Agitate until we create a stable society that benefits all our people.

Instigate the nation until we remedy the injustices of society.

Motivate our people to set a meaningful path for the coming generations.

Educate our people to free our minds and develop an Africentric consciousness.



2002 St. Patrick’s Day Lecture

Delivered March 12, 2002 by

Hon. Chedmond Browne

Aired on Radio Montserrat -- March 13, 2002

Moderator: Dr. Howard Fergus

H. Fergus: Your Excellency and Mrs. Longrigg, Pastor Riley, ladies and gentlemen—I’m very pleased to welcome you to this lecture put on by the University of the West Indies. I’m very glad to welcome a UWI class that invited a while ago and they seem to be here in fairly good numbers. Good to see you all.

The main function tonight is the presentation of a lecture. I’m going to read a poem but after I’ve read the poem, I’m going to invite Hon. Chedmond Browne to present his lecture. So I would just like to introduce him now.

The honourable Chedmond Browne is a historian in his own right. He is a politician. If you didn’t know he was a politician, you would have known yesterday if you listened to his performance in the Council. He’s a trade unionist. He is an activist. Now this lecture is more or less an annual feature and it’s sponsored by the University of the West Indies.

The University of the West Indies does not necessarily endorse the views of Mr. Browne nor does the Resident Tutor. What the Resident Tutor does is to endorse his ability to generate thought and even when I don’t agree with his views, he certainly sets me thinking and I felt that I could do no better this year that to ask him to present the lecture. And I am glad you have come. I believe that you will not be disappointed.

So welcome and I’ll read a poem for you. The poem is called “Barbados Medley.” I wrote it some years ago when I was in Barbados. Somebody was taking me for a ride, not for a ride—for a drive—I suppose and on that journey, we ran into a funeral and we ran into a wedding. And I thought in my perverted poetic mind—I thought there was something common, there was some link between a wedding and a funeral and this is what sparked this poem. Not only did I see a wedding and a funeral but there was a man riding a donkey and somehow that came into the whole picture. So the poem is called “Barbados Medley.”

The loaded donkey’s clip clop never stopped

And on the greens the players shouted how is that

A man was out, another at the altar

The players and the bride costumed in white

The mourners robed in black and gray

Lent colour to the pallid carnival

Black and white give state and dignity to death

Bone of my dust and dust of my flesh ‘til death do us part

The Parson changed them with a knot of words

They drained the sacrament foretaste of the purple fruits of life

The funeral hit the road

The wedding train gave chase

A double derby into sunset

The players on the green appealed for light

The umpire stood as silent as a stone

Brakes screeched, horns screamed

Mourning tempers blazed

The wedding streamers decked the hearse

Wo donkey

Stop the car my love

Let me hop off here and skirt the traffic jam

The donkey’s feet said clip, clip, clop

His regal rider muttered how is that?

That’s the poem. I’d like to read another short one for you if I can find it only because it has somehow to do with the Irish and this is the St. Patrick’s Day Lecture. It’s called “Irish Landfall.” And it speaks to the Irish coming to Montserrat. It was published some years ago in the United States. It makes a reference to Botany Bay, that’s in Australia where convicts were sent. That’s the reference to Botany Bay.

Montserrat was their Plymouth Rock, their Botany Bay

They wore cassocks of freedom

But rued the day they made the tropic landfall into Paradise

There were no serpents really

But cold venomous eyes of mutual hate

Beset Columbus’ shrine

Because there were other altars almost as divine as theirs

Some were mostly loyal to the establishment

Others reared a light green IRA to enforced fear dissent

When emancipation broke the Irish beached on the first wave

And mercy slowly tricked down from smiling eyes to slaves.

Thank you. I hope that you enjoyed my poems even if you didn’t clap. (laughter & applause) I’m too old to be bashful over certain things.

It now gives me great pleasure to invite the honorable Chedmond Browne, Member of Council, Historian, Political Activist to present this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Lecture on the topic: “Rebellion, Religion and Change.” Mr. Browne.

C. Browne: Thank you very much Dr. Fergus. Let me first say good evening to all our guests. Good evening to the governor’s wife and the governor, Mr. Karney Osborne, the reverend and all our honored guests in this house tonight. And I thank you all for coming.

About five minutes ago, we were all kind of wondering if anybody was coming but now we see that people are here and it is a pleasure to see people here. Let me say thank you first to Dr. Fergus for giving me this honor, for allowing me to stand here before you and speak to you tonight on this topic.

I’m a kind of a shoot-from-the-hip kind of person. I honed by talents on the street corner. That’s why some of my expressions still come from that foundation. That’s where I learned to speak. That’s where I learned to lecture. That’s where I got most of my talents, my information base. I graduated from the street corner into the classrooms into universities and eventually now, I’ve reached the House of Parliament. But basically, my style is still kind of the same. I’ve just acquired a little more knowledge, a little more information along the way.

I’m also attempting to learn now how to be a statesman, a diplomat and a scholar. I’m attempting. (Laughter) So it’s a continuing growing process where one graduates from stage to stage in attempts to utilize what they have acquired and to move onto another step.

So tonight I would like to attempt to say much of the things that would not allow Dr. Fergus to disassociate himself from me or my presentation and still be provocative enough to get to pay some close attention and think because that basically has always been my intent.

Tonight, as you can see, I didn’t come to shoot from the hip but—I’m not going to be very long either because we don’t want to keep you here. But I have before me quite a few books. Now any one of these books that you would read—and the reason I’m bringing books and mentioning books is because I want our people to begin to attempt to gather information for themselves rather taking it just us from word of mouth.

I have a book here entitled The Life and Times of Olaudah Equiano. Now this is an autobiography of a slave or a slave when he became free or when he bought his freedom and left—surprisingly enough—from Montserrat. He bought his freedom from Montserrat, went to England, became a scholar and a statesman in England, spent the rest of his life on the lecture circuit in England talking against the system of slavery and he wrote a book.

He is credited for being the first African in the western hemisphere to have had a book produced in the English language. It’s not necessarily true but he has that credit. Now, this should be one of our national heroes and I do believe that this is one of the titles that we have given St. Patrick’s Day. It is sharing the title of National Heroes Day. He should be one of our national heroes. Surprisingly enough, Barbados has claimed him because his earlier life was spent in Barbados before he was brought to Montserrat. So they have claimed him. But if you read this book, you will get a surprising amount of information about Montserrat and his life over his life’s history.

I have a book here titled, The Black Jacobins written by CLR James. Now this is a Caribbean scholar who eventually moved to the United States but he came out of the Caribbean. His book is about the revolution in Haiti, the Haitian rebellion. Now this book was written in 1938. Surprisingly enough it stayed buried for such a long period of time until the ‘60s when what they called the “black consciousness movement” came about. And it was brought back to light. But this gives you the history of the Haitian revolution which is part of my topic tonight: rebellion.

Another book here by Jacob H. Carruthers called The Irritated Genie. Now this is more my style than the other book. This book also deals with the Haitian Revolution. But it deals with the Haitian Revolution from the kind of approach that I take. I consider CLR James, although an excellent author and historian to be sort of conservative. I consider this gentleman here to be more in my line: revolutionary and radical. But they both attempt to address the same thing.

Here we have a book: Montserrat-West Indies: A Chronological History written by Marion M. Wheeler. This book was authorized—she was given permission or hired to write this book by the Montserrat National Trust. It is basically a group of statistics that basically gives you some historical dates but also some very pertinent information in terms of numbers. The census: There was a regular census taken in Montserrat practically every 10 years and you can judge the numbers and the balance of numbers of who was here at what point in time then.

I also have a book here written by Dr. Hilary Beckles, to me the greatest historian in the Caribbean region and it is entitled Black Rebellion in Barbados.

And last—it’s not least but I’ve saved it for last is a book by Dr. Howard Fergus: Montserrat: History of a Caribbean Colony.

Now if you take any one of these books and read them and you know what you are searching for in the book, you are going to get relevant information. It’s just a matter of putting that information together to draw a picture. All of us draw pictures. When we speak we draw pictures. When I speak, my intent is to draw pictures. Now I didn’t have these (spectacles) yesterday so I kind of struggled a little but I’m going to put them on tonight so I’ll appear scholarly (laughter).

I’m going to start with an introduction because basically I’m dealing with rebellion, religion and change. And what I’m attempting to do is get you to understand how they are intertwined, how we have arrived at St. Patrick’s Day and how we can attempt to resolve what appears to be a contradiction between celebrating St. Patrick’s Day which religious people look at as a religious celebration or a religious holiday and some of us in Montserrat look at as a holiday where we are celebrating our forefathers’ attempts to rebel against a system—to overthrow a system and to replace it because they considered it inhumane. There was no justice there. It was oppressive and they attempted to change it. We have quite a degree of confusion in our society over that and what it is that we actually celebrating and why we are celebrating it.

Dr. Hilary Beckles, in his book, begins with an introduction and on page two he states—in treating the issue of rebellion—he says: “They rebelled when they could and they accommodated when they had to. Here more so than any other part of the new world, very repressive systems of government were able to survive despite persistent rebelliousness from below.” Now what is being said here and we need to understand—what I am attempting to do here—is give a different approach or a different understanding to our historical dynamics.

We have traditionally been educated—continue to be educated from what scholars and historians term a Euro-centric approach, a Euro-centric thinking and approach to how we look at ourselves, how we look at history, how we look at the dynamics that have affected us over the last 500 years.

What African-centered scholars have attempted to do and they have done it—It’s just that we have not brought those books into our knowledge-base, we have not introduced those books, that information into our school system; it is not that information doesn’t exist— is they have attempted to give an African-centered approach where we look at our problems from our position and attempt to analyze them and give an analysis or a historical understanding from our position as opposed to what the Europeans told us, what the Europeans taught us. Because they are teaching us from their position, from their understanding.

We continue still in our schools to teach in that way. But what Dr. Beckles is stating in his book is that unlike what we’ve been taught and what we still are being taught to a great extent—that we were brought here and we complacently accepted what happened to us until such time as we were emancipated—what actually existed in this region was a constant state of rebellion. It was a constant and on-going state of rebellion.

Why it appears to be distended and there is no continuity to it is because the islands are isolated, the systems are essentially closed so what was happening in one particular island you could not necessarily translate it as happening in another island. But what we have come to understand now based upon gathering of historical information, is that rebellions went on constantly throughout the entire Caribbean Region. They went on; they were constantly there generation after generation, shipload after shipload.

There was never any moment in the history of the Caribbean where there was not a rebellion of some sort going on wherever the system of slavery existed. We need to understand that. So because this rebellion was continuous, historians, our historians today or our scholars today are looking at it as continuity, always in action, always in movement from that time up to today. The rebellious nature of the African in the Caribbean has established a tradition, a way, a path that we continue to follow. And we can easily prove that especially with our scholars and our written works.

I have read so many books now, I can’t remember the titles of many of them but what I’ve done while reading these books was look at the authors who wrote those books—no matter where they were in the world and what I’ve come to discover, especially in the field of history—our historical scholars—no matter whether they were in England, no matter whether they were in America, somewhere in Europe—all of them, the vast majority of them in the western hemisphere are either first or second generation Caribbean people. So that tradition of rebellion, that tradition of radicalism, that tradition of revolutionary approach and thought to solving our problems has always existed because we grew up or we were immersed in this atmosphere of the system of slavery.

We are actually attempting to deal with the St. Patrick’s Day rebellion so that we can get to understand what actually happened. And I’ll read for you from the book by Dr. Fergus. So I’m attempting here tonight not to allow Dr. Fergus to disassociate himself from me and I’m going to read his words for you. On page 75 of the book, A History of a Caribbean Colony, we read from the words of our historian (sorry page 82 for those of you who would wish to acquire the book): “The Irish legacy—Much myth and uncertainty surround the abiding legacy of the Irish in Montserrat. While speaking proudly of our supposed Irish roots, a local informant reportedly told a Canadian journalist, Jane {?Giogi?] recently that we’ve lost most of our far roots from Africa. This can hardly be true when over 90% of the population is black or colored including the people of St. Patrick’s district which had the greatest concentration of Irish people during plantation times. The blood of Irishmen still lingers especially in the brown to the near white contingent in the parish of St. Peters but the number is small an some resulted from African and English as well as Irish miscegenation. As Table 4-1 reveals, 76% of the white men in St. Peters district were English. The idea of a black Irish enclave in a distant tropical island or another Emerald Isle with an Irish diaspora sounds exotic and it has prosperous possibilities for tourism but it has no strong support for the historical evidence available to us.” These are the words of our eminent historian here.

What I’m trying to get us to understand here is that that Irish element that we so—I think the word he used here was some word that deals with fantasy, we fantasize about—there is no actual historical evidence to prove it. But it sounds good and in a day like today where we have a department of tourism, in a day like today where certain elements of our society would want to see tourism as a significant contributor to our future economic development—it’s a good pulling card

So we should understand why certain forces would want to carry us in a particular direction in order to give a certain impression but we should not, we should not, I repeat, we should not make the mistake of following that trend by attempting to prove that we are Irish and to deny the true reality of our roots. And this is what—where I know I will come across with a little different approach because I have never attempted to collaborate or go along with any story that has attempted to prove that the people of this country are Irish.

I am probably one of the few people right here, right now in this room who fits Dr. Fergus’ description of those few people who are actually of African or European/Irish or English descent who can actually trace his roots—because I have done a family tree back to the time of slavery and emancipation. But the vast majority of the people in this country—over 90% and the reason I brought the book with the statistics—this 90% statistic has stood from almost practically the very first time that 10,000 Africans—the African population in this country reached that number of 10,000, the over 90% African population base in this country has been maintained from that point. And the European population base has declined steadily from that point ‘til it reached the point in time in 1945—probably the last census taken in that book—when they took a census when there was only one European occupant in this country, where this country was 99.9999% purely of a group of people who could trace their roots back to the continent of Africa.

So what I’m trying to get us to understand here clearly is that while there is a connection between St. Patrick’s Day and Montserrat, that connection has nothing to do with an actual genealogical Irish-dominant heritage. That connection has to do with the fact that because of the rebellious nature of the entire African populace in the Caribbean region and because of the ongoing mood of rebelliousness with the intent to overthrow that system of slavery and replace it with something more humane, replace it with something more of an equal nature—we had constant rebellions.

Now, on the 17th of March 1768, a group of Africans with revolutionary and radical spirit organized what we call a rebellion with the intent to overthrow the European settlers who controlled this country. We call them the slave masters, the plantocracy, the governmental system—they attempted to overthrow it.

Because St. Patrick’s Day was a day of celebration and because on that day of celebration, the entire or the vast majority of the European population would have been gathered at one place, in one place—that rebellion was planned. Now the place was government-house because this was the place where that sector of the society would come to hold a celebration of that type.

So the government house was where all of them would gather and our forefathers had this thing planned where they would, on that day, trap all of the European settlers, all of the European occupants of Montserrat in the government house and destroy them because that was what generally happened in rebellions. You had a huge degree of blood shed. You had a huge degree of destruction, human carnage when these two forces met on a military front. There was no quarter; there has never been any quarter.

Slavery is a system designed to invoke fear into the heart of the slave and the only way at point in times that the slave could rebel or reverse that was to—in an equal a way as possible—give what he or she received. So this was the intent. So on St. Patrick’s Day on this particular day, our heroes—because that’s what they were. That’s what the few people in our society who attempt to take that upon themselves should and must become at some point in time in the history of the country—took it upon themselves to attempt to overthrow the system of slavery and the people who were their masters.

Well, like the vast majority of the rebellions in the Caribbean—the vast majority because there was only one successful revolution, slave revolution, in the entire Caribbean. That did not stop it from happening for the 350 odd years of slavery—like the vast majority of them, this rebellion failed. It failed and those slaves paid a terrible price. And I’ll read to you in Dr. Fergus’ words the price that they paid and why we are supposed to honor them, why we are supposed to look forward to honoring them for the price that they paid.

Again on page 82 in the same book it says (if I could find it, if you’d just give me a minute. Sorry to be taking your time like that. It is on page 75): “The Montserrat planter lords had cruelly scotched this plot but it lived on in their memory.” But that’s not the part I’m looking for. “A rebellion was nevertheless planned for March 17, 1768 a day conveniently chosen since the people of the island usually assembled to commemorate it. The slaves working within the government house were to seize the swords of the gentlemen while those outside were to fire on the house using whatever missiles were at their disposal.”

The rebellion was scotched because supposedly a lady heard of this and overthew it but what I was actually looking for was the result in Dr. Fergus’ words of what happened to those leaders of that rebellion. I don’t seem to be able to pinpoint right now.

But what actually happened is that they eventually identified 9 leaders for that rebellion and those 9 leaders—I would have liked to use the exact words—they were brutally killed. They were brutally killed and made an example of to the rest of the population of this country as to what would happen to anyone who would dare to challenge might and power. We need to understand that. It was a system where fear was the motive force. Fear and brutality were the motive forces that kept that system or the people under that system under control. And these people were brutally, brutally destroyed for having the bravery to stand up and attempt to overthrow the system. So ended the St. Patrick’s Day Rebellion but rebellion did not end in Montserrat.

Now we come to the part of the interaction between the St. Patrick’s Day Rebellion and the St. Patrick’s Day religious celebration. At the same time that Africans were being brought here as slaves, Irish Catholics were also being brought here, shipped here. Some were brought as indentured servants. Some were actually shipped here because at that same point in time, Cromwell had invaded Ireland and was getting rid of the Irish Catholics because there was a huge rebellion of the Irish Catholic population in Ireland. So there was an Irish Catholic population here.

And although the Irish Catholics that were here were on a lower scale, class scale than the British overlords, the Englishmen that were actually here—there was a kind of collaboration between the two because of one factor. The European population in Montserrat was greatly outnumbered by the African slave population in Montserrat and like all the rest of the Caribbean, the Europeans in each and every island in this region were deathly afraid of rebellion, of being overthrown, of being killed and destroyed.

So, there was an alliance even though the Irish Catholics in Montserrat were subservient to and occupied a lower class social structure, lower position on the social structure—there was an alliance between the Irish Catholics and the British, the English lords in order to ensure their own safety. So we can understand why the Englishmen would have accommodated those Irish Catholics and allow St. Patrick’s Day (which is an Irish holiday; St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland; it is an Irish holiday)—they would have allowed that holiday to be celebrated. It was like a boon. It was like a gift. It was like a concession in order to bind our [their] alliance. That concession was given.

Trying to get us to understand how the religion comes into play because the African population that was brought here—we were not Christians but we were not heathens either and we should never accept that. We were a highly spiritual people. We were a highly religious people and we came here, we were brought here with our own understanding of our creator.

I could show in some of those books there where the Lords, the masters who used to write would show you that on a regular basis, the African slaves would go into a corner and pray and they would wonder, well who are they praying to, what are they praying, what are they saying? So it is not that we were an irreligious people. We were a deeply religious and spiritual people but we were not Christians.

We eventually were Christianized by the missionaries that came here but the Irish came here with their religion. The British came here with their religion. And this is where the huge war between England and Ireland is still ongoing. The British, who are Anglican and Protestants, the Irish, who are Catholic, have this huge tug of war going on from that point in time right up to now.

So the religion was here. The religious holiday was established. The shamrock, which is another symbol that is prominent in Montserrat is also an Irish symbol—was used by St. Patrick to Christianize the same Irish people. He used the Shamrock because it has three petals on it to describe the principle of the trinity in the Christian understanding of religion. But these symbols, they existed before we had any real interaction in terms of social dynamics, religious dynamics in this community. The religion already existed.

What happened after emancipation—close before the end of emancipation and after emancipation—was that not only were we Christianized but we were also given good proper Christian names. I don’t know how many of you have ever sat down and thought where does the term “Christian name” come from? Why do you have a Christian name? Where did the terminology even come from?

Before emancipation, no African had a first name and a last name or a Christian name and a surname as we now put it today. If you look at some of Dr. Fergus’ earlier books, you will see some of the names that we had. They were all one names and not all of them were even names that you give people. They were the kind of names that you give pets—These kinds of things. If you look at them, you will see.

Just prior to emancipation and after emancipation, we were Christianized and the Christian community demanded that in order for you to be a good Christian, you must have a proper Christian name. This is where we became incorporated into the European version of religion and where we began to assume some of the Anglican Protestant ways and the Catholic Irish, Catholic ways. This is where this part of it came in and this is how it became incorporated into us. So, today many of our people because we have now become a devout Christian community—we must understand how it came about.

Many of our people today have this huge confusion about why is it a sector of our society insists on celebrating St. Patrick’s Day as a day of rebellion and a Heroes Day for us and not as a religious day in celebration of St. Patrick. So I am trying to attempt to resolve it by attempting to get you to understand how the two came about, how the two are now merged and how now it has become more economically expedient for us at this point in time to promote an Irish connection. This is what it is and we must face it.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do it. If they want to come here and celebrate it—I’m a Browne; it’s an Irish name. You’re a Meade. You’re a Farrell. You’re an O’Garro. You’re a Galloway. It’s all Irish. Come on. Let’s celebrate it. Let’s all celebrate it together. You can come for week every year and let’s all get together. We’re going to love you because that’s how we are and we are going to open our arms to you and put up all the Gaelic signs and all the rest of it.

But let’s understand why we are doing it. Let’s not mistake it or give our children the misunderstanding that it’s something other than what it is. It is economic expediency. It serves a purpose and it makes a lot of people feel good. A few of them might find some of their roots. There are a few of us here still. If they want to come, they could come and check out my family tree or any of the rest of you who actually traced it. There are a few of us. You can find the interminglers. So it is not an impossible task.

But we must understand clearly where it came from, how it came about and we should have no confusion over it. If we have a literate and understanding public, we could easily resolve what appears to be a conflict or a confusing thing because we understand clearly why it is established, why we should allow it to happen without allowing our children to continue to believe that because my name is Browne or my name is Farrell or my name is Galloway or O’garro that I’m Irish. We are not Irish. We have assumed Irish names and Irish titles because of the legacy that the Irish left here were place names, symbols on plantations, plantation owners and masters. And the system demanded that we assumed good—what they considered to be good proper Christian names.

One of my sons name is Tshaka. Tshaka is one of the greatest African heroes in Africa—because we have now attempted to reverse some of those things. But we went to christen him, it was questioned and I’m sure quite a few of you have experienced it. Up to today, a priest or a preacher will ask you why are you bringing a heathen name in here to christen your child? Why don’t you give your child a proper Christian name? Can I help you find a proper Christian name for your child? They will tell you so right up to today because they are still attempting to stop us from rediscovering the true reality of who we are and keep pointing us in a certain direction.

We have to be able—because we have a full understanding of the dynamics of what happened to establish a firm path for ourselves and to be able to deal with the dynamics. The world has shrunk. It has shrunk not because it got smaller but because our capacity to reach out and touch has gotten better through technology. I was amazed to find—somebody called me just before I came down here tonight and told me they were listening to me in London yesterday. I wasn’t aware of that but they were sitting in London listening to the debate in the House yesterday. That is how small the world has become. It wouldn’t have taken them three months to hear about anything that happened down here before then. They are hearing it instantly. We have to learn to deal with those dynamics. We have to understand exactly what is happening and we have to stay focused on what has happened.

Now this whole thing here has to deal with rebellion, religion and change. Again, in one of these scholarly works that I’ve read here, there’s an analysis that shows that it is because of a minority revolutionary element in our society that we have been able to get change in our society. There has never ever every been in the society—the vast majority of the masses of the people that are of a rebellious or a revolutionary or a radical nature but they have always existed in the society, continuously throughout our history—small minority elements who have kept those traditions of radicalism and revolution alive in the minds of our people.

And it is because of those elements that we have been able to get change in our society because we have to understand the dynamics of the society that we live in. We live in a society today that is almost—with very few changes—the same as that system of slavery that we existed under. Slavery, the system that was transferred from the system of slavery was the system of colonialism. We today continue to be one of the last few remaining, but we continue to be is still a colony. And that system of colonialism, which was a direct inheritance of the system of slavery, still imposes upon us basically almost the same type of approach to governance of the peoples. We need to understand that. We have been governed in a way that still mimics the control of the master and the control of the masses.

To get change what the master has traditionally done is that he has given concessions to the masses in order to placate them, to ensure that that minority element in the society who maintains radicalism, who maintains revolution, never gets to become a dominant mass,

and take complete control of the system under which we are governed. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never has and it never will. The People must demonstrate clearly what their demands are. With the instigation of the radical minority such demonstrations cause those in authority to give concessions. Having clearly made that demonstration, power has to accede. It will not necessarily accede to all of your demands but it must accede. This is what we have to understand now.

We are in a position right now where the British government has asked us to look at our Constitution. And I am saying to you—all the people who are listening, all the people in this audience—because we have a bigger audience here tonight than Dr. Fergus and the committee has had in the last two weeks. We have a bigger audience here tonight and it is important that you understand that it is the constitution that determines how the entire country is governed. Everything flows down from the constitution.

The constitution is the foundation of your nation and whatever that constitution says is what gives. It is what stands whenever you have confusion in your society, you go back to the constitution and you see what the constitution says. You don’t go back to no tradition, you don’t go back to no convention. You don’t go into the court of law because every law in the court of law must conform with what the constitution says so you must, of necessity, understand what that constitution says.

And this is where we need to understand at this point in time if we want change in our society, we do not necessarily need to be revolutionary at this point in time. I don’t need to fight no war. I don’t need to fight a war and get my head chopped off. I don’t need to be hung on a tree out there. You don’t need to make a demonstration of me to put fear into the hearts of the people.

Her majesty’s government, the British government has asked for us to show them where we would like to have some changes in our constitution. And what we would like to see in terms of our own self-governance. What responsibilities we would like to take upon ourselves. They have given you a golden opportunity. To date, we have had very little response.

I am suggesting to you, in no uncertain terms, that we need to demonstrate to the governor who is the representative of the her majesty’s government, that we clearly understand the opportunity that we’ve been given and that we are fully willing and able to take on that task and submit to her majesty’s government all those things, all those flaws that we see, all those things that we feel need to be changed because we need to understand that Montserrat, Montserrat especially is 40 years behind the rest of the Caribbean in terms of change.

We are not behind the rest of the Caribbean in terms of all the revolutionary activity that has gone on from slavery days to the present but somewhere along the line between the 1950s and the 2000s, between the 1960s and the 2000s—we have fallen off the track some where.

So we have remained a colony and we need now to attempt—because we’ve been given now an opportunity to do it on paper—We have been given an opportunity to make that change on paper. They have said so and they have taken that position and I am putting it to you, to the entire listening public of this country that we have now been given an opportunity to bring this African population in this little island here online and on-stream and up to date with all the rest of our Caribbean brothers and sisters who have fought and struggled and rebelled from the days of slavery to the present.

We have that opportunity now and I am submitting to you that we take advantage of that opportunity and make that change. If we cannot make that change, we can at least allow the British government and the international community to know that we are fully aware of all those things that are due us, rightfully due us. And then we will see where we go from there. Maybe at that point in time, they will have to hang me. We don’t know. But let’s take advantage of the opportunity. Let’s do it.

Well, since I’ve just been reassured by the governor, that I won’t be hanged, maybe I’ll only get a life imprisonment. Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, I know this hasn’t traditionally been the type of lecture that you would have received on a St. Patrick’s Day. And I hope still that I would have given you some food for thought and enough to make you go home and feel that it was well worth your while to come out here tonight and listen. I thank you very much. (Applause)

H. Fergus: Well, thank you very much Mr. Browne. I think you lived up to reputation. You were exciting. You were provocative and intellectually stimulating. And I feel that the University Centre is justified in asking you to make this presentation. Now we have some time left and we would like to engage the audience in comments and possibly questions. If you’d like to make a comment or ask a question, you can use that microphone there.

While you are preparing to do that, let me just say—I’m not sure it’s by way of correction because generally I agree with what (I almost said, I agree with what the brother has said) but I do not deny that there is an Irish element in the heritage and history of Montserrat. What I’m at pains to do is to keep it in perspective and to also keep in perspective why the vast majority of the people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. We have secularized it to a large extent but it doesn’t deny the religious element—the fact that there is a Roman Catholic community and that Roman Catholicism came via the Irish Roman Catholics as opposed to through the French as would have happened in Dominica and St. Lucia and so on. So I would just like to make that point. Having cleared that point, we’d like to get your comments and your questions.

Audience Member: Who was St. Patrick?

H. Fergus: You’re the lecturer.

C. Browne: According to all the recorded information that I’ve gathered, St. Patrick was an Englishman who was kidnapped and enslaved and taken to Ireland as a slave. He escaped from Ireland and he went back to England and he studied the Christian religion and he had a vision that told him that he should go back to Ireland and Christianize the people in Ireland.

So according to the myth, first he went back to Ireland and he killed all the poisonous snakes in Ireland and then he Christianized all the Irish people in Ireland. But according to the way the story is told and the way that it is written, he was a Catholic priest, a proselyte—is that the right word? I don’t know how to pronounce it properly but a zealot missionary who would go out and convert people. And he went to Ireland and he converted the people of Ireland to Christianity and he became the patron saint of Ireland and the Shamrock (which I explained to you before) became the national symbol of Ireland because he used the Shamrock to explain the trinity, the principle of trinity from the Christian doctrine: The principle of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, which is the foundation base of the Christian principle of trinity, which is where that came from.

H. Fergus: Ok. Essentially yes. I think he had a stint in Scotland too. I think he was associated with Scotland. And one of the remarkable things about him—he was highly evangelical. Although Roman Catholic, he was highly evangelical in terms of converting people and so on. And some people even contend that he actually baptized people. Any other comments? Feel free. Yes, it’s open to everybody.

Audience Member: I’ll just make my contribution. I arrived here for the very first time this morning. One slight point there: St. Patrick was Welsh, not English—which actually richens the mix, I think. But, it’s my first time here and I’m trying to make sense of all this. And I realize that probably the only other English people here this evening are the governor and his wife. I’d be very interested to hear the governor’s comments on the marvelous lecture we’ve just heard. (laughter)

H. Fergus: You’re free to refuse but it’s okay.

A. Longrigg: I just want to make one comment, a small comment to begin with when I think Mr. Browne suggested that he was trying to become more like a diplomat or a statesman. I think you should stop trying. You’re much better as you are.

I think that was a fascinating for me and provocative lecture and I think one thing that diplomacy does is beat out that type of style so everybody adopts some more rather straightforward approach.

I have a couple of comments, as you’ll probably expect on the last small section of the comment on the constitution and the current state of affairs. The first is to thoroughly support what Mr. Browne was saying about the importance of what the constitutional review commission under Sir Howard is doing which Mr. Browne as a very active member of. It’s vitally important that everybody in Montserrat contributes to this and lets people know what they think. That’s what the British government wants. That’s why it did it. And if audiences have been occasionally disappointingly small, I hope that that will change and I hope tonight’s lecture perhaps will do something towards that because it would be very disappointing if there wasn’t a real popular interest from the person on the street in this exercise.

Perhaps one small comment on the issue of colonialism and so on: What one has to remember now is that Montserrat is in a somewhat different position from the other Caribbean colonies, which is worth repeating. [They] have a far high capita GDP than the master race in the UK. Montserrat, unfortunately, doesn’t. But most of the others do. And it is very difficult to think really—well, we’ve had this discussion—of why, what the UK is now a days gets out of insisting that Montserrat remains, in your words, a colony? But I just put that as a question. I don’t think that we will ever come to an exact meeting of minds on this but there is another viewpoint.

A more interesting point I think that’s occurred to me because I don’t know that much about the history of the Caribbean—I should no more; this evening was useful—I hadn’t realized that the slaves only became Catholics at the time of emancipation. That was interesting to me why that would only happen then because I was comparing, thinking while you were talking about a society which I know far more about, which is the Russian society where they didn’t have slaves but they had serfs where—the regimes can argue about the differences but serfs were the property of the landowners the same as slaves, they were not allowed to leave, they had great restrictions on their freedom of movement and so on and that wasn’t abolished until 1867 if I remember rightly in most of Russia.

The problem there is that though they had serf rebellions in Russia as they did here, that the real problem was these serfs were not continually seething and rebellious. They were actually as Lenin and others found afterwards, a vast force for conservatism. They didn’t want anything changed. They didn’t want anything to do with these radical ideas. They were deeply religious and maybe that’s the difference: Maybe that the slaves, as it were, were more politically active, more rebellious because for most of the time, they hadn’t adopted western religion in one form or another. But I don’t know.

I would be interested in you views on that. It’s always fascinating to see the differences in the way these 19th century, 18th century arrangements—which are not the ones we like today or at all proud of wherever you come from—but to what extent they are different, to what extent they are the same? So that’s a question. The earlier ones I think you can take as comments. I don’t know whether that answers the question. I don’t want to go into in-depth commentary on the whole issue because I am certainly not knowledgeable enough to compete with Mr. Browne on many points.

H. Fergus: OK. Thanks. First of all, thanks for the plug for the Commission. The live audiences have been small but in fact, quite a number of people listen to the commission on radio. We’re getting a lot of feedback from people who are listening on the radio. Although Cheddie (he’ll allow me to all him Cheddie—knew him as a little boy going to Sunday School) they weren’t in constant rebellion, overtly, there was certainly rebellion in their hearts and their minds. And Caribbean historians have long accepted that the slaves helped to liberate themselves by their rebellion so it wasn’t constant.

And one reason why they weren’t Christians or Roman Catholics is that the Irish Catholics themselves were discriminated against in Montserrat and there had to be an emancipation of the Irish Catholics shortly before emancipation of the Africans. So the Irish Catholics themselves were to some extent an oppressed people but there was the common bond which Mr. Browne, rightly pointed out: the fact that they would make common cause because slave society was under constant siege because of the overwhelming numbers of the blacks. And therefore laws were passed, laws had to be passed and we have an excellent set of laws—of the Montserrat laws that were passed at that time to illustrate the way, the controls that were placed on the slaves.

C. Browne: Just a slight comment on the whole issue of our position vis-à-vis the other colonies and how well off they are as opposed to how not so well-off that we are: The United Nations Mandate on Decolonization places absolutely no pre-requisites on the right to self-determination—no conditionalities whatsoever. So whether we are at the bottom of the pile or the top of the pile is absolutely immaterial to the right of any people, group or organization to determine their own destiny. That’s an obvious human right and an obvious human reality. So we shouldn’t have to question what our condition is in order to pursue that right.

I think Dr. Fergus answered the other part but what I’d like to say on that is that—As I’ve said before, the African population that was brought here came here with an infused and dynamic spirit and a deep religious understanding of creativity and our creator. They came here with that. We were not Christianized; we were not made a religious people after the fact. We came here as a deeply religious people.

If I had had the time, I would show you even in that same book by Equiano. The Africans understood the Christian philosophy so well. It was because of the fact that we already a deeply religious people that we were able to assume and understand the Christian philosophy and you will find in many of the written works of the early Africans who were emancipated, they kept moaning over their inability to understand how a people who claimed to be Christians could be so ruthless and so cruel to a set of other people because they deeply understood what Christianity meant. They understood it.

So it is not that we were made a religious people when we came here. We came here as a deeply religious and understanding people and it is our spirit and our deep understanding of spirit that allowed us to continue to keep alive that need to continue our drive toward our ultimate freedom.

H. Fergus: Could we take another three comments or questions? In fact, some of the Africans who came to the Caribbean were in fact Muslims even before they came. Some worshipped Islam. Yes.

C. Lake: First of all I would like to commend Mr. Browne for a wonderful presentation. With the fleeing of Irish Catholics from Ireland to the Caribbean do you think that that helped to inspire the slaves to rise up or to rebel knowing that they are seeing a cause—They realized that here are some people being persecuted for their beliefs? Seeing that they had a cause to run away from Ireland help them to strengthen their cause to rebel and rise up?

H. Fergus: Let me take the opportunity to say that Irish people didn’t just come here. Some were sent to Barbados. In fact, they used the term they were “barbadoed,” because Barbados was a prominent name. It was a kind of punishment. One of the problems the Irish had is that they had a common religion with the French. They had a common religion of Roman Catholicism.

And because the Irish were somewhat an oppressed people too, they were accused of colluding with the French when the French came here to attack because as you know, there was an Anglo-French struggle for these territories. And therefore, they weren’t sort of trusted and there were heavy laws against them: laws to even prevent them from competing economically and so on. So that’s one of the problems they had. They were not really part of the rebellion except that they were accused (I prefer to say accused) of colluding with the French, like guiding them to strategic places in Salem and so on. Did I nearly answer you? I may have lost a bit.

C. Lake: No. The slaves realize that here are some people who inspired them to say we’re not in this struggle alone. If they have run away from their country—the Irish ran away for whatever reason—we now have a right now to rebel too.

H. Fergus: There was always a sense of struggle. As a line in one of my poems, “Freedom is quenchless place.” People don’t just submit. I mean, on the middle passage, people threw themselves overboard. People don’t want slavery; people don’t want servitude so that the condition of servitude and peonage in themselves generate struggle and rebellion. People will rebel if they are oppressed.

Another comment, question? Going…going. Gone? Okay, well I’d like to thank all of you for coming. Before we go, Mrs. Skerritt has asked to allow her to announce the results of the St. Patrick’s Day Quiz so I’m going to invite her to do that now. Let me thank Radio Montserrat for carrying the program live so that it is being shared (is it live Victor?)—For recording it for news so that the salient and salacious elements will be shared with the population on the news. Thank you very much for coming and being a good audience. Thank you. HE thanks.

C. Skerritt: Good evening. I too would like to thank Cheddie for his continuous inspiring presentations. It often gives me food for thought, things that we’ve never thought of he always bring to fore. So thanks, Cheddie.

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