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Island People

The people of, and related to, our island

I judge people by what they might be, not are, nor will be.{a}

This is a subset of our Island Information pages which covers items related to St Helena people

If there is something about St Helena’s people that we have not covered please contact us and we’ll try to add it in.

History, they say, is not about events; it’s about people…{b}

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The Art of Biography is different from Geography. Geography is about Maps, but Biography is about Chaps.{b}

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Below: Article: Family lifeFilms by Green Renaissance

Article: Family life

From the 2002 Master’s thesis in Human Geography, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands, by Maarten Hogenstijn and Daniël van Middelkoop, Page 63{1}

St Helena people

The family is what holds Saint Helenian society together. Relatives help each other with odd jobs or goods all the time, and the flow of remittances is through family relations. Family is a favourite topic of conversation and an important source of identity. What family you are from determines to a large extent what place you will occupy in society. It is the first source of identification, as French Consul Michel Dancoisne-Martineau stresses: You will hear that if you ask someone who is he or who is she, they will always classify the person by which family he or she belongs to. The first son of, you know. Or, he belongs to this branch. I mean just ask around, who is that, and they will tell family. The individual identity only comes through that. It never works from friendship. They will never tell he is a friend of.

The importance of family life is stressed in many ways. Many people spend Sundays with family. If you go out on Saint Helena, it will often be with the whole family. At Donny’s Club for example, there is always a children’s disco before the adult disco starts on Friday or Saturday nights. A ‘Family day out’ is often organised. Families go out picnicking on Horse Pasture or at Lemon Valley in weekends. As an outsider, you are very lucky to get invited to such occasions. Bishop John comments: I am lucky, because at Christmas I get invited to family celebrations and it’s not just mother-father-children, but it is more what I would call an extended family. It’s far more close-knit here that it would be say in the UK, where the nucleus tends to be just father, mother children. Whereas here, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters all tend to live in the same area.A comment that is often heard informally is that everyone is related to everyone else. This is especially true in outlying districts like Blue Hill or Levelwood, where people tended to marry within their districts. But even in total the number of families on the island is not that great. The phone book listed 153 different family names. But six family names together accounted for a third of the total number of entries.

Films by Green Renaissance

In 2018 a team from Green Renaissance made a number of short films about St Helena, but instead of focussing on the scenery and sights, they focussed on the people. The films make fascinating viewing and you might say they feature modern-day local characters. You can view them on the Green Renaissance website.


{a} Robert Browning, in ‘The Speed of Darkness’ (1968){b} Anon


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