolished in 1834 and the price of sugar fell on world markets. The Montserrat Company, formed in 1857 under the direction of Joseph Sturge, bought abandoned estates, encouraged the cultivation of limes, and sold plots of land to settlers. Because of those efforts, smallholdings still cover much of the island. A series of devastating earthquakes and hurricanes occurred between 1890 and 1936.
Between 1871 and 1956 Montserrat was part of the (British) Federal Colony of the Leeward Islands, which included the British Virgin Islands, Saint Kitts–Nevis–Anguilla, and Dominica. In 1951 universal suffrage was declared, and the following year Montserratian women voted for the first time. The federation was abolished on July 1, 1956, when Montserrat became a colony in its own right. During 1958–62 Montserrat was part of the short-lived Federation of the West Indies. Montserratians, unlike their counterparts in most other British Caribbean colonies, did not seek associated statehood, which would have been a step toward independence.
In the general election of November 1978, the People’s Liberation Movement (PLM) won all seven seats to the Legislative Council. The party retained its control in 1983, but the opposition gained strength in the 1987 election. The PLM leadership favoured eventual independence after first achieving greater economic self-sufficiency. However, many merchants and other Montserratians opposed independence because they saw greater benefits in maintaining ties with Britain. Indeed, after Hurricane Hugo devastated the island in 1989, the British helped construct a new legislative building, a new wing to the hospital in Plymouth, housing, and roads.
In 1979, The Beatles producer George Martin’s AIR Studios Montserrat opened. The island attracted world-famous musicians, who came to record in the peaceful and lush tropical surroundings of Montserrat. The last decade of the twentieth century, however, brought two events which devastated the island
The newly formed National Progressive Party took over the government in 1991, but in 1996, in the midst of the volcano crisis, it won only one legislative seat. A weak coalition was then formed, headed by an independent member, Bertrand Osborne, as chief minister. Osborne resigned in 1997 amid criticism of his handling of the volcano crisis, and he was replaced by David Brandt. The British government was also widely criticized for its handling of the crisis, although it helped evacuate and relocate the population and repair the transportation infrastructure. After the PLM decisively won the elections of April 2001, John Osborne became chief minister. Volcanic activity continued into the early 21st century.
The Honourable Premier Reuben Meade gets a bow from veteran masqueraders during the Slave Feast in Salem, which is a part of the annual St. Patrick’s Week Festival.
Villages and towns that are within the safe zone are shown in boldface. The settlements that are known to be within the exclusion zone are shown in italics, since they cannot be accessed and are no longer habitable. See also List of settlements abandoned after the 1997 Soufrière Hills eruption
The economy of Montserrat is small, very open and is very heavily dependent on imports of merchandise goods.
Agriculture has not supported the population. To foster tourism, the government decided to avoid high-rise hotels and noisy nightclubs; instead, Montserrat was to be a model of "the way. Prior to 1995 tourism
(and in particular residential tourism) and its related services was the mainstay of the economy, contributing on average about 40% of GDP. Presently Tourism only contributes 15% to GDP.
Montserrat had a thriving tourism industry prior to 1995, earnings from tourism represented approximately 25% of the Island’s gross domestic product. The volcanic emergency decimated the industry with 1996 seeing a dramatic decline in tourist arrivals by 46%.
The stabilization of the volcano in 1998 exhibited a 52% increase in tourist arrivals when compared with 1997. Confidence has been restored in this sector in 1999 when tourist arrival figures were 12,909 when compared to 9,427 persons in 1998. The main objective of the Montserrat Tourist Board is the diversification of the tourism product in order to appeal to a wider market and seek to revitalize tourism as a significant contributor to the economy. The redevelopment of this industry in Montserrat is a major priority of the Government of Montserrat.
Agricultural production was greatly affected by the onset of volcanic activity in 1995. Between 1995 and 1997 all the major agricultural producing areas were either destroyed or deemed unsafe for habitation and by extension for crop farming and livestock rearing. One major result of volcanic activity therefore, has been a decrease in agriculture’s contribution to GDP from 5.4% in 1994 to approximately 1.1% in 1998, 0.7%
was contributed by agricultural sector and 0.4% was contributed by the fisheries sector. The number of persons employed in agriculture also decreased from approximately 300 crop and livestock farmers and 160 full and part time fishers before 1995 to 150 and 60 farmers and fishers respectively in 2000.
The Government of Montserrat has directed its policy towards achieving self sufficiency in certain foods and meat products in an effort to reduce the island’s dependency on imports and the outflow of foreign currency. Emphasis is being placed on intensifying the rearing of small ruminants and pigs and facilitating poultry production for meat and eggs. Emphasis has also been placed on encouraging agro-processing ventures utilizing local raw materials.
Fishing is another area of possible growth. The species groups traditionally exploited are the Shall Shelf and Reef Fish and the Coastal Pelagics. Both species are moderately too heavily exploited and are unlikely to support increased exploitation. The Deep Slope and Bank Fish are under exploited and the status of the Large Pelagics is mostly unknown but thought to be adequate to support further exploitation; these groups therefore offer great potential for increased exploitation.
The economy is based mainly on agriculture, real estate, building construction, tourism, and assembling industries. There is little manufacturing activity. There was, until the volcanic eruptions, an expanding tourist trade; and the island was beginning to build an integrated cotton industry (sea island cotton), although the island lacks the technology to handle large volumes of cotton. The off-shore medical school had to move to another island after the recent natural disaster.
Montserrat is accessible to the rest of the world via Antigua and Barbuda. The ferry service which operates twice or daily except Sundays, takes 1 hour to reach Antigua, from which connecting flights to all parts of the world can be accessed.
By air there is helicopter service which takes 15 minutes to Antigua’s V.C.Bird International Airport. Providing connections to the world. The Port is located 1 and one half miles from Brades, and the Geralds heliport 2 miles from Brades. Brades part of the commercial district.
Montserrat is favorably located in proximity to the markets of North and South America. The settlement of the North has resulted in construction of new roads in order to facilitate development of this area.
There is currently a road expansion programme, the need for new roads in the North to meet increasing demand.
Telephone communications to and from all parts of the world are excellent. Cable and Wireless (W.I.) Ltd., provides telecommunications Services in Montserrat. The national Network with a wired capacity in excess of 2600 lines and in addition to the regular telephone services offers enhanced features such as Voice-Mail, Caller ID, Call-waiting and Pre-paid call services. Installation of lines for private or commercial use, is done within six working days or less.
The island’s newspaper is the Montserrat Reporter. Presently there is only one radio station (FM Frequency), Radio Montserrat, Government owned and operating broadcasting on the Island. Licenses have been issued for at least two other radio Stations (private) which will come into operations in the coming months. There is one television station, Cable TV of Montserrat (private) operating locally.
A highly reliable supply of electricity is available: 110/220 volts, AC 60 cycles single phase for domestic use and 400/440 volts, Ac60 cycles for commercial usage. Water is available for both domestic and commercial use.
The government had plans of reviving farming, creating a tourist industry, and supporting a real estate-and-home-construction scheme; but Montserrat has been for many years marginal in relation to overseas markets, compounded by a series of natural disasters to the island.
Classes and Castes. The pattern of social stratification that emerged after the slavery period remains relatively unaltered. Lower classes predominate in this society.
The upper class includes resident owners and managers of the larger estates, expatriate colonial officials, professionals, religious leaders, bank managers, and larger merchants. Most are white or light-skinned. There are no poor whites. The upper classes generally live and work in the capital city of Plymouth, speak English, and adhere to legal forms of marriage and a nuclear form of the family. They belong to the Anglican, Methodist, and Roman Catholic denominations.
The middle class consists of salaried employees or civil servants who work for the post office, hospitals, courts, or the police department. This is the class that aims for secondary schooling. With increased educational opportunities, there is a growing middle class, which tends to use "standard" English in formal contexts, and creole English in others. Many of these households employ at least one domestic servant. Mostly Anglican, Methodist, or Roman Catholic, this is the class most anxious about appropriate behavior. There is an emerging professional class.
The lower classes are primarily black and are characterized by sporadic employment, with many people dependent on remittances. Virtually all live outside Plymouth. Migration was predominantly a lower-class phenomenon before the 1995 evacuations. Most of the members of this class follow Pentecostal faiths. Relationship patterns perhaps represent the greatest institutional variation between classes.
Montserrat girl with her traditional Akan (Fante) headdress (dokuu) acting on stage
Government. Representative government was introduced in 1936; Montserrat got a new constitution in 1952, and Britain introduced a bicameral system of government in 1960. Virtually all effective political power has been in the hands of the few who control production (the monopoly of the wealthy). Montserrat has elected to remain a colony, although some have argued for a discontinuation of colonial status. There is almost total dependence on Great Britain.
Leadership and Political Officials. Montserrat has a representative government with a ministerial system, practicing parliamentary democracy rooted in the Westminster model. The head of state is represented by a governor, who exercises executive authority. Britain is still responsible for the island's external affairs, defense, and law and order, although Montserrat has a fairly autonomous local government. The chief minister is John Osborne, who has always favored independence for the country. The recent natural disasters effectively put this question to rest for now.
Social Problems and Control. A nation of emigration, with severe loss of population, Montserrat has choking conditions of underdevelopment, poverty, unemployment, declining productivity of abused space, unavailable markets, land problems, and insecure subsistence production, as well as fear, suspicion, and mistrust, especially since the natural disasters of Hugo and the volcanic eruptions. It is a nation suffering from a colonial past, a Caribbean laboratory with "infinitely limited alternatives." There have been various schemes proposed to eliminate some of the social problems, but to date all have failed, e.g., the geothermal project that did not take into account popular superstition about disturbing the dormant volcanoes. The present socioeconomic crises cannot be separated from the recent natural disasters. Great Britain has had to bail out the Montserratians once more.
Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations
In a typical parish, there might be three rum shops, four small provision shops, a sub-post office, the Methodist church and smaller Holiness church, and a school. However, Rotary and Jaycees are both active on the island. Montserrat has a theater with plays that address Caribbean issues and at least two dance groups. Choral music groups and sports are also popular.
Gender Roles and Statuses
Gender roles vary by class, with more rigidity in the lower strata. Homosexuality is feared. Marriage is valued, being associated with socioeconomic standing and as a demonstration of ambition and the attainment of social adulthood.
Marriage, Family, and Kinship
Marriage. Once a proposed marriage union is recognized, the couple are referred to as being "friendly" or as being "sweethearts." The migration of either party in such a union is regarded as terminating that union. Most lower-class Montserratians eventually legally marry, because marriage is associated with a higher socioeconomic standing. Legal divorce is fairly rare.
Domestic Unit. The major domestic unit is the household, which encompasses kinship, mating, land tenure, and inheritance. Migration has caused some unique problems for maintenance of the domestic unit in Montserrat.
Inheritance. About half the children born are technically illegitimate, but no stigma is attached to this fact. All children are entitled to an equal share of the parents' fixed property regardless of birth order or sex.
Kin Groups. Standard English kin terms apply in Montserrat, except for "niece" and "nephew," which are rarely used. Children are typically given the name of their genitors regardless of the type of mating arrangement.
Child Rearing and Education. Children are cared for within the domestic unit of family, which tends to be matrifocal. Children are given the name of their genitor. Pre-primary education is provided in nursery schools for 3-5 year-olds, while primary education for children of 7-11 years is provided in 15 primary schools. Religion has had a strong influence on education. Anglicans and Methodists broadened the base, and Quakers also played a vital role in education. Education, however, tended to render the educated unfit for life on the island.
Higher Education. Secondary education is fairly well developed throughout the island, but access to tertiary education is only through a school of continuing education sponsored by the University the West Indies.
People of Montserrat
Religious Beliefs. Protestant sects have multiplied in recent times. Catholics were a strong religious group in the 1800s, but today the largest religious denomination is Anglican Protestant. The first church, built by Governor Anthony Brisket, was probably Anglican. Pentecostal churches are growing.
Medicine and Health Care
Medical services are reasonably adequate on the island, with a number of private medical practitioners available as well as doctors in the government health service. Health centers are scattered throughout the island. Free medical attention and medication are provided for children and the aged.
Saint Patrick's Day, March 17, is celebrated with feasts and festivities by the island's Irish inhabitants, and local scholars made it a national day on which to celebrate the freedom fighters of the abortive 1768 slave uprising. August 1 is Emancipation Day, and August Monday a national holiday, with picnics, bazaars, and dances. Many parishes have village days, beauty contests, and Calypso contests.
The Arts and Humanities
The arts and humanities are largely confined to folk representations. The trappings of black power, Afro clothing, and plaited hair have appeared and disappeared. However, there has been a new appreciation of self and a search for national identity. The new consciousness has found expression in research into local folk music, folktales, proverbs, riddles, and dialects. There has been an attempt to recognize and reconcile the African contributions to Montserrat's cultural mosaic.
Calabash art at Montserrat Calabash Festival.The calabash, or “bottle gourd,” is one of the most widely used vegetables in the Caribbean, but not necessarily for food. In Montserrat (and some other islands, too), calabash is used to make everything from hanging baskets, masks and music instruments to handbags, jewellery and other fashion accessories.
Music of Montserrat
The music of Montserrat is influenced by African and Irish traditions, noticeable in the set dance-like Bam-chick-lay, and the presence of fife and drum ensembles similar to the bodhrán. Natives are also witness to the jumbie dance, the style of which is still strongly African. Instruments include the ukulele and shak-shak, an African instrument made from a calabash gourd; both of these are used in traditional string bands.
Montserrat kicks off ArrowFest 2010
Calypso and spiritual-influenced vocal choirs, like the Emerald Isle Community Singers, are popular.
Past pop stars include the soca bandleader Alphonsus "Arrow" Cassell, known for 1983's "Hot! Hot! Hot!". Calypso music is also popular, as are the vocal choirs Voices and the Emerald Community Singers are well known throughout the island. They perform at various special occasions, such as the December Festival, and throughout the year. The most famous modern steelband from Montserrat is the Rude Boys String Band.
Montserratian culture is generally a hybrid of African and European, specifically British and Irish, elements. The African influence is the most pronounced, and manifests itself in the local Creole language, as well as the island's folktales, stories, songs, dances and religion. Montserrat remained largely isolated from international popular culture until the 1960s, and the island's folk traditions remained vibrant until the eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano in the 1995, after which most of the population left the island. The popularity of Arrow also contributed to the demise of traditional music, replaced largely by imported popular styles
Folk music: Montserrat's folk musical heritage includes a wide array of religious and ritual folk music. There are also folk songs used in spiritual musical traditions, in addition to secular use; indeed, there is little distinction between secular and spiritual aspects of traditional Montserratian culture. Folk songs are generally in the Montserrat Creole language and concern topics ranging from obeah (magic) to agriculture, infidelity and historic occurrences. Many songs are widespread and well-known, and occur in numerous variations, including "Nincom Riley" and "All de Relief", two of the most famous Montserratian folk songs. The folk repertoire also include calypsos and Irish melodies. The Irish Montserratian tradition has largely died out, with the last performer, George Allen, a fiddler, dying in 1966.
Jumbie: The jumbie dance has been called the "purest manifestation of folk religion on Montserrat", and is an iconic part of folk culture, bringing together local folklore, dance, song and music. It has also been described as a startling and unique hybrid, consisting of "Western instruments (that) produce Africanesque music, to which dancers perform Irish steps while moving their upper bodies like Africans".
The jumbie dance was probably last performed in 1980. Jumbies are traditionally said to be spirits, one of several kinds that also include the African sukra and jabless, and the Irish mermaid, animal spirit (similar to the Púca) and the Jack Lantern. Jumbies hold a similar place in Montserratian society as fairies does in Irish culture; they are the recipients of many small offerings, such as bits of food or drink, and the subject of numerous daily superstitions and rituals.
The jumbie dance is performed by four couples, one man and one woman. They each do a series of sets, consisting of five quadrilles played at successively swifter tempos. The couples will switch out as they get tired, until eventually one becomes possessed by a jumbie. They often move about wildly, fall to the floor and shout in glossolalia.
Some Montserratian Irish trace the origins of the jumbie dance to the pre-emancipation period, when slaves attempted to perform the dances performed by white overseers and landowners. Jumbie dances are traditionally performed after a celebration, in the home of a sponsor, and to mark times of individual crisis or major life changes, such as a wedding or christening. The jumbie dance is said to induce spiritual possession and grant divination skills. Often, jumbie dances are intended to cure diseases, remove curses or discover the identity of a guilty party.
There are generally three jumbie dancers in a unit, who perform accompanied by the babala (tambourine, or jumbie drum), triangle, fife or pulley (accordion, concertina or melodeon), and most importantly the French reel (also jumbie drum or woowoo), a skin drum that produces an ominous sound which is said to attract the jumbie spirits. Both the babala and French reel are similar to the Irish bodhran in construction; all three drums are played with the fingertips, palms and the backs of the hands.
Other folk traditions: The same music used in the jumbie dance also accompanies country dances (also known as goatskin or drum dance). Country dances are strictly recreational, however, and use different songs and dances than the jumbie dance. Rum shops are frequently home to string bands, especially on Boxing Day, and ensembles of guitar, banjo, accordion and cuatro (ukulele).
The Montserratian tradition of masquerading is both a ritual and celebratory element of folk music. Groups of dancers (masqueraders) with bright costumes and voluminous adornments, including whips (hunters) that are used for the Masqueraders to move crowds away as they parade the streets, scare away evil spirits and send signals to other dancers. Masqueraders travel door to door and receive small gifts, while dancing a standard set of dances consisting of a heel-and-toe polka and five quadrilles. This celebration begins in mid-December and ends January 1.
Montserrat is also home to a string band folk tradition that provides accompaniment to many kinds of songs and dances. These generally include the ukulele (yokolee, imported from Hawaiian music), guitar, triangle, the bass boom pipe, shak-shak, gradge and fife. String bands traditionally performed for weddings; this tradition declined with the rise of stereos and recorded music, as well as the spread of jazz bands, but was revived in the 1970s. String bands now also play at hotels and nightclubs.
Popular music and modern styles: The steel band tradition is common to many Caribbean, and especially Lesser Antillean, islands. The Montserratian tradition began in 1949 in Ryner's Village and Kinsale, and was prominent enough by the following year to be played at the Empire Day celebrations. Despite some criticism that the music was degrading for children, steel bands have become a major part of the island's musical heritage.
Calypso is an originally Trinidadian style of music that has since spread across the world. In recent years it has become a major part of Montserratian music, with the rise of Alphonsus "Arrow" Cassell, a soca artist who is internationally renowned. Calypso in Montserrat dates to the 1950s, and Justin "Hero" Cassell (Arrow's brother), who won the islands calypso competition thirteen times and became the Calypso King of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. In 2000, Sylvina "Khandie" Malone became the first female calypso monarch on Montserrat.
Holidays and festivals: The Montserrat December Festival (the local Carnival tradition) is the biggest holiday of the year, held all through the month of December concluding on January 1 and ending with a street parade. The Festival is like Carnival on the other Caribbean islands, featuring competitions in various skills, especially the Calypso King competition, street dancing (jamming or jumping up), Soca King, beauty pageants and masquerade performances. There are also Christmas songs and caroling.
December Festival parades formerly included music and masqueraders, and dancers in uniforms modeled on the Grenadier Guards. Music is provided by an ensemble of triangle, fife and two goatskin, deep-barreled drums called kettles or booms). This tradition is primarily African in style, with little Irish or British influence, and is very distinct from jumbie dance styles. The traditional music of the December Festival was last performed in 1988, in St. John's Village.
Boxing Day is an occasion for music competitions, held in Sturge Park. Steelbands, village groups, masquerade ensembles and mummers all perform. Jump-up Day commemorates and celebrates emancipation from slavery, and is accompanied by steelbands, masquerades and dancing men carrying chains to symbolize the bondage of slavery.
Music is also an important part of St Patrick's Day, which is a celebration of Montserrat's Irish heritage and music and has now been transformed into a whole week of activities.
Music for Montserrat: Air Studios, a recording studio operated by George Martin, used to be on the island, and performers like the Rolling Stones, Sting and Elton John traveled there to record. After Hurricane Hugo, however, the studios were closed. Martin organized a fundraiser (Music for Montserrat) for the island in 1997, which included native band Arrow, Mark Knopfler, Jimmy Buffett, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Carl Perkins (who died the next year), Sting and Elton John. Other local bands performed simultaneously at Gerald's Bottom on the island; the occasion also saw the reformation of Climax Blues Band and the appearance of Bankie Banks.
Cricket is a popular sport in Montserrat. Players from Montserrat are eligible to play for the West Indies cricket team. Jim Allen was the first to play for West Indies and he represented the World Series Cricket West Indians. No other player from Montserrat had gone on to represent West Indies until Lionel Baker made his One Day International debut against Pakistan in November 2008. The Montserrat cricket team forms a part of the Leeward Islands cricket team in regional domestic cricket, however it plays as a separate entity in minor regional matches, as well having previously played Twenty20 cricket in the Stanford 20/20. Two grounds on the island have held first-class matches for the Leeward Islands, the first and most historic was Sturge Park in Plymouth, which had been in use since the 1920s. This was destroyed in 1997 by the volcanic eruption. A new ground, the Salem Oval, was constructed and opened in 2000. This has also held first-class cricket. A second ground has been constructed at Little Bay. The sport of surfing was introduced by two American brothers in 1980, Carrll and Gary Robilotta. They were also responsible for naming the surfing spots on the island. Carrll wrote for the surfing newsletter "The Surf Report" which was used by surfers around the globe. They both made Montserrat their home for 12 years.
Montserrat has its own FIFA affiliated football team, and has twice competed in the World Cup qualifiers. A field for the team was built near the airport by FIFA. The Montserrat team are tied for 181 place in the FIFA world rankings with other team – Bahamas. In 2002, the team competed in a friendly match with the second-lowest-ranked team in FIFA at that time, Bhutan, in The Other Final—the same day as the final of the 2002 World Cup. Bhutan won 4–0.
St Patrick's Celebrations Enjoyed Best on The Caribbean's Emerald Isle, Montserrat