blank [Saint Helena Island Info:Exiles]

Exiles

Not all our visitors wanted to be here!

blank [Saint Helena Island Info:Exiles]

I’m a lover of my own liberty, and so I would do nothing to restrict yours.
Mohandas Gandhi

St Helena has had some visitors who were not at all pleased to be here…

This page is in indexes: Island History, Island People, Island Detail

Below: Fernão Lopez (c.1516-1545)Napoleon Bonaparte (1815-1821)Dinizulu kaCetshwayo (1890-1897)Boer Prisoners (1900-1902)Zulu Poll Tax Prisoners (1907-1910)Sayyid Khalid bin Barghash Al-Busaid (1917-1921)Bahraini Prisoners (1957-1961)Read More

St Helena’s role as a prison island started a long time before Napoleon. Portuguese Nobleman Fernão Lopez became a voluntary exile here as early as 1515, and thus started a long line of famous exiles. Their stories are summarised below. And maybe St Helena’s role as a prison isn’t over, at least according to the writer of the article, below.

Fernão Lopez (c.1516-1545)

Fernão Lopez had been mutilated by order of the Governor of Goa for ‘treason and apostasy’, having sided with besieging Muslims against the Portuguese rulers. On the journey back to Lisbon in 1516{1} the ship called at St Helena to take on water and Lopez opted for being marooned here, instead of returning to Portugal in his maimed condition, by the simple expedient of hiding until the ship carrying him was forced to depart without him, leaving him only some food and clothing.

A second ship called, about a year later, and found evidence of his presence, but Lopez himself remained hidden for fear of being captured and returned to Portugal. The following is from a contemporary account from this ship:

Lopez on a postage stamp [Saint Helena Island Info:Exiles]

The crew was amazed when they saw the grotto and the straw bed on which he slept…and when they saw the clothing they agreed it must be a Portuguese man. So they took in their water and did not meddle with anything, but left biscuits and cheeses and things to eat and a letter telling him not to hide himself the next time a ship came to the Rooster{2} for no one would harm him. Then the ship set off, and as she was spreading her sails a cockerel fell overboard and the waves carried it to the shore and Lopes caught it and fed it with some rice which they had left behind for him.

Some say the cockerel became his only friend{3}. During the night it roosted above his head and during the day it followed behind him, and would come if he called to it.

As time went on, Lopes began to be less and less afraid of people. When a ship laid anchor in what would later be known as James Bay, Lopes would greet the sailors, talking to them as they came ashore. Lopes began to be considered something of a saint, because of his deformities and the fact that he would not leave St Helena for any reason. Many people thought him to be the embodiment of human suffering and alienation, and they took pity on him. The travelers who stopped at the island gave Lopes many things, including livestock and seeds. Eventually, Lopes became a gardener and a keeper of livestock, working the soil, planting fruit trees, grasses and many other forms of vegetation.

He eventually took passage to Lisbon, and thence Rome, for Easter 1530, where he was publicly absolved of his crimes by Pope Clement VII, but within a few years he chose to return here, where he remained until he died in 1546, aged around 70 years, after another period of almost complete solitude. His body was buried by the crew of a passing Portuguese ship but no record exists of its location.

‘St Helena: A Physical, Historical and Topographical Description of the Island, including the Geology, Fauna, Flora and Meteorology’, by John Melliss, published in 1875. refers to Lopez as the “first Governor of St Helena”.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1815-1821)

Napoleon Bonaparte [Saint Helena Island Info:Exiles]

In 1815 the British government selected St Helena as the place of detention of Napoleon Bonaparte{4}.

The influence of this decision on St Helena, both then and since, was so great that his exile here is discussed on a separate page.

Napoleon’s landing [Saint Helena Island Info:Exiles]
19th Century illustration of Napoleon’s landing

Dinizulu kaCetshwayo (1890-1897)

Dinizulu before capture [Saint Helena Island Info:Exiles]
Dinizulu before capture

Dinizulu was a prince during the Zulu civil war of 1883-1884.

After the annexation of Zululand in 1887 Dinizulu was implicated in the Zulu rising against the British in 1888. The campaign against and search for him was led by the then Captain Baden-Powell. Dinizulu however escaped with his followers across the frontier into the Transvaal Republic. Realising that further resistance was futile a few days later he returned to Zululand and surrendered peacefully to British authorities. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment to be served on St Helena.

Dinizulu in 1908 [Saint Helena Island Info:Exiles]
Dinizulu in 1908

Thirteen Zulu prisoners arrived at Jamestown on 25th February 1890: Dinizulu, his two uncles, Ndabuku and Tshingana, Mr Saunders, their guardian and interpreter, Mr. Anthony Daniels his assistant, two male and two female attendants for Dinizulu, a wife and male attendant for Ndabuku, and the same for Tshingana.

They were accommodated for the first three years at Rosemary Hall in St Paul’s. In 1893 they were moved to Maldivia in upper Jamestown, and in 1895, Dinizulu himself and his immediate family were moved to Francis Plain House in St Paul’s (in what is now the Prince Andrew School Staff Room), leaving his uncles at Maldivia. In a letter home he wrote:

We are contented, as we are allowed to go wherever we like. We live in a very large and very nice house. It is cool and away from the mass of people. The house is situated on a hill and we live alone. We see the Governor of St Helena very often. He is very nice and visits us frequently. This is a very large place. We were wrongly informed when we were told we were going to live on a small rock.

The Zulu party accompanying Dinizulu and his uncles were all free to mingle with residents on the island, and Dinizulu in particular became very popular. There were three weddings between members of the party and local women who subsequently returned to Zululand with their husbands and children. Dinizulu had 8 children by his Zulu wives here, two of whom died and are buried at St. Paul’s Cathedral (a person claiming to be a descendent of Dinizulu still lives on St Helena). His entourage also included six donkeys, 10 dogs, some rabbits, a piano and a harmonium.

During the time they were on the Island they gradually abandoned their Zulu culture, including adopting British dress. Dinizulu himself even learned to play the piano. A contempary record reports:

During the time they were on the island they were gradually weaned from their uncivilized and savage life, until at the time of their departure they were as much civilized and attached to civilized customs as could be expected in such a short time. This can be said especially of the young Prince, who became more refined, his gentlemanly manners and bearing promising well for the tribe over which he may hold sway.{5}

At the time of their departure they were almost British in their ways. The party, now numbering 25, finally left the island on 24th Dec 1897. Dinizulu died in the Transvaal in 1913 and was succeeded by his son Solomon who had been born on St Helena in February 1891.

Boer Prisoners (1900-1902)

Boers on Parade in Jamestown being addressed by The Governor [Saint Helena Island Info:Exiles]
Boers on Parade in Jamestown

Boers outside High Knoll Fort [Saint Helena Island Info:Exiles]
Boers outside High Knoll Fort

From April 1900 until October 1902 St Helena was ‘home’ to around five and a half thousand Boer prisoners-of-war.

Their exile here features on a separate page.

Zulu Poll Tax Prisoners (1907-1910)

The Bambatha Rebellion was the last armed resistance against white rule before the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910. The colonial authorities introduced a poll tax in addition to the existing hut tax to encourage black men to enter the labour market; Bambatha and other chiefs resisted the introduction and collection of the new tax. It is estimated that the total number of rebels that took part in the following rebellion was between 10,000 and 12,000, of whom about 2,300 were killed, Bambatha included. By mid-August 1906 twenty five chiefs who had supported the rebels had been arrested, charged and tried by Courts Martial. In early January 1907 it was decided to remove some of the prisoners from Natal, with Mauritius as the intended destination; however an outbreak of beri-beri there led to a reconsideration and in March 1907 Governor Gallwey on St Helena was asked if he would take the prisoners. He agreed.

Steamship Inyati [Saint Helena Island Info:Exiles]
Steamship Inyati

The steamship Inyati arrived from Natal on Tuesday 11th June 1907 at 7pm with 25 Zulu prisoners onboard. Included among the number were such men as Tilonko, Messeni and Ndlovu a son of inKosi Sigananda. It was immediately noted that the prisoners were in an emaciated condition and looked half-starved, some of them being hardly able to walk.

These prisoners were certainly not greeted by the islanders with the same enthusiasm afforded to the Boer prisoners seven years earlier, nor was their time on the island to be as fondly remembered locally as was the imprisonment of Dinizulu in 1890. Little seems to have been written about this period and their time on the island is barely recorded. It is known that they were housed at Ladder Hill Barracks and were assigned to hard labour - working on the roads or breaking stone at the Briars, though their “very liberal diet”, tobacco allowance, social care and short working day (9am-12.45pm and 2pm-4.45pm) must have been envied by many islanders during those hard years of economic depression.

Prisoners working on Sidepath, 1907 [Saint Helena Island Info:Exiles]
Prisoners working on Sidepath, 1907

Their working conditions are also of interest:

Prisoners are not to be sent out to work during heavy rain, and in cases of threatening weather they should be detailed for work not far from the prison. If rain sets in and looks like continuing after a working party has commenced work, the Warder in charge must use his own discretion (provided no shelter is available) as to marching the prisoners back to the prison or not.

Despite the Zulu reputation for physical fitness, many of the men were, in fact, medically unfit for work. Several arrived suffering from tuberculosis and heart disease, so that even the best efforts of the medical officers could not save their lives. Towards the end of 1910 only eighteen of the original twenty five prisoners survived (the graves of the others are not in the burial register and cannot now be found). They were granted parole as part of the general amnesty that was granted to about 4,500 prisoners during the formation of the Union of South Africa.

At their departure two of the prisoners were carried to the ship on stretchers because they were so seriously ill. John Dube, founder of the Zulu-English newspaper Ilanga lase Natal, remarked that the prisoners looked very wasted although they had only served three years of their prison sentences. Most of them looked very old and could not even be recognized. In fact, he observed, they no longer looked like chiefs at all, but more like commoners.

Sayyid Khalid bin Barghash Al-Busaid (1917-1921)

Sayyid Khalid bin Barghash Al-Busaid [Saint Helena Island Info:Exiles]
Sayyid Khalid bin Barghash Al-Busaid

Sayyid Khalid bin Barghash Al-Busaid briefly ruled Zanzibar from August 25th to August 27th 1896, seizing power after the sudden death of his cousin Hamad bin Thuwaini who many suspect was poisoned by Khalid.

Britain refused to recognize his claim to the throne, preferring as Sultan Hamud bin Muhammed who was more favourable to British interests. In accordance with a treaty signed in 1886 a condition for accession to the sultanate was that the candidate obtain the permission of the British consul and Khalid had not fulfilled this requirement so the British sent an ultimatum to Khalid demanding that he surrender. He did not, barricading himself inside his heavily-fortified palace, which the British decided to take by force. Khalid managed to evade the British forces and was smuggled out of the country to German East Africa where he lived as a Sultan for 20 years. The British continued to pursue him and on 27th February 1917 Khalid was arrested in the Rufiji delta 400Km from Dar es Salaam. Four months later, on 22nd June he was escorted with his entourage to exile in St Helena.

On arrival Sayyid Khalid and his followers, seventeen of them, plus three political exiles from Kenya, were kept in military custody in the Jamestown Barracks. There is no information available on the prisoners; all newspapers and other records relating to Khalid were censored during that period. It is known that they did not mix much with the local population.

The weather conditions and the lack of Muslims on the island did not suit Khalid. He requested to be moved to his relatives in Oman or to his property in Dar es Salaam, but this request was refused. However, in January 1921 it was decided to send Sayyid and his entourage to the Seychelles, where there were already held in exile political prisoners from the Gold Coast, Uganda, Nyasaland, and Somaliland. Khalid and his entourage left St Helena at the end of April 1921 after four years on the island. He died on the 15th March 1927 in Mombasa age 53.

Bahraini Prisoners (1957-1961)

Bahraini Prisoners (Alaiwat: rear, left; Al Bakir: rear, centre; Shamlan: rear, right) [Saint Helena Island Info:Exiles]
Bahraini Prisoners (Alaiwat: rear, left; Al Bakir: rear, centre; Shamlan: rear, right)
Bahraini Prisoners’ quarters, seen in 1991 [Saint Helena Island Info:Exiles]
Bahraini Prisoners’ quarters, seen in 1991

Britain next (and, as at the time of writing{6}, finally) called on St Helena’s services as a prison island in 1957 to detain three Bahrainis.

The three, Abdali al Alaiwat, Abdulrahman al Bakir and Abdulaziz al Shamlan, had been prominent members of the National Union Committee in Bahrain and had been tried by the ruler of Bahrain for offences against the state and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment. The ruler of Bahrain (then a British protectorate) asked Britain for assistance in removing them to a British Territory and it was decided that they should be sent to St Helena.

The British Government applied the conditions of the (UK) Colonial Prisoners Removal Act 1869{7} and, after consultation with Governor Harford; and the Government of St Helena, the prisoners arrived on the island on the 27th January 1957.

The three prisoners were housed under guard at the former searchlight station at Munden’s Point, which had been specially prepared for the purpose. They were cared for by local male servants and kept very much to themselves.

In March 1959 one of the prisoners, Abdulrahman al Bakir, applied to the St Helena Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus, in which he challenged the Governor to show that the imprisonment was lawful. Since the Governor, who at that time was also the Chief Justice of St Helena, could not be expected to direct the issue of a writ against himself, Mr. Justice Brett of the Federal Supreme Court of Nigeria was appointed Chief Justice and brought to the island from Lagos with three Barristers from London and a Foreign Office Adviser. His application was based on technical matters concerning The Queen’s Jurisdiction in Bahrain, the applicability of the 1869 Act to the prisoners sentenced by a court other than a British Court, and the procedure followed by the various Governments in applying the Act. It was dismissed by the Supreme Court and his appeal to the Privy Council, which was heard in the first half of 1960, was also dismissed.

In June 1961 another of the three men, Abdulaziz al Shamlan, made a similar application. On this occasion Mr. Myles Abbott, formerly of the Nigerian Federal Supreme Court, three barristers and his solicitor came for the trial, and this time the application was successful. As the circumstances were identical in the cases of all three they were immediately released from custody and left for England by the next ship.

People still living on St Helena remember the Bahrainis exile, though they had very little interaction with them during their stay.

Read More

Below: Article: “St Helena Island Prison Camp”Article: “For Gaddafi, a home on St Helena”

Article: “St Helena Island Prison Camp

First published in the London Times 4th July 1901; reprinted in the St Helena Independent 23rd January 2009{8}

Unknown Boers [Saint Helena Island Info:Exiles]

According to the annual report from the Governor’s office on St Helena island, the presence of the Boer prisoners and of an augmented garrison has caused a great consumption of dutiable imports and customs revenue as risen to over £10,000{9}.

The Governor says that a considerable stimulus has been given to the wood-caring industry by the prisoners of war. At an Industrial Exhibition held in the island last November a room was devoted to the work of the Boers. One of the exhibits was a large model of a gold stamping mill, complete in all its details.

The Governor’s report states that on April 10, 1900, the transport Milwaukee escorted by his Majesty’s ship Niobe arrived with Cronje, Schiel, Wolmarans, and other leaders and a large number of prisoners; during the year successive transports came in with batches of Boers, till the number we have now amounts to 4600. More would have been sent but for the difficulty of providing water in suitable sports.

We have two camps, Deadwood Plain and Broad Bottom. Deadwood Plain is a high plateau adjacent to Longwood, treeless and wind-swept, but with a porous soil which dries up quickly after heavy rain. The two camps are about 8Km apart. Broad Bottom lies more in a hollow, and is, in fact, a broad shallow valley above the sea. The soil is more clayey than Deadwood and the climated more humid, but the water supply is good, and the prisoners enjoy good health.

I have had no complaints from the people of the island regarding any misconduct; a number of them have been allowed to take service with farmers and others who have made themselves responsible for their safety. The Boer hospital in Jamestown is fitted up in a perfect manner, and the patients when convalescent are loth to leave.

The owners of country produce have also benefited by the great demand for and consequent high prices of vegetables, poultry, eggs, milk, and butter; also for the hire of transport animals viz. horses and donkeys. On the other hand the island has suffered from deforestation owning to contracts for fuel being placed locally, which is a serious matter, and the roads are cut to pieces by the heavy traffic of mule wagons.

More stories [Saint Helena Island Info:Exiles]

More stories on our page Read articles about St Helena.

Article: “For Gaddafi, a home on St Helena

By William C. Goodfellow, Washington Post, 2nd June 2011{8}

In an effort to break the stalemate in Libya and avoid further bloodshed, President Obama asked Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last month to tell Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi that he will remain alive if he leaves Libya. Medvedev, in a news conference, said Russia would not take him in.

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam, who certainly belong in The Hague - but at what cost?

Obama wants to avoid a repeat of the four-month battle to dislodge Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo. Thousands of civilians were killed, at least 800,000 were forced from their homes, and that country’s financial capital and largest city, Abidjan, was laid to waste. Neither the United Nations secretary general nor the French military was able to talk Gbagbo out of his bunker. Facing the prospect of life in prison, he felt that he had no choice but to fight to the bitter end. Had they been able to offer Gbagbo a way out, the standoff might have ended months earlier. The way out would have been permanent exile.

Is it possible that the international community could send a dictator such as Gbagbo or Gaddafi somewhere and ensure that they never return? What is needed is a place so remote and well guarded that these unsavory characters could never escape.

In 1815, Europe had a similar problem. Napoleon Bonaparte was responsible for 17 years of devastating wars across Europe that took the lives of as many as 6 million people. He had escaped from his exile on the island of Elba, in the Mediterranean, and was able to raise an army of 200,000 before his final defeat at Waterloo.

To ensure that he never again returned, Britain exiled Napoleon to St Helena, a territory in the middle of the South Atlantic. One of the most remote islands on the planet, it is more than a thousand miles from the nearest land.

St Helena remains incredibly isolated, with no commercial airport (although one is planned) and just over 4,000 inhabitants, a 20 percent decline in the past decade. Blue Hill district, on the southwest part of the island, has an area of 14 square miles with only 153 inhabitants and seems like an ideal spot for what might be called a retirement village for exiled dictators.

Britain, which still owns St Helena, could lease a parcel of land to the United Nations, whose blue-helmeted guards would be in charge of security. The United Nations could erect a comfortable cottage, or perhaps a large tent, separated from the rest of the island by tall stockade fencing. Gaddafi could get snail mail (which would be read by guards, as is the case in most prisons), but there would be no Internet or phone service.

Gaddafi could bring along immediate family members: his spouse and children. Napoleon arrived on St Helena with a small cadre of supporters who were forced to sign a document committing them to remain on the island with him indefinitely. (Napoleon’s wife chose to stay in France, where she had a well-publicized affair with an Austrian count who was her escort, much to Napoleon’s dismay.)

Of course, dictators such as Gaddafi should not get a free pass. Exile to St Helena should be offered to break only the most intractable sieges. The U.N. Security Council has the authority to prevent the International Criminal Court from prosecuting a case. Justice would be better served if Gaddafi and his ilk ended up at The Hague. But the international community has an even higher obligation to protect the lives of innocent civilians and to prevent unnecessary suffering and destruction.

St Helena could work with Hotel California rules: You can check in but you can never check out. Gaddafi would be destined to die there in quiet retirement. For sure, it would be a great place for penning memoirs, and following in Napoleon’s footsteps would lend a certain cachet.

Another requirement would be total divestment of financial assets of dictators and their family members. Every offshore account and every piece of real estate in London or Dubai would be forfeited, with the money going back to the treasury of their home country. St Helena would be all-inclusive, so there would be no need to carry cash.

Gaddafi might turn out to be the only dictator to end up on St Helena. With so many worthy candidates, however, and doubtless many more to come, it is possible that St Helena could get a much-needed economic boost from new residents.

The real objective in all this would be to avoid the kind of bloodshed and devastation the world witnessed in Ivory Coast. Unfortunately, it continues in Libya.

The writer is executive director of the Center for International Policy in Washington.

More stories [Saint Helena Island Info:Exiles]

More stories on our page Read articles about St Helena.

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Laugh at funny exiles humour - LOL [Saint Helena Island Info:Exiles]


Credits:

{a} Much of the material for this page comes from here: www.napoleon.org/en/reading_room/articles/files/helena_prison_obey.asp, 17th September 2004{8}



Footnotes:

{1} Some accounts put his arrival as early as 1513.

{2} Presumably some form of rendezvous point on the shore of, what is now, James Valley.

{3} But note that, in ‘A History of the Island of St Helena’, by T. H. Brooke, Esq., published in 1808. it is said that Lopez was landed “with a few negro slaves”. Whether this is conjecture on the part of T. H. Brooke, Esq. (who could possibly survive without slaves?), or whether Lopez would have befriended a cockerel but couldn’t possibly have been friends with slaves, is not known.

{4} To read more about the events marking the Bicentenary of Napoleon’s arrival on St Helena check out our Napoleonic Bicentenary page for details.

{5} Naturally we do not endorse this patronising description of the exiles. It does, sadly, reflect the prevailing views of Europeans at that time.

{6} W/c 19th June 2017.

{7} There was some legal debate, because Bahrain was a protectorate, not a colony. It was eventually decided the act did apply.

{8} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged.

{9} 



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