Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Hutts Gate, Halley's Oservatory and Diana's Peak, St. Helena

Now for something different, and it is harder to think of a greater contrast from Sandy Bay than a walk to Diana's Peak.

First a short stop at Sea View. It is located above Sane Valley (The Valley of the Tomb).

It is where the Judge stays on his periodic visits.

Not the grandest of houses, but it must have some of the finest views on this island of fine views.

Then to Hutts Gate Store, which now looks in danger of falling down.

In the first few months of the captivity Grand Marshall Bertrand and his family lived in a house opposite here, but it has long since disappeared.

Our guide for the day is the lady who is the Financial Secretary to the St. Helena Government, who happens to bear the surname of England's most notorious highway robber. She tells me that I am the first person to notice that!

So we begin our climb to Diana's Peak.

On our way we pass the site of Halley's observatory. His journey to St. Helena made his reputation; on his return to London in 1678 he became one of the youngest ever members of the Royal Society, aged only 22 (1)

A view of Hutts Gate Store as we begin our climb.

In the distance we have a good view of Miss Mason's House (Teutonic Hall/Orange Grove), now apparently in a very poor state of repair.

In Napoleon's time Miss Mason amused the inhabitants of Longwood by her habit of riding on a bullock. She was always effusive in her greetings to Napoleon. There were inevitable rumours of romantic attachments.

When the party returned to remove Napoleon's remains in 1840, she was at Hutts Gate to meet them.

Also there was Mrs Dickson, a widow with a large family who now kept a liquour store at Hutts Gate. She had been the nurse to young Arthur Betrand who had been born on St. Helena: the only Frenchman to come on the island without Hudson Lowe's permission, his mother had said. Arthur Bertrand now returned to St. Helena with his ageing father and tearfully greeted Mrs Dickson. His mother had died in 1836.

Amidst the lush vegetation we ran into a couple of men from Dr Johnson's home town, whom we had met a few times before. They always made us laugh, even on the top of the mountain.


(1) Halley sailed to St. Helena in November 1676, with a letter of introduction to the East India Company from Charles II.
The constant cloud cover made his task difficult, and prolonged his stay. Nevertheless he was able to catalogue 341 southern hemisphere stars, discovered a star cluster, and observed the complete transit of Mercury. On his return to England in 1678 he published a catalogue of southern hemisphere stars.

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