Irish culture is alive and well on the “Emerald Isle” of the Caribbean.
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated as a national holiday in only two places in the world – the country of Ireland, and the Caribbean island of Montserrat. The national flag of Montserrat depicts the legendary female Irish figure Erin playing an ancient Irish harp.
And the green shamrock is stamped on every visitors passport upon entry to the island, and the shamrock is also carved on the door of the Governor’s house.
The national dish of the island, Goat Water, also has an Irish origin. It is a stew made of kidney or mutton, and is spiced with cloves and rum.
As you travel around Montserrat, you’ll find familiar sounding Irish names such as Kinsale, Delvins, St. Patrick’s and Cork Hill on the streets, establishments and towns. And, the islands phone directory lists the generations of the Ryans, O’Briens, Daleys, Sweeneys, Gibbons, and so many more.
You have to go back to 17th century history to find the first origins of this lasting Irish culture. The English defeated the Irish, and sent them to the island of Montserrat to serve as indentured servants, and they worked along side the African slaves.
As the Irish served out their servitude, some migrated to other islands in the Caribbean, but the majority of Irish decided to make Montserrat their home. It was in this period that six of the islands 17th century Governor’s were of Irish descent.
Together the descendants of the original Irish prisoners, and African slaves blended a society that maintained the strong Irish influence mixed with the African culture. The present day society is certainly one of the most unusual in the history of the Caribbean islands.
Montserrat is currently making a comeback with tourism. Visitors are surprised to find the island rebounding from the destructive volcanic eruption in 1997 which buried the former capital city of Plymouth in ashes.
While the former capital remains buried, and is an unusual tourist site in the region, the rest of the island offers breathtaking green scenery. Volcanos bring new life, and Montserrat is no exception with its emerald green mountains, exotic dark sand beaches, and pristine reefs just waiting to be explored.
Montserrat, prior to the eruption, was once a vacation paradise for jet setters and movie stars. This island is posturing itself for a renewed tourist industry with a new capital city, and brand new airport. Visitors will find affordable lodging, plenty of restaurants, secluded beaches and a first class diving destination.
This isn’t a destination for everyone, but if your idea of a Caribbean vacation is lots of natural beauty, extensive hiking trails, first class diving, uncrowded beaches, and an opportunity to see a former city that is a modern day Pompeii, then the Emerald Green Isle is the only place in the Caribbean that will deliver all that, and perhaps a bit of Irish culture.