Wednesday, March 14, 2018
The Caribbean’s Celtic history goes back hundreds of years to the region’s cane sugar fields. This St. Patrick’s Day, on an island known as the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean, they will close up the town for the day and the residents will don the green and the streets will fill with music and dance, rum and green beer. These will be served by the gallons as the soca and calypso sounds fill the air. You know that we are talking about the island of Montserrat, nicknamed the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean.
This came about as a result of an interesting history spotted with glimpses of sugar and rum. The Irish arrival in the West Indies happened on the far away side of the Atlantic during the mid-17th century. There was a huge amount of political problems that included the English Civil War that left the British Isles in a state of disorder as the attempted overthrow Charles II in England, and the Irish Rebellion was in full swing at the start of 1641. The latter involved Irish Catholics vs English invaders, with a resistance movement that persisted until Oliver Cromwell’s forces finally put down the insurrectionists in the early 1650s.
That was followed by many Irish catholic rebels being exiled overseas to prevent them from re-arming and re-rebelling. Named as traitors and “white slaves,” they were sent to provide labor on island colonies. Those who tried to escape and were caught were branded with FT, for “fugitive traitor.” An Irish rum that honors the memory of a band of Irish people who escaped indentured slavery and political upheaval in Ireland to become stinky pirates in the Caribbean. Known as “wild geese”, these Irish escapees became wildly successful in the plundering and marauding business.
Keeping in mind at the same time, many peaceful Irish sought to flee the chaos. Many had lost everything including their lands and livelihood during the wars. Many of them agreed to be shipped out as servants and indentured laborers on the booming sugar plantations, most of which were producing rum as well as sugar on the islands. Indentured laborers signed up for up seven years of work in exchange for their passage. As a result, Irish shipped out across the waters, washing ashore at sugar plantations on British islands, including Barbados, Jamaica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Antigua and Montserrat. The Irish managed to infiltrate nearly every island in the Caribbean, including those held by the Spanish and French. This is made clear by the names of many of the towns on these islands, give providence to how far they roamed. You can find names like Cork Hill, Irish Town, Belfast, Sweeney's Well, Riley's Estate, and Kildare, among them.