Approximately thirty years after publishing his first Pamphlet on the History of Cabrits, Historian Dr. Lennox Honychurch has released an expanded publication of over one hundred pages on the town of Portsmouth and its vicinity.
According to Dr. Honychurch, his new book, “Dominica’s Cabrits and Prince Rupert’s Bay,” aims to document the history of these now increasingly popular areas and the surrounding town of Portsmouth.
“The Cabrits National Park [and] Prince Rupert’s Bay [in] Portsmouth really are coming into the foreground economically, socially and in tourism,” the historian noted. “There are increasing numbers of visitors both local - in terms of school children and others - and of course visitors to Dominica who come to Fort Shirley. So increasingly there is a need for information about the history and the background of this important part of Dominica.”
The Historian informed that while the book is focused generally on the town and the Cabrits, the main parts of the story center around Prince Rupert’s Bay and the important vessels and captains which dropped anchor there.
Apart from that, the book covers a wide range of other aspects of the vicinity’s history, from its geography to its occupation by different ethnic groups.
Dr. Honychurch elaborated on the book's contents saying “It basically carries the story from the geological formation of the area of Portsmouth and Cabrits, then moves on to the indigenous people and to the arrival of many adventurers who used the bay – very famous people – and I explain why this bay was so important.”
The author said that the book also contains an explanation about the town of Portsmouth being made the capital of Dominica in 1765 by the British, and the change from this town to the city of Roseau. It also contains the story of the maintenance of the important Garrison, “one of the strongest in the Eastern Caribbean,” Dr. Honychurch described.
Dr. Honychurch said that the book also includes present-day information in that of the effects the establishment of Ross University School of Medicine has had on the economy and social life of the Portsmouth area.
Since his first publication in 1983, which also marks the beginning of the restoration of the Fort Shirley Garrison, Dr. Honychurch admits that he has uncovered a wealth of new material to include in this edition of his book.
A lot of this information, he explained, sheds light on the lives of the African inhabitants of the area.
“I suppose a lot of the information related particularly to the lives of the enslaved people we were able to discover: how they lived,” he informed.
Dr. Honychurch also made mention of an interesting event which took place on Cabrits’ grounds.
“Also there was a very important historical moment when a regiment of African soldiers revolted at the Cabrits. One of the most interesting pieces of information is that sixty of the men who were killed in that revolt they say were buried altogether in one hole.”
The historian admitted that the hole has not yet been discovered, but would make a remarkable unearthing.
“Dominica’s Cabrits and Prince Rupert’s Bay” contains many photographs showing the before and after of the fort’s buildings since its restoration began.
Some of these buildings have been converted from their original forms to accommodate many different functions for which the Cabrits has become very popular.
“It has become very popular for wedding destinations [and] events like dinners and conferences,” Dr. Honychurch informed GIS news.
According to the Historian, his team is currently in the process of converting the old troops’ barracks into a hostel for use by various groups who wish to stay overnight.
Dr. Honychurch admitted that a lot of funding for these projects were made possible through the support of the Government of Dominica over the last ten years. Also, this transformation of the Cabrits allows the site to generate income for sustained maintenance.
According to Dr. Honychurch, the Cabrits can be seen as a success story of transforming old ruins into profitable attractions.
The historian says that although this phase of the project is complete, there is still more work to be done. However, he believes that this research can serve as a good pivot point for other Dominican history projects.
He said, “It is a good base to do many other things, for example the archaeology of Dominica, discovering what Dominica was like before Christopher Columbus came.”
Dr. Honychurch also expressed interest in continuing the writing and documentation of Dominica’s history.
“At least when I am gone there will be information in published form so that future generations can benefit from that,” he said.
In keeping with the slogan ‘Tourism Is Everybody’s Business,’ Dr. Honychurch said the information his book provides will make Dominicans more competent in enlightening tourists about the area. The Historian also believes his book will enhance the education system among students.
“Dominica’s Cabrits and Prince Rupert’s Bay” is available at Jays Bookstore in Roseau and the Cabrits National Park Visitor Centre at Portsmouth, for the price of $40 EC.