Saturday, 8 January 2011

St Helena History

The Heart Shaped Waterfall, St Helena, from a sepia postcard purchased on St Helena in 1949.

Between the Cable and Wireless buildings and the waterfall is the pavilion in which Napoleon spent his first few weeks on St Helena.

Close to the Pavilion is the small house that in 1815 had been occupied by the Balcombe family. This house may already have been demolished by the time this postcard was purchased.

This picture is posted by courtesy of Pauline and John Grimshaw, who happen to live quite close to me, and contacted me after discovering my blog.

They have now visited St Helena twice, and I understand that Pauline's parents called there while working on the Union Castle Line in 1949 .

Their collection of photographs on St Helena History is well worth a visit. Each photograph is carefully documented, there are links to related photos in the collection, and some have fuller descriptions.

Their collection includes a number of old maps (some showing two St Helena's!), views of Jamestown, and images of famous visitors, including Halley and Darwin. (1)

One visitor whom I do not think I had previously heard of was William Dampier, who apparently visited twice, the first time in 1691. He wrote an account of his trip, which I referenced from the excellent description that accompanied the photograph. His description of St Helena, and particularly the young ladies, is worth a perusal.

For the islands afford abundance of delicate herbs, wherewith the sick are first bathed to supple their joints, and then the fruits and herbs and fresh food soon after cure them of their scorbutic humours. So that in a week's time men that have been carried ashore in hammocks and they who were wholly unable to go have soon been able to leap and dance. Doubtless the serenity and wholesomeness of the air contributes much to the carrying off of these distempers; for here is constantly a fresh breeze. While we stayed here many of the seamen got sweethearts. One young man belonging to the James and Mary was married and brought his wife to England with him. Another brought his sweetheart to England, they being each engaged by bonds to marry at their arrival in England; and several other of our men were over head and ears in love with the St. Helena maids who, though they were born there, yet very earnestly desired to be released from that prison, which they have no other way to compass but by marrying seamen or passengers that touch here. The young women born here are but one remove from English, being the daughters of such. They are well-shaped, proper and comely, were they in a dress to set them off.

Among the pictures I noted was one of Kent Cottage published in 1903. This was of course the home of the somewhat notorious Rev Boys, who has appeared on this blog before.

I wonder who the men in the photo were?

Anyway I thoroughly recommend this collection and am very grateful to them both for sharing it. I shall be posting a permanent link to their site in the near future.
1. I am informed that the two St Helena's had the same latitude. As soon as longitude could be measured accurately it was apparent that there was only one St Helena. Sounds like a football chant!


albertuk said...

Hi John
Les "autres Sainte-Hélène" do exist... There are pieces of land that would suddenly appear with lowest tides at certain times of month, or year. For example, the Topaz Seamount, northeast from St Helena, has a depth of barely 3 meter below sea level, meaning that boats, unaware of that land underneath, could actually wreck right at the middle of the blue sea ! Closer to St Helena, there is Bonaparte seamount at -30 meters, and Dampier seamount at -30 meters. Personally I would vote for Topaz as being "the 2nd St Helena" because its shalowness means that many people would have been able to observe the land, appearing from the sea more often obviously.
(sorry if this explanation would have killed some more fantastic and romantic stories about a ghost island)

albertuk said...

Correction: Dampier seamount is at -14 meters, so quite eligible for sudden appearance too, at certain times.

John Tyrrell said...

Interesting. Thanks for correcting me.