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An Old Tradition Renewed


Thursday, March 24, 2016, one day before Good Friday was a special day, one of royalty, gift giving and strengthening relations. One pound of island salt, decked in a small purple pouch for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, was the reason why we gathered just off the beach and a short distance from the source of the salt itself, at Salt Island’s Salt Breaking and Gifting Ceremony; a ceremony that had not been performed for about four decades.

Dr. the Honorable D. Orlando Smith OBE, Premier of the Virgin Islands is hoping that the reenactment of this tradition would “concrete” relations between the United Kingdom and the Territory.

“The idea of the gifting of the pound of salt to the queen…is a good thing because our heritage is tied to the United Kingdom and in many other areas, the relationship with the United Kingdom and the BVI have served the BVI very well,” he said.

Dr. Smith pointed out that the Territory’s financial services and tourism are some of the benefits derived from being in a relationship with Britain.

“So for many reasons it is important that we continue to appreciate the relationship between the BVI and the United Kingdom government and this celebration here, this gift in salt, will really serve to concrete that relationship and I am quite happy to be a part of that,” Smith added.

The gift of salt was handed over by Ms. Elcine Durante, a descendant of Salt Island, to the Premiere who then handed it over to His Excellency the Governor Mr. John S. Duncan who will pass it on to Her Majesty the Queen.

Meantime H.E the Governor explained that the symbolic gift of one pound of island salt to the queen is to be renewed on an annual basis.

This came as the salt gift was presented to Her Majesty the Queen last year after a lapse in the tradition.

Traditionally, descendants of Salt Island were asked to harvest the salt and talented local artists manufactured the bag for the salt, but for future presentations, H.E the Governor has suggested inclusiveness of the entire territory.

“I would like to take this opportunity to suggest that given that next year will be the 150th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Rhone, (which is a ship of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company of England that met its demise due to the passage of a hurricane in the southwestern end of that island), that the Honorable Premier or perhaps the Department of Culture, can consider organizing a competition amongst our many talented artists for the design of the pouch which will be sent to Her Majesty on her birthday next year.”

This year the color purple was chosen for the pouch, in recognition of the 90th birthday of the Queen. The pictures on the salt pouch are of a woman harvesting salt, one of the beautiful beaches, architecture, and bird life among others.

The song, “Land of Our Birth We Pledge to Thee” was sung by a large crowd of descendants of Salt Island and students from the Willard Wheatley Primary School who also has links to the island, performed a medley. Several dignitaries were also in attendance.

Located 4.7 miles southeast of the capital-Road Town, is the lone salt producing island of the Virgin Islands called Salt Island. The island got its name after the two salt ponds that the one-mile long and one-mile wide island, boasts of. Usually, the salt would be gathered during the months of April and May when the ponds would dry up, leaving behind salt which was a precious commodity in the days gone by and still today.