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Terms used

Remember that the progress of the world depends on your knowing better than your elders.
George Bernard Shaw

Here are some terms used on St Helena or within Saint Helena Island Info that we thought might benefit from further explanation




The following are presented in broadly alphabetic order.

Below: 1962 and 1991 films • Archives • Arrack • Bank of St Helena • Battle of Waterloo • Chapel Valley • Connect Saint Helena Ltd. • DFID • Exclusion Order • ‘ex-pat’ • Flux • Interloper • Legal Tender • Lighters and Tenders • Ordinances • Planters • ‘Pub’/bar/club • Punch House • QSL • ‘The Records’ • Scurvy • S.H.A.P.E. • S.P.C.A. • Solomon & Company • ‘Swindolena’ or ‘Swindhelena’ • ‘Town’ • Tungi • Union Castle Line • WA Thorpe & Sons • Windshear

Other terms, e.g. Executive Council and Legislative Council are defined in the relevant pages. Then there are the many interesting words and phrases when you are speaking Saint

The 1962 and 1991 films

1962 film title

At the end of 1961 a Film Unit arrived to document the island of St Helena and its life and culture; the first time this had been attempted. Formally entitled ‘Island of Saint Helena’, the half hour film featured our history and physical features (of course) but also Fishing, The Flax Industry (then still fully functioning), our Friendly Societies and their marches and the extensive use of donkeys for transport. The Film Unit consisted of Charles Frater, Bob Johnston and Esdon Frost. In addition to the film, they also collected many sound recordings and photographic stills, a good number of which feature (with permission) on Saint Helena Island Info. Jean Johnston also kept a diary of the visit, highlights of which can be seen on our Memories of St Helena page. It is usually known simply as ‘The 1962 Film’ because of the date of its release. The full film is available on YouTube™: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YngeIbFUEVw{1}.

1991 film title

Changes since 1962

Click here to hear this audio file

Click To listen

30 years later in 1991 Charles & Julia Frater came back to the island and made another half hour film called ‘Saint Helena, South Atlantic Ocean’ (‘The 1991 Film’), stills from which also feature (with permission) on Saint Helena Island Info. New features of this film included second RMS St Helena, the beginnings of the move from counter-based shops to supermarkets, the new focus on our Endemic Species, the possibility that St Helena might soon have an airport (it actually took another 25 years), modern communications including the Satellite Link and, of course, Radio St Helena, which was then 24 years old having started six years after the 1962 Film was completed. The full film is available on YouTube™ www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NR-kkFRUgg{1}. You can hear Charles Frater, interviewed by Tony Leo on Radio St Helena in May 1991, talking about the differences in the island since his first visit (right).

The Archives

Established in 1962, the Archives is where the Records are kept.

The Archives can be accessed:

in person

The office is located in The Castle; enter through the main gate and seek a door on your left. There are full-time staff available to help with enquiries.

by email

Contact Karen Henry: Karen.Henry@sainthelena.gov.sh or archives@sainthelena.gov.sh.

by telephone

(+290) 22470 and ask for ‘Archives’ (8:30am-4pm GMT, Mon-Fri)

The Archives charges a small fee to non-Saints for researching subjects. In 2018 the non-resident fee was £40 for the first 7 hours and £20/hour thereafter. Discuss with them the expected fee and how to make payment. Since April 2018 there is also a fee of £1 charged to everybody for photographing documents (for which you must bring your own camera, and operate it yourself).

Read more on the Government of St Helena website: www.sainthelena.gov.sh/about-us/archives.

Some of the shelves
Some of the shelves{a}

Door plaque
Door plaque



Arrack was a locally-brewed spirit distilled from potatoes that is mentioned often in the Records. Its origins are in South and Southeast Asia, where it is made from either the fermented sap of coconut flowers, sugarcane, grain or fruit, depending upon the country of origin. Since it became economic to import spirits from overseas its production seems to have been discontinued.

Arrack was often sold in Punch Houses. Arrack and other alcoholic drinks were elements in several rebellions.

Bank of St Helena

BoSH Logo

Bank of St Helena (BoSH) is the only bank on St Helena. 100% owned by the Government of St Helena it has its main banking office in Market Street, Jamestown, just opposite The Market, though it does operate a sub-office at the Jamestown Wharf on selected days. It can provide visitors with cash advances on most common credit cards, for which a fee is charged. For more about Bank of St Helena and its services and fees see its website.

The bank started operation on 1st April 2004, replacing the Government Savings Bank (earlier known simply as the Savings Bank), a department of the Government of St Helena which offered deposit accounts and limited loans for house purchases but few other banking services{2}. At the bank’s opening the then General Manager, Richard Winch, said Nowhere else in the world would you get interest rates on a savings account of 4%. Not only are the customers of the Bank of St Helena receiving a very high return on their accounts, but also they get it tax free. Sadly today rates are very much lower and tax is now deducted by the Government of St Helena!

The Battle of Waterloo

Battle of Waterloo
‘Battle of Waterloo’ by William Sadler

Although not strictly a St Helena event its importance to the island is immense so we’ve included it here.

The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18th June 1815 near Waterloo in Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. The French army commanded by Napoleon was defeated by two of the armies of the Seventh Coalition: a British-led allied army under the Duke of Wellington, and a Prussian army under Field Marshal Blücher. The battle marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars. There were around 45,300 casualties from a strength of 191,000 (24%).

Following the battle, Napoleon returned to France, but found he no longer had the support of the French people. He abdicated and fled Paris, planning to escape to America but actually surrendering to the British on 15th July 1815. He was exiled to St Helena.

More on the Wikipedia.

Chapel Valley

The Chapel
The Chapel{b}

Chapel Valley is the original name for what we now know as James Valley, in which Jamestown is situated.

The Portuguese discoverers of St Helena built a Chapel in the valley, probably fairly close to where St. James’ Church now stands, though no remains have ever been found. The name of the valley was changed after colonisation by the English in 1659 when Jamestown was given its current name.

Connect Saint Helena Ltd.

Connect Saint Helena Ltd. logo

In 2013 the Government of St Helena ‘divested’ responsibility for the island’s electricity supply & distribution, water supply & distribution and waste water collection & disposal to a limited company 100% owned by the Government of St Helena - Connect Saint Helena Ltd.

To ‘connect with’ Connect Saint Helena go to www.connectsainthelena.com.


DFID logo

Although the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (‘FCO’) formally manages St Helena on behalf of The Crown/HM Government, the island requires an annual financial grant to keep it solvent. This is paid by the UK Department for International Development (‘DFID’).

Periodically a team from DFID arrives to discuss with the Government of St Helena how much funding support the island needs. An agreement to this is then signed. Theoretically this is done before the start of the financial year (1st April) but not always so - in 2018, for example, no figure was announced until August.

Exclusion Order

An Exclusion Order permanently (unless the Order is revoked) prohibits the person from entering the Territory of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. Since the 2009 Constitution an Exclusion Order cannot be issued by the Governor alone - it must be issued by the Governor-in-Council (i.e. with the agreement of Executive Council).

However an Exclusion can still be made by the Governor alone under the Emergency Powers Ordinance, 1978{3}.


Short for ex-patriate, meaning anyone who is living away from their homeland. On St Helena this usually refers to the people brought here by the Government of St Helena to help run the Government (and their families), though recently during the airport construction the term was also applied to the South African managers (and their families) brought here by Basil Read.

Some ex-pats actively engage in St Helena society and make Saint friends during their stay here; others stay apart, socialising only with other ex-pats, rather like the Colonialists of the 19th Century. When the latter return home it’s hard to imagine that they can relate real experiences of St Helena’s rich culture.

When an ex-pat decides to settle on St Helena, obtains Saint Status, buys a home and becomes part of the community{4} officially they are no longer ex-pats, though to some Saints they may remain one always.

The (Bloody) Flux

The (Bloody) Flux is known these days as Dysentery. With modern medicine it is entirely treatable but until the 19th Century it was commonly fatal.


In the days of The East India Company only ships owned by the Company were allowed to trade with St Helena. Any others that attempted trade were described as an ‘Interloper’. Governors did sometimes permit Interlopers to trade, but in doing so they risked punishment from London.

The term ‘privateer’ was also used to describe both the ships and the men that captained them.

Legal Tender

In layman’s terms, if notes/coins are Legal Tender this means that these MUST be accepted in payment of a bill or debt. Other notes and coins CAN be accepted, but the other party is under no obligation to do so. So a retailer can choose to accept a UK, American, South African or European banknote, but they are obliged to accept a St Helena one.

To complicate matters further, there are legal restrictions on how many of a particular coin you can use at one time. Paying a £500 bill in 1p pieces may sound like fun but it isn’t actually legal and the recipient is not obliged to accept it.

Legal Tender must not be confused with ‘a Tender’, which is a boat.

Most businesses on St Helena will accept foreign currency for payment, but usually only Flag of The United KingdomSterling, Flag of The United States of AmericaUS Dollars, Flag of The European UnionEuro and Flag of South AfricaSouth African Rand (these currencies are not Legal Tender). Sterling is accepted at par (i.e. 1:1) with St Helena Pounds; the rates at which the other currencies are accepted will be based on (but not necessarily the same as) those published weekly by our local bank. These may differ from rates advertised on websites and from other sources.

Note also that you may see signs in shops for the ‘Bank of St Helena Debit Card Scheme’. Sadly this is a purely local scheme - you cannot use it with overseas credit and debit cards.

Lighters and Tenders

These are sea-craft used for transporting goods (‘lighters’) or people (‘tenders’) between anchored ships and the wharf.

NB: ‘Legal Tender’ is not a lawful people-boat, it has a different meaning.

RMS St Helena with lighters tenders
RMS St Helena with lighters & tenders



The laws on St Helena are called ‘Ordinances’. The term should not be confused with ‘Ordnance’ - military weaponry and munitions, or with religious terminology. Its origins may be the Ordinances issued by Cromwell’s Parliament of England, which was operating at the time St Helena was first settled.

Prior to its approval by Legislative Council an Ordinance is referred to as a ‘Bill’. An Ordinance only becomes law when signed by The Governor and the Public Seal attached.

You can download and read our Laws

Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.
Henry David Thoreau


‘Planters’ is the original term for the Settlers, from 1659 onwards and still in use in the 19th Century. When slaves were emancipated they were given the status of Planters (but no financial means to acquire any land to plant).


Bar image

Various texts on this site refer to St Helena as having ‘Pubs’, i.e. ‘Public Houses’, a traditional British institution. It is not clear whether St Helena ever had any traditional British ‘Pubs’, but it certainly doesn’t today.

Some of the longer-standing drinking places on St Helena are better described as ‘Bars’ - they are purely places to drink, with friends or alone. They do not provide food, other than bar-snacks; do not offer anything suitable for families with children; and (it must be said) have a basically functional ambience. Fortunately, in recent years more extensive businesses have begun to emerge which combine a bar with a restaurant, nightclub and in some cases a family area. Most bars, including the more basic ones, provide music on a Saturday night (see Where To Stay: Jamestown).

Establishments are sometimes described as ‘clubs’ but as none actually has a membership the term is actually synonymous with ‘bar’.

Because St Helena’s smoking legislation prohibits smoking in public buildings (which includes bars), the majority of clients take their drink outside so that they can accompany it with a cigarette. This is techically illegal (drinking in the street is prohibited by the Liquor Ordinance, 1988) but in this case the law does not seem to be enforced.

Some Community Centres also have a bar, but this is only allowed to be opened when the Centre is open for a function (including private hire).

For historical drinking establishments see also Punch House and Arrack.

Punch House

A Punch House was a very basic form of tavern, frequented by those with the lowest incomes. Arrack was served. Prostitutes were available. At one time most of the buildings in lower Jamestown were Punch Houses.

QSL (Card)


When radio amateurs make contact with each other over the air it is conventional to exchange QSL Cards. These confirm the contact and the specifics: time, signal quality; etc. Radio amateurs collect these and often paste them to the walls of their radio room.

When Radio St Helena used to broadcast annually on Short Wave those receiving the broadcast also used to write in to the station reporting reception, and QSL Cards were mailed out in response.

Even in the current Internet-era, the physical exchange of QSL Cards is still the norm, though electronic exchanges are beginning to be used.

‘The Records’

The St Helena Records is a collection of documents dating back to the earliest days of St Helena, held in the Archives.

From the records and other sources we have compiled an events database, which drives our events-based pages (e.g. On This Day and In This Week). You can search this database on our Chronology page.


Scurvy is a disease caused by a diet deficient in Vitamin C, and can be fatal. It was suffered by early mariners whose foodstuffs aboard ship for long sea voyages did not feature fresh fruit or vegetables. In its early history St Helena had so many lemon trees sailors suffering from Scurvy were dropped off here to recover (amusingly, nowadays we import all of our fruit from South Africa).



St Helena Active Participation in Enterprise, a local social enterprise providing work and training for the disabled, operating from the former school in Sandy Bay.



S.P.C.A. stands for ‘Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’. It was originally a branch of the UK RSPCA, but is no longer affiliated. It provides some quasi-veterinary support for non-agricultural animals and their owners, including taking into care animals that are not being properly looked after (though it has no statutory powers).

Solomon & Company

Solomon & Company Logo

Solomon & Company (St Helena) PLC is a UK-registered public limited company. Around 65% of the shares are held by the Government of St Helena - the rest are in private hands. Usually known simply as ‘Solomons’ it was started by Saul Solomon. It has many business interests including retail and farming and is the second-largest employer on St Helena, after the Government of St Helena.


‘Swindolena’ or ‘Swindhelena’

Many of the Saints who reside in the UK live in or around the town of Swindon in Wiltshire. There is nothing particularly St Helenian about Swindon - it isn’t small and it isn’t anywhere near the sea - and our guess is that employment might have been the original reason; Swindon used to be a major industrial town and the Great Western Railway had works there.

The term ‘Swindolena’ or ‘Swindhelena’ is not just used by Saints:

Article: St Helena expats from ‘Swindolena’ to gather for sports day this weekend

By Daniel Angelini, Swindon Advertiser, 24th August 2018{5}

DID you know that Swindon is known as ‘Swindolena’ to St Helena expats?

St Helena
St Helena

The town is known to residents of the remote island by this nickname because of its large community of expats, known as Saints, from that island.

St Helena, located in the South Atlantic, is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world and its current population is around 4,300 people.

The UK’s largest gathering of St Helena expats takes place over this Bank Holiday weekend on Saturday and Sunday in Reading this weekend.

Saints from across the country will gather at Reading Abbey Rugby Football Club for a weekend of fun activities at the annual St Helena Sport Day.

The event has been taking place in Reading for nearly 40 years and is organised by the charitable St Helena Association.

To find out more, visit sthelenasportsday.com{6}.


‘Town’ means Jamestown, so goin’ to Town means a trip to the nation’s capital. Although Jamestown is smaller than the average British village, it is the only place worthy of the name ‘town’, and it does have ‘town’ in its name.

Actually, Jamestown is legally a City. Its charter was granted by Queen Victoria on 6th June 1859.


Tungi spirit bottle

Tungi flowering

Pronounced Toon-jee this is the local name for a species of Prickly Pear. Tungi bushes grow wild around the hotter and dryer parts of the island, such as Half Tree Hollow. The Tungi fruits can be eaten but avoiding eating the fine spines makes doing so impractical. The fruits are distilled into a local spirit by the St Helena Distillery in Alarm Forest and sold in a distinctive Jacob’s Ladder bottle (right).

The Union Castle Line

Union Castle poster

The Union Castle Line provided the regular shipping service for St Helena from the 19th Century until 1977, when it closed its Southampton-Cape Town service.

Amusingly, the Union Castle Line ships were painted with black and red funnels and a lavender-coloured hull, as a consequence of which the company was affectionately known as the ‘Lavender Hull Mob’.

WA Thorpe & Sons

WA Thorpe & Sons

WA Thorpe & Sons Limited is a St Helena-registered limited company owned by the Thorpe family. Usually known simply as ‘Thorpes’ it was started by William Alexander Thorpe. It has many business interests including retail and farming.



Windshear is a phenomenon encountered at some airports which can make it difficult to land an aircraft. The following explanation is in laymen’s terms - for a more technical one see the Wikipedia.

Put simply, aircraft fly because of the air flowing over and under their wings. They are easiest to fly when the airflow is fairly steady. Turbulence, familiar to any air traveller, is caused by an unsteady air flow past the wings. When turbulence is encountered near the ground, normally on landing but sometimes also on take-off, it is referred to as Windshear.

Windshear diagram from Wikipedia
Windshear diagram from Wikipedia

The effect of Windshear on an aircraft coming into land or taking off could be that the aircraft loses height unexpectedly - uncomfortable in mid-air but potentially dangerous when already close to the ground. Different types of aircraft cope better with Windshear than others.

At St Helena airport the Windshear was found to occur at the Northern end of the runway. A Boeing 737-800 - the aircraft the airport was designed to handle - would need the entire runway length to safely take off and land, and the Boeing 737-800 is known to be sensitive to Windshear. If you watch closely the video of the test flight landing you can see the aircraft wobble as it is preparing to touch down. This was it being affected by the Windshear.

Two solutions to Windshear exist. One is to remove the cause - in this case wind eddies around King & Queen Rocks, which overlook the runway. This would have been a major, and therefore costly, operation and would have radically altered the island as well as destroying historic sites. The alternative was to use a smaller aircraft that did not need the full runway length, ideally also one that would be less sensitive to Windshear if it was encountered. This was the approach adopted.

Sadly the smaller aircraft carries only around 90 passengers (as opposed to the 200+ carried by the Boeing 737-800), so with only one weekly flight planned this dramatically reduced potential tourist numbers and also increased flight costs. An alternative solution is still being sought.

Read more on our Building St Helena Airport page.


My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe; why it is as it is and why it exists at all.
Stephen Hawking























{a} St Helena Travel on Facebook™{b} From ‘Insula d. Helenæ’ by Theodore de Bry, 1601 Copyright © The Hebrew University of Jerusalem & The Jewish National & University Library{5}

{1} Please first read this warning.{2} Rather as did Building Societies in the UK prior to the changes made in the 1980s.{3} Which gives the Governor almost unlimited power in the event of events of such a nature as to be calculated, by interfering with the supply and distribution of food, water, fuel or light, or with the means of locomotion to, from or within St Helena, to deprive the community, or any substantial portion of the community, of the essentials of life.{4} As did the editor of this website and his family in 2005.{5} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged.{6} Or our Reading Sports page.

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