Tristan : Tristan Remembers Volcano + 50
Submitted by Tristan Times (Juanita Brock) 08.10.2011 (Article Archived on 22.10.2011)
The BBC reports that Fifty years ago a village in Hampshire forged an unlikely link with one of the most isolated communities on earth.
5 October 2011 Last updated at 16:03 GMT
Tristan da Cunha islanders remember life at Calshot
Fifty years ago a village in Hampshire forged an unlikely link with one of the most isolated communities on earth.
In October 1961 the isolation of the few hundred residents of Tristan da Cunha in the south Atlantic was shattered when the volcano which dominates the island threatened to erupt.
As citizens of the British Overseas Territory of St Helena, they were evacuated to England and ended up living at the former RAF flying boats base at Calshot on the shores of Southampton Water.
The tiny island of Tristan da Cunha is 1,743 miles (2,805km) from the nearest mainland - South Africa's west coast - but the ties between the two communities have proved enduring.
When the skies were darkened and the ground began to shake in 1961, the entire population of 268 people was evacuated by sea to Cape Town, South Africa, and then to the UK on the Southampton-based Union Castle Line.
Joyce Hagan, 71, was a 21-year-old newlywed when she had to leave her home to experience the culture shock of 1960s England.
She said: "We were scared, we were told there were Teddy Boys in England and we wouldn't be able to go out. But when we got there there were no Teddy Boys, I wasn't frightened."
Like many of the islanders, Ms Hagan got a job making electric blankets at the Dreamland factory in nearby Hythe.
Calshot proved to be a haven after they had been put up in temporary military accommodation at Pendell Camp in Surrey and they were welcomed by the mayoress of Southampton.
Ernie Repetto, 85, said: "Well it seemed quite nice - the houses were nice and I was able to grow potatoes. I remember catching the bus to Southampton to see the ships in the docks. They were nice people there."
Although Hampshire provided a temporary sanctuary, life in England did not agree with many of the Tristan exiles.
They were unused to the glare of press publicity and were prone to picking up flu infections in the UK they had not been exposed to on the isolated island.
Mr Repetto said: "In England if you ain't got money, you can't live. In Tristan you can kill a sheep, catch a fish or grow potatoes and still have a happy life."
Most returned to the south Atlantic within two years once the volcano was declared safe but the street in the village of Calshot where they were housed is still called Tristan Close.
However Mr Repetto's sister Dora met and married a Surrey man, Keith Tarrant. The couple still live in Tristan Close.
Mrs Tarrant, 83, remembers leaving the island. She said: "It was very frightening but someone said we were saved. We were just amazed when we saw cars for the first time."
The island is now home to about 80 families and the economy now revolves around a lobster processing plant.
For visitors to the island who brave the choppy south Atlantic seas, there is a sign of the safehaven which Hampshire provided 50 years ago as the new harbour on Tristan da Cunha has been named Calshot Harbour
4 October 2011 Last updated at 17:34 GMT
Tristan da Cunha refugees recall evacuation to Surrey
Fifty years ago a disused army camp in Surrey became home for a group of refugees fleeing from one of the remotest communities on Earth.
They came from the South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha, escaping a volcano that had begun to erupt in 1961.
It was the first taste of life outside of the island for most of its 268 inhabitants.
Initially forced to live in wooden huts at the disused Pendell Army Camp, in Mertsham, they were eventually moved to permanent homes in Hampshire.
But life in England proved hard for some of the islanders.
Tristan da Cunha is 1,500 miles from its nearest neighbour St Helena and 1,750 miles from the nearest airport in Cape Town, South Africa.
It is a British Overseas Territory and has the Queen as its head of state.
Islander Joyce Hagan, 71, said the refugees had been frightened when they came to England and feared dreaded "Teddy Boy" gangs.
She also said four or five of the older islanders had died "of broken hearts" when they were forced to leave.
In 1963 the island was deemed safe enough for the islanders to return. But not all did.
Dora Tarrant met and fell in love with her husband Keith, from Surrey.
She said: "I found the people [in England] very nice. They were all kind to me anyway.
"I think I wanted to stay here because it's a better place."
Her husband said he had never heard of the island until the evacuation was mentioned on BBC News.
"They next thing we knew they were coming to Pendell Camp, in Mertsham," he said.
"There was a pub near the camp where I used to drink as a young lad and I met Dora's father there."
The island's population has remained constant since the resettlement and currently stands at 263 people.