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Flag Coat of arms
Anthem"God Save the Queen"
Capital Plymouth (de jure) 1
Brades (de facto)
16°45′N 62°12′W / 16.75°N 62.2°W / 16.75; -62.2
Official language(s) English
Ethnic groups  West African, Mulatto, British, Irish[1]
Government British Overseas Territory
 -  Queen Elizabeth II
 -  Governor Peter Andrew Waterworth
 -  Chief Minister Reuben Meade
British overseas territory
 -  British control established 1632 
 -  Total 102 km2 (219th)
39 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) negligible
 -  July 2006 estimate 4,655[2] (216th)
GDP (PPP) 2002 estimate
 -  Total $99 million (not ranked)
 -  Per capita $3,400 (not ranked)
HDI  n (unranked) (n/a)
Currency East Caribbean dollar (XCD)
Time zone (UTC-4)
Internet TLD .ms
Calling code +1-664
1 Abandoned in 1997 following a volcanic eruption. Government buildings are currently located in Brades, making it the de facto capital.
2 An estimated 8,000 refugees left the island following the resumption of volcanic activity in July 1995; some have returned.

Montserrat (pronounced /mɒntsəˈræt/) is a British overseas territory located in the Leeward Islands, part of the chain of islands called the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. It measures approximately 16 km (10 miles) long and 11 km (7 miles) wide, giving 40 kilometres (25 mi) of coastline.[3] Christopher Columbus gave Montserrat its name on his second voyage to the New World in 1493, after Montserrat mountain located in Catalonia, Spain. Montserrat is nicknamed the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean, both for its resemblance to coastal Ireland and for the Irish descent of its inhabitants.

Its Georgian era capital city of Plymouth was destroyed and two-thirds of the island's population were forced to flee abroad by an eruption of the previously dormant Soufriere Hills volcano that began on July 18, 1995.[4] The eruption continues today on a much reduced scale, the damage being confined to the areas around Plymouth including its docking facilities and the former W.H. Bramble Airport. An exclusion zone extending from the south coast of the island north to parts of the Belham Valley has been imposed because of an increase in the size of the existing volcanic dome.

Visitors are no longer permitted entry into Plymouth. The village of Brades currently serves as the temporary centre of government while construction proceeds on a new town at Little Bay in the north of the island, out of reach of further volcanic activity.



Montserrat was populated by Arawak and Carib people when it was claimed by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage for Spain in 1493, naming the island Santa María de Montserrate, after the Blessed Virgin of the Monastery of Montserrat. The island fell under English control in 1632[5] when a group of Irish suffering anti-Catholic violence in Nevis, many of whom had been forcibly removed from Ireland as indentured servants, settled there. The import of African slaves, common to most Caribbean islands, began early. An economy based on sugar, rum, arrowroot and Sea Island cotton was established. By the late 1700s there were many plantations on the island.

In 1782, during the American Revolutionary War, Montserrat was briefly captured by France. It was returned to the United Kingdom under the Treaty of Paris which ended that conflict. A failed slave uprising on 17 March 1798 led to Montserrat becoming one of only two places in the world that celebrates St Patrick's Day as a public holiday, the other being Ireland. Slavery was abolished in Montserrat in 1834.

Falling sugar prices during the nineteenth century had an adverse effect on the island's economy and in 1869 the British philanthropist Joseph Sturge formed the Montserrat Company to buy sugar estates that were no longer economically viable. The company planted limes starting production of the lime juice, set up a school, and sold parcels of land to the inhabitants of the island, with the result that much of Montserrat came to be owned by smallholders.[6]

From 1871 to 1958 Montserrat was administered as part of the Federal Colony of the Leeward Islands, becoming a province of the short-lived West Indies Federation from 1958 to 1962. In 1979, Beatles producer George Martin’s AIR Studios Montserrat opened and the island attracted world-famous musicians who came to record in the peace and quiet and lush tropical surroundings of Montserrat.[7]

The last decade of the 20th century, however, brought two events which devastated the island. On September 17, 1989, the Category 5 Hurricane Hugo struck Montserrat with sustained winds of 160 miles per hour, damaging over 90 percent of the structures on the island. AIR Studios closed, and the tourist trade upon which the island depended was nearly wiped out. Within a few years, however, the island had recovered considerably—only to be struck again by disaster.

Plymouth, the former capital city and major port of Montserrat, July 12, 1997, after pyroclastic flows burned much of what was not covered in ash.

In July 1995, Montserrat's Soufriere Hills volcano, dormant throughout recorded history, rumbled to life and began an eruption which eventually buried the island's capital, Plymouth, in more than 12 metres (39 ft) of mud, destroyed its airport and docking facilities, and rendered the southern half of the island uninhabitable. Following the destruction of Plymouth, more than half of the population left the island due to the economic disruption and lack of housing. After a period of regular eruptive events during the late 1990s, including one on June 25, 1997 in which 19 people died when they were overtaken by a pyroclastic flow, the volcano's activity in recent years has been confined mostly to infrequent ventings of ash into the uninhabited areas in the south. However, this ash venting does occasionally extend into the populated areas of the northern and western parts of the island. The southern part of the island has been evacuated and visits are severely restricted.[8]

In 2010 Soufriere Hills volcano erupted again. On 18 January 2010 pyroclastic flows reached the sea through Aymers Ghaut. On 5 February 2010, a vulcanian explosion sent pyroclastic flows down several sides of the mountain, and on 11 February 2010, a partial collapse of the lava dome sent large ash clouds over sections of several nearby islands including Guadeloupe and Antigua. Inhabited areas of Montserrat itself received very little ash accumulation through either event. [9]

Today most of Montserrat remains lush and green. A new airport at Geralds in the north (renamed the John A. Osborne International Airport in 2008) was opened officially by Princess Anne, the Princess Royal in February 2005, and received its first commercial flights on 11 July 2005. Docking facilities are in place at Little Bay, where the new capital is being constructed.

The people of Montserrat were granted full residency rights in the United Kingdom in 1998, and citizenship was granted in 2002.


Map of Montserrat's parishes: Saint Peter is shown in pale red, Saint Georges in green and Saint Anthony in blue.

Montserrat is divided into three parishes:

Only Saint Peter Parish is inhabited, having a population of between 4,000 and 6,000.[10] Saint Peter Parish covers the north-west of the island,[11] and was therefore least affected by the eruptions of Soufrière Hills, the island's volcano.


  • Cudjoe Head
  • Baker Hill
  • Brades (de facto capital)
  • Davy Hill
  • Banks
  • Farells Yard
  • Flemmings
  • Gerald's
  • Hope
  • Little Bay
  • Look Out
  • Old Towne
  • Olveston
  • Plymouth (official capital, abandoned)
  • Cavalla Hill
  • Mongo Hill
  • Saint John's
  • Judy Piece
  • Salem
  • Sweeney's
  • Woodlands
  • St Peter's
  • Virgin Island
  • Drummonds
  • Cheap End


Montserrat's coastline.

The island of Montserrat is located approximately 480 km (300 miles) east-southeast of Puerto Rico and 48 km (30 miles) southwest of Antigua. It comprises only 104 km² (40 square miles) and is increasing gradually owing to volcanic deposits on the southeast coast of the island; it is 16 km (10 miles) long and 11 km (7 miles) wide, with dramatic rock faced cliffs rising 15 to 30 m (50–100 feet) above the sea and smooth bottomed sandy beaches scattered among coves on the west side of the island. Montserrat has been a quiet haven of extraordinary scenic beauty.

Montserrat has two islets: Little Redonda and Virgin, and Statue Rock.


From 1979 to 1989 Montserrat was home to a branch of George Martin's AIR Studios which made the island popular with working musicians who often went there to record while taking advantage of the island's wonderful climate and lushly beautiful surroundings.

Since the twin devastations of Hurricane Hugo and the eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano, the Montserratian economy has been effectively halted. Export businesses currently based in Montserrat deal primarily in the selling and shipping of aggregate for construction. Imports include virtually everything available for sale on the island.

The island's operating budget is largely supplied by the British Government and administered through DFID (the Department for International Development) amounting to approximately £25 million per year. Additional amounts are secured through income and property taxes, license and other fees as well as customs duties levied on imported goods.

Famous Montserratians


Population: 5,879 (2008 estimate)

Note: an estimated 8,000 refugees left the island (primarily to the UK) following the resumption of volcanic activity in July 1995; few have returned. Pre-eruption population was 13,000 in 1994.

Age structure:

  • 0–14 years: 23.4% (male 1,062; female 1,041)
  • 15–64 years: 65.3% (male 2,805; female 3,066)
  • 65 years and over: 11.3% (male 537; female 484) (2003 est.)

Median age:

  • total: 28.1 years
  • male: 27.9 years
  • female: 28.3 years (2002)

Population growth rate: 6.9% (2008 est.)

Birth rate: 17.57 births/1,000 population (2003 est.)

Death rate: 7.34 deaths/1,000 population (2003 est.)

Net migration rate: 195.35 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Sex ratio:

  • at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
  • under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
  • 15–64 years: 0.91 male(s)/female
  • 65 years and over: 1.11 male(s)/female
  • total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2000 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

  • total: 7.77 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.)
  • female: 6.43 deaths/1,000 live births
  • male: 9.05 deaths/1,000 live births

Life expectancy at birth:

  • total population: 78.36 years.
  • male: 76.24 years.
  • female: 80.59 years (2003 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.8 children born/woman (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS—adult prevalence rate: NA%

HIV/AIDS—people living with HIV/AIDS: NA

HIV/AIDS—deaths: NA


  • noun: Montserratian(s)
  • adjective: Montserratian

Ethnic groups: black, white—mainly of mixed Irish and African descent

Religions: Anglican, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Seventh-Day Adventist, other Christian denominations

Languages: English


  • definition: age 15 and over has ever attended school
  • total population: 97%
  • male: 97%
  • female: 97% (1970 est.)


Cricket is a popular sport in Montserrat. Players from Montserrat are in fact eligible to play for the West Indies cricket team. Jim Allen was the first to play for West Indies and he represented the World Series Cricket West Indians. No other player from Montserrat had gone on to represent West Indies until Lionel Baker made his One Day International debut against Pakistan in November 2008.[14]

Montserrat has its own FIFA Affiliated Football Team, and has twice competed in the World Cup qualifiers. A field for the team was built near the airport by FIFA. The Montserrat team are currently tied for 199th place in the FIFA world rankings with eight other teams, including American Samoa and Guam. In 2002, the team competed in a friendly with the second-lowest-ranked team in FIFA at that time, Bhutan, in The Other Final- the same day as the final of the 2002 World Cup. Bhutan won 4-0.

Operation Montserrat

Currently, American and British elementary and middle school students are eligible to participate in an Operation Montserrat live simulation. This is a videoconference program based on events of 1996 in which a hurricane approaches and a volcanic eruption occur nearly at the same time. The students are responsible for rescuing all of the people. In the weeks leading up to this, they practice the skills they need in their classroom.[15]

See also


  1. ^ History/Irish Heritage
  2. ^
  3. ^ Montserrat CIA World Factbook, 19 September 2006. Retrieved 1 October 2006.
  4. ^ Montserrat Volcano Observatory Retrieved 2 October 2006.
  5. ^ "Montserrat". CIA World Factbook. 23 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  6. ^ Commonwealth Secretariat website: Montserrat. Retrieved 30 January 2007.
  7. ^ George Martin Music: Montserrat
  8. ^ Leonard, T. M. (2005). Encyclopedia of the Developing World. Routledge. pp.1083. ISBN 978-1579583880
  9. ^ [ Montserrat Volcano Observatory]
  10. ^ Central America and Caribbean: Monserrat. Jeff Kowalski. September 11, 2009. Accessed 26 October 2009.
  11. ^ As visible at The Parishes of Montserrat. Statoids. Accessed 26 October 2009.
  12. ^ World Series Cricket was not recognised by the ICC.
  13. ^ Arrow biography, Monkeybiz Management Entertainment Agency
  14. ^ Late Show Wins It For Pakistan In Abu Dhabi
  15. ^ e-Mission: Operation Montserrat The Operation Montserrat website. Retrieved 1 May 2007

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