People/Customs: There are currently around 4000 to 5000 inhabitants living on Montserrat. Most are descendants of African slaves, though there are also some Irish (it is sometimes called the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean).
Language: English, sometimes with an Irish accent.
Climate: In the winter the average low is 70°, the average high is 83°. In the summer, the average low is 74°, and the high is 88°. Average annual rainfall is 59 inches. Hurricane season is from June to November.
Food/Farming: Very little produce is now grown on Montserrat because the damage from volcanic eruptions was so severe.
Government: Montserrat is a British Crown Colony managed by a Governor representing the Queen. He supervises the executive council and the legislative council. The economy relies mainly on tourism.
Currency: East Caribbean Dollar.
Art/Music/Culture: George Martin, music publisher for the Beatles, founded a recording studio, called Air Studios, so that famous musicians could come to Monserrat to unwind. After the 1997 eruption, Elton John, Sting, Paul McCartney, and Eric Clapton staged a fund-raising concert in London, raising over $1.5 million for housing and relocation in Montserrat. Holidays celebrated are New Year’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Labor Day, Whit Monday, Queen’s Birthday, August Monday (Emancipation Day), Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and Festival Day.
When Columbus first sighted this island in 1493, he named it Montserrat because the terrain reminded him of the Monastery of Montserrat near Barcelona, Spain. The first settlers here were Irish Catholics moving away from Protestant rule on St. Kitts. In 1632 more immigrants arrived from the New World Colonies and Europe. Sugar cane was thriving, but the managers of plantations needed more workers, so over the next century they imported thousands of African slaves. A slave-based economy developed on Montserrat as on the other British territories in the West Indies. When slavery was abolished in 1834, most of the plantations were abandoned. Some were taken over by small farmers who planted lime trees, but eventually deteriorated. Britain had had almost continuous control of Montserrat, except for a while in 1665, when France made a bid for the Island, but the Treaty of Paris gave it to Britain permanently. Montserrat has remained a Crown Colony since.
Land forms/Flora and Fauna
One of the defining features of Montserrat is a volcano that dominates the whole southern half of the island. The Soufrière Hills volcano erupted in July of 1995, causing the inhabitants of the capital city, Plymouth, to evacuate the most populated area on the island. Salem became the temporary capital while ash was shoveled off the buildings. Volcanologists from the United States and the United Kingdom provided information on where it would be safe to live. The temptation of rich volcanic soil lured farmers into exclusion zones, and when the volcano erupted a second time, 19 people were killed. Over 50 were air-lifted by helicopters to hospitals in Guadeloupe and Martinique. Even the Montserrat Volcano Observatory had to be moved to a safer location. Then, in August 1997, the Soufrière Hills volcano came to life a third time, covering Plymouth in pyroclastic flow, burning and destroying around 80󠇯 percent of the buildings. The capital will probably never be safe again.
The Flora of Monserrat includes rainforests, fern forests, and of course, lots and lots of mango trees. The animals on this island are mainly comprised of iguanas, agouti, crapaud frogs, 7 kinds of bats, and many species of tropical birds.
Things to do
Visit the MVO (Monserrat Volcano Observatory), take a taxi tour of the island to view the destruction from the volcano, go to the beach or go snorkeling.
Bendure, Glenda and Ned Friary. “Montserrat.” Lonely Planet Guide to the Eastern Caribbean, 2nd Edition. 1998: Lonely Planet, Hawthorn, Australia.