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Ancient History on St. Lucia’s Pigeon Island

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Pigeon Island is a fun and interesting place to visit during a holiday in St. Lucia, with beautiful beaches, hiking trails and plenty of winding paths and ruins to explore. It is a great place for a family to bring a picnic and make a whole day of it, although there is plenty for couples and the lone traveller to enjoy as well.

Originally a completely separate island, Pigeon Island has since been connected to the mainland of St. Lucia by a causeway built in 1971. The island is mountainous and provides breathtaking panoramic views of the lush scenery of both Pigeon Island itself and St. Lucia. There are lots of lookout points, guided tours, boats for hire and bars and restaurants along the coast (and even on the water itself!).

And all the while you are enjoying the wonderful sights and sounds, know that the island has a long and storied history that stretches back over a thousand years at least.

Pigeon Island’s Historical Artefacts

There have been artefacts discovered on Pigeon Island that have been dated to around 1000 AD. They would have belonged to the original indigenous people who lived there, the Arawak and the Caribs.

The Arawak were from South America originally, and the term nowadays is generally applied to the people also known as either the Lokono or Taino people, of which there are many descendants still living today in the coastal regions of the countries along the northern edge of South America. The Caribs lived on Pigeon Island until the British arrived in the later 18th century and decided it was a good place to keep an eye on their French foes who had a naval base nearby on the island of Martinique.

It was from their base on Pigeon island during the American Revolutionary War that the British would launch their fleet to confront and defeat the French naval forces in what has become known as the Battle of the Saints. Though ultimately futile in the greater war, this battle has particular military significance as it was arguably the first instance of the naval war tactic called ‘breaking the line’, which the British reportedly used to inflict a heavy defeat on the French.

There are multiple remnants of Pigeon Island’s military history still standing such as barracks, garrisons, some rusting cannons and a small but well-preserved fortress, with tours available to visit, see and learn all about them. Legitimate naval forces weren’t the only ones who made use of Pigeon Island though…

The Peg Leg Pirate of Pigeon Island

One of the common tropes in pirate adventure stories is a man with a wooden leg, and Pigeon Island is associated with the very first real pirate of the modern era to actually have one. He was a French privateer called Francois Le Clerc, though perhaps better known by his nickname Jambe de Bois, which means Wooden or Peg Leg in English.

Le Clerc and his crew of 330 men were reputedly the first Europeans to settle on the island of St. Lucia in the middle of the 16th century, making Pigeon Island their base for launching raids on the passing Spanish galleons, one of which would cost Le Clerc his leg. Legend has it that he carried on leading his men during their raids even after replacing his lost leg with a wooden one. And who knows, maybe some of the treasure they plundered is still buried somewhere on the island…

If you want to visit Pigeon Island and see for yourself all of the intriguing historical artefacts and learn more about its colourful history, contact St. Lucia Holiday Experts who can find you an affordable place to stay on this beautiful island that’s luxurious, spacious and welcoming. Get in touch today to make your booking!

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