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Newspaper Article

I will begin by sharing with you an article I have saved for many years. Perhaps that way you will better understand how precious our jewel of an island is to our people and to the visitors who have grown to love it.

Montserrat: The Caribbean As It Used to Be
June 26, 1988

For centuries Montserrat was a small, half-forgotten island in the Caribbean, overshadowed by the more coveted islands of Antigua to the northeast and Guadeloupe to the south. It is only 13 km long by 8 km wide, and it has only one port of entry, Plymouth, the only town of any size. From the azure seas that surround the island, the lush, fertile terrain quickly rises to a series of peaks of volcanic origin. The highest is Chance's Peak at 915 meters. Because of Montserrat's small size, lack of alternate ports, and hilly terrain, the island never played a leading role in the West Indian sugar industry. But what was once a drawback has now become a tremendous asset. Montserrat remains a peaceful, unspoiled, friendly place. It is poised to become a coveted tourist destination for adventurous travelers.

Montserrat has one airport, and most visitors arrive here by small plane from Antigua. As you cross the mountains on a narrow paved road to reach Portsmouth, you realize why it has been nicknamed the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean. The scrub vegetation and turquoise waters along the coast give way inland to a deep-green rainforest where huge tree ferns and philodendron leaves lord over tiny pink impatiens and wild orchids. Many trails lead through these forests. The most popular trails lead to the island's natural wonders. At the Great Alps Falls the stream drops 21 meters into a lovely natural grotto. The Soufriere Hills are blanketed with rainforest and volcanic peaks. Galway's Soufriere is a surreal setting of bubbling muddy water, steamy fumaroles, hot sulfurous springs, and other volcanic curiosities. Galway's Plantation is the newly excavated ruins of a 17th-century plantation. And the Bamboo Forest features bamboo canes up to 24 meter high that creak in the gentle winds that rise from the sea. The government is committed to maintaining these trails and developing new ones. With few cars, more than one hundred miles of paved roads, extremely friendly people, beautiful trails, and government support, Montserrat is a hiker's paradise. For a truly memorable outing ask for Melvin Clifton in Plymouth.

Montserrat is nicknamed the Emerald Isle for more reasons than its physical similarities with the island of Ireland. Among the original European settlers were Irish Catholics who migrated here from the British island of St. Kitts. Many place names, such as Galway, hark back to those times. Some people swear that Montserratians speak with a bit of the Irish brogue. St. Patrick's Day is a national holiday, and visitors' passports are stamped with a shamrock!

When you reach the capital of Plymouth, home to a quarter of the island's 13,000 residents and reputed to be the cleanest town in the Caribbean, you get the feeling you have gone back in time to the reign of the British Empire. Large shade trees and Georgian-style homes, reputedly built from the ballast brick of early sailing vessels (gold and other treasures became the ballast for the return voyage to Europe), line the town's main street. Set on a hill, Government House is vintage Victorian architecture surrounded by tropical gardens. Two shops sell beautifully made towels, shawls, and other items woven out of locally grown sea-island cotton. The beach here (like most beaches on Montserrat) has black sand, a quaint reminder of the island's volcanic past. Interesting sites found near Plymouth include Fox's Bay Bird Sanctuary, swampy home for herons and other coastal birds; the Montserrat Museum, a collection of artifacts and exhibits set in the former windmill of a sugar plantation; and Rendezvous Bay, Montserrat's only pale-sand beach.

Hotels on Montserrat are as charming as the island. Best known is (please turn to page 7)

I'm sorry to report that over the years I have lost page 7.

Beginning in the 1970s, famous rock stars began visiting our island! Did you know that the Englishman George Martin, producer of most of the Beatles' albums, installed a complete state-of-the-art recording facility on a hilltop above Plymouth, and singers the likes of Jimmy Buffett were often glimpsed in town! We have a medical school, and its students rent our rooms, eat our food, and explore our island, greatly adding to the modest economy.

When Hurricane Hugo churned over us in 1989, we suffered great damage. Crops were lost, trees were downed, and many houses lost their roofs. But we recovered, and five years later the ravages of the hurricane were scarcely noticed by newcomers to the island.


Melvin Clifton Proprietor

Footnote: Melvin Clifton is a fictitious character. Any relationship to organizations or persons past or present is strictly coincidental.