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De Ole Dawg – Part 10:2017 – 1768 + 250, concerns and opportunities

1768 + 250 = March 17, 2018 → Opportunity Beckons

BRADES, Montserrat, April 19, 2017 – In recent days, we commemorated St Patrick’s Day, with a special emphasis on the 1768 abortive slave uprising of March 17, 1768.  Where, St Patrick is patron saint of our Catholic faith community.  Where, also – as Premier Romeo recently pointed out – due to disunity and betrayal, the 1768 uprising was abortive. (However, even if it had been an initial success, such a successful uprising would have brought down an even more harsh suppression by vengeful colonial masters.)

A key point that came up this year, is that next year will mark a quarter millennium since the uprising. That fed into a debate over whether we have become too tourist-minded, whether we have over-emphasised our Irish heritage while forgetting our African heritage and whether we therefore need to make a decisive shift towards celebrating our African heritage. Some, even publicly suggested that the name of the holiday should be changed.

In fact, while the Uprising is indeed a major part of the story, older Catholics here will tell us that our modern celebration of St Patrick’s Day started with the decades-old annual Catholic religious festival for their Patron Saint, which was centred on the Village of that name. A village that is now swept away by pyroclastic volcanic flows.

Gradually, cultural celebrations began to accompany the celebrations, and people from across our island would specially travel to that village to take part in it. By 1985, Mrs Annie Dyer Howe led a movement that set St Patrick’s Day as a national holiday and celebration. Clearly, this festival therefore stands on many strands of our history, heritage and culture. We therefore need to remember and celebrate it in a balanced way. For, culture, heritage and the history that shapes culture lie at the heart of our very existence and identity as a nation. We must accurately remember our past and what that has made us to be a people, if we are to soundly build the future.

So, no, St Patrick’s Day is not simply a nationally subsidised party that wastes aid money. Nor is it simply yet another convenient celebration to try to bring in a few tourism dollars.

Obviously, a key fact is that just over two hundred and forty nine years ago, while slave masters celebrated St Patrick’s Day the slaves here on Montserrat saw that they were likely to let their guard down as they made merry with a bit too much to drink. They planned an uprising, which failed because of disunity.  But, strangely, that ties right in with the celebrations about the Saint. For, if St Patrick (born Maewyn Succa in 387 in Kilpatrick near Dumbarton, Scotland) could come back to visit with us, he would tell us that he understood the slaves. For, as a youth, much like Olaudah Equiano (who we should continue to remember too, as a distinguished Montserratian), he was himself kidnapped by pirates into slavery in Ireland; when he was about sixteen years of age.

In Ireland, as a slave, he worked as a shepherd. It was a hard time, but (somewhat like the Prodigal son) he drew closer to God while in a far country of cruel exile, crying out to God up to a hundred times per day.

And strangely enough, if Olaudah Equiano could join the saint in talking with us, he would tell us that while he too was a slave torn from his family, captured in Nigeria, he also found God. This helped him work, study and save until he was able to buy his freedom. Yes, Equiano bought his freedom right here in Montserrat, in 1766; just a short while before the uprising.  Surely, that example must have spread like wild fire among the slaves here at that time.

Then after he spent six years as a slave shepherd, God – who does all things well – led “the holy youth” St Patrick to escape from slavery. Patrick would tell us how he had a visionary dream that the ship to take him to freedom was waiting for him, and on the strength of that vision he walked two hundred miles to Ireland’s west coast and persuaded the ship’s captain to take him back to freedom with his family. He studied, becoming a priest and missionary. After many years, he again sensed the voice of God. This time, the vision called him back to Ireland as a missionary, and he returned there, becoming its Patron Saint. After many years teaching the Irish people the gospel, founding churches, challenging slavery and leading in learning, he passed away on March 17, 461, his Heavenly Birthday.

And, Christian Ireland, in God’s providence, became one of the centres of learning that preserved the light that would again spread across Europe in the aftermath of the hard times that followed from the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West in 476.

So, as we build up to next year’s 250th anniversary, let us take time to ponder all the food for thought and opportunities to build a brighter tomorrow that are there in our history, heritage and culture:

– Surely, the history of these two Christian men could show us a way to reconciliation and healing as we address the sins and hurts of slavery, colonial oppression and racial injustices.

– Likewise, St Patrick would be unhappy to see Irish people descend to again being slavers and to indulging drunken revelry on their national Saint’s day.

– Even the Shamrock, the famous three lobed clover of Ireland, would be more of a symbol of the Triune God than a mere empty national symbol.

– Both men would tell us that God in Christ is the great Wounded Healer.

– Equiano, would join with Patrick to tell us that learning, thrift, investment and entrepreneurship are key habits and strategies to move Montserrat ahead.

– They would point out that yes we are predominantly African in our roots, and must never forget that.

– But there is a clear though very mixed Irish contribution to our heritage also. So, we must find a road to healing.

– Then, as there are millions of Irish descendants in North America (especially Boston and New York), and as there are millions of people in Ireland, we have here a tourism gold mine and an opportunity to form business partnerships. And, much more.

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1768 + 250 = March 17, 2018 → Opportunity Beckons

BRADES, Montserrat, April 19, 2017 – In recent days, we commemorated St Patrick’s Day, with a special emphasis on the 1768 abortive slave uprising of March 17, 1768.  Where, St Patrick is patron saint of our Catholic faith community.  Where, also – as Premier Romeo recently pointed out – due to disunity and betrayal, the 1768 uprising was abortive. (However, even if it had been an initial success, such a successful uprising would have brought down an even more harsh suppression by vengeful colonial masters.)

A key point that came up this year, is that next year will mark a quarter millennium since the uprising. That fed into a debate over whether we have become too tourist-minded, whether we have over-emphasised our Irish heritage while forgetting our African heritage and whether we therefore need to make a decisive shift towards celebrating our African heritage. Some, even publicly suggested that the name of the holiday should be changed.

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In fact, while the Uprising is indeed a major part of the story, older Catholics here will tell us that our modern celebration of St Patrick’s Day started with the decades-old annual Catholic religious festival for their Patron Saint, which was centred on the Village of that name. A village that is now swept away by pyroclastic volcanic flows.

Gradually, cultural celebrations began to accompany the celebrations, and people from across our island would specially travel to that village to take part in it. By 1985, Mrs Annie Dyer Howe led a movement that set St Patrick’s Day as a national holiday and celebration. Clearly, this festival therefore stands on many strands of our history, heritage and culture. We therefore need to remember and celebrate it in a balanced way. For, culture, heritage and the history that shapes culture lie at the heart of our very existence and identity as a nation. We must accurately remember our past and what that has made us to be a people, if we are to soundly build the future.

So, no, St Patrick’s Day is not simply a nationally subsidised party that wastes aid money. Nor is it simply yet another convenient celebration to try to bring in a few tourism dollars.

Obviously, a key fact is that just over two hundred and forty nine years ago, while slave masters celebrated St Patrick’s Day the slaves here on Montserrat saw that they were likely to let their guard down as they made merry with a bit too much to drink. They planned an uprising, which failed because of disunity.  But, strangely, that ties right in with the celebrations about the Saint. For, if St Patrick (born Maewyn Succa in 387 in Kilpatrick near Dumbarton, Scotland) could come back to visit with us, he would tell us that he understood the slaves. For, as a youth, much like Olaudah Equiano (who we should continue to remember too, as a distinguished Montserratian), he was himself kidnapped by pirates into slavery in Ireland; when he was about sixteen years of age.

In Ireland, as a slave, he worked as a shepherd. It was a hard time, but (somewhat like the Prodigal son) he drew closer to God while in a far country of cruel exile, crying out to God up to a hundred times per day.

And strangely enough, if Olaudah Equiano could join the saint in talking with us, he would tell us that while he too was a slave torn from his family, captured in Nigeria, he also found God. This helped him work, study and save until he was able to buy his freedom. Yes, Equiano bought his freedom right here in Montserrat, in 1766; just a short while before the uprising.  Surely, that example must have spread like wild fire among the slaves here at that time.

Then after he spent six years as a slave shepherd, God – who does all things well – led “the holy youth” St Patrick to escape from slavery. Patrick would tell us how he had a visionary dream that the ship to take him to freedom was waiting for him, and on the strength of that vision he walked two hundred miles to Ireland’s west coast and persuaded the ship’s captain to take him back to freedom with his family. He studied, becoming a priest and missionary. After many years, he again sensed the voice of God. This time, the vision called him back to Ireland as a missionary, and he returned there, becoming its Patron Saint. After many years teaching the Irish people the gospel, founding churches, challenging slavery and leading in learning, he passed away on March 17, 461, his Heavenly Birthday.

And, Christian Ireland, in God’s providence, became one of the centres of learning that preserved the light that would again spread across Europe in the aftermath of the hard times that followed from the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West in 476.

So, as we build up to next year’s 250th anniversary, let us take time to ponder all the food for thought and opportunities to build a brighter tomorrow that are there in our history, heritage and culture:

– Surely, the history of these two Christian men could show us a way to reconciliation and healing as we address the sins and hurts of slavery, colonial oppression and racial injustices.

– Likewise, St Patrick would be unhappy to see Irish people descend to again being slavers and to indulging drunken revelry on their national Saint’s day.

– Even the Shamrock, the famous three lobed clover of Ireland, would be more of a symbol of the Triune God than a mere empty national symbol.

– Both men would tell us that God in Christ is the great Wounded Healer.

– Equiano, would join with Patrick to tell us that learning, thrift, investment and entrepreneurship are key habits and strategies to move Montserrat ahead.

– They would point out that yes we are predominantly African in our roots, and must never forget that.

– But there is a clear though very mixed Irish contribution to our heritage also. So, we must find a road to healing.

– Then, as there are millions of Irish descendants in North America (especially Boston and New York), and as there are millions of people in Ireland, we have here a tourism gold mine and an opportunity to form business partnerships. And, much more.