Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Chances Peak, Montserrat

Chances Peak is the culminant point of the active complex stratovolcano named Soufrière Hills at 915 m. It is the highest point in Montserrat, a British overseas territory located in the Caribbean Sea. The last eruption was in January 2009.

Lowry refers to the peak in his novel Ultramarine; " 'Yes, and there's a mountain there, a ruddy great mountain, and I climbed it and I had a guide who went up in bare feet, eh. It was the hell of a climb, like climbing up a tree all the way - ink trees and wild cabbages they were - and kept stopping and his nigger guide'd say, "Catch yo' breeze, man! catch yo' breeze!" ......"Wild cabbage, yis! There was, growing at the top. And all the niggers go and throw pennies in the pond up there on Easter morning -" (Pg. 175).

Whether Lowry actually made the climb described in Ultramarine is certainly open to speculation though he may have spent a short time in Monsterrat on his 1929 voyage to USA to visit Conrad Aiken. (Gordon Bowker Pursued By Furies Pg. 83 ). Lowry also refers to this climb in his short story 'Through The Panama'; " Montserrat not far away to starboard where I altered geography books by climbing Chance's Mountain in 1929, in company with two Roman Catholics : Lindsey, a Negro, and Gomez, a Portugese." (Pg. 72).

Lowry's reference to the coins being thrown into the "pond" cannot be verified. However, there is certainly a legend associated with the Mermaid's Hole on the peak which may relate back to Irish mythology:

Finally, Montserrat is also a land of legend. A mermaid reportedly lives at a pond on Chances Peak in the now famous or infamous Soufriere Hills, with a treasure chest at the bottom of the pond. The mermaid has somehow revealed that anyone who takes her golden comb on Easter Monday and runs to the sea and wash it will possess the treasure. There is a catch however. The seekers must outrun a diamond snake that will try to touch them. If the snake succeeds, they will lose the treasure and must pass the comb back to another person. Montserrat & Monserratians: Photo Exploration: Commemorating Ten Years ... By Igor Kravtchenko, Howard A. Fergus

Or this account:

It is Easter Sunday and in Montserrat there is a legend that there is a white mermaid who appears at the top of Chances Pond every Easter at midnight. Hundreds of Islanders would climb Chances Mountain which is 3002ft using torches. They said that one must arrive before dawn take the mermaids comb from her and ran to the sea before they could be caught they would be rich for life. They never said exactly what you should do with the comb once you arrived at the seashore. Acacia

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