Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Pigeon Island National Landmark

Pigeon Island National Landmark is heralded as one of the most important monuments of Saint Lucia’s history. It is a vivid representation of the cultural and historical monuments of international, civil, military and marine cross currents, characteristic of West Indian historical change.

A living museum within a natural setting, Pigeon Island is being nurtured through careful protection and intelligent development to serve the intellectual, cultural and recreational needs of all who visit this historic site. The picturesque, 44 acre island reserve, off the North West, was originally surrounded by water but was joined to the mainland by a man-made causeway in 1972.

Recognising the need to secure this site where the balance of late eighteenth century naval power was decided, the Government of Saint Lucia designated Pigeon Island as a National Park in 1979 and as a National Landmark in 1992. It is open to visitation 365 days a year with user fees charged at US$2 for residents and US$5 for visitors to Saint Lucia. There is also a fee of US$1 for children 5 years to 12 years old.

Pigeon Island National Landmark has a number of heritage attractions and amenities which include:

  • Ruins of military buildings used during the battles between the French and the British for the island of Saint Lucia.
  • An Interpretation Centre describing the rich history of the island.
  • Two beautiful beaches.
  • A restaurant featuring local cuisine.
  • A pub and restaurant with a historical theme.
  • A lookout point at the top of the Fort which gives a panoramic view of the Northwest coastline.

Pigeon Island was first occupied by the Amerindians, mainly Caribs. The island was later occupied by pirates whose leader was a Norman Captain called Francois Le Clerc. He had a wooden leg and was known to the French as Jambe de Bois. The French who owned the island in 1778 declared war on the British, who retaliated by attacking them in Saint Lucia and capturing the island. The British then built a Naval Base at Gros-Islet Bay, heavily fortifying Pigeon Island. From there they were able to monitor the French fleet in Martinique which resulted in the defeat of the French at the Battle of the Saints in 1782. Pigeon Island was therefore a key factor in the Battles between the British and the French. In 1909 a whaling station was established at Pigeon Island. Legislation to control whaling in 1952 put an end to this operation.

Pigeon Island was leased to Josset Agnes Hutchinson, an actress with the D'Oyle Carte Theatre of England in 1937. When the American established a Naval Base at Rodney Bay in 1940 she left the island. In 1947 she returned to establish a thriving yachting industry, entertaining many guests and giving the island the reputation of a paradise island. She relinquished the lease in 1970, finally retiring to England in 1976.

Pigeon Island was restored by the National Trust as a landmark encompassing all aspects of the rich heritage, with emphasis on the glorious period of the late eighteenth century, when the spill-over from the American War of Independence reached the Caribbean.

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