Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Christmas Images of St Helena

St Helena has had more than its share of problems in 2008 - escalating fuel prices which impact on everything purchased on the island; heavy rains and rock falls; problems with the ageing mail ship (RMS St. Helena) and now uncertainty as to whether the airport will be built.

For a short time though its inhabitants, like those of much of the rest of the globe, are putting aside the economic doom and gloom and celebrating the holiday season.

I liked the colour of this parade down the main street in Jamestown, and thought it worth sharing(and worth clicking on for a larger image).

It is comforting to note also that Jonathan - the island's most famous inhabitant other than Napoleon - who has attracted international attention this year and may or may not be the oldest animal in the world, continues to do what he has done through two World Wars, countless smaller conflicts, one Great Depression, numerous recessions, and the reigns of some half dozen British monarchs.

Long may his health and good fortune continue; and best wishes to all the other less well known residents of the island.

Best wishes and thanks also to the St. Helena Independent, the source of the images reproduced here, and an invaluable source of news and opinion on events on the island.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

St. Helena Residents During the Captivity

For some time I had been meaning to do an entry on the families who lived on St. Helena during the Captivity of Napoleon. Reading G.L. De St. M. Watson's interesting work on Piontkowski and St. Helena has finally spurred me to do this. (1) This book contains a list of over 30 people that Hudson Lowe suspected might have been involved in helping Napoleon to smuggle letters to Europe.

I hope that this entry may be of some help to those trying to trace the names of families who once lived on St. Helena. It does not pretend to provide a definitive record.

Gilbert Martineau, in his Napoleon's St. Helena breaks the white population of the island into two categories: "big" whites and "small" whites, probably an appropriate terminology to describe the hierarchical world that was the British Empire. Below these would be the trades people, the free blacks and the slaves. (2)

The first category consisted of the well established families who lived in the fine houses scattered around the island - the Doveton (Mount Pleasant) , Hodson (Maldivia House) and Brooke families (Prospect House).

Others who were admitted to Plantation House functions during the East India Company period included Robert Leech (High Knoll) and D. Leech, B.A. Wright, John De Fountain, David and John Kay, Thomas Greentree (Fairyland), George Blenkens, Robert and Henry Seale (Castle of Otranto), Anthony Beale, George Lambe, Charles Blake and Nathaniel Kennedy. These families tended to intermarry and held all the important positions on the island.

Other family names on the island at the time included Bennett, Brabazon, Carr, Shortiss, Kinnaird, Bagley, Knipe, Torbett, Mason, Legge, Robinson, Broadway, Firmin, Young, Carrol, O'Connor, Porteous, Smith, Haynes, Beale, Hunter, Den Taafe, Cole, Harrington and Fowler.

Sir Hudson Lowe's List of Suspects

Sir Hudson Lowe's list, referred to earlier, not only provides an insight into the paranoia and distrust of Sir Hudson Lowe, but also affords a glimpse of the commercial life of St Helena during the Captivity. (3)

Some on the list appear in the Judicial Records I have been working on, but the Records rarely give any indication of occupation. Few if any of the names are I think now current on St. Helena.

Most of the names on the list are reproduced below, with any additional information that I have to hand.

Samuel Solomon -the founder of the firm which still trades on St. Helena
Mr Bruce (clerk to Solomon)
Joseph Solomon

Mr Boorman - a plumber and paper hanger often employed at Longwood; he and his wife assisted Darling with the funeral arrangements.
Mr Paine - a painter and paper hanger, an employee of John Bullock (London) sent out to from the UK to work on New Longwood house
Mr Darling - another employee of John Bullock; served as undertaker at Napoleon's funeral; assisted also at the exhumation.

Mr Heywood
Mr Lowden
Mr Cole - postmaster
Members of the firm Balcombe, Cole & Co - Messrs. Fowler (Oaklands), Waring and Banks. The Balcombe family had by this time left the island.
Mr Scriven - warehouseman
Mr Wright - late captain St Helena Regiment - who was acquitted of murder in the duelling case in 1808 referred to in an earlier entry on this blog.

Mr Metcalfe - carpenter
Mr Bannister - victualler
Mr Simpson
Mr Eyre - lodging-keeper
Mr Mulhall
Mr Chamberlayn - carpenter
Mr Gordon - cooper
Mr Baker, contractor
Mr Carroll - merchant
Mr McRitchie - shopkeeper
Mr Torbett - shopkeeper; owned the land on which Napoleon was buried.
Mr Blunden - clerk
Mr Greenland - shopkeeper
Mr Green - shopkeeper
Mr Dring - auctioneer
Mr Julio - no fixed employment
Mr Tracy - butcher

Reverend Boys and Illegitimacy on St. Helena

One of the most colourful people on the island at this time was the Reverend Richard Boys, whose forthright opinions sometimes brought him into conflict with the powers on the island, most notably in his condemnation of Admiral Plampin's cohabitation with a lady not his wife.

On occasions when Boys was asked to record the births of children of slave women fathered by people of rank on the island, he insisted on writing the names and positions of the fathers in bold letters in the register. Apparently these names were virtually impossible to erase. Boys' efforts appear to have had some effect, as the decline in the number of illegitimate children registered suggests:
1813 :- 198; 1814 :- 101; 1815 :- 58 1816:- 46; 1817:- 53; 1818:- 39; 1819 :- 50; 1820 :- 17; 1821 :- 16; 1822 :- 6.
1, G.L. De St. M. WatsonA Polish Exile with Napoleon(London and New York) 1912. I can find little about this author, who happened to live in nearby Wigan long before it was discovered and made famous by George Orwell. It seems to me to be a curious place find a Napoleonic scholar! on the occasion of his publication of a volume on Napoleon's death mask, Watson was described by the New York Times (August 15th 1915) as a leading Napoleonic iconographer. Watson was apparently a friend of Arnold Chaplin, whose A St. Helena Who's Who (London 1919) is an invaluable source for information on St. Helena during the captivity.

2. Chaplin gives the breakdown of the population as follows: 3534 whites; 1156 slaves; 481 Chinese; 613 Free Blacks; 33 Lascars (Asian sailors). He gives the total military population as 2181. Arnold p. 15

3.The background to this incident is as follows: In 1819 Mr Ripley, the captain of the Regent was apparently approached on St. Helena and offered some money to take some correspondence from Longwood to Europe. He informed Col. Reade, who informed Sir Hudson Lowe. Lowe sent a letter to Lord Bathurst listing possible suspects about whom Ripley should be questioned. Quite what Lord Bathurst made of this one can only imagine.