Here’s why Caribbean island Montserrat recognizes nine slaves who were hanged on St. Patrick’s Day  

Stephen Nartey October 10, 2022
The flag of Montserrat is flying at the Foreign Office to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, 17 March 2020. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Many Caribbean islands commemorate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 in honor of the patron saint of Ireland and his role in spreading Christianity, particularly Catholicism as a religion.  He is believed to have passed on March 17 in 460 A.D.

But, in the Caribbean Island of Montserrat, St. Patrick’s Day is held to celebrate the life and ordeal of nine or more enslaved West Africans who were killed and banished for their role in a slave revolt planned for March 17, 1768.

The enslaved had decided to initiate an uprising on St. Patrick’s Day because it was a period when their owners and supervisors held feasts and drank a lot of alcohol at the Government House, according to Caribbean & Co.

The festivities were to enable them to carry out their plot of destabilizing the authority of the slave owners and gain their freedom. But, the revolt was quelled before it took off because the enslaved West Africans were exposed by an Irish woman who overheard them planning the rebellion.

Nine of the leaders of the uprising were hanged after their botched revolt and more than 30 of the enslaved were placed in cells and subsequently, driven away from Montserrat.

Though their action to defy the colonial authority failed, the nine slaves who were executed have become martyrs and are honored every March 17 in a week-long celebration.

Historians say the decision to honor the lives of the nine enslaved did not occur on the national level until an educational project ‘Know Your Past’ by Montserrat Secondary School in 1972 brought public attention to the event leading to the killing of the nine enslaved.  

It gained public attention during an exhibition on March 17, 1972, where the students walked the gathering of historical antecedents through art, music, and drama of Montserrat’s dark past.

Public awareness of the events that led to the killing of the nine slaves and the banishment of more than 30 enslaved touched the hearts of many on that fateful day.

It is believed the bold disobedience by the enslaved of the status quo triggered the cause to demand the abolishment of slavery in the Caribbean.

In 1834, the United Kingdom outlawed slavery bringing an end to the inhumane trade of humans for forced labor on plantations.

Since then, inhabitants of Montserrat hold various festivities to usher in the St. Patrick Day’s parade on March 17. The day is heralded by public education on the heritage and culture of Montserrat as well as social events to commemorate the day.

The heart of the celebration is to honor the resilience and determination of the enslaved for their decision to fight for their freedom at the peril of their lives.

St. Patrick’s Day was declared a national holiday in 1985, not in honor of the patron saint of Ireland, but those who laid down their lives to enable the region to gain its freedom from the shackles of slavery.

The celebration begins with a parade in Salem by inhabitants of Montserrat who are descendants of enslaved West Africans who were brought by Irish sailors.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 11, 2022


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