These Ladies and Gentlemen are the latest additions to my miniscule collection of stamps from that beautiful island of Montserrat in the West Indies. This addition is kind courtesy of Mrs. Valerie James. For those not well conversant with Montserrat, a few words about that Island won’t be out of place.
Montserrat (pronounced /ˌmɒntsəˈræt/) is a British overseas territory located in the Leeward Islands, part of the chain of islands called the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. It measures approximately 16 km (10 miles) long and 11 km (7 miles) wide, giving 40 kilometres (25 mi) of coastline. Christopher Columbus gave Montserrat its name on his second voyage to the New World in 1493, after its namesake located in Catalonia. Montserrat is often referred to as the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean, due both to its resemblance to coastal Ireland and to the Irish descent of most of its early European settlers.
Its Georgian era capital city of Plymouth was destroyed and two-thirds of the island's population forced to flee abroad by an eruption of the previously dormant Soufriere Hills volcano that began on July 18, 1995. The eruption continues today on a much reduced scale, the damage being confined to the areas around Plymouth including its docking facilities and the former W.H. Bramble Airport. An exclusion zone extending from the south coast of the island north to parts of the Belham Valley has been closed because of an increase in the size of the existing volcanic dome. This zone includes St. George's Hill which provided visitors with a spectacular view of the volcano and the destruction it has wrought upon the capital. A new airport at Gerald's in the northern part of the island opened in 2005. The village of Brades currently serves as the de facto centre of government. In July 1995, Montserrat's Soufriere Hills volcano, dormant throughout recorded history, rumbled to life and began an eruption which eventually buried the island's capital, Plymouth, in more than 12 metres (39 ft) of mud, destroyed its airport and docking facilities, and rendered the southern half of the island uninhabitable. Following the destruction of Plymouth, more than half of the population left the island due to the economic disruption and lack of housing. After a period of regular eruptive events during the late 1990s including one on June 25, 1997, in which 19 people lost their lives, the volcano's activity in recent years has been confined mostly to infrequent ventings of ash into the uninhabited areas in the south. However, this ash venting does occasionally extend into the populated areas of the northern and western parts of the island. As an example, on May 20, 2006, the lava dome that had been slowly building partially collapsed, resulting in an ashfall of about an 2.5 cm (1 inch) in Old Towne and parts of Olveston. There were no injuries or significant property damage. The southern part of the island is currently off limits to the population because of the volcano, and trespassers caught in the restricted area are subject to fines.
Long referred to as "The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean" for both its Irish heritage and its resemblance to coastal Ireland, most of Montserrat today remains lush and green. A new airport at Geralds in the north (renamed the John A Osborne International Airport in 2008),was opened officially by the Princess Royal Princess Anne in February 2005, received its first commercial flights on July 11, 2005, and docking facilities are in place at Little Bay, where a new capital is being constructed out of reach of any further volcanic activity.
The people of Montserrat were granted full residency rights in the United Kingdom in 1998, and citizenship was granted in 2002.
For the lovers of cricket Lionel Baker made history on his debut for West Indies in an ODI against Pakistan in November 2008, becoming the first player and so far the only player from Montserrat in international cricket. A right-arm fast bowler, Baker represents one of the weaker teams in the region - Montserrat is part of the British Leeward Islands - and had few first-class matches behind him before his first international game. Baker was in the Stanford Superstars squad for the Super Series but didn't play a game, and was also included in West Indies' squad for the tour of New Zealand, starting in December. Until his international selection he had a deal to join Leicestershire in 2009, but it fell through after his West Indies call-up because it meant he couldn't join as a local player using his British passport.