Most members of Probus, having been recipients of the cold virus which circulated over the Christmas period in many parts of England, were pleased to come together for the first meeting in 2015, and even more so as the speaker was Sarah Buttenshaw.
Once again Sarah retained the interest of the group through her commentary and digital presentation, and this time of a holiday she spent in St Helena and the Ascension Isle earlier last year. Members were told her interest began through her stamp collecting as a young person and how St Helena captured her imagination.
It is situated south of the Equator in a volcanic area and was discovered by Portuguese sailors in 1502 who, on knowing they would need food to survive, introduced goats on to the island which after some years proved disastrous to the natural species of plants and creatures.
Access is as yet only possible by way of ships and in particular the Mail Ship which arrives every six weeks with provisions for the 6000 inhabitants but it also has some space for paying passengers to visit the island.
In the early 19th Century the Suez Canal opened and this had quite a dramatic affect on the number of ships that docked at the harbour at St James, the main town.
After many debates in recent years it was decided an airport should be built in the most suitable place on the island and is expected to open in 2016.
Due to the lack of excess of amenities, and the difficult terrain, Sarah felt St Helena could not become a thriving tourist destination. Young people find it necessary to leave the island travelling to Cape Town or Britain to find work.
St Helena had notable visitors such as Captain Cook, Darwin, and Edmond Halley who studied the planets in the 19th Century. Perhaps most notable of all was Napoleon who, having escaped from the Isle of Elba, lived with his entourage on St Helena for six years and died there in 1821.
Companies such as the East India Company and also the British Military had a certain amount of influence in the development of the island, and this is evident through buildings such as churches, the Court House, post office, schools, hospital, Government House and the Army Barracks where Terry, one of the Probus members had been stationed during the 1980’s.
Sarah continued her presentation with a visit to the Ascension Isle with its towering Green Mountain, arid landscape and where the Royal Navy was based. Eventually, through the expertise of cable and wireless, a communication station was set up and then the BBC also acquired an area of land from which to broadcast.
What is more attractive about the Ascension Isle is its lovely beaches, although the currents can be quite dangerous. Conservation is encouraged and there is a certain amount of pride in the number of Sooty Terns which breed on the Isle.
Yes, it was a good start to the Probus Programme for 2015 – questions and comments from members. bore testament to that.
Please contact Betty Guy, publicity secretary, if you wish to know more about the Probus Club – tel: 01985 218441.