The only country outside of Ireland that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day as a national holiday is the petite isle of Montserrat in the midst of the Eastern Caribbean. The British Overseas Territory’s flag is emblazoned with the Irish Harp and the words Erin, with an obligatory Union Jack in a corner. Pass through customs and your passport is stamped with a green Irish Clover.
How Did the Irish Get There? Emigration from Ireland to the lush green Caribbean commenced in earnest on the heels of the defeat at the Battle of Kinsale near Cork in 1601. Thousands of disgruntled and disenfranchised Irish Catholics packed their bags in hopes of a better life in the Caribbean. For many it was brutal indentured servitude on St. Kitts and other Caribbean islands for 5 to 7 years work in exchange for their ultimate freedom and the hope of becoming landholders. The next rush of Irish Catholic emigrants arrived under duress. They were unwilling deportees, transported following Oliver Cromwell’s genocidal invasion of Ireland in 1649 and subsequently even more under Cromwell’s son’s watch. By the mid-seventeen hundreds, Montserrat census records listed more than 1,500 Irish, 700 English, 52 Scotts, and 1,000 West African slaves. In addition to an overview of Montserrat’s Irish connection, we’ll learn about Montserrat’s weeklong St. Patrick’s Festival.
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And then it’s off to Dublin, Ireland for a visit with Susan Kirby, Chief Executive of St. Patrick’s Festival (March 14-17 2015), and Simon O’Connor, Curator at the Little Museum of Dublin as they talk about the passion behind the most incredible week in Dublin Town.