We were pleased to entertain most of Manchester's small Maldivian community to an "English tea" (Norwegian style) just before the start of Ramadan.
Then we showed our visitors our slides of St Helena, and tried to imagine how the Maldivians who arrived on St. Helena in 1735 must have felt when they first saw the dark rock that was to be their home for the rest of their lives.
So different from the islands they had been used to.
In preparation for the visit I had looked again at the books purchased on St. Helena. From these I gleaned two things I had forgotten. Firstly, I was not the originator of the term "slaves" to describe the Maldivians who were taken to St. Helena in 1735. I am very glad about that. The book (reproduced below) indicates that slaves were brought to St Helena from West Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Madagascar, and "elsewhere as opportunity offered, as in 1735 when a group of natives of the Maldives Islands were found drifting in a boat in the Indian Ocean .. (1)
Whether this book is right or wrong about the actual status of the Maldivians is another matter. Either way it is hardly an episode of which an Englishman can be proud.
Secondly, and I should have remembered this, Maldivia Gardens was near to the current hospital. The area we stayed in, although known as Maldivia, is further up the Jamestown valley. It is shown on the map below as the residence of Major Hodson. His house still exists and, as mentioned in my original Maldivia blog, was visited once by Napoleon when he was staying at the Briars. (2)
Despite walking and driving past many times, we never took a single photo of the area, and so we were unable to show our Maldivian guests what Maldivia Gardens looks like today. The source shown above indicates that the gardens still exist, and are tended in a series of patches which include places like Molly's Flat. (3)
Perhaps a kind Frenchman would post some pictures on his blog - which incidentally is the best place I know to find photographs of the stunning scenery of St. Helena as well as the historical sites!
See latest post on Maldivia, 12 April 2013 which provides important new information on the Madivians taken to St Helena.
1. St Helena - 500 Years of History 1502-2002 Quincentenary , Designed and published by Anchor Marine and associates, 2002, p.7 The book also has an apt comment about the approach to the island: one's first impression is of a grim and inhospitable volcanic island, belying the lush interior and friendly warmth of the people .
2. The map is one produced by Lieutenant R.P. Read, and published in London in 1815. It may be found in St. Helena Then and Now directed by Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, published by the Education Department St Helena, 2007. (ISBN 978-0620-39149-8)
3. St Helena 500 years of History