Profile of Montserrat


Nestled idyllically between Guadeloupe to the South east and Antigua to the north east in the Caribbean Leeward Islands, this volcanic Island was sighted by Christopher Columbus in 1493 who named it Montserrat. To its earliest settlers, the Amerindians, it was Alliouagana – land of the ‘prickly bush’ and to subsequent settlers, the “Emerald Isle of the West”.

Vacated by the Amerindians the island became home to Irish Catholics sent there in 1632 by Sir Thomas Warner, a British Governor in the neighbouring island of St. Kitts. They were later joined by other Irish Catholics. From being the largest ethnic group in the early 17th century they were soon outnumbered by Africans who were brought in as slaves to meet the labour needs of the plantation economy.

Described for centuries as a pear shaped mountainous island, since the onset of volcanic eruption in 1995, deposits of lava have altered Montserrat’s shoreline though officially its size remains at 102 sq. kilometres. Only the northern side of the Island is inhabited.

Montserrat has a population of 5000, down from 11,000 prior to the eruption, and is internally self-governed. As a UK Territory, the Governor represents Her Majesty the Queen as Head of State and the local government is headed by a Premier selected from nine locally elected legislators.

The dominant religion is Christianity and the major denominations are Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Pentecostal and Seventh Day Adventists. In line with its early history Montserrat is tolerant of all faiths. The judiciary is based on the English legal system with final court of appeal being the Privy Council.

Prior to the volcanic eruption tourism was the major contributor to the island’s economy. The eruption caused immeasurable damage to Montserrat’s economy which had just recovered from the devastation of Hurricane Hugo in 1989 which damaged 98% of all buildings and led to cessation of recordings at Air Recording Studios, owned by music producer Sir George Martin. Today construction is now a major activity with the commencement of development of a new town at Little Bay in the north of the Island with assistance from Her Majesty’s Government and the European Union. Other planned development include the building of a new sea port, the design plans for which have now been finalised.

In March 2013 the Government of Montserrat commenced drilling operations to explore the potential for geothermal energy on Montserrat. The first phase of this has proved a success. The development of the geothermal energy would significantly reduce the generating cost of electricity on island and encourage the development of new businesses that are heavily reliant on energy. This should result in the creation of jobs and expansion of goods and services on island.

A people of resilience, Montserratians now look forward to a bright new energy efficient future.