La Raye has been a fishing village and if you examine its name
it is easy to see why. When the early French settlers arrived
in Saint Lucia, Anse la Raye was one of the first areas they
visited. As they sailed into the bay they may have stopped to
admire the beautiful, forest hills behind it. They would have
seen the two large rivers that flowed from them down to the
sea. Perhaps they looked over the side of the boat and saw the
shoals of fish swimming in the clear water. There were many
different kinds of fish. Among them were some strange flat fish
that flapped around on the sandy bottom. They too were sandy
in colour, with strong whip-like tails.
two eyes were set close together in the top of their flat heads,
in english, they were called 'skates' but to the Frenchmen,
they were known as 'raie'. This may be why the place was called
Anse La Raie - Bay of Skates. The rivers got their names from
the bay. They were called Petit Riviere de Anse La Raie and
Grand Riviere de Anse La Raie. The spelling of these names changed
depending on who was doing the writing! On the map drawn by
Bellin in 1758 the village is called Ance de la Raye. The church
records shows there were 107 estates in the Anse la Raye district
in 1775. That is more than in any other part of the island.
It sounds alot but those days Saint Lucia was divided into only
nine districts or quarters. The quarter of Anse la Raye stretched
from the Roseau River all the way to Canaries and far back into
the rainforest. During the years of the French Revolution, Anse
la Raye, like all the other places in Saint Lucia, was given
a new name. It was Egalite. In 1795, there were fierce fights
between the French and the English for the possession of the
island. The slaves had been told they were free. Many refused
to go back to the plantations.
plundered the estates, killed the planters and their families
and set fire to the buildings. Like Dennery, Micoud, laborie
and Choiseul, Anse la Raye was ransacked and burned. Most of
the village records and documents went up in flames. Only the
walls of the church were left standing.
village of Canaries lies halfway down the west coast of Saint
Lucia. Behind it, deep ravines and jagged mountain ridges run
back to the central rainforest. To the north and south are high
headlands that enclose the village, to the west is the Caribbean
Sea and if you draw a straight line across the island from Canaries,
the line will touch Dennery on the other side. They are both
fishing villages, but, unlike Dennery, Canaries depended on
the sea for much more than fish. The road from Castries only
reached Canaries about thirty years ago. Until then villagers
had to travel by canoe to Soufriere or Anse la Raye where they
could get transport up to Castries. The Village is not even
shown on many old maps of Saint Lucia. Bellin's map 1758, shows
a place called 'Les Canaris' on that part of the coast.
other maps this same place was marked Anse des Canaries, or
just Canaries. Many early settlements were given the names of
people who were important at the time, like Micoud, Dennery,
laborie and Choiseul. Others had names like Vieux Fort, Soufriere
and Anse la Raye that described something about the place. No-one
knows for sure how canaries got its name. Some people believe
it comes from the Amerindian word for the clay cooking pots.
Amerindian sites have been discovered all around the coast of
Saint Lucia, from Vieux Fort right up to Cap Estate. However,
there are no signs to show there was ever an Amerindian settlement
at this spot. Amerindians travelled by canoe. They were usually
happy to settle anywhere there was a good supply of fresh water.
part of the coast has plenty of rivers so maybe it was the snakes
that kept them away! The sailors who called this place 'Canaris',
may have done so for quite another reason. Off the north coast
of Africa there is a group of islands called the Canary Island.
Many of the ships that came to the Caribbean from Europe would
have stopped there. It was the last place they could take on
food and water before setting out across the Atlantic Ocean.
The Canary Islands are mountainous and volcanic. Perhaps this
part of Saint Lucia's coastline reminded the sailors of the
places they had left behind - places they might never see again.
became a town in 1746, almost a hundred years after the small
community was first established. The people were mostly of French
or African descent with just a few British. The landowners,
trades-people and clerks were white. The domestic servants and
the laborers on the estate were black. There were also mulattoes
who were a mixture of Europeans and Africans. The Mulattoes
were the ones usually chosen to be overseers or to hold other
positions of trust and responsibility. For this reason they
were despised and disliked by the slaves. It was not until 1838,
when emancipation freed them, that the slaves were able to own
property and land of their own. Many continued to work on the
estates where they had once been slaves. Others, wanting to
be properly independent, tried to make it on their own. The
Caribbean Sea was full of fish and some of the former slaves
became fishermen. Their life was hard, but at least their families
had food to eat. When the catch was good they even had fish
to sell. Others scratched a living from the land, growing vegetables
and raising livestock.
the town grew there was more need for shops and other services.
Some former slaves became merchants. French and Patois were
the languages spoken. Even after the island became British,
the descendants of the French families continued to speak French.
Although English was the official language of the island, the
French-based Patois remained the language of the people. Soufriere
kept its French character. Some famous Saint Lucians have come
from the town of Soufriere. Josephine Tascher de la Pagerie,
who would one day become Empress of all France, spent much of
her childhood there. Dr Beausoleil, the island's first doctor,
was from Soufriere, so were the family of R Belizaire who wrote
Saint Lucia's first geography book. Queen Elizabeth II set foot
on Saint Lucian soil for the first time in 1966. She landed,
not in Castries, but on the jetty at Soufriere. Before Soufriere
was supplied with electricity from the power station at Vieux
Fort, residents had lights powered by local hydro-electric system.
It was operated by the flow of water in Soufriere's River.
there is a road running north through Canaries and on to Castries.
Before this road was completed a regular boat service left the
jetty at Soufriere carrying people and their produce up to the
city to do their marketing. Soufriere has several small guest
houses and hotels and excellent restaurants. Each year more
and more visitors make the trip, by road or sea, to this
very special part of the island.