Island Life on St Helena; A Portrait of Saints

Arriving on the remote South Atlantic island of St Helena, and walking down the main street of capital Jamestown, it’s obvious the place is a bit special. Everybody smiles, greets one another, and makes every visitor feel equally welcome; known affectionately as “Saints“, they are a friendly bunch.

Zulu princess on the remote South Atlantic island of St Helena  on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-111 zulu_princess

St Helena’s Zulu princess

The next day taking a driving tour of the island, courtesy on the road was even more telling. Drivers constantly stopped, and pulled over allowing oncoming traffic to pass. This level of cooperation is uncommon in my experience, every driver displaying remarkable courtesy to other road users, and was charming to witness.

Tour guide in Jamestown, capital of St Helena in the South Atlantic  on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-30 basil

Basil; tour guide, historian, character

It feels like a village community, a genuine sense of close-knit attitude. Chatting with any of the islanders, it soon becomes clear they seem to know everybody, regardless of where they live on the island, the furthest neighbours, the most remote residents are aware of each other’s business. It’s not merely gossip either, they genuinely seem interested in the welfare of their fellow Saints.

Two residents of St Helena at Princes Lodge in the South Atlantic on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-357 sthelena

Two wise men at Princes Lodge

Curator at Princes House  on remote  island of St Helena in the South Atlantic on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-27 princes_house

Curating history & culture at Princes Lodge

There is also an obvious pride in this community spirit, and whether young or old there seems an extensive knowledge of their history. This awareness isn’t restricted to tour guide drivers, who should be knowledgeable, but every islander has a wealth of anecdotes to share. Open a bottle of wine, or share a beer, and they’re more than happy to educate a willing visitor about their history.

Two residents of St Helena near Jacob's Ladder in the South Atlantic on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-113 sthelena

Industrious Saints

St Helena's Participation in Enterprise (SHAPE) ladies on the remote South Atlantic island on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-121 SHAPE

Surprising the ladies of SHAPE

This community spirit even extends to the RMS St Helena, the cargo/passenger ship is the island’s only physical link to the outside world. Manned by Saints, the officers, are also keen to tell stories about the island. Although many have been away for sometime, they are up to date with all the gossip, know all the residents, and obviously keep in touch with the comings, and goings of island life.

Tour guide driver on the South Atlantic British overseas territory of St Helena on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-131 tour_guide

Enjoying the scenery

Fishing boat skipper on St Helena in the South Atlantic on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-71 boat_skipper

Boat skipper Anthony with my catch

Many Saints have moved away from St Helena, working on The Falklands, Ascension, in Cape Town, or the United Kingdom, but even those far removed keep in touch. Islanders are equally interested in what their travelling brethren are doing in the far flung corners of the planet. This village attitude is part of the appeal, and is one reason so many saints are eager to return, and settle once they’ve saved enough to buy land, and build a home.

St Helena's Participation in Enterprise (SHAPE) on the remote South Atlantic island on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-91 SHAPE

Men of SHAPE

The close-knit community also seems proud, and supportive of St Helena’s Participation in Enterprise (SHAPE).  This non-profit project aids vulnerable adults, providing training towards employment, and aims to look past disabilities. Participants produce a variety of items, often recycling waste products in creative ways, making decorative items for resale.

St Helena's Participation in Enterprise (SHAPE) on the remote South Atlantic island on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-10 SHAPE

Eyes that smile

The demand for these products is high, outstripping production, and although they are popular with tourists as souvenirs, they also decorate many Saint homes. It’s just one example of how the community rallies together, helping one another when any of the residents are in need. It’s difficult to imagine any saint turning their back on one of their own.

Retired Saint on the remote island of St Helena in the South Atlantic on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-161 retired_saint

Enjoying retirement

Saint on the remote island of St Helena in the South Atlantic on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-151 saint

Just hanging

I participated in an evening sponsored walk to raise funds to keep a community radio station running. The turn-out wasn’t huge, but it was substantial, and the passion displayed by all the participants in keeping the ‘voice’ of the island going was inspiring. The station is obviously popular, apparently the first port of call for any Saint wanting to know what was happening on their island.

A Saint descends Jacob's Ladder on the remote island of St Helena in the South Atlantic on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-114 jacobs_ladder

Basil demonstrating how Saints descend Jacob’s Ladder

This is the character of St Helena,  a close-knit village community that make it a special destination. The remoteness of the island has produced this culture of welcome, the friendly island village inhabited by Saints. They also seem to know how to party, so maybe they can also probably be sinners.

Tour guide at Lot's Wife Pond on the remote South Atlantic island of St Helena on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-171 lots_wife_pond

Tour guide Aaron at Lot’s Wife Pond

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