Our Past Meetings


 

Below are precis of presentations given at Members' meetings which are held in June (usually the Annual General Meeting) and October each year.   Complete presentations are available to members only on this website via the 'Publications' heading.

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9 June 2016:  Friends of St Helena Summer Meeting - Thames Cruise to Say Farewell to the RMS.

To accommodate the cruise, the AGM was postponed to the Autumn meeting scheduled for October 22nd at the Victory Club, Marble Arch.

Some one hundred Friends and members of the Tristan da Cunha Association gathered in London on 9th July for an afternoon cruise on the William B, to see the RMS St Helena.   She was moored off HMS Belfast for three days to commemorate her final visit to London and before her return to the South Atlantic with a full complement of passengers.

The weather was perfect and we were treated to some splendid views of both the ship and of London.   After an initiall attempt to elicit a response from the RMS's bridge in acknowledgement of our presence (following a request to the Governor's office, Brian Frederick received an email from new Governor Lisa Phillips assuring him that the RMS would toot her horn) someone appeared on deck and shouted down that everyone was at lunch.   This all seemed quite normal so we sailed on down river to Greenwich and the Thames Barrier basking in the glorious sunshine.















On our return journey we were more successful and the ship blasted her horn as we passed by.


(photos:  with thanks to Edward Baldwin)

 

 

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24 October 2015:  The Autumn meeting was held at the Victory Club in London on 24th October.   Ian Mathieson chaired the meeting and welcomed the members and their families - the attendance being abut 70.

The main theme of the day was to mark the 200th anniversary of Napoleon's arrival on St Helena on October 15th, 1815.  There was also a display of Austin Meares' memorabilia from his collection, an introduction to this would be given after lunch.

Napoleon and the British Opposition during the Captivity.   A Talk presented by John Tyrrell.

Britain during the period that Napoleon was exiled on St. Helena was a  divided and repressive country. It was a period of dissent and disorder: machine breaking, mass movements, public meetings and petitions against taxes, against  corruption, against placemen and against a standing army.

The Foxite Whigs, the opposition in Parliament, often critical of the wars against both France and the United States, never subscribed to the Tory caricature of Napoleon.  Whilst not uncritical of him, they recognized that he had created order out of the anarchy of the Revolution, had safeguarded property rights, and furthermore had instituted a number of reforms they would have welcomed in England. They admired his sponsorship of the arts and sciences, the Code Napoléon, considered far superior to the repressive legal system in England, and the religious freedom he had brought to France.
 
Many great names voted against the resumption of war in the House of Lords in 1815, including the Prince Regent’s brother, the Duke of Sussex, a future Whig Prime Minister, Earl Grey, and Marquis Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington’s brother. Opposition in the House of Commons was led by Lord John Russell, another future Prime Minister, younger son of the Duke of Bedford, who was among a number of Whigs who had travelled to Elba to meet Napoleon in 1814.

On the day that news of the victory arrived in London, Earl Grey was telling all who would listen that the world needed the genius of Napoleon. The unexpected victory, so pumped up by Government propagandists that even Wellington became a little embarrassed, totally wrong footed the Whigs. Lord Byron said that there was nothing to do but to follow the example of Samuel Whitbread, one of Napoleon’s greatest admirers in Parliament who for whatever reason committed suicide on 6th July.

Throughout the period of the captivity only the most “reform minded” Whigs were prepared to become associated publicly with Napoleon’s cause. Holland House in London, the home of Charles James Fox’s nephew, Lord Holland, became Napoleon’s centre of support. Lady Holland sent Napoleon some 1000 books donated by Whig families.  The Everlasting, Xerochrysum bracteatum, an Australian plant that now grows across St Helena, is the permanent legacy of Lady Holland, who sent the original seeds to Longwood. 

 

In Holland House garden a Canova bust of Napoleon was installed, inscribed at its base:

                                The hero is not dead, but breathes the air
                                In lands beyond the deep:
                                Some island sea-begirded, where
                                Harsh men the prisoner keep.


Whilst most of the Whigs were quiescent, the Radicals became more vocal in Napoleon’s support. As supporters of the French Revolution, they had found Napoleon’s imperial crown and marriage to an Austrian princess hard to swallow. However, in the post-Waterloo world  many came to see Napoleon and to some extent his son, confined by his grandfather the Austrian Emperor, as the symbols of an international liberty that had begun with the French Revolution and was now under threat. 

The Radicals developed a narrative about Waterloo diametrically opposed to that pushed by Tory propagandists.  The following extracts from the press give an insight into their discourse:

-    “The Rights of Kings triumphed over the Rights of the People at Waterloo “
-    “Had the country a reformed House of Commons, a war of such injustice had never been commenced.”
-    “The fall of Napoleon .. was effected by immense German armies, subsidized by us.”
-    That perjury and fraud to which England lent herself, in enslaving the Nations of Europe ..
-     that war sent the brave and generous Napoleon into captivity; that war restored the Bourbons in France, Spain and Naples; it restored the Pope and the Inquisition, all of which Bonaparte had put down.”
-    you see the scaffolds in France streaming with the blood of people who cry out for Napoleon’s return ..
-    religious liberty was, under Napoleon, made as perfect as in America
-    “So far from it being true that the whole nation approved of this measure [exile of Napoleon], the fact is that a very great part of the sound and enlightened  part of the nation decidedly disapproved of it;
-   Napoleon towers like the Andes above them all. He stands a beacon and a sign unto the Nations; and although his thunders sleep, perhaps for ever, there is not a-King, or Kingling – a base legitimate – or a plundering Minister, that does not tremble at the very name of NAPOLEON.

At the close of poll in the Westminster Election in 1818 the cries of “Napoleon – Napoleon” were heard.  On July 22nd 1819 a reform meeting at Smithfield, attended by 40,000-50,000 passed the following resolution:

That this meeting unequivocally disclaims any share or participation in the disgraceful and cowardly acts of the boroughmongers, in placing the brave Napoleon a prisoner, to perish upon a desert island, shut out from human society, and torn from his only son, whilst he is exposed to the brutal insolence of a hired keeper.

Soon followed the mass meeting in Manchester, almost immediately known as the Peterloo Massacre, an ironic reference to the “killing fields of Waterloo.”   When news of Napoleon’s death arrived, placards appeared in London inviting people to go into mourning.

The Radical leader Henry Hunt whose attempted arrest led to the Peterloo Massacre, described Napoleon as “ the most illustrious and eminent man of the present age, both as a profound statesman and a brave and matchless general.”  Whilst aware of Napoleon’s failings,

“yet, when I reflect upon the period in which his energetic mind was allowed to have its full scope of action, and when I recollect the powerful armies and fleets that he had to contend with, and the phalanx of tyrants who were at various times leagued together against him, I am disposed not to examine too nicely and with too critical an eye the means that he used to defend himself against their unceasing endeavours to destroy him, and to restore the old tyranny of the Bourbons.”

Lord Holland considered Napoleon’s death “a legal or political murder, a species of crime which tho’ not uncommon in our age is one of the most blackest dye most odious nature.” 

Appropriately for a Whig, he drew up a balance sheet:

“pro: freedom of worship, financial probity in public life, magnificence of public works, openness to office based on merit alone.”
”con: “enormous evil” of conscription, persecution of critics and curtailment of personal liberties.”


Both Whigs and Radicals had views of Napoleon that differed totally from that of the “Corsican Ogre” created by Government propagandists. Evidence of Whig admiration for Napoleon is to be found in the collections that remain in some of the large stately homes, particularly Chatsworth and Blenheim; the folk memories of the lower orders, reflected in this song
            
          They sent him to St Helena! Oh! Aye, oh!  They sent him to St. Helena,
                                                     John France Wa! (Francois)
           Boney was ill-treated! Oh! Aye, Oh! Boney was ill-treated,
                                                     John France Wa!
          Oh Boney's heart was broken! Oh! Aye, Oh!  Boney's heart was broken
                                                    John France Wa!
          But Boney was an Emperor! Oh! Aye, Oh! But Boney was an Emperor!
                                                    John France Wa!

have largely disappeared.

{pic: Holland House:By H. N. King - Round London, 1896, published by Geo. Newnes Limited., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23183715 - cropped & straightened}


St Helena Napoleonic Memorabilia:  Austin Meares then gave an introduction to the exhibits from his collection on view over lunch.


Louise Hoole - Author of 'Black Rock: The story of an island an exile and an emperor'.   Louise gave a presentation on her book and below is an interview with her regarding her life on St Helena and the reason for writing the book:

Louise, you’ve had links with St Helena for most of your life.  When did you first see the island?

In 1978, when I was 7; we arrived on the maiden voyage of the first RMS. I knew about St Helena, before then, though.  The first words I ever remember being spoken related to St Helena.  My Dad asked my brother and I: “Do you want to go to an island where there are no sharks?”  I’m not sure why he mentioned sharks, but that sentence woke me up.  It snapped me out of my childish self-absorption and made me look out into the wider world for the first time.

What was it like going to school here?

There were very few expats on the island in the late ‘70s, perhaps just 40, and we were the only English children at our school in Jamestown.  I think the other kids found us very strange at first with our blond hair and shiny black patent shoes.  But my brother and I made a lot of good friends, many of whom we’re still in contact with.

Did you live on the island when your dad [Alan Norman Hoole] was Governor?

No, I was in my twenties by the time Dad was governor.  But I did have one very lovely long summer holiday on the island, with my friend Tina, during that period. Living in Plantation House was an incredible experience, especially for someone who loves history as much as I do.  The house is so beautiful, and has such a fascinating past.

Q How did you come to write a novel about St Helena?

I always wanted to write about the island, but at first I wasn’t sure how I wanted to write about it.  After some initial research, I started crafting an incredibly complicated multi-generational novel.  Luckily, Napoleon soon intruded and demanded to be written about.

Q Why did you decide to write about Napoleon?

I can’t say I set out to write about him.  I still don’t feel I chose him, but rather that he chose me: he started by insinuating himself into a few minor scenes and then gradually took over the whole novel!  But I am fascinated by how people behave in different historical periods and under different historical pressures.  And no one had more influence on the early 19th century than Napoleon.

Q Why did you call your novel ‘Black Rock’?

‘Black Rock’ is a hybrid of two names given to St Helena by passing visitors (“the rock” and the “black wart”).  It has a dark, sterile feel, which is how Napoleon and his party saw their time in exile on the island.  My own memories of the island are very different.

Q You dedicate your book to your father, and to St Helena.  Can you explain why?

Without my Dad I would not have come to St Helena; and without St Helena I might not have become a writer.  As a kid, I always found it so difficult to describe to outsiders the extraordinary atmosphere of the island: that’s what I have tried to do in Black Rock.

Q In Black Rock, Napoleon is a ghost.  Do you have ghosts of your own?

Haha!  An interesting question!  I was a nurse for many years, and I don’t know a single nurse who hasn’t had ghostly encounters.  When nurses tell ghost stories, they are just stories like any other: one of the phenomena of death and life.
So yes, I have my own ghosts: things I’ve experiences that can’t be explained.  St Helena is the most haunted place I’ve ever lived.  Saints, on the whole, believe in ghosts and love a good ghost story for precisely that reason.


Q Can you tell me about your research process for the novel?

There is a vast archive of resource material for anyone interested in Napoleon’s time on St Helena, but it’s scattered around the world. In between working, and doing other things, I spent five years reading, travelling and researching – in St Helena, London and France - to provide the right background to Black Rock.

Q Have you written other books?

Yes, I’ve written three other books, all non-fiction books, and all about Africa.  I lived in Tanzania for 11 years, and Africa’s history, wilderness and wildlife are great passions of mine.

Q What made you move into fiction after writing so much non-fiction?

I actually wrote Black Rock first, it was just published last.  It was languishing in a drawer for quite some years before Barranca Press read it, liked it, and decided to publish it.

Q What else do you do apart from writing?

I love sailing, swimming, and being on the move.  I’ve just finished 17 months of travel, in which I’ve sailed about 8,000 kilometres across the Pacific, driven about 12,000 km across Africa and America, and railed about 7,000 km across central Asia.  I stopped in Thailand for a couple of months to write the first draft of the book about my adventures, and now I just have to finish the second draft!

Q Do you think you’ll ever write again about St Helena?

I’ll never stop writing about St Helena. After my family, the island is my most enduring love. The atmosphere of the island – as well as its wild beauty and pristine isolation – has always stayed with me.  I’ve written a lot of poems about the island over the years, a couple of which are published in Creative St Helena’s Speaking Saint.
I’ve also just started work on a book about the island’s history, which will be called ‘St Helena in 101 objects and images’ (after Neil MacGregor’s A History of the World in 100 objects). It will be a ‘history without the boring bits’ if you like. There will be expected historical items in the book (such as the Dolphin Stone, the wirebird and Napoleon’s death mask), but also quirkier, more recent objects such as Harry Corker’s felt hat, Captain Merk’s prison paintings and a can of Princes corned beef.


When will you next be on the island?

I’ll be back on the island next year to finish researching the book I just mentioned. I can never stay away too long! I’ve got some great friends on St Helena, and my step-mum [Delia Hoole, nee Clingham] still lives there, not 3 miles from where she was born. It will be amazing to see them all again, as well as to be on the island whilst the first commercial flights arrive, and the RMS leaves for its final voyage to Cape Town. I doubt there’ll be a dry eye on either occasion!

{Black Rock was published by Barranca Press in April 2014. It is available in retail outlets in Jamestown, or can be ordered through amazon.}


Richard Brown, Principal of Atlantic Star Airlines gave a presentation at the meeting and below is a precis of an interview with him, based on his presentation:

1.  Why do you want to provide an air service to St Helena?

To take part in the Islanders' wish to end their isolation. and meet the technical challenges involved with the aim to provide a viable service.

2.  What is Atlantic Star's Aim?

The aim is to provide a viable service and help the island engage more fully with the rest of the world.

3.  What have been the main challenges so far?

The main challenges have been finding the right partners to work with us and also to source the finances that we need.

4.  Why did you decide to propose charter-style flights from London after the announcement that Comair had won the bid?

The intention is to start charter flights from Gatwick to St Helena in [artnership with Icelandair on a weekly basis.

5.  What are the future plans for Atlantic Star?

We have future plans to increase flights during peak periods but the lack of island accommodation may be a problem.

6.  What are Atlantic Star's plans for operation in March 2016?

By March 2016 we would like to have up to 560 seats London to St Helena return.

7.  What do you see as the advantage of a direct service?

With the advantage of a direct flight - saving at least 8 hours of travelling via Johannesburg.

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13th June 2015:  The 2015 AGM took place at the University Centre in Oxford on 13th June. With an attendance of over 80, the meeting room was full, or over-full, encouraging us to look for a rather larger venue next year.

The AGM was opened by the Secretary Brian Frederick at 2pm with the election of Ian Mathieson as the new Chairman of the Friends (he has been Co-Chair with Edward Baldwin for the last year) and David Young as the new Vice-Chair. Margaret Dyson was elected to be Membership Secretary and we are pleased to say that both Edward Baldwin and Trevor Reynolds will remain on the committee as ordinary members.

Following his election, Ian then chaired the meeting with reports from the Treasurer (Colin Fox) on the annual accounts, showing a surplus, from Trevor Reynolds showing membership to be in slight decline to around 250 and from Margaret Dyson on activities relating to the development of the website. Colin and Ian also reported on Wirebird, the St Helena Connection and publications under the society’s new Wirebird imprint honorary life memberships were announced for three past chairmen, Muir Smith, Guy Marriott and Pamela Ward Pearce.

Following completion of society business, Ian gave a short introduction to his chairmanship drawing attention to the broad base of the society’s activities, its range of publications, meetings and involvement with the St Helena Cultural Centre (SHCC) all of which provide quite a range of activities for a small organisation. He also drew attention to the gradual decline in membership numbers which he attributed to the need for FoSH to increase its visibility across all those who have an interest in St Helena.

St Helena Cultural Centre - Edward Baldwin Reports on progress.
The project to integrate the former PWD store with the Museum of St Helena to house the Public Library and the Government Archives, has made considerable progress since I announced it at our AGM in Liverpool last year. The Heritage Society, now a company limited by guarantee (SHHS Ltd), has been granted a 99 year lease at an annual peppercorn rent of £1 subject to planning approval. SHHS has also signed a new 99 year lease for the Museum and the 2007 Extension as a single entity so we now have long-term security of tenure. We are keen to lose the “PWD Store” label as soon as possible, hence the working name for the project “St Helena Cultural Centre” (SHCC).  A South African architect who has an on-island practice, is preparing the planning application drawings assisted by Matthew Woodthorpe in London. The design will interfere with the existing structure as little as possible. The main entrance will be through the arched feature at the north-east corner of the building on Grand Parade. This has the advantage of keeping the main staircase, lift and service risers at one end of the building, enabling us to maximise usable floor space. It also provides a neat solution for making a wheelchair ramp. Once we have planning permission and a signed lease, SHHS Ltd and FoSH will jointly launch an international appeal for funds. At least £750,000 will be required for the construction phase. Some funds are already to-hand, so preparatory work will be able to start immediately. This is a world-class project within a prominent listed building with huge potential benefit to the island. It is every bit as challenging as the Museum Project which was completed in May 2002. We are convinced that with enthusiasm and determination the project will be a success and encourage your support.

The Making of Napoleon by Dominic Aubrey de Vere and Joseph Curran
The talk was about a film they are planning to shoot, over a fivemonth period, on location in St Helena called the Making of Napoleon. Something slipped through the letterbox - it was The St Helena Connection.  Leafing through the pages they came across a review of Louise Hoole’s novel Black Rock. Their imaginations began to run wild: a film in which Napoleon’s restless ghost was standing beside the airport, awaiting the first flight off the island in order to return to Europe. That was the image from which the project began.  A previous visit to St Helena had given Dominic connections that have made this project possible and, so far, they have received enthusiastic support from Pamela Murray, Artistic Director of Creative Saint Helena, who has commissioned us with the first St Helena Artist Residency. They hope this will be the start of a cultural programme with artists and filmmakers engaging with the island’s rich cultural history. They recalled that Stanley Kubrick, one of cinema’s greatest filmmakers, had worked on Napoleon for three years after completing 2001: A Space Odyssey. The final three pages of the script span the captivity and are set on St Helena. These pages will form the basis of our collaborative project with the people of St Helena.  Dominic and Joseph desire to use many locations on the Island and to include many Saints within the workshops to be set up.   On St Helena, Merrill Joshua will be Executive Producer and they are also work closely with Creative Saint Helena. 
Contact:  subtropicalmeditation@gmail.com 

The British Government and Napoleon: From Elba to St. Helena: A Talk Presented by John Tyrrell
John gave a very in-depth presentation - below is a timeline of that presentation:

From Elba to St Helena a Timeline of 1815 by John Tyrrell

February
26th  Napoleon left Elba
March
1st   Napoleon lands at Golfe-Juan
5th   Royalist Infantry defects to Napoleon
6th   News of Napoleon's flight reaches Vienna.  7th Infantry defects.
13th  Congress of Vienna declares Napoleon an outlaw.  Napoleon issued edict dissolving assembly.
14th  Marshall Ney defects to Napoleon
19th  Louis XVIII leaves Paris
20th  Napoleon arrives in Paris
25th  Austria, Russia, Prussia, Britain each agree to supply 150,000 men to fight Napoleon.  Britain unable to raise enough troops so provides subsidy to allies.
29th  Napoleon issues decree abolishing slave trade
April
14th  Napoleon meets Benjamin Constant; work begins on constitution
22nd  Acte additionnel published
May
2nd   Louis XVIII's manifesto published in Ghent calls on the people to chase out the usurper
15th  Royalist rebellion in the Vendee, West France
June
12th  Napoleon leaves Paris to join the army of the of the north
15th  Beginning of campaign against British and Prussian forces.
16th  Quatre Bras and Ligny.
18th  Waterloo
19th  News of Waterloo reaches London
20th  News of defeat reaches Paris
22nd  Napoleon abdicates
23rd  Executive Commission set up to rule France
24th  Napoleon "invited" to leave Paris by Fouche.  Moves to Malmaison.  White terror begin in South of France
25th  General Beker appointed Commonading Officer of Napoleon's Guard at Malmaison.  Commission asks Wellington for Napoleon's safe conduct to go to America.  Louis XVIII returns to France
26th  Fouche informs Napoleon that two frigates in Rochefort are ready to take him to America once safe conduct is granted
27th  Fouche sends message urging Napoleon to leave Malmaison
28th  Napoleon's doctor gives him a small bottle of poison in case he is captured by advancing Prussian army
29th  Napoloen leaves Malmaison - spends night at Rambouillet
30th  Napoleon spends night at Tours
July
1st   Napoleon in Niort.  Coker in Paris sent down rules for any ship that night capture Napoleon
3rd   Napoleon arrives at La Rochelle.  Paris capitulates
5th   Napoleon joined by brother Joseph at La Rochelle
7th   Government set up under Talleyrand and Fouche
8th   Napoleon boards the Saale from Fouras beach.  Second Restoration of Louis XVIII who gives orders to arrest Napoleon
10th  Napoleon sends Savary and Las Cases to the Bellerophon to negotiate with the English
12th  Napoleon moves to the Ile d'Aix
14th  Las Cases and Lallemand inform Captain Maitland of the Bellerophon, that Napoleon will come on board the next morning. Napoleon writes to the Prince Regent
15th  Napoleon boards the Bellerophon
20th  Letter from Lord Liverpool to Castlereagh in Paris proposing that Napoleon be sent to St Helena
24th  Hudson Lowe chose to be Governor of St Helena
25th  The Bellerophon arrives in Torbay
26th  The Bellerophon leaves Torbay for Plymouth
29th  The Gazette confirms Napoleon to be sent to St Helena
August
4th   The Bellerophon leaves Plymouth
7th   Napoleon transfers to the Northumderland under Admiral Cockburn
9th   The Northumberland sets sail from England. Lizard Point the last land sited
October
15th  The Northumberland arrives at St Helena
17th  Napoleon goes ashore
18th  Napoleon visits Longwood and moves to The Briars
December
10th  Napoleon moves to Longwood

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11 October 2014:  The Autumn meeting was held at the Victory Club on 11th October.   Ian Mathieson chaired the meeting in his role as joint Chairman with Edward Baldwin.

In his introduction the Chairman explained that the current joint chairmanship would continue until the AGM when a new Chairman would be put forward for members' approval.   He drew attention to two notable 2014 anniversaries, the first being the one hundredth anniversary of the Battle of the Falklands won by the "St Helena Admiral" Sir Frederick Doveton Sturdee in November 1914 and, the second, the two hundredth anniversary of the burning of the White House by Sir George Cockburn who was to be Napoleon's first gaoler on St Helena the following year.

Events for 2015 were discussed but it was not possible to confirm the date of the AGM since negotiations for a visit to the Oxford-based Curzon collection of material relating particularly to Napoleon on St Helena are still on-going.   The autumn meeting was tentatively set for the Victory Club on 24th October (and this was later confirmed).

The main speaker was Bernard Mabbett whose talk was entitled St Helena: The Boer Prisoner of War Camps, 16th April 1900 to August 1902.   Bernard is a philatelist whose interest in St Helena philately started over 40 years ago when he collected stamps for all British Commonwealth.   After a few years he realised that this was too big a field so concentrated just on St Helena.   He has exhibited both nationally and internationally and his interest in the stamps, postal and general history of the island led him,  with the encouragement of the late Trevor Hearl, to make his first visit to St Helena in 1998.   Since then he has made three more visits culminating in the work last year, with three colleagues and Edward Baldwin, to archive the island Post Office's documents stored in the Post Office cellar (see SHC 14).

Following questions, Charles Frater played a tape of the sound of a flax mill recorded in 1961.   A few members were able to recall the sound common across the island at the time.   Charles then revealed that he had been in fact unable to record the sound directly because of a lack of electricity in the flax mills and so artificially recreated it by using a bicycle wheel and this was what was used for the sound in his film taken at the time.

The joint Chair Edward Baldwin then presented some very good news about the acquisition of the PWD building store in Lower Jamestown which has been acquired from SHG to serve as an extension to the Museum.   Separately the Friends' second publication, A Precarious Livelihood, was launched. 
(see:  A Precarious Livelihood).

 

 

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7 June 2014:  The Annual General Meeting was held at the Museum of Liverpool on June 7th. The Museum had kindly agreed to host the meeting free of charge so that members could view the exhibit entitled Liberty Bound: Slavery and St Helena being held at the nearby International Slavery Museum at Albert Dock.

 

 

The decision to hold the meeting in Liverpool was something of a departure for the Society but any fears concerning a poor turnout were dispelled by an attendance in excess of 80 members. The meeting was held in one of the Museum's upper level education rooms which afforded a splendid view across the River Mersey and easy access to the recently transformed Liverpool waterfront. 

Prior to the meeting our outgoing Chairman, Pamela Ward-Pearce, was able to provide the general public visiting the Slavery Museum with an introductory talk about St Helena.
 
At the meeting Pamela announced that this would be her last AGM as in September she would be returning, with her husband Andy, to live at Longwood on St Helena. Pamela was presented with flowers by Vicky Beale in recognition of her services over the last eight years. Interim chairmanship for the next twelve months would be shared jointly by Edward Baldwin, the current vice-chairman and Ian Mathieson, editor of the St Helena Connection. 

During her time as Chairman Pamela has presided over ten AGMs and eight autumn meetings. Membership has slightly expanded during her tenure and the society's magazines Wirebird and St Helena Connection have developed into publications which are keenly anticipated by the readership. Pamela also saw the 25 anniversary of the Friends celebrated in 2013. 

Following completion of the Society's business Richard Huzzey,
from the History Department of Liverpool University, presented a talk about the Atlantic slave trade, providing a broader context for the Liberty Bound exhibition.  

After the talk the meeting adjourned early to allow members to walk over to the Slavery Museum, housed in the Maritime Museum, and view the general slavery exhibit as well as the St Helena component. 

The exhibit is expected to remain in Liverpool on display until early 2015 when it will be transferred for permanent housing to the Museum in Jamestown. Earlier plans for it to take in the Smithsonian in Washington DC, have not come to fruition.
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12 October 2013:  Times editor and reporter Michael Binyon was the first of two speakers to address the meeting. Michael explained that he had a connection with St Helena stretching back 20 years to when he was diplomatic editor of the Times and took an interest in the islanders' efforts to regain their citizenship rights;  he published five stories on island affairs at this time. His current involvement with the island's media is connected with meeting Andrew Gurr, who he had known from his time in the Falklands, at an Overseas Territories briefing. This was in 2009 and Gurr asked whether he might be interested in advising on the island's media on an expenses only basis and for a lengthy visit of up to six weeks - interestingly not the only media person Gurr invited to the island on a similar basis.

The establishment of the South Atlantic Media Services (SAMS) has created a deadly rivalry between St Helena's two papers, the Sentinel and the St Helena Independent (see "a Media Hubbub" in SHC 12) neither of which have a good thing to say about the other.  A media adviser has to try and stay above this. In addition to the island's two newspapers there are two radio stations plus Simon Pipe, a UK reporter, working as the Independent's UK rep.

Michael went on to discuss some of the issues that the press faces on the island. He thought that they needed to embrace the island's biggest issue, the airport, and encourage islanders to become involved in the opportunities that the airport offers; if they don't non-islanders will rapidly fill the gap.

From a press point of view it was evident that Michael's hope for the future rested with the Sentinel which, after a slow start, is gaining in confidence and breadth of content. It has a staff of six, largely untrained, who have to produce the paper on a weekly basis and run a broadcasting station. He gave both editors similar advice; embrace the politicians and get them to use the media to get their ideas across. He suggested a number of techniques, widely used by journalists in the UK, which could be usefully applied on St Helena.

Interspersed with his discussion of the press Michael also gave an amusing account of his visit, staying in Plantation, a "terrifying" walk to Lot's Wife Ponds - or at least to the cliff above it as the rope down proved too much to tackle, his views on why the airport was necessary and finally in a long and honourable tradition of the short term visitor proposing a new industry that would surely succeed if only someone would try it, he proposed the production of tuna leather. An old hand was heard to growl afterwards that the Japanese are the main market for tuna and they like their tuna with the skin on.

This was an interesting and entertaining talk enjoyed by an audience of about 60 Friends.

It was followed by a presentation from Matthew Woodthorpe, an architect from MWAI, who had been commissioned by Enterprise St Helena to examine the Napoleonic legacy at Longwood and to develop a hub concept to make the architectural remains more accessible for the tourists expected to arrive once the airport is operational.

The main themes of the concept are the various perimeters that related to Napoleon's captivity, the most significant of which was the outermost four mile wall that was originally built to protect (unsuccessfully) the Great Wood from the predations of goats. It was adopted by the British Army as the effective prison fence for Napoleon with a soldier on guard every ten metres of its length throughout the day and night.

The other main theme was to develop the view from Longwood House itself across Deadwood Plain where Napoleon would be able to watch the races without having to leave his house. The complex would be approached from along this view from the Deadwood end with the road from Longwood re-aligned either northwards around the four mile perimeter or to the south of Longwood House and across the golf course.

More ambitious plans rested around re-building Longwood New House and creating new gardens in front of the house, in a style reflecting those that Napoleon created at the Old House, but as a reserve for endemics.

Matthew was keen to emphasise that these were merely ideas, the basis of discussion and without any sort of official support. Nevertheless the Napoleonic
legacy at Longwood represents the island's most obvious tourist destination for which development would be inevitable as visitor numbers increased with the commissioning of the airport. Its development and management needs considerable care and the presentation sparked a lively discussion about the best way to achieve this.




 


 

8 June 2013: The Society held their AGM at the Oxford University Club, 11 Mansfield Rd  Oxford. Following the AGM, Edward Baldwin launched the newly published book St Helena Britannica. This was followed by a few words by the book’s Editor Alexander Schulenburg who presented the first copy to Trevor Hearl’s widow Elisabeth. Simon Pipe has separately reported this launch and made available a recording of an interview with Elisabeth, accessible on the St Helena Online site.

Edward then presented a talk on a project he undertook at the request of the Museum of St Helena last March and April to rescue historic documents from the cellar of the Post Office in Jamestown, in collaboration with four philatelic specialists - Barry Burns, Bernard Mabbett, Wilf Vevers and Stefan Heijtz. A preliminary survey had identified 14 cubic metres of paper, along with disused furniture, redundant office equipment and hundreds of empty mailbags. In addition to the usual pests of paper, paper mites and silverfish, the cellar contents had been attacked by cockroaches, white ant, mice and rats, one stack of paper proving to be a veritable termites’ nest. The brief was to identify all materials and objects suitable for inclusion in a future permanent philatelic gallery at the Museum.

Unlike most cellars in Jamestown, it occupies less than half the footprint of the building and comprises three chambers, the one furthest from the entry, on the Main Street side of the building, being divided into niches of approximately a cubic yard in two tiers. This was the wine cellar of the Mess, and these compartments were wine bins where the bottles were stacked.

During the course of the first week, the team mined its way through most of the files and other material, carrying out a first sort. It was necessary to freeze all archival material to at least minus 18°C for a minimum of 48 hours and this was achieved in a 20ft reefer container, generously loaned by Gregory Cairns-Wicks, sited temporarily next to the Museum. It was then turned off and brought back to ambient temperature on one of Jamestown’s hottest and driest days, ensuring everything remained dry. Makeshift workbenches were erected and the second sort and cataloguing carried out and stored in archival storage boxes and folders for the long term storage. The freezing seemed to have been highly successful, no active livestock being seen in the papers during the second sort, but just to be sure, after completion of sorting, all 106 boxes were wrapped in pallet wrap and frozen again. The long term storage of these boxes has yet to be decided although an ambitious plan to combine the Library and Archives with the Museum, utilising the adjacent former PWD Store building, is being considered. This would provide adequate storage space and permit public access to the material.

Part of the Government stamp archive from the Treasury Safe in the Castle has also been moved to the Museum’s climate controlled store, the collection being removed from mouldering albums and prepared and assessed for remounting in the future. A quantity of original artwork for stamps was located at the Post Office, and it is thought there may be more in the Castle. 

Some of the items of interest rescued include:

 

  • Records of mails arriving and despatched on Royal Mail Ships, 1840s-1890s.
  • Reconciliation accounts between St Helena Post Office and the General Post Office, Pretoria.
  • Accounts of the Ascension Island Post Office from 1927 to 1997 (almost complete).
  • Project files for most new stamp issues from 1959 to 1998, including initial design ideas, some artwork, printers’ proofs and printing and sales statistics.
  • A large quantity of International Reply Coupons, cancelled in St Helena and Ascension.
  • A large quantity of new stamps from other members of the Universal Postal Union (UPU).
  • Most of the date stamps from the Country sub-postoffices and the RMS when it too had a St Helena sub-post office. 
  • Also many first day cover date stamps.
  • Government Gazettes, Public Notices, numerous Government reports, Budget Estimates, Staff Lists and other material have also been retained for checking against the Castle Archive holdings in order possibly to fill any gaps. Any surplus or duplicate material will be offered to Rhodes House Library in Oxford.

 

 

Material from the Cellar, together with SHG and Post Office holdings, along with the Daphne Gifford stamp collection, already owned by the Museum, will form the basis of a World class philatelic and postal history gallery in the enlarged Museum.


27 October 2012: The Society held their Autumn meeting at the Victory Services Club, 63-79 Seymour Street, London with about 60 members in attendance. For the first time the Alamein Room was used for the meeting. 

Nigel Kirby, who had just returned from St Helena, gave a talk about the latest developments in the construction of the airport. Since his last talk, the island had gone through the “pause” and then the resurrection of the project. The main aims of the project is to build an airport built to international standards capable of supporting Boeing 737-700 or equivalent (2,250 m runway); to provide an initial weekly service (probably to Cape Town or Johannesburg); to install a new bulk fuel installation in Ruperts Valley; to provide a new 14 km access route from Ruperts to the airport; to construct a new wharf in Ruperts Bay (funding permitting); to provide new water supplies, sea rescue and fire fighting services. As Nigel commented it is no mean feat to construct a 2,250 m runway on such a small Island without having to displace a single person. A major task is to move some 8 million cubic metres of rock to Dry Gut (across which the end of the runway will pass ) in order to construct a 100 meter high embankment over a 2 km culvert. 

Plant and materials are being delivered via Basil Read’s RO-RO ship, the NP Glory 4, the first ship ever to dock on the Island. Temporary fuel storage tanks were quickly constructed and, with the help of night working, by 3 September the haul road from Ruperts to Prosperous Bay Plain (PBP) was completed. Following access to PBP work, the construction camp at Bradleys (capacity of 150) began to be built. The camp is relatively small for a project of this size because Basil Read have maximised on-Island employment - of the current island labour force of 300 some 235 are Saints. The camp may become permanent in the same way that Piccolo Hill did some 60 years ago but the quality of the construction is far higher. Blasting, concrete batching, rock crushing and earth moving all began to get underway in October. The terminal building has been redesigned to reflect local building styles and is considered a great improvement on the ugly designs initially produced by Atkins. Environmental mitigation has received considerable attention with the creation of new pasture land for wirebird habitat and the full protection of PBP’s central basin, considered to be a biodiversity hotspot, which will now be fully protected although about 15% will be lost. Overall, the benefits of full protection should outweigh the loss of habitat. Nigel closed his talk with an outline of the next main steps for the project which are: 

 

  • Oct 2012: Pam Golding’s review of Jamestown tourism potential
  • Early 2013: Decision on Ruperts Bay wharf
  • Late 2013: Commence discussions with possible airlines
  • End of 2014: Earthworks complete
  • Mid 2015: Terminal and construction complete
  • End 2015: Certification process complete
  • Early 2016: Flights commence

 

 


19th May 2012:  The Annual General Meeting was held at the Oxford University Club at 2 PM.  Before the meeting , members were able to examine a very small part of the Trevor Hearl material at the nearby Rothermere American Institute.  

John Pinfold, Librarian of the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House, Oxford, from 1993 to 2008, gave a talk about the unique collection left by Trevor Hearl.  It is unusual for the library to receive so many extremely rare books that were not already part of its collection, all relating to St Helena and associated subjects.  The collection is also unusual including numerous files with information on the many subjects researched by Trevor over a period more than 30 years relating to St Helena.  As such, the archiving of the the material has been quite a lengthy process.  

St Helena's last Governor Andrew Gurr was the next to speak,  In a humorous talk he described how many of the island's constitutional and legal problems ended up on his desk for resolution. The problems posed in the governance of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha were unique, each being very different from the other. A high proportion of his staff were female and he praised their strength and ability. St Helena's isolation necessitated a weekly online link-up with London, which he found very useful. He acknowledged that the quality of advice given by consultants was variable and also highlighted the problems arising from the views of a single consultant rather a group of experts. From his experience of building roads across boggy land on the Falklands, he knew that local knowledge was sometimes superior to imported consultants.  On the other hand, there was a need to bring consultants in to help where the local population did not have the expertise, a fact that could lead to misunderstandings when Saints simply did not know what they did not know. A lively Q&A session followed covering diverse subjects such as consultants, communications and the expansion of broadband via the Africa/South America cable, air access via Ascension and the proposed Shelco development.


29th October 2011:  A meeting was held at the Victory Services Club, 63-79 Seymour Street, London.  Starting at 12:00 noon, it ran for about four and a half hours.  Two talks were given with the theme of St Helena's natural environment

 

 

Dr Phil Lambdon talked about the Flora of St Helena in terms of both endemic and imported species. Phil has been working with people such as George Benjamin, Stedson Stroud, Rebecca Cairns-Wicks, Andrew Darlow, Mike Thurlow and Vanessa Thomas to protect and restore last remaining trees of the island's original forests.  He has been working for the St Helena Nature Conservation Group on an OTEP (Overseas Territories Environment Programme) funded project to produce a botanical field guide to St Helena, in partnership with Kew Royal Botanic Gardens.  A BBC news report on Phil's work at Kew to save the Bastard Gumwood Tree can be read HERE

Dr Ian Baker has recently published The Saint Helena Volcanoes: A Guide to the Geology For Visitors and Walkers. He talked about his book and his connection with the island spanning over 40 years.  Three main subjects were covered:  first, the catastrophic landslide which removed a three square mile area of St Helena's first volcano, allowing the second to infill the missing flank with more than a 1,000 feet of lavas; second, the grey cliffs and crags crossing Sandy Bay that can lead to "display" the extent of the final huge magma chamber a mile or so below; third, a dozen or so curved small-scale structures that only occur on St Helena resulting from unusual processes in the flanks of the volcano combined with the effects of later erosion, which allow an explanation to be given of the vast forces involved.


21st May 2011:  The Annual General Meeting was held at Kenwood House in Hampstead from 12:00 noon to 5:00 PM, preceded for many members by a free tour around the house.  Please see the News page for details of subjects made and and subjects discussed.  Approximately 65 members attended.

Colin Fox, a member of our committee and the author of "The Bennett Letters:  A 19th century Family in St Helena, England and the Cape", gave a talk entitled "St Helena:  1792 - 1840, the latter days of slavery".  He described the origin of the slaves that were brought to the island during the latter years of the 18th century, mainly from Madagascar, India and Indonesia.  He also spoke about how, over the next half century they gained their freedom.  This was a path strewn with difficulties for both slaves and their owners. The presentation included an analysis of their origin, skills and numbers/value by age.  An expanded version of his complete talk can be read HERE.

Dr Andrew Pearson gave a talk entitled "Breaking New Ground" in which he described the clearance and archaeological examination of military defences and housing in Lemon Valley.  Because of the small population in that part of the island several civilian buildings dating back to the original occupation of the island have been discovered. 

The slave grave sites known to exist in Lemon Valley were not disturbed.  Additional slave  burial sites are also know to exist in Half Tree Hollow.  Dr Pearson also gave an update on the excavation of slave grave sites at Ruperts Valley, necessitated because of the planned construction of a new road up to the airport, if it is built.  He emphasised the rare nature of these excavations yielding new information about these African slaves that is possibly unique in the world.

 

 


16th October 2010:  The Autumn Meeting of of the society was held at the Victory Services Club, 63-79 Seymour Street, London on 16th October 2010 running from 11:15am to 5:30pm. It was very well attended.

This was a Napoleon themed event - Napoleon and His Time on St Helena, 1815-1821. Introduced by the chairman Pamela Ward Pearce and then chaired by Ian Mathieson, this was an especially interesting occasion with four speakers who presented the following aspects of Napoleon's captivity:

Paul F. Brunyee: Why St Helena? This examined the reasons for sending Napoleon to St Helena and the problems posed in holding him there when he finally reached it.  The relative merits of the West Indies or Gibraltar and various site in the UK, including Dunbarton Castle, were discussed but none were serious alternatives to St Helena.  A detailed account of the island defences was given, including the signalling system and the movement pass system.  An key point was that Napoleon would never have risked his dignity by attempting to escape.  The prospect of the portly Emperor slipping and sliding down to the coast only to be apprehended by British troops was too appalling to contemplate, although for Governor Sir Hudson Lowe the prospect seemed all too real.

Peter Hicks: The Longwood Restoration Project.  A short account was given of a €1 million project to restore Napoleon's house at Longwood.  This includes the restoration and partial reconstruction of the rooms where Generals Gourgaud and Montholon, together with Dr O'Meara, Las Cases and a British guard stayed during Napoleon's stay.

Dr Martin Howard: Napoleon's Poisoned Chalice.  An account was given of each of the doctors who had dealings with Napoleon and for most of whom the experience proved to be highly damaging to their careers.  The exception was perhaps Dr Barry O'Meara who was well connected and who's book A Voice from St Helena was a major factor in the relative failure of Hudson Lowe's own career after he left the island.

Sir Brian Unwin: How the Mighty are Fallen.  Drawing on his experiences as a senior civil servant and former president of the European Investment Bank, an amusing overview of Napoleon's captivity was given from a pan-European perspective. Most of the main events of Napoleon's captivity at St Helena were covered with the conclusion that despite Napoleon's faults, his megalomania and responsibility for many deaths, it was difficult not to feel sympathy for the Emperor's situation during his captivity. 

Peter Hicks, Martin Howard and Sir Brian Unwin collectively answered audience questions at the end of the presentations.

At the end of the meeting Pamela Ward Pearce reminded the audience of the importance of notifying the Membership Secretary when they changed their address.