The Historical Timeline
A Condensed History of Montserrat
Compiled by William G. Innanen
[With parenthetical comments by the author -Bill]
© 1998 William G. Innanen *
1920-1930: Hurricanes and Global Depression
Background:Following the First World War, there was a worldwide depression. Montserrat's cotton crop was almost unsalable. To top off the decade, two "great" hurricanes hit within 4 years of each other, both near Hugo-like in their ferocity and damage.
"Was here in '24[Fergus credits this to: E. A. Markham, 'Here We Go Again' Hugo Versus Montserrat, p.87]
1920:Royal visit of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII)
1922:The census shows 12,000 natives and 112 Europeans. [Hmmm... A change in "categories." -Bill]
1922:Commissioner Major H. Peebles begins a project that brings a piped water supply to almost every district in the island. The project continued through 1929.
1924:The United States passes the first of series of acts limiting West Indian immigration.
A devastating hurricane makes a direct hit on the east and north of the island. The hurricane hit about midnight on 28 August without warning, when nearly everyone was asleep. While sparing Plymouth and the south for the most part, it took only 2 hours, 1 AM to 3 AM, to devastate the north of the island.
There were 36 deaths, scores of serious injuries, and 938 homes destroyed. This left 5,000 people homeless, nearly half the population. Crops and estate houses were damaged everywhere, especially in Bethels, Farms, Farrells and Roaches. Relief came in quickly from other Caribbean territories, with Guadeloupe and Dominica in the lead. [Thanks, guys! -Bill] The resulting housing shortage was acute. Some people tried knocking together shelter frorm the wreckage, with results that were described as a "decent pig sty." There were lots of suggestions for new building requirements, like concrete construction with shingled roofs. There were even proposals that the government help with loans and grants. Nothing came of these proposals. [Surprised? -Bill]
1925:The pink boll worm ravages 3,000 acres of cotton.
1926:The ship Canadian Beaver of the Canadian Mercantile Marine (later Canadian National Steamships) called at Montserrat for the first time.
1928:The ship The Lady Nelson, of Canadian National Steamships, the first of their new class of mail and passenger ships, calls at Montserrat.
Another great hurricane hits the island, this time taking aim on Plymouth and the south of the island. Much of the damage from the hurricane of '24 had been repaired, with the island (relatively) prosperous. The cotton pests were under control and a good harvest was expected. Plans were afoot to generate electricity, make ice, and publish a new newspaper (there had been a couple of unsuccessful ones before). The hurricane put the brakes on all of these wonderful plans.
Preceded by an intolerable heat wave, the hurricane struck at about 5 PM on 12 September. Unlike the hurricane of '24, there was some warning this time. Word came from Washington that a storm of "considerable intensity" was fast approaching. Signals were sounded from St. George's Hill, and Commissioner Peebles personally visited most districts, urging people to bar up and batten down.
The storm raked the island for 10 hours. Plymouth fared the worst, but the entire island was severely hit. The poor, with the most ramshackle dwellings, fared the worst, as always. The death toll was put at 42, with at one death from nearly every village. (Molyneaux lost four.) 350 were treated for injuries, with 100 serious. All of the public and corporate buildings in Plymouth were totally or partially wrecked. Salem was "flattened" (Peebles words). More than 600 houses were totally destroyed and the damage conservatively estimated at £150,000. 1,000 acres of limes were destroyed. People were destitute, close to starvation. Morale was very low.
The British government provided a grant of £10,000 and an interest bearing loan of £5,000 for repairs. (The French government gave Guadeloupe a grant of £800,000.) [!! -Bill]
1929:The start of tomato production for export to Canada.
The Courthouse is built in Plymouth.
Main Sources:"Montserrat West Indies, a chronological history," by Marion M. Wheeler. Published by the Montserrat National Trust, 1988.
"Montserrat, History of a Caribbean Colony," by Howard A. Fergus, 1994, MacMillan Press Ltd., ISBN 0-333-61217-5
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* The author grants free use of this document for any non-profit purpose, provided that the authorship and copyright information remain attached.