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Then & Now – Legislative Proces

The first Assembly or House of Representatives in the Virgin Islands, which had been asked for since 1747, became a reality by proclamation on November 30th 1773, and the Assembly met for the first time on January 27, 1774 and had eleven (11) members who represented the planters and freeholders. (Early History of the British Virgin Islands, From Columbus to Emancipation, p.75-76: By Vernon W. Pickering)

Despite that representation, the abolition of slavery in 1834 and the collapse of the planation economy saw the Virgin Islands dwindling in population making it difficult to form the rudiments of a government and as a result they were ruled from Antigua – needless to say, the subsequent process to self government was a lengthy and complex one.

The following information is taken from my interview with Mr. Elton Georges, CMG, OBE.

1943 Secondary Education was introduced in the Virgin Islands; 1956 the Federation of the Leeward Islands was broken up and became individual colonies – head of State was changed from Commissioner to Administrator who still reported to a Governor based in Antigua; 1959-60 the Administrator reported directly to London and the Virgin Islands became a Colony with direct link to Her Majesty;  1967 Ministerial Government came into being with Administrative Secretaries who were later changed to Permanent Secretaries – the Speaker was introduced and  presided over the Council rather than the Administrator and the Speaker was elected from outside the Council (2000 Constitutional change provided that the Speaker could be elected from the elected members of the house but they continued to elect from outside); 1971 – Administrator was changed to a Governor partly driven by our close proximity to the USVI and PR; 1976 the definition of a belonger was put in the Constitution and the voting process changed – to qualify to vote you now had to be a belonger. It also increased the number of seats in Council from 7 to 9; 1994 before the 1995 election Britain increased the number of seats by amendment to include 4 at large – the entire country was equal to one constituency for these at large members – this was opposed by the then government, however this is how the council is constituted today.

From 1967 until 2007 the head of Government was designated Chief Minister at which time amendments to the Constitution changed the designation to Premier. Five Virgin Islanders held the position of Chief Minister and to date two have held the position of Premier.

Chief Ministers:  1967 – 1971 Hon. H.Lavity Stoutt; 1971 – 1979 Hon. Willard Wheatley; 1979 – 1983 Hon. H. Lavity Stoutt; 1983 – 1986 Cyril B. Romney; 1986 -1995 H. Lavity Stoutt; 1995- 2003 Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal and 2003 – 2007 Dr. The Hon. D. Orlando Smith.

Premiers: 2007 -2011 Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal and 2011 to date Dr. The Hon. D. Orlando Smith.



Then & Now Historical Information

“In 1823 a Commission of Enquiry was appointed to research into the state of captured Negroes in the West Indies. These were not ostensibly slaves, although in effect they must have been much the same; instead they were called ‘African Apprentices’ but, even so, many of them appear to get little or no wages..The enquiry which was recorded was titled ‘Tortola Schedules,’ and gives dozens of stories of individuals, including their African names, their tribes, and the history of what happened to them since they arrived in Tortola.

One case study from the ‘Tortola Schedules’ reads: One case was that of George and William, cartwhipped by their master J.P. Doan….the doctor who examined them stated ‘I examined the Apprentices the day they were punished; I saw that the flesh was torn from their posteriors in many places, and bore evident marks of the Cartwhip — the blood on their dinner was fresh.'” (Early History of the British Virgin Islands, From Columbus to Emancipation – By: Vernon W. Pickering) 

Evidently, life was not easy for those who came before, even when they were not referred to as slaves, but their treatment at the hands of those whom they called “Masters” left little to the imagination of their true position in that society.

Then & Now Senior Moments part 2

The seniors quiz night at the Sir Rupert Briercliffe Hall continues this week. These senior citizens show that they are still alert with functioning long term memories – it was truly a blessed occasion as we listened to memories from days past – I think it is safe to say that we drank it up and hungered for more – “Memory is a way of holding onto the thing you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose. The Wonder Years.” Jessica McMahan –  May the heavenly Father continue to bless all our seniors as they do what they can to help us understand the past and gain respect for our culture.

Then and Now Senior moments

This week features the Seniors at the Sir. Rupert Briercliffe Hall on May 16, 2012 taking part in a General Knowledge Challenge. It was an evening of fun and entertainment as we watched the senior compete for the top spot as they recall historical details about life in the Virgin Islands. Please stay tuned to CBN CH51 on Sunday and Wednesday at 8PM, and if you miss those two you can catch it again on Saturday at 8AM and Sunday at 4PM. You can also watch this on live stream at

Then & Now recall historical events – The Moyne Commission

In Life Notes, J. R. O’Neal wrote “it was in the 1930 that I became involved with the Civic League, the brain child of Hope Stevens of New York, East End and Nevis.” The league was formed because a group of men, concerned Virgin Islanders who felt the need for “political representation…we had none at that time,” JR (as he was affectionately known) wrote. He went on to say that there was “an Executive Council which was comprised of two local people nominated by the Governor of the Leeward Islands….these were James Edward Wilkinson (J.E.W) Georges and William Campbell Roy.” And this was how the League “came to meet with the Royal West India or Moyne Commission, known after its head Lord Moyne, which was created in response to the riots in almost every colony in the Caribbean between 1930 and 1935.” (J.R.O’Neal) The Moyne Commission report gave an in-depth analysis of the  riots and strikes that occurred in the Caribbean in the 1930s. What is rather interesting is that the report made several recommendations, such as legislation to protect trade union and peaceful picketing, creation of labour department and wage boards and the provision of workers compensation and unemployment insurance to name a few. And it supported greater representation by locals in the government. This report was not made public until 1945 although some of the recommendations were implemented prior to that. (Institute of Commonwealth Studies)

Then & Now visit with Mrs. Phillis George

This week I visit with Mrs. Phillis George as she recalls her early childhood memories on the island of Anegada in the Virgin Islands. Anegada is the northernmost island in the chain that makes up the Virgin Islands. (Photo from Wiki) You can see and hear Phillis on CBNBVI Ch51 or on live stream at – Sunday and Wednesday night at 8PM and Saturday morning at 8AM.

Then & Now historical info

In “1922 – a two room hospital was opened in Road Town, Tortola, and was named the Cottage Hospital but after its severe damage in 1924 by a ferocious hurricane, which was followed by a tidal wave, the hospital was remodeled and renamed ‘Peebles Hospital’ in honour of it founder….Major H. W. Peebles who was appointed Commissioner of the Virgin Islands in 1919. ” (Vernon Pickering)

Then & Now with Mrs. Crabbe

Don’t miss the interview with Mrs. Leona Crabbe tonight, May 20, 2012 on CBN Ch51 at 8p. It was a delight to spend time with Mrs. Crabbe reminiscing about her early days growing up in the Virgin Islands. You can also see this on live stream on If you miss tonight’s episode be sure to catch it on Wednesday night at 8p.m or on Saturday morning at 8a.m

Then & Now Information

RMS Rhone – a British Mail ship made her last voyage to the Virgin Islands on October 1, 1867. On the 29th October 1867 the Rhone was wrecked off Salt Island (one of the Virgin Islands) as she was getting ready for her return trip to the UK – “of the 145 persons on board only 21 seamen and an Italian passenger survived the ordeal.” That storm was so powerful that it sank “all but two of the 60 vessels anchored around St. Thomas” in the USVI. (Specialised Stamp Catalogue of The British Virgin Islands 1787-2001- Edited By: Giorgio Migliavacca)

Then & Now interview with Mr. Shirley

This Sunday, May 13, 2012, my interview with Mr. A. O. Shirley, MBE airs on CBN Ch 51 at 8:00p.m and rebroadcast on Wednesday also at 8:00p.m and on Saturday at 8:00a.m. This is a very interesting conversation as Mr. Shirley gives an insight into his early years in government and his life in the Virgin Islands where he has lived all of his life.

You can also view this on livestream on –

Your comments and feedback are    always appreciated


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