The island was named by Columbus after the famous Monastery of Montserrat near Barcelona. It was settled in 1632 by Irish Catholics from nearby Protestant St Kitts and there soon were 1000 Irish families working on plantations as indentured servants. Slaves, introduced in 1651 quickly outnumbered the Irish and the economy followed the same pattern as the other British islands.
British sugar plantations prospered until the early 1800's when they could no longer compete with the high productivity of the super sugar mills used on Cuba and the French islands. Many plantations were abandoned after the abolition of slavery in 1834 and the island went into a slump until tourism and the retirement home business picked up in the "70s and '80s.
Fate was however unkind as the island was ravaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and devastated by the eruption of its Soufrière Volcano in 1995 and 1997.
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I visited Montserrat with Rachel Lazenby who was also staying at the Palm View. It was still dark when we left the guest house to catch the ferry.
This is not a sunset. It is the sun rising over the horizon as the ferry left Antigua for Montserrat.
Montserrat is more than 50 kms from Antigua. We got our first glimpse of our destination, behind us in this picture, after an hour on the high speed catamaran Opale Express.
Unfortunately, clouds had gathered over the island hiding the summit of the Souffrière volcano on the left.
On June 25, 1997 the volcano erupted again, more violently that in 1995, spewing lava and pyroclastic flows that destroyed the capital Plymouth and half a dozen villages in the southern half of the island.
It was a major catastrophe, more than half of the islands dwellings had been destroyed of rendered unsafe to live in. People left the island and the population fell from 11 000 to a little more than 4 000.
With Plymouth and the airport out of bounds this new jetty built in Little Bay on the north west coast, became the principal way in and out of the island.
I had made previous arrangements by Internet with Dave Lea ( firstname.lastname@example.org), one of the island's remaining residents, whose son Sunny came to pick us up.
Sunny drove us across the island to see how pyroclastic flows had destroyed the airport and crossed the runway to reach the ocean on the western shore.
Souffrière is hidden in the clouds in the distance, well behind the green ridge before us.
Sunny also showed us this artificial new village that was created, thanks to Commonwealth aid, on the north-east shore to relocate some of those who had lost their homes.
Dave then undertook to show us the western side of the island starting by this great flow of ash and mud that obliterated everything on its passage down the Belham river valley.
An example of how your living room can be filled with hot ash in the wink of an eye. It must have been terrifying for those who lived through the experience.
Dave drove us up the precipitous road to the top of cork hill from which we could see what was left of Plymouth (ruins on the right by the sea). It's a pity that the summit of Souffrière was still hidden in the clouds.
After that we visited the island's seismic observatory and museum and returned to the Lea home to enjoy the view from the sun deck with a cool drink.
Then we shared a good meal and conversation with Dave and his beautiful wife Clover until it was time to leave to catch the ferry back to Antigua.
It had been a great day, one of the highlights of this year's trip!