‘No lost souls on our island of free spirits’

Writer Neels Blom raised hackles by describing St Helena as an island of lost souls – a reference to a film title. “Most younger Saints either leave the island, or want to leave,” he wrote in his article on the building of the island’s airport. “Those who can, leave. The others, those who are unlikely ever to afford an air ticket off the island, or passage aboard the RMS, and who are unlikely to gain much from repatriated hospitality profits, must accept the largesse of its colonial owner – or perish. For many, St Helena is indeed The Island of Lost Souls.” DOREEN GATIEN, who left for a new life in America, sees things differently:

Doreen Gatien

Doreen Gatien

I do not believe that the majority of people at home on St Helena Island feel as though they are “lost souls.” I am always reminded of the fact that what one does not know exists, one cannot miss. However there are many who have “been there, done that” and no longer desire to be a part of “that.” Certainly there are some people who have never left the island and who may simply wonder what it would be like to leave and explore greener pastures, but there are also those who have no desire to leave at all. For example my second eldest sister had no desire at all to leave home and then just last year, when her sister planned a trip to Cape Town, that sister, at the age of 60, decided that seeing she would have some company on board, she would also take a trip.

Many who visit my island and later write about it and its people, seem to write with heavy hearts because the islanders are “poor” or “many will not be able to afford to leave”. I marvel at how the thought that plenty equals happiness has messed up the lives and thoughts of mankind.

The majority of Saints still living at home are pretty contented to be living where they live right now and I bet many would not be reluctant to report that they do not feel half as “lost” as our ancestors did. At least, this is what I have been told by many.

I believe the majority of my fellow islanders would not be reluctant to report that their homeland is the safest and happiest place to live. Look at the misery of the world outside!

Growing up in St Helena, life was marvellous. We lost our father when I was eight years old, but we had a loving mother who worked really hard for us, and I can never remember being naked, hungry, or feeling poor.

Definition: POOR – having little or no money, goods or other means of support.

This certainly couldn’t be the Saints of today because last time I visited home there were more cars than people; I heard cars are being imported with every ship.

I don’t ever remember anyone at home being hungry or naked. So what if we were a little short of money! Not one time did I ever feel poor, even if we were. Not with second helpings at dinner time, hot porridge for breakfast, “hard cake” for tea every Sunday, lots of boyfriends, lots of girlfriends, single mum, two pregnancies – yes sir – churchgoer, nursing at the only hospital on the island, being able to hike around the island on my days off without fear of kidnap, rape or murder… phew – what a life!

Despite not having what the outside world calls “necessities” the Saints are very strong, and persevering, and if there is a “lack” with a family or in the community, people are always willing to share. Did situations and the Saints change in comparison to my memories?

So why did you leave, one might ask? I was given two options: get married and leave, or accept nurse training abroad. I accepted the former, much to the dismay of my matron, Miss Katie Kershaw. Did I leave because I felt poor? Absolutely not! I had worked since the age of 15. If my fellow Saints feel poor, they they do so because outside sources tell them they are.

Definition: Poor – poor little rich boy (or girl); wealthy person whose money brings them no contentment.

Be of good cheer my Saints! Everything will not be perfect in this world. There will always be injustices and unfairness. Look forward to your airport with great eagerness. And remember, we are not lost souls, no matter how or where our ancestors were dumped off. We are sweet souls! And always will be.

Read Neels Blom’s original article here: http://mg.co.za/article/2013-08-02-00-a-flight-to-the-middle-of-nowhere

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0 Responses to ‘No lost souls on our island of free spirits’

  1. Pietro de Marchi says:

    Today some figures have been published in an article by Vince Thompson in ‘The Independent’:

    (Quote)
    … A 2012 employee survey calculated the median wage to be £3.32 per hour and that another survey in 2011 showed that 2,208 were registered for income tax but only 749, one third of
    employees were earning enough, [£7,000 or more] to actually pay income tax. There are 196 people on Income Related Benefits at present, 32 people unemployed and 587 in receipt of the
    Basic Island Pension. In 1994 SHG employed about 1,600 people; the number of government jobs has now been reduced to 750.
    (Unquote)

    A survey recently conducted by ESH estimates the cost of a flight ticket St. Helena – London – St.Helena (round trip, economy class) could be approximately 1,500 GBP …

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