Sign up to our monthly newsletter

Please confirm that you are happy to hear from The Church of Scotland:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit the Privacy Policy on our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.

Home  >  Features  >  Looking Back: Colour, Cricket and Calypso

Looking Back

Looking Back: Colour, Cricket and Calypso

Published in August 1970, Rona Davies gives an account of life on the island of St Lucia

From a grey Scottish glen to the colour and brilliance of one of the most lovely islands of the West Indies; from a daily round shaped by the worship and work of the Church of Scotland to one where the word “Presbyterian” is hardly known. How does a middle-aged Scotswoman react to such a change?

Going into a shop in the village, I say brightly to the smiling assistant, “Isn’t it hot?” A puzzled look comes over her face and the smile fades for a moment as if to ask: “What else would it be?”

Indeed what else would you expect in St. Lucia? The sun shines from a cloudless sky; it is possible to swim for three hundred and sixty days in the year; and eating, reading and chatting take place out of doors.

Even when the moon shines over the Petit Piton (our local spectacular mountain) and the stars are out, women sit on the patio clad in but the thinnest and briefest sleeveless dresses.

The climate in winter is perfect. The heat of summer makes us appreciate the occasional grey day.

Air of gaiety

The people round about are a constant source of interest. To the strains of their portable transistors, they work around their little brown wooden houses, which look far too small for the numbers that pack into them.

The men are on the nearby foreshore hot in discussion (probably about cricket!) as they mend their nets.

The women, gay and voluble, bring in their produce to early morning market; the children, everywhere ragged often throughout the week, resplendent for Mass on Sundays.

What standard of living, I wonder, have the people, descendants of those brought from Africa to work among the sugar plantations? What kind of education do they receive? What is their future? Has democracy really taken root amongst them?

Here we have ‘Associated Statehood’, which means that the elected government is solely responsible for the Island’s internal affairs.

The seventeen years which I spent in Lovedale, South Africa, teaching for the Church of Scotland, make it inevitable that I should compare people and conditions here with those in South Africa.

No one starves

In the West Indies there is poverty, but not the extreme squalor associated with the townships on the outskirts of Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth. In any Caribbean island there is a constant air of gaiety and abandon. This finds an outlet in their evening calypsos.

The sea is within reach of most o homes, fish is plentiful, and mangoes and other fruits are there for the plucking.

No one starves, even if every home does seem to be overflowing with children. For them, schools exist in every village, although accommodation and equipment are often pitifully poor.

However, the Government and the Roman Catholic Church, who bear much of the burden for education, are eager for improvement. They are encouraged and helped in this by both Canada and Britain.

Crowded services

The French ruled St. Lucia for half its history. The Roman Catholic Church remains, and plays a dominant part in the life of the island.

At a recent First Communion service in our little town (population 8,000) some three hundred seven-year-old boys and girls took Communion for the first time. Each little girl was resplendent in a miniature wedding dress with veil and mittens. The boys wore white flannel suits adorned with shoulder knots of ribbon.

Some of the matrons who accompanied the children as godparents might have been costumed by Paris Couture houses, so fashionable and charming were their outfits.

Presiding over all were the priests and nuns to whose life of service the people of this island owe so much.

I worship each Sunday with our tiny Anglican congregation; and it is tiny, although faithful.

I am beginning to be able to follow the prayer-book, and I now understand the value of its constant repetition.

But how I long to join in the singing of one of our traditional Scottish Psalms… The Lord’s My Shepherd to Crimond; or Ye Gates Lift Up Your Heads.

Never did I realise what a part congregational singing can have for the worshipper!

Previous: Among Scots at Malta

Looking Back menu