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Tag: Tara Thomas

I had to stand up for St Helena: Tara looks back

Tara in Jamestown
Tara conquered The Castle: now she’s off to London on a scholarship

TARA THOMAS is stepping down at 31 August as St Helena’s youngest councillor, to take up a prestigious Chevening Scholarship – awarded to future leaders. Here, she reflects on nearly three years as a dynamic force for change in The Castle – and on a memorable UK holiday with partner Tom. 

It’s always good to get away, even if for just a short break. It gives you the opportunity to reflect on what’s happening and to look at things in a different way.

Attending the Jubilee Celebrations and the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics were fantastic highlights.  Those events are not just highlights for my time away but highlights for a lifetime.

Those events were preceded by receptions, where the UK government was keen to shed light on their enthusiasm and support for the overseas territories.

I was able to meet the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who mentioned that he has one of Napoleon’s writing tables in his weekend home, Chequers.

Foreign Secretary William Hague hosted a lunch for all of the Commonwealth country representatives, DfID Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell and FCO minister Henry Bellingham.

Times are tough in the UK, so this presented a great opportunity for someone from St Helena to offer face-to-face thanks for supporting the airport project, and reassurance that solid progress is being made.

They were all particularly pleased to hear that Saints had started returning home for job opportunities around the airport project.

Visiting the schools in Shropshire that St Helena is linked with was also an eye-opener.  There’s a lot of good work happening with our education support programme.

There were four of our teachers on exposure visits whilst I was in Shropshire and I was able to meet Barbara Osborne, who was so enthusiastic and received special mention for her dedication from the schools she was working in.

Reflecting on the past two years: it’s been a challenging time.  I returned to St Helena in January 2009 to get involved with opportunities arising from the airport project.  I joined Council in November of that year during the “pause” phase, as I knew there were going to be limited opportunities for me and other young people if access to the island remained solely by sea.

I urge more young people to involve themselves and influence the decisions and the changes that are so vital to the future of our island.

I want to see St Helena set on to a more prosperous path. It hasn’t been an easy journey, as there were a lot of unpopular decisions to be made. I had to constantly remind myself that I didn’t join Council for popularity – I joined to make a difference.

I’ve been able to witness the airport contract being signed and remarkable progress being made. I’ll leave Council life behind, knowing that every decision I’ve made has been in the best interests of St Helena and the long-term prosperity of our people.

I want to thank my colleagues for their support over the years, both councillors and officials.

I’d like to make special mention of our Financial Secretary, Paul Blessington, who offered me an enormous amount of support on the Economy and Finance Committee.  Once recovered, I know Paul will be lining up for a ticket on one of the first flights.

Finally, I’d like to thank the people of St Helena for keeping me motivated during my time on Council. I’ll be studying hard next year to bring back new skills and ideas. I might not seek to come straight back to Council, but I will always be involved in keeping St Helena on that path to prosperity.

  • Tara Thomas was chair of St Helena Government’s Economy & Finance Committee. She is to study for an MBA degree at the London School of Business & Finance from January 2013.


Last meeting for ‘outstanding’ Tara

Tara Thomas has attended her last executive council meeting in Jamestown. She steps down formally on 31 August in order to prepare for her studies for a MBA degree in London next year. She has won a Chevening scholarship, awarded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to students with potential as future leaders.

Governor Mark Capes says in his report of her last meeting: “I joined councillors in thanking Tara for her outstanding contribution.”

Tara stands down from council to study in UK

Tara at a function in Whitehall, London, in 2010

Tara stands down from council to study in UK

Tara at a function in Whitehall, London, in 2010
Ambassador: Tara Thomas, representing St Helena at a Whitehall reception in London. Picture: FCO

Tara Thomas is to resign as a councillor on St Helena in order to study for a masters degree in London.

She has been awarded a Chevening Scholarship – usually given to “students with demonstrable potential to become future leaders.”

Tara, who was still in her early 20s when she became a councillor, is chair of St Helena Government’s Economy & Finance Committee. She is known as a progressive member of the executive council who has pushed for more openness in government.

She has also been an ambassador for the island. While on her current UK leave she has represented St Helena at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and attended the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. She also attended the UK Overseas Territories Forum in London in 2010.

Tara is to study for an MBA degree at the London School of Business & Finance from January 2013.

But first she will spend three months on pre-Masters studies, working from home via the internet.

She said she was thrilled to be selected for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office scholarship. “I’m disappointed that my term on council will conclude early, but confident the knowledge and skills I gain from the course will prove useful to the island.”

Governor Mark Capes said: “Tara has made an impressive contribution to the working of government and I shall greatly miss her input at meetings of executive council.

“However, I have no doubt that in the years ahead, Tara, whether in government or in the private sector, will continue to play a prominent role in shaping a positive future for St Helena.”

A by-election will be held, and a new member of executive council will be chosen to replace her.

London School of Business and Finance


‘Nationettes’ star in Sunday Times Magazine

The iconic Sunday Times Magazines has chosen to celebrate its 50th anniversary issue with a superb picture spread from the UK’s South Atlantic territories. Well, naturally.

Jon Tonks has spent four years capturing the character of St Helena, Ascension, Tristan da Cunha, the Falklands and Gibraltar – ‘little rocky relics of empire’ that ‘cling to the motherland’s apron,’ as the magazine puts it.

Sadly, Jon’s picture of Tony Leo’s caravan didn’t make the magazine, but it can be found on his website.

Islanders may not appreciate the accompanying text by the celebrated writer AA Gill, which dwells much on the death of the British Empire but tells us virtually nothing about Gibraltar and the South Atlantic islands as they are today.

‘Now we’re left with these specks and corners of empire,’ he writes, ‘the tiny shards, little nationettes too small, too far and too slight to make it on their own.’ He’s got a point, though.

Gill does recall, interestingly, that his father made a television documentary about Tristan da Cunha in 1962, without actually going there. Since the Tristanians were all in the UK at the time, this is understandable.

He also rather wittily describes the loss of a succession of British colonies as ‘the end of stamp-collecting as we knew it.’

But The Sunday Times Magazine is renowned for its photo-journalism, and it’s the documentary pictures of Mr Tonks that carry the feature.

He doesn’t take the usual shots. The main picture on the opening double-page spread shows a couple of lifeboats that have come to rest amid rocks and lush greenery on Tristan, well up from the shore. Apparently they’re from the oil rig that bumped into the island in 2006.

Then there’s another of one of the beaches on Ascension.

Others show the governer of the Falkland Islands, posing in full uniform (which says something for the persuasive powers of Mr Tonks), fisherman Noddy with a freshly-caught tuna off Ascension, and a flight of steps on Gibraltar painted with a ‘defiantly British’ Union flag.

There’s also a picture of a past mayor of Gibraltar, slouching in a low chair in front of a placard that reads, ‘I was born British and I want to die British’.

There is only one picture of St Helena, looking down on Jamestown – a familiar view, but slightly different in a way that’s hard to pin down. The road up Ladder Hill can be seen snaking away to one side, so it has not been taken from the usual position at the top of Jacob’s Ladder.

However, there are 27 more St Helena pictures to be found on Jon’s website, including one of Governor Gurr at Plantation, and another of trainee mechanics Jamie and Dylan, working on an old truck at Prince Andrew School. We’re not told the names of the two girls snapped in their school uniforms.

In other pictures, Tara Thomas and musician Tom relax on the verandah at The Briars; Ivor Bowers, Fabian Peters and Cedrick Henry lean against a truck at Sandy Bay; Kerisha Stevens sits on a doorstep, toes turned inwards; Steve Biggs poses in an un-Saint-like cravat; ‘the only Frenchman on the island’, Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, stands in the garden at Longwood House; and Jimmy Thomas of Half Tree Hollow leans against a blue wall in a blue shirt, not looking blue at all.

There are landscapes too, and also quite a few pictures of cars. Jon had a gift of a subject in the 1930s Austin Ambassador that was used to drive King George VI and his family around the island in 1947. If Prince William ever turns up on the island, he won’t by riding in that.

Jon had an excellent guide to the island in Ed Thorpe, also a gifted photographer.