Please Note: The Society planned to update a comprehensive history of St Helena on this web site. Meanwhile, below is the Wikipedia entry on the history of St Helena written by one of our members in 2007.
British Dependent Territory, 1981-2002
The British Nationality Act 1981 reclassified St Helena and the other crown colonies as British Dependent Territories. The islanders lost their status as 'Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies' (as defined in the British Nationality Act 1948) and were stripped of their right of abode in Britain. For the next 20 years, many could find only low-paid work with the island government and the only available employment overseas for the islanders was restricted to the Falkland Islands and Ascension Island, a period during which the island was often referred to as the "South Atlantic Alcatraz".
The RMS St Helena was requisitioned in 1982 by the Ministry of Defence to help in support of the Falklands Conflict, and sailed south with the entire crew volunteering for duty. The ship was involved in supporting minesweeper operations but the volunteers were refused South Atlantic Medals. Prince Andrew began his relationship with St Helena in 1984 with a visit to the island as a member of the armed forces.
The 1987 census showed that the island population stood at 5,644. The Development & Economic Planning Department, which still operates, was formed in 1988 to contribute to raising the living standards of the people of St Helena by planning and managing sustainable economic development through education, participation and planning, improving decision making by providing statistical information and by improving the safety and operation of the wharf and harbour operations. After decades of planning, the realisation of the three-tier school system began in 1988 under the aegis of the Head of Education, Basil George, when the Prince Andrew School was opened for all pupils of 12 onwards. Middle schools would take the 8- to 12-year-old children and the First schools from 5-year-olds.
Prince Andrew launched the replacement RMS St Helena in 1989 at Aberdeen. The vessel was specially built for the Cardiff-Cape Town route, and featured a mixed cargo/passenger layout. At the same time, a shuttle service between St Helena and Ascension was planned, for the many Saint Helenians working there and on the Falklands. In 1995 the decision was made to base the ship from Cape Town and limit the number of trips to the UK to just four a year.
The 1988 St Helena Constitution took effect in 1989 and provided that the island would be governed by a Governor and Commander-in-Chief, and an Executive and Legislative Council. The Executive Council members would be elected for nomination by the elected members of the Legislative Council, and subsequently appointed by the Governor and could only be removed from office by the votes of a majority of the five members of the Legislative Council. The Legislative Council Members would be re-elected by the voters every four years. With few exceptions the Governor would be obliged to abide by the advice given to him by the Executive Council. Five Council Committees would be made up from the membership of the Legislative Council and civil servants so that at any time there would always be a majority of elected members. The five Chairpersons of these committees would comprise the elected membership of the Executive Council.
The Bishop's Commission on Citizenship was established at the Fifteenth Session of Diocesan Synod in 1992 with the aim of restoring full citizenship of the islanders and restore the right of abode in the UK. Research began (Prof. T. Charlton) in 1993, two years before its introduction on the island and five years after, to measure the influence that television has on the behaviour of children in classrooms and school playgrounds. This concluded that the island children continued to be hard working and very well behaved and that family and community social controls were more important in shaping children's behaviour than exposure to television. The Island of St Helena Coffee Company was founded in 1994 by David Henry. Using Green Tipped Bourbon Coffee plants imported in 1733, crops were grown on several sites, including the Bamboo Hedge Estate Sandy Bay estate used for the 1851 Great Exhibition entry. In 1997, the acute employment problem at St Helena was brought to the attention of the British public following reports in the tabloid press of a "riot" following an article in the Financial Times describing how the Governor, David Smallman (1995-1999), was jostled by a small crowd who believed he and the Foreign Office had rejected plans to build an airport on the island.