The Place

Our tour of Saint Lucia has taken us right around the island, from Gros-Islet in the north to Vieux Fort in the South. the places we have visited all have one thing in common, they are on they coast. Now, for a change, we are going to travel inland to visit the district of Babonneau. On the map, Babonneau is roughly three miles from Castries. That of course, is as the crow flies because if you travel by road, it is much further. The Atlantic is four miles to the East. The Caribbean is just over four miles West. Seven and a half miles to the North is the channel that separates Saint Lucia from Martinique. If you draw a line across the map of Saint Lucia from Coubaril point to the old air strip on Grande Anse, it will pass through the centre of babonneau. What does the name Babonneau mean? Some people believe the place was named after a family who lived in the area and were called Babonneau. Others think that the name tells us something about the place. They say that it comes from the French words, barre-bonne-eau. In English this would mean 'the ridge where there is good water'. Look carefully at the map and you will see why this might be true. Many rivers begin in this area. Some of them join the Marquis River which comes from the rainforest above Forestiere. Others flow into the Union and Grande Riviere Rivers.

Further south is the towering cloud covered mountain, la Souciere. The rain fall here is very high, it is one of the island's most important catchment areas. From the pumping station at Talvern, water is piped to hill 20 just south of Cabiche. Most of the water for Castries and Babonneau is collected and treated here to make it safe to use. In the past, Babonneau had a good water supply from its many deep, clear rivers, like all other rivers in the island which are fed by the rain that falls on the rainforest. The rainforest above Babonneau is disappearing fast. More and more land is being cleared for cultivation. Unless the forest is protected, the rivers will eventually dry up.



The first settlers

Of all the places you might visit on your tour of Saint Lucia, Micoud is probably richest in Amerindians history. Between Micoud and Canelles, archaeologists have found evidence of eight or nine settlements. Remains of cooking pits, tools, pots and ornaments have been discovered at Troumasse, Micoud Bay and Anse Capitaine. Artifacts have also been found on the banks of the river Ger and on the two headlands of the Canelles River. Why did the Amerindians come to this part of the island? Was it because the larger rivers full of fish and crayfish? Was it for the sheltered bays where they could anchor their boats, or on account of the strong fresh wind that blew from the sea? Perhaps they stayed because everything they needed was here in one place. Much of the land north of Micoud ends in high jagged cliffs. On the West Coast, the sea is calmer, but heavy forest and bush come right down to the shore. The Amerindians came to Saint Lucia from South American mainland. They came from the flat lands at the mouth of the Orinoco River and the Coastal plains of Guyana and Surinam. Rivers were their roads and water was a natural part of their life. The land behind Micoud slopes gently away to distant mountains and rainforest. They might have thought the forest were full of wild animals or evil spirits. They perferred the windy headlands or the river banks. The women spent their days working in their vegetable patches, grating cassava or making clay pots. They often decorated the pots by painting them with dyes made from plants. Also they gathered grasses which they dried and wove into mats and baskets. The men fished in the river with bows and arrows or collected crabs and oysters in the mangroves.

During the 17th Century, Spanish, Dutch, French and English ships sailed the waters of the Caribbean. Saint Lucia with its rivers and forests, must have looked very inviting to them. Sailors went ashore to trade for wood, water and fresh meat. Some of them thought it would be good place to settle and make a new life. The Caribs did not want this, therefore they attacked the new settlements. They even got Caribs from Saint Vincent and Dominica to help them. But their bows and arrows and axes were no match for the guns that were soon turned against them.



Some of Saint Lucia's towns and villages have names that tell us something about them, Gros Islet, Soufriere and Vieux Fort, for example. others, like Castries, Choiseul, Laborie, praslin, Micoud and Dauphin were named after Frenchmen who were important at the time. Dennery was named after the Count d' Ennery, Governor General of the French Windward Islands from 1766 to 1770. Before that it had been called Anse Canot. Canoes, carved from the trunks of large trees like the gommier, were brought down the river to the coast to be launched. There is still a place at Dennery called Anse Canot. Behind the village, the wide valley the stretches back to the forest was known as the Grand Mabouya. Mabouya is the local name for the harmless little gecko. It hides during the day and comes out at night to hunt insects. Mabouya also means evil spirit, in those days, most people believed in spirits, both good and bad. Perhaps they thought the forested valley of the Grand mabouya river was a good place for them to hide. Today, with its open fields, brightly painted houses and busy roads it hardly seems a place where evil spirits would hang out! Maybe they all went back to Ravine Tous les Diables, way up the Dennery River. The French Revolution gave d' Ennery a new name, le Republican. But as soon as the island became British once more the village went back to using its old name again, this time though it was spelt Dennery. In 1850 about 1,000 people lived in the district of Dennery. By 1900 there were 3,000.

The village was a busy place with markets where meat, fish and vegetables were sold. On dark nights the streets were lit by Coleman Lamps and at Christmas almost every house had a lantern lit by candles in the window. The water in the dennery river was so clear you could see the crabs walking on the bottom. Children bathed in it and women did their washing on its banks. On Sundays and holidays people came from all around to attend Mass at the church of Saint Peter. And on Good Friday, all the house wives fried accras to give to their neighbours. Today, there are more than 10,000 people living in Dennery district, many of them go to church at la Resource.




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