From as early as I could remember St Patrick’s day was always a day of celebration. We would wear green and head into town and party. It would be festivities all week-long. As a child there is nothing more I would lived for. This day was a big deal and I didn’t even know why. Who was St Patrick. Patrick that was a strange name in itself. Apparently he got rid of the snakes in Ireland but in Montserrat there were still lots of snakes so why were we thanking him. And believe me I would’ve been the first to thank him because I have such a huge fear of snakes. These are the questions I would constantly ask but no one was forthcoming with answers when a young Santis O’Garro asked.
Then my mom met and we all fell in love with Dermot. Or Donut as we used to think ( because on a small Caribbean that name was uncommon). To cut along story short we all moved to Dublin in May 1995. And for some reason St Patrick’s day was never the same. There was just a line of people walking through the streets, or people getting drunk everywhere. Where was the dancing, the street food stalls the celebration the carnival and why was Montserrat the only other country in the world that St Patrick’s day was a public bank holiday. What connected these two totally different world and cultures.
Here’s some answers…
The slave trade was a
lucrative business back in the day. A lot of slaves were sent to the Caribbean as well as America. They were used to grow cotton, sugar cane etc. I’m going to concentrate on the Irish role in all off this, because this is where we get the link.
Although most of the Irish were sent to the Caribbean during the Cromwell era Irish men and women were freely emigrating to the West Indies 25 years or so before the Cromwellian cruelties. Montserrat a British Territory was subsequently colonized by Irish Catholics fleeing from nearby St Kitts ( st Christopher ) and Virginia because of strong religious intolerance. Few people realise that between 1600 and 1700 Irish people were sold as slaves, although the African Negro were more suited to the semi tropical weather.
By the mid 1600s The Irish were the main slaves sold to Montserrat and Antigua. At that time 70% of the population in Montserrat were Irish.
As the Irish slaves regain their freedom they too became planters. Subsequently the African were enslaved to work the sugar fields. There was a myth that because of their oppression by the British that the Irish slave masters would be more humane to the negro slave this was not the case.
Soon the enslaved Africans out numbers there Irish masters 3-1. They planned and all out attack to get their freedom. They chose March 17th in 1768 partly because they knew the masters would be celebrating on this day… St Patrick’s day. However someone leaked the plan and their punishments were severe.
A failed slave uprising led to Montserrat becoming one of two places in the world to celebrate St Patrick’s Day as a public Holiday the other being Ireland.
Today we celebrate St Patrick’s day in honour of those who lost there lives and because we Montserrations are The black Irish of the Caribbean. You would only have to look at the phone book to see how Irish The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean is. Thanks for reading …TCDub xxxx