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Few Stories from the

Solid Gold and Others
by Juliet Brown Rergyamdee

My time spent as a teenager on Montserrat gave me some of my best memories. Having had grandparents living in the Caribbean most of my childhood, I was greatly influenced by life there. Since Montserrat is a small island, like a small town, you get to know many of the people around you and see the same folks and familiar faces everday. There were many colorful characters there, that to this day, still bring a smile to my face. My favorite was a guy who called himself "Solid Gold", after the popular American dance show of the same name. The big thing to do on Friday and Saturday nights was to go dancing at places like La Cave and The Yacht Club in Plymouth, now destroyed by the volcano. Solid Gold was a regular at La Cave, dressed in gold, and would preform solo dance numbers that were a mix between Michael Jackson moves and break dancing where he would attempt to spin on his back. It was very amusing! He worked the pumps at a gas station in Plymouth, and I was with my mother there one day when we came in contact with him. He started coming on to me, and because I was young and not used to this, plus I didn't know him personally, I was not talkative. I suppose he wasn't pleased with the response he was getting from me cause he asked, "Don't you know who I am?! I'm Solid Gold!"
Another guy, who was also an aquaintance, was "I Bladder". He mowed lawns and was always walking by our house with his mower. He had long, thick dreads which formed a huge mound under a knit hat. He seemed like such a happy guy and mostly all I ever heard him say was, "Irie, irie!" He lived near us and there was always a red glow coming from the window of his one-roomed shack at night. Later he built a house near our good friend, Lydia Fenton, and he had this oil drum trash can out by the street that read in spray paint, " One Love."
Another guy was this little old guy who hung out at the post office in Plymouth. He always approached ex-pats with a big smile. He would pat your arm and would chit chat for a second (could never understand him!), then his face would suddenly go stone serious and his hand would reach out for a cash hand-out. You couldn't help but like him though!
There were so many funny and interesting people. It really saddens me that everyone is so dispersed due to the volcano and most of my friends are no longer there, but Montserrat is still a gem. Most of my friends were from the neighboring town of Salem. We were usually together everyday at the beach and then together dancing on the weekends. Those were good times. I think back and always smile!


by Elizabeth Salt

I first became acquainted with Montserrat when I was studying anthropology at Ohio State University in the United States in 1975, and one of my professors, Dr. John C. Messenger, would give examples in his classes from his work on Montserrat. Twenty years later, when Montserrat came into the world news because the volcano became active, I began to follow the progress of the eruption on the Internet, and I wanted to get involved and help the people of Montserrat somehow. In 1997, the Montserrat Red Cross put me in touch with Ruth Allen, who was then the head librarian at the public library on Montserrat. Since I am a university librarian in the United States, I thought that perhaps I could best help by providing new library materials for the island's library. Out of this initial contact, a strong and lasting friendship has developed between Ruth and me, which I treasure. I hope that I have helped Montserrat at least a little bit, but truly, Montserrat has given back to me so much more than I have given to the island. My Montserratian friends have shown me how to be strong in the face of adversity and how to value what is really important in life -- true friendship and faith in God. Getting to know Montserrat and developing friendships there has enriched my life immensely, and I am truly grateful that Montserrat has become an important part of my life. Montserrat is a special place which has captured my heart. May the island and her people always be blessed!


Montserrat Bugs Me
by Oksana Kravtchenko

Even though we have traveled to many of the Caribbean Islands, a trip to Montserrat is always special. Since our first visit during Christmas 2002 we have gone back to Montserrat almost every year. People say that we have the "Montserrat bug". Montserrat keeps "bugging" us to return once we are back at are home in Toronto.
Before our first visit to Montserrat, all we knew about Montserrat was that it is in Caribbean; that the island has a volcano that has been active for almost ten years, and that part of the population fled to England, the United States, Canada, and other destinations in search of shelter and security.
At first we were afraid to spend two weeks so close to an active volcano. However, we discovered that many locals still lived there but had moved to the safe side of the island. We took a comfortable, overnight flight on BWIA to Antigua and from there a fifteen-minute connecting flight onWinair (a local Caribbean Airline) to Montserrat.
Montserrat appeared to be nothing like the neighboring island of Antigua... no fancy resorts and casinos, no crowds of wandering tourists from Cruise ships. Do not look for those white-sand postcard quality beaches with tall palm trees. Montserrat is different in its nature and appearance from all the neighboring islands. And it should be proud of having the nicest and friendliest people, secluded black-sand, diamond-sparkling beaches, spectacular hiking trails through rainforests, underwater diversity and a magnificent volcano. All of these qualities of the island make for unforgettable photo memories.
In December, almost every morning would start with a short tropical rain, as if God was taking a refreshing shower"- it rained for ten-fifteen minutes, refreshing the colors on the grass and leaves, wrapping the island in emerald colors, ending the show with rainbow gates over the hills, inviting the tourist to explore the cool, breezy and sunny land of Montserrat.
On our first day, we went on a hike in the mountains. The woods were rich with wild mangos, bananas, almonds, breadfruit, cocoa trees and coconuts. We saw a rare bird, an oriole, living in the rainforest as well as local agoutis and a lot of goats along the roads. I found an interesting fruit, I do not know the name of this fruit. I dried it and now I keep it on a shelf as a souvenir. We went on a couple of other hikes and every time we found different plants, flowers and exotic fruits.
A couple of days after our rainforest explorations, we had a chance to go to the beach. The black sand sparkles like a million diamonds under the sun and is very clean. There are a lot of beaches, and many of them appear to be secluded, even during the high season.
Snorkelling, and especially scuba diving, are spectacular even from the shore. We made our first dive with a "Sea Wolf Diving Centre" certified instructor who introduced us to the underwater world of Montserrat. We spent most of our mornings diving and exploring the Pillar Corals, gigantic Barrel Sponges and Sea fans. The dive operator, Brian Cunningham, who comes from Bahamas, told us that ever since he came to this island, he fell in love with Montserrat. He had never seen such a great diversity in one dive anywhere elseduring his twelve years as a dive master. Here you have a chance to see the famous turtles, eagle rays, French angels, barracudas, parrotfish, spotted drum grunts, squid, lobsters, trunkfish and flying gurnard all in one dive. If you are a diver, make sure to bring all your gear and do not miss the opportunity to go to Little Bay. There, right from the shore, you will be amazed by the rich underwater world filled with fish, corals and many other wonderful creatures. Don?t miss the opportunity to see "Garden of Eden" ? the name tells for itself. For more information regarding the dive sites visit
One evening, we went to watch the volcanic glow. The sky was very clear and there was no wind. We drove for about half an hour in the mountains to a point that is safe and close to the volcano. Never before in my life had I felt so afraid of the power of nature. In seconds I was extremely scared and ready to go back to safety.
I heard thousands of thunders; I could see those huge red boulders rolling down from the angry mountain. The view was fascinating - the mixture of fear and admiration kept me staring at the volcano, glowing in its power in the midnight sky for a couple of hours... On our next trip to the volcano, we brought binoculars with us, so we had a chance to see in detail the volcanic top, spitting those red hot boulders...
?Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!? - we began to sing that famous song written by Calypso King Arrow (who actually is Montserratian). We took a ride to the Festival Village to dance out our excess energy. The Festival overtakes all of the other activities on the island. During the day, one rarely finds anyone outside, but by night, the streets are crowded and no parking can be found close to the festival. We really enjoyed the songs and the beauty contests. All the shows were so colourful and filled with that passion to celebrate. People were dancing in the streets until morning, enjoying the music and each other's company. The locals are very friendly by their nature and we felt very comfortable getting around any time of day or night. I should mention something about the local food. If you want to taste the best Caribbean cuisine, prepared especially for you, check out ?Ziggy?s? restaurant, located in a verdant, intimate and secluded environment. You will have a choice from an international menu and the best wine selection on the island. But be sure to make a reservation before heading out to Ziggy's.
There are many other small restaurants on the island with different cuisines, all with great service and fresh food. For fish gourmands there is Jumping Jack?s Beach Bar, where one can try fresh fish caught by Danny and cooked by Margaret. Meals are reasonably priced and the environment is very appealing.
Two weeks have flown by and we had to pack for the trip back home to Toronto. We took the same Winair to the Antigua Airport. All too soon we are back in our Toronto home ?feeling hot, hot, hot? even in the middle of our Canadian winter. There is no other place on this planet that has ever left this kind of feeling in my heart. There is nothing like this very special island called Montserrat. I will be back again soon, of that I am sure!


Volcano Stories
By Shirley Spycalla


After a period of quietude lasting for 400 years, the Soufriere Hills Volcano on the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean roared to life on the 18th July 1995, disrupting the idyllic way of live on this paradise island. With the volcanic crisis now its eleventh year, one-half of this 39-? sq mile island is in the exclusion or daytime-entry zones. The remaining citizens, those who hadn't fled in the early years of the crisis, have put on a brave face in a disaster that has caused nothing but turmoil.
This event happened in the 1st week of August 1997, when explosive eruptions were almost exactly 8 hours apart. Lou, my husband, had gone to work at the Golf Club where he was manager. On a mad impulse, and without telling anyone where I was going, I drove into the daytime-entry zone to our apartment on Richmond Hill, overlooking Plymouth, to take out some of our belongings that we had had to leave behind. The entire area was devoid of life and covered with thick gray ash - a desolate moonscape. There was absolutely no one else around.
Leaving my handbag and car keys on the dining table in the apartment, I hurriedly began taking things out onto the front porch to be later transferred to the car. The volcano was rumbling gently - a most nerve-wracking sound. On the second such trip when I was outside on the porch, a volcanic earthquake shook the building violently. The front door swung shut with a bang and automatically locked. Desperately I walked around the building but could find no way to get back in.
With no other option available, I decided to climb through a window that opened out onto the porch from the drawing-room (living-room). The space between the steel-framed louvres was about 8". I had got my head and shoulders through when I got totally and irreversibly stuck! Going backward was not an option anyway, as I HAD to get inside to get my car keys and bag (I had no cell phone). The police would padlock the barrier between the "safe" and "unsafe" zones at 6:00pm, and I would be locked into the unsafe zone without anyone knowing where I was.
On cue, the volcano started to erupt with a terrible roaring. Stuck between two louvers and frightened like the devil, I bawled for about half an hour at the thought of rescuers finding my skeleton half in and half out of the window. Overweight as I was, I would definitely not have made an attractive skeleton! Reaching the conclusion that bawling was getting me nowhere fast, I stopped crying and starting praying like ten pundits. Suddenly an idea came to me - to get one hand back outside and dig my way in, at the point where I was caught by the metal edges of the louvres.
With my right hand digging deep into my flesh and pushing, and my left hand digging in and pulling, I slowly inched my way through the louvres. Finally, after what seemed like hours, I dropped onto the drawing-room floor like a baby exiting its mother's womb, bruised and in pain all down the right side of my body. Without further ado, I grabbed my handbag and keys and ran for my life, leaving everything behind. Like a bat out of hell, I raced out of Richmond Hill and made it back to the barrier two minutes before the police closed and locked it for the night.
Lou and I went back to the apartment eight years later, in May 2005, and found everything gone - all the furniture, appliances, cupboards, chandeliers, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, sinks, bathtub, toilet, water heater and all the light fixtures. All that was left was moldy, warped parquet floors and wires sticking out of open electric sockets. Our apartment, along with many other once-lovely island villas and condos, had been thoroughly vandalized with everything looted.
When I reflect on my actions that day in 1997, I conclude that it was foolhardy of me to have risked my life for material things that were mostly all replaceable. The second thing I learned from the experience was never to doubt the power of prayer. If I hadn't prayed, can you imagine what the headlines in the Montserrat Reporter newspaper would have been? - "SKELETON FOUND STUCK IN WINDOW!" Perhaps in the "Jus' Wondering" section on the back page of the newspaper, there might have been a couple of entries written in the local dialect: "Jus' wondering a who de skeleton be dey a window an' why e carn use de door!"
"Jus' wondering if de skeleton a bruk een or a bruk outa de house and why e nuh no dat e look lek wan tief!"
So life goes on

Volcano Story (2)
The second event happened in March 2000 when new guests arrived at our guesthouse to stay for a few days. The husband, John, was a full-blooded Native-American. Actually he looked as if he had just walked off a wild-wild-west movie set with his shiny long braid, high cheekbones, slightly hooked nose and honey-brown skin. All that was needed to complete the portrayal was a feathered headdress, moccasins and a tomahawk!!
As John and his wife sat at breakfast on their first morning at "Erindell", John said to me that he sensed there was an angry spirit on the island. To this I replied that that must be the volcano, and explained about the tragedy of the deaths in 1997. He said, no, that he knew about the volcano, but that it was something more than that.
John asked me if I'd noticed an increase in crime, serious accidents and deaths involving young people on Montserrat. To this I replied that Lou and I had indeed noticed this, especially deaths of people in the 25-45 age group. I added that there were also a number of island residents who were simply disappearing - about ten within the last few years! In a small society such as ours, on an island with an exceedingly low crime rate, the disappearances had become a matter for concern, and the police had so far not been able to solve the problem.
Seeing a mystery unfolding and a possible link, I told him about the archaeological dig at Trant's Estate in the east of the island, early in 1995. Dr David Watters, a curator at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pennsylvania, USA, had led the dig. I also told John that two of the Amerindian remains had been shipped off to the museum for further research, along with several cases of pottery shards, stone tools and arrowheads.
At this point, John became very agitated. He said that it was a big mistake to have disturbed the burial ground of the native people, and that as long as they were off the island, the volcano would never go back to sleep!
Before John and his wife left the island, he asked me to lend him a red ballpoint pen, which I did. On the last morning of their stay, he presented Lou and me with a painting he had done, using the blue, black and red ballpoint pens.
Staring at the figure in the drawing for a moment, I said that it looked like an Anasazi (pronounced "Anasahzi") medicine man doing a ceremonial dance. Anasazis are an extinct tribe, so John was astonished that I knew, but he agreed that it was indeed so. He then said that as long as we kept the painting in our house, we would be protected from the troubles of the island, and that we would always have peace and love in our home.
Immediately upon returning home, John reported the matter of the disturbed burial ground to the Native-American Association. Two Native-American Chiefs, one of them being Chief Billie, came down to Montserrat and visited with the Chief Minister of the day, David Brandt, and the Governor, Anthony Abbott. The Chiefs then returned home, satisfied that every effort would be made to return the Amerindian remains to Montserrat for re-interment.
Up until today, the remains are still at the Carnegie Museum and the volcano is still erupting, now in its 11th year, more than twice as long as the average length of the eruption periods of andesite volcanoes (3-5 years). I have followed up constantly with the National Trust and have been assured that as soon as a new museum is built, the entire shipment, including the remains, would be brought back home to Montserrat.
* * * Meanwhile, strange things continue to happen. On the morning following the huge dome collapse in July 2003, when the island was covered by 12" or more of thick, concrete-like ash, four young men came up our road with shovels. They bypassed every house along the way, came straight to our house and asked if they could help us clean. I had never seen them before in my life. Earlier, Lou and I had started to clear away the ash, which was about 6 - 8 inches thick on the patio and walkway, and it had taken us one hour just to clear away an area about 3' in diameter. Needless to say, we were happy for the help. The young men worked all day, and I truly believe that our house was the first to be cleaned on the island!
There were many times when huge ash clouds would drop ash on houses to our immediate right and left, but no ash at all would fall on our house! Our neighbours also remarked on this phenomenon. I
n 2005, I was interviewed as part of the radio programme, "Volcano Stories", commemorating the 10th anniversary of the start of the eruption. During the interview, the interviewer asked me if I would allow him to make a photocopy of the Indian painting and I agreed to it.
When the hour-long programme ended, there was a telephone call waiting for me in the outer office. A man whom I did not know (he wouldn't give his name) begged me not to give anyone a copy of the painting or it would lose its protective power. He kept repeating this for at least 40 minutes, so that the interviewer grew impatient and left the compound without getting a copy.
Over the years, other guests at our guesthouse asked if they could take a digital photograph of the painting. I agreed, but something always came up to intervene, like cameras that simply stopped working, or the guests got distracted and the photographs were never taken. Weird! I do wish those Indian remains would come back home!

by Julie Rergyamdee
My greatest memories were my friends from Salem and Friday and Saturday nights spent dancing at La Cave, the Yaght Club, and other clubs in Plymouth. Their destruction is especially sad since there are no longer any places like them on the island. "My" Montserrat has been wiped away, but it's still a beautiful island and people who remain are just as colorful as they always were. One memory of a colorful soul was a guy who called himself "Solid Gold" and was a regular at La Cave. He wore gold clothes and would attempt to mimic Michael Jackson, I think! :) Very entertaining! There were many just as interesting back in those days! Julie Rergyamdee

Two Stories
By Judy Brown
When we lived in Montserrat during the 80's, we lived in Old Towne. The kids and I would often take walks at night---the sky was so clear and the stars so bright, we had no difficulty seeing where we were going. One night, we ended up down on the golf course. As some rain clouds had just passed over, the golf course was still quite wet. As we neared one of the greens, we noticed quite a few frogs sitting on the green. There had to be 8-10 frogs!!! So we progressed to the next green---the same thing!!! So, we ran from green to green, counting the frogs. Sounds silly, but we had great fun---and thereafter did it often---after an evening rain!! Next story- Living so close to Old Road Bay, we pretty much lived at the beach! I would notice, from time to time, some crabs that lived in holes at the back portion of the beach, under the trees. I asked some of the local kids if you could eat them, and they said yes! Being from Maryland, we do crabs alot!!! I even had some Old Bay seasoning. But the kids told me that you have to catch them at night, when they come out of their holes. So, a bunch of us went down there one night---me, my kids, and some of their friends who would show us the capturing technique!! We were armed with flashlights and big bags---you're supposed to shine the flashlight on the crab and he won't move---then you can pick him up. I held the bag open---I wasn't going to pick them up!!! We managed to collect about 3 dozen. Then the kids informed me that I had to take them home and put them in the bathtub with a little water, and let them sit over night so they could purge all the mud out! Yuk!!! All night I listened to them scratching, scratching on the sides of the tub, trying to get out. The next morning I had to face cooking the crabs, with only a small pot---it took all morning. Then I had to pick the meat out of the shells. I was dismayed to find that I was only getting about a tablespoon of meat out of each crab. It became clear early on that I was not going to have enough meat to make crab cakes!! The picking took all afternoon as I had been long ago abandoned by everyone--they had all headed for the beach. As it turned out, I had only enough meat to make a crab quiche---bummer, to say nothing of the hour I had to spend cleaning the mud out of the bathtub!!

Just reminding you

That you also invited to be a part of this project

Outline of the project: Book name "My Montserrat"
History in short stories
Project organized by Howard A. Fergus and Igor Kravtchenko
Deadline of submission stories: End of September 2006
Deadline of submission photographs: January 2007
Publishing June 2007
Collection of short stories and photographs about Montserrat
"Wherever I traveled I found that Montserrat is a special place to me. Montserratians is not a nation it is a family of people who's connected by tiny string, string of Love to the "Emerald Isle".I believe each Montserratian and visitor carried their own experience about Montserrat. Lets those stories do not disappear in human history, like Plymouth under the ashes..."said Igor Kravtchenko
No matter if you are Native Montserratian and live close to Exclusion Zone or lives overseas, or even you are not Montserratian but love this tiny island please share your own story, share your own experience with "Emerald Isle" to the World! Real stories that happened in pre and post volcanic periods are welcome. We are looking for people who can write a personal story and personal experience with Montserrat. We are looking short 300 words (max 500 words) stories. We would like to cover each angle of Montserrat with stories from entertaining, from unusual angle, with local dialect, about everyday real life, curious, historical facts, traditions, funny and sad, I encourage people to share their own story about

We are looking for photos of pre-volcanic Plymouth (excluding postcards). We are not expecting photos to be in a great shape and great artistic view. Very old photos will be a great asset! Photos depicting all human activities ( sports, at work, hikes, sailing, and leisure time) showing real life. Non- posed photos are better. Photos that carry a story behind it will be great (especially if you submit a short story with it) We also would like to have some images with sceneries, beaches, ( no sunsets please), shops, discos, from exclusion zone. We promise to mail back all the photos after scanning at high resolution. Please supply your info as well for credits.( Joe Joseph, London UK, scientist at Cambridge?Anne Lee, New York, USA, housewife,

Let's share our Love to Montserrat with the World!


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