For Montserratians, St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday and an opportunity to reflect on its past. Colonised by the British in the 17th century, it formed part of the Atlantic slave route until the practice was abolished in the mid-19th century.
During this time, many indentured Irish workers were sent to Montserrat, and Irish Gaelic was widely spoken. To this day, the island is known as the ‘Emerald Isle of the Caribbean’ and the people are not likely to forget their roots any time soon. The island is uncanny in its resemblance to coastal Ireland – apart from the swaying palm fronds and golden, sandy beaches.
Even Montserrat’s coat of arms, first adopted in the early 20th century, features the green-clad figure of Erin, the female personification of Ireland. She is depicted holding a harp, another symbol synonymous with the Republic of Ireland, and one many will recognise from the Guinness brand, a firm favourite among locals.
The week-long celebrations are also an opportunity for the people of Montserrat to come together. Not only do the festivities commemorate St. Patrick’s Day, but also the emancipation of Montserratian slaves and the island’s lucky escape in 1995, when it was almost destroyed by the Soufriere Hills Volcanic eruption. Almost half of the island is still uninhabitable to this day.