SOUFRIERE ESTATE REVISITED
I will always remember Grandma du Boulay as a very brave and determined lady. My Grandfather, Jules Cornibert du Boulay, I never knew as he died before I was born. Grandma Blanche and Jules had 9 children, seven girls and 2 boys. My father, Andre, was the youngest of their 9 children. Of the seven girls three of them became Nuns. One joined a cloistered order in New York and the two younger sisters joined the Sisters of Cluny, the same order as that of the Nuns of St. Joseph's Convent in St. Lucia.
Sister Rose, an indomitable character, like her mother, was sent to the Fiji Islands in the Pacific Ocean. As Reverend Mother of her convent I understand that she rode a mule on her travels into the interior of the island where she founded several new schools.
As Charles (the 8th child) was slightly infirm, Andre at 18 became the manager of Soufriere Estate and 'bread-winner' for his mother and several remaining sisters. During the first World War great hardships were experienced by the family as it was impossible to export any of the produce of the estate. In 1918 he met a beautiful young girl born in St. Vincent of Irish and Scottish parentage called Marie Kathleen Nairn, whom he married in 1919.
"Wee Jim" and Andre had six children. As the eldest, I was educated at St. Joseph's Convent, St. Lucia, The Ursuline Convent in Barbados, and for four years in Sherborne Dorset in England, spending my holidays in a Belgium Chateau where I learnt to speak French.
My brother, Desmond, at 19 volunteered for service in the Royal Canadian Airforce, trained in Canada with two other St. Lucians, F. Etienne and R. Dulieu. These three boys graduated top of their class and were made pilot officers in the RCAF.
Sad to say none of them survived the war. Desmond's grave was found in East Germany and is now being cared for by the British War Graves Commission Veterans' Association.
Andre du Boulay (my father) was quite a remarkable person, not formally trained as an engineer, but with the natural ability to accomplish engineering feats, single-handedly, purely by instinct. In the valley below our home at Diamond he decided to restore the abandoned mineral baths built by the French Governor, The Baron de Laborie in 1784, and destroyed in 1789/90 by the Brigands. These 2 baths he restored for the use of his family, tapping the numerous mineral springs found in this area. Today these same baths, renovated and improved, form part of the Diamond Botanical Gardens and Mineral Baths (a major tourist attraction).
During World War II my sister, Camille volunteered for the ATS in England and was in London for the terrible experience of the German blitz. You can imagine the cultural shock of a young girl brought up in a sheltered family environment, exposed overnight to life in the raw. Never the less she stuck it out and survived her time in England together with a companion, Olga Osborne. St. Lucia commemorated fifty years after the end of World War II by the issuing of a stamp in their honour.
Andre's accomplishments during his life are too many to recount, but to list a few:
He designed new machinery for crushing limes, which was also adopted by other factories and when a root disease destroyed his lime crops in one year, he provided an alternative crop by importing the dwarf coconut from Malaysia. Recognizing their importance to the island, these plants were distributed to other growers.
He served for many years as Chairman of the Coconut Growers Association, and was instrumental in the construction of the Copra Factory in Soufriere which began production in 1951. He was also a member of the Oils & Fats Association which included many of the other islands. He served on numerous other boards, and with Norman Moffatt, his cousin, founded The Employers Federation and the Agricultural Association. He was on every known board and committee pertaining to the promotion and improvement of Soufriere. He was an active member of the Banana Growers Association. He organized the St. Lucia Navigation Co. Ltd. and ran the first successful coastal ship called M.L. Soufriere. In 1928 he organized the St. Lucia Fruit Growers Association, and in 1967 he became a director of the St. Lucia Agricultural Bank. He was awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire) on the 10th June, 1957.
My father and mother were dedicated to each other for over 60 years, a true union of two souls. My father died in 1982 at the age of 84 years and my mother lived to 91 years. She was quite adamant that my father had visited to let her know that he would be coming for her shortly – she died 3 days later.
On the death of my father in 1982 I reluctantly agreed to take over the management of the estate for a short period of time, but after nineteen and a half years I still manage the estate. As copra and cocoa could not provide sufficient funds to improve and restore the estate I had the idea of turning the valley and the waterfall into a beautiful botanical garden.
The timing was right as cruise ship travel was then beginning and Pointe Seraphine, a docking facility and shopping area was being completed. The creation of the Diamond Botanical Gardens, Mineral Baths and Waterfall I dedicated to the memory of my parents.
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