The Early Explorers
The three Mascarene Islands of Rodrigues, Mauritius
and Reunion were already known to the early Arabian
explorers and traders. The knowledge of these great
pilots and seafarers was passed on to the earliest
Portuguese maps where they were named Dina Moraze
(Mauritius), Dina a Robi (Rodrigues) and Dina Margabim
Diego Rodriguez was the pilot of the Albuquerque,
part of a fleet of ships making its way back across
the Indian Ocean in 1528 under the command of Pero
Mascarenhas. In the great tradition of the European
explorers of the time, the discovery of a new island
gave the Captain a chance to choose a name. Without
much modesty, he chose to call this island 'Rodrigues',
which means that Rodrigues has something in common
with America which was named after one of its first
explorers, Amerigo Vespucci. Portugal did not claim
any ownership, but used the island as a mark for
sailing between South Africa and India.
In common with many colonies around the world at
the time, the island's identity and ownership fluxed
with the dominance of the various powers of the
Up until the end of the 16th century the
Spanish and Portuguese had dominated exploration
in the Indian Ocean. However, the religious
and secular tyranny of Philip II of Spain
drove many wealthy families into Holland.
Trade with the spices and riches of the East
led to the formation of the United Netherlands
Chartered East India Company. This company
had great wealth and power, and its extensive
fleet plied a route between Europe and Asia.
The protection of this route led to the occupation
of Mauritius and an attempt to take possession
of Rodrigues and Reunion.
The Dutch were the first to land on Rodrigues
in 1601, when a fleet under Admiral Harmansen
approached from the East. Boats from the
Gardien were lowered in an attempt to find
a pass into the lagoon. One of the boats
found a way through in the north and collected
water, fruit and birds.
The Dutch never formally took possession
or occupied Rodrigues, although a group of
sailors were marooned on the island during
the visit of their ship in 1644. After waiting
several months these sailors braved the open
ocean in their small, open cutter.
Meanwhile the French had also entered the
competition for the island by nailing a coat
of arms to a tree in 1625.
The French took their turn in 1691 with
the most famous of the early inhabitants,
Francois Leguat and his small band of Protestant
refugees. Many Huguenots were escaping from
Catholic France under persecution from Louis
XIV. Henri Duquesne, the son of a famous
Admiral had a plan to establish a republic
of Protestant refugees on a distant island.
He publicised his campaign and called his
proposed colony Eden. After having spent
a fortune on the scheme, Duquesne and most
of his fleet had to stay behind to fight
against the Dutch. Only eight colonists sailed
on L'Hirondelle with instructions to take
possession of Rodrigues and wait for an opportunity
to colonise Reunion.
Leguat and seven young companions spent over
two years on Rodrigues, living on the left
bank of the river running to the east of
Port Mathurin. They spent their time cultivating
their gardens, building huts, fishing and
playing chess. They did not have much success
with their own crops, but there was an abundance
of tortoises, turtles, birds, fish and other
sea food. Leguat was a keen observer of nature
and as an older man was very happy with the
life on Rodrigues. The younger men found
it dull and particularly felt the absence
Using wood from a shipwreck and tortoise
oil as caulking, they built a six metre boat
to make the voyage to Mauritius. However,
it was to be three long years before they
would find the company of women. Mauritius
was occupied by the Dutch, and as they were
still at war with France the unlucky colonists
were imprisoned as spies for two and a half
more years. By this time, two had drowned
and one had died of dysentery. The remaining
group had to serve a further year in the
army before returning home to Flushing in
1698. Leguat's book became a bestseller,
but some of his stories were dismissed as
The history of the island became intertwined
with one of the few resources that were valuable
to the expanding navies of the time-Giant
tortoises. These unfortunate reptiles were
ideal as a larder for long voyages as they
could be kept alive in the hold for long
periods. Reunion's giant tortoises had become
rare by about 1700 and the French began to
organise and control the shipment of Rodrigues
There were in fact three species of giant
tortoise on Rodrigues, and Leguat had described
them as being so numerous 'that sometimes
you see two or three thousand in a flock;
so that you may go a hundred paces on their
backs..without setting foot to ground'. They
can take up to 40 years to reach maturity
and may live as long as two or three hundred
Within 50 years, the entire population of
200,000 tortoises had been wiped out and
removed. The last reference of tortoises
seen alive was by Marragon in 1795 where
he had come across a few in the most inaccessible
Observing the Transit of Venus
The distance between the various planets
and stars had been troubling astronomers
since the earliest times. The British Astronomer,
Edmund Halley devised a more accurate method
in 1691 which measured the parallax of the
planet Venus as it passed in front of the
Sun. Unfortunately, it was 1761 before this
phenomenon and Halley was long dead.
Rodrigues was chosen by the French Academie
des Sciences as one of the locations where
the measurements could be taken. In May 1761
Abbé Guy Pingré, a distinguished
mathematician and astronomer spent four months
on the island. As well as making astronomical
measurements, he also started surveying the
island and making notes of the other plants
and animals. However, his work was cut short
and his time on Rodrigues extended by a British
The British and French Tug of War
After Leguat the island was left unoccupied
for another couple of decades before the
Governor of Bourbon (Reunion) decided to
try to organise a colony of respectable labourers
and artisans. The reality was a group of
troublesome men and women of ill repute who
failed to establish the harmonious and hard-working
beginnings of a settlement. The Directors
of the French East India Company were not
impressed and ordered the colony withdrawn.
The one positive result of this brief occupation
was the account of the island written by
the second mate, Tafforet.
The British invasion of Rodrigues in 1761
was a little bit underhand. The Plassey,
a British ship approached Port Mathurin Bay
with a Dutch Flag, but as soon as she was
close enough she hoisted British colours
and opened fire on the three French ships
and the shore guns. It was only a brief engagement
and the French surrendered. In order to ensure
that the news of this capture did not reach
Mauritius, the British burnt the only ship
that was in the harbour as well as going
on to slaughter the cattle and destroy the
shore battery. The English did not stay for
long and they left with a written pledge
that the island would not take up arms for
The 70 or so French citizens continued their
lives of disharmony and disagreements under
this truce until the island was visited by
the French vessel Le Volant a few months
later. The captain defied any who defended
the island in the name of England to present
themselves. Apparently one brave chap called
Millet came forward with a stick, before
fleeing for the hills.
The British became more interested in the
strategic potential of the Mascarene Islands
when they heard about the spectacular success
of Labourdonnais, the governor in Mauritius
who had fitted out a fleet and captured Madras
in 1746. It was another fifty years, though,
until the plan was put into action.
When France invaded Holland in 1773, Britain
felt that she was threatened and declared
war. Although the British had soon regained
mastery of the area, many merchants in Calcutta
were losing vessels sailing from Port Louis.
In 1794 Britain decided to blockade Mauritius
and used Rodrigues to obtain water, fuel
and other supplies. It wasn't until 1808
however that steps were taken to recapture
Mauritius. On 4th August 1809, HMS Belliqueux
under the command of Commodore Byng anchored
in Port Mathurin with 200 infantry and 200
sepoys. This force under Lieutenant Colonel
Keating landed and issued a proclamation
declaring martial law and the possession
of the island to Britain. The troops were
gradually reinforced and built more temporary
shelters until on the 3rd July 1810 a force
of 4,000 officers and men left to capture
Reunion on the 9th July. The actual attack
on Mauritius was delayed due to a successful
attack on British vessels in the Battle of
Vieux Grand Port.
Mauritius was eventually captured on the
3rd December and British forces remained
in Rodrigues until April 1812. The only traces
now remaining in Rodrigues of the British
occupation are the ruins of a circular gun
emplacement on the top of Mount Venus close
to the present Cable and Wireless station.
The First Settlers
The first of the permanent settlers on Rodrigues
was Germain Le Gros who arrived in September
1792. He was followed closely by Michel Gorry
and Philibert Marragon. They made their living
through fishing and trade and Le Gros went
into partnership with Marragon to build the
first ship. They engaged the services of
Mathurin Berhinier, a marine carpenter, to
build the ship 'L'Espoir'. The name of Mathurin
is obviously recognisable today and is one
of two possible origins for the main town
Marragon became the first overlord and applied
for the post of Civil Agent. He settled at
Montagne Charlot with his wife and mother
in law at Montagne Charlot. His daughter
Stephanie was born in 1802 and this marks
the first recorded human birth on the island.
His rule is remembered as being autocratic
and unhelpful in assisting others to establish
The Rodriguan population is a mixture of
African and European stock. The earliest
census in 1804 records 22 whites and 82 slaves
who had been brought over from Madagascar
and Mozambique. It wasn't until the 1840's
that most of the settlers arrived and built
up the main dynasties with several common
family names revealed in the phone book.
Mathieu Roussety arrived in 1832, Jean-Marie
Meunier in 1844, Charlotte and Marie-Louise
Perrine in 1846 and Pierre Raffaut in 1848.
The Islamic and Chinese families began to
arrive in the 1890's and formed strong communities
and trading businesses.
The slaves in Mauritius were amongst the
last in the world to be set free. Those in
Rodrigues set off for the hills on 11th March
1839 where they set about cultivating the
land and grazing cattle and pigs.
Early Life in Rodrigues
With the treaty of Paris in 1814, the island
of Bourbon or Reunion was returned to France
and Britain kept Mauritius and Rodrigues.
The first governor of Mauritius, like many
after him, paid very little attention to
Rodrigues and it was not until 1820 that
the first government agent Thomas Pye was
appointed to register the slaves, account
for ship movements and sort out the status
of land ownership.
The first police magistrate, Blaise Bacy
was appointed in December 1842 and his two-roomed
hut in Port Mathurin served as his house,
court room and office. From this point onwards,
there was a continual succession of magistrates
and then Civil Commissioners appointed to
Rodrigues with varying degrees of success.
One on side there were good commissioners
like George Jenner who made many improvements
to Rodrigues and on the other was Henry Reid
Bell who achieved very little and set about
trying to make money by every dishonest means
The first Governor to visit Rodrigues was
Napier-Broome who came with his wife on board
the HMS Euryalus. There was an elaborate
programme of visits and receptions, but the
hunt was ruined after all the deer had been
scared by the guns.
From the early 20th Century, life in Rodrigues
was pleasant and cheap and people enjoyed
a good standard of living. There were fish
in the sea, deer to shoot and a population
that was small enough for the island to support.
In the early part of the 19th century there
were no shops on the island and two or three
traders operated a very oppressive system
of trade in goods. They would buy fish and
agricultural produce to sell in Mauritius
and bring back supplies to sell with a 150%
to 300% mark up. Labourers were given liberal
credit and they ran up huge debts from rum
drinking – sometimes owing 20 to 30
times their salaries. The loss of a vessel
could leave people starving and on the edge
The economy of Rodrigues was still based
around fishing, farming and some small trade
with Mauritius although there was virtually
no cash on the island. The only money came
from a handful of civil servants and the
six shopkeepers held the inhabitants in their
hands through the ownership of the trading
schooner Backia Letchmy.
Towards the end of the 19th century Rodrigues
started to become more prosperous, principally
through the cultivation of tobacco. The tobacco
tax had been removed in 1888; but Mauritius
then spitefully re-introduced the duty. Although
a fairer system allowed the tobacco exports
to rise to 104 tons in 1900, Mauritius stubbed
out this activity for ever when its own farms
started failing. The Rodriguan tobacco, known
as tabac bleu was air cured and suitable
for rolling cigarettes.
Up until the channel was dredged in 1964,
boats had to anchor in the bay and good taken
into the harbour in small lighters. Men often
had to work waist deep in water with hoes
to keep the channels deep enough. The preferred
method of loading cattle was to tip them
over the edge of the jetty into the water
and then into boats. The alternative was
to tie their legs together and lift them
upside down into boats.
The wooden pier was replaced by a stone
jetty in 1889 although this was still damaged
by cyclones. It was 150 ft long and built
with wooden piles and filled with stones.
This was replaced and strengthened in 1918,
1952 and 1963.
The arrival of the trans Indian Ocean cable
on 5th September 1901 was something that
would change Rodrigues profoundly. The telegraph
cable travelled from Zanzibar to Australia
via Rodrigues and the Cocos-Keeling islands.
The Cable and Wireless Company established
themselves at Pointe Venus. The two buildings,
which can still be seen today, won a prize
at the 1903 Ideal Home Exhibition before
being packed up from London and re-assembled
The Second World War
During the second world war, troops were
garrisoned on Rodrigues to protect the cable
station from a Japanese attack. A six inch
gun, an ammunition store and officers housing
were built at Pointe Canon. Later on a 55mm
anti-submarine gun was installed at Pointe
Venus, but this was an old Greek gun with
no range table so would not have been effective.
215 Rodriguan troops were employed on the
island, while 315 served abroad with various
regiments. The war did not affect Rodrigues
adversely, in fact the money that was brought
in to pay for the troops and the contracts
for the supplies of produce led to a small
boom for the island.
Fish and Fisheries
Raffin was one of the first commercial fishermen
who arrived in 1803 and set up in the south
coast for one year before leaving again in
In the 1840's there were 56 people employed
in 8 fisheries. The second magistrate George
Jenner was concerned about the lack of control
in the fisheries and extended the Mauritian
law to Rodrigues.
It was another 60 years before one of the
island commissioners started to tackle the
problem of fisheries in Rodrigues. Droughts
and cyclones had turned many farmers into
fishermen, the export quantities of salt
fish were declining and the fishing teams
were catching fewer fish.
The regulations for fisheries were extended
in 1882 by Rouillard when minimum net sizes
were established and fishing was banned in
certain areas. In 1894 it became illegal
to fish between 16th December and 15th February
in any bay, creek, pass or in any part of
the sea within 3km of the coast. The latest
regulations were generally observed as there
was no trade with Mauritius and the fish
would not keep over the cyclone season.
The magistrate's attention had also been
drawn to several bad practices which fishermen
wanted control. These included placing nets
across channels which caught the spawning
fish and drumming the sides of vessels (Beating
the tam-tam) to drive the fish into the nets.
It was noted at the time that it took two
months to catch as many fish as could be
caught in a day 15 years previously. The
three fisheries that were established in
the north had to be moved to the South West
of the island where they could catch more
Fishing reserves were established in front
of Port Mathurin, Oyster Bay and Crab Island.
From February 1906 it also became illegal
to fish with explosives, poisons or vines.
These regulations also established the minimum
sizes of fish which could be kept.
The new Magistrate Brouard who arrived in
Rodrigues in 1930 had a problem on his hands
with the Scottish wife of the resident doctor.
She had become the financial backer for all
illegal fishing activities and no other magistrate
had been able to stop her.
The fishing at the time was in the hands
of around a dozen seine net captains who
employed between 12 and 20 men each. owner
of the fishery provided the boats, gear,
housing and food. The fish were salted and
then exported to Mauritius on the next boat.
The returns were split 50:50 between the
owner and the men who were paid each month
in cash. In 1921, 278 tons of salt fish were
exported to Mauritius and around 200 men
were employed in the fishery.
The next three magistrates began to pay
a great deal more attention to the fisheries.
In 1912 Rouillard had recommended an extension
to the existing marine reserves; although
the initial areas had to be redefined in
1915 as they did not have clear enough boundaries.
The next magistrate, Genave recommended a
total prohibition of fishing for five years
but this was not implemented.
In 1917 it was clear that the reserves were
not being respected and that there was widespread
fishing inside the protected areas. Total
prohibition of seine fishing was introduced
from 1919, but fraud remained a problem throughout
In fact, an underworld of illegal fishing
emerged to undermine this time of prohibition.
A prominent Chinese trader organised a network
of shops where he could buy illegally caught
fish. An elaborate system of whistle and
smoke codes were devised to warn fishers
and traders of the approach of the police.
The use of brine rather than salt also meant
that the quality of the fish deteriorated,
but the trading network forced retailers
in network to sell the fish even if it was
The next Magistrate, Brouard tried to introduce
stricter enforcement and achieved at least
a reduction in illegal fishing. The fishermen
continued to petition for the re-introduction
of seine fishing, but nothing was done for
a few more years.
Le Roy, again brought up strong arguments
in favour of reopening the net fishing. He
correctly observed that before prohibition
the returns from the industry went mainly
to the native Rodriguans whereas during the
ban on fishing the small catches were bought
by the illegal traders at ridiculously low
prices. The fishermen were also forced to
buy on credit at their shops which meant
that there was a regression back to the 19th
century. There was also the consideration
of the employment of the fishers during the
winter season when basket trap and line fishing
outside the lagoon was impossible. The reopening
of net fishing would give men work during
the winter months in June to October. He
also recognised that the destruction of the
fish was not through net fishing, but through
the construction of coral parks which were
built by breaking large chunks of coral.
The prohibition was eventually removed in
Penal and Quarantine Colonies
There often seemed to be some madcap idea
floating around by one civil servant or another.
General Decaen arrived in Mauritius in 1803
and planned to evacuate the colonists from
Rodrigues and replace them with the lepers
which had been on the increase. This, he
hoped would also discourage the English from
Rodrigues. Marragon was sent to the Seychelles
to be Civil Commissioner when he complained.
The lepers were eventually sent to Diego
A few years later, the Secretary of State
in Britain had an idea to turn Rodrigues
into a penal colony for criminals with the
unemployed, vagrants, beggars and criminals
Another scheme was put forward by a member
of the judiciary who concluded that Rodrigues
was over populated and the entire island
should be turned over to the production of
New magistrates continued to embark on their
own schemes throughout the early nineteenth
century. One decided to create great plantations
of casuarinas trees along the coast and the
next one stopped the project. Finally a third
magistrate decided they were a good thing
and planting continued. All the land belonged
to the crown and this was leased to farmers
who would cut the trees and cultivate until
the soil was exhausted.
The origins of this principal administrative,
population and port go back to the site chosen
by Francois Leguat. The first Residence was
built in 1768 close to the current building
which was built in 1872 and restored in 2003.
The current building was prefabricated in
Mauritius and was enlarged in 1905 and 1939.
The first small huts were brought from Reunion
in the early 19th century.
The origins of the name are less certain.
The first occupation in 1722 included a Mathurin
Morlaix in the party and the second mate
Tafforet mentions a valley in the north called
There was no further mention until the Royal
Navy Map of 1810 which took the name of Port
Mathurin Bay from an anonymous map of 1737.
Perhaps Port Mathurin was named after the
Bay rather than vice versa.
The name of Fort Duncan which was given
by the British Forces in the early 19th century
has not survived. However, Baie Lascars comes
from the name given to the Indian regiments
who camped at that spot. English Bay is also
a nod to the area where the soldiers were
camped and the wounded were treated.
Port Mathurin grew very slowly as most Rodriguans
lived on their plantations or on the coast.
There were only 12 huts in 1825 made from
shipwrecked timber and latanier leaves. Many
more people began to construct huts anywhere
they pleased and by 1857 there were 280 people
in the village. The other public buildings
were the magistrate's office, court room,
prison, cook house and store house.
Port Mathurin was surveyed by James Duncan
in 1864 and divided the town into the plots
and regular streets we see today. He also
named the streets after himself and his friends
who had very little to do with Rodrigues
such as Morrison the Surveyor General and
Barclay the collector of Customs.
The principal buildings in 1890 were the
warehouses of Pierre Raffaut and Desire Calamel
and the principal shops belonged to Guillemo
Lucchesi and Alfred Allas.
The first houses were supplied with electricity
from the 1940's when Cader Fatemamode supplied
a few houses with a generator bought from
the British Army. The supply was cut from
11pm in the evening. It was not until the
early 70's that the grid was built around
the island with a donation from France. The
first cars did not arrive in Rodrigues until
The Solitaire (Pezohaps solitarus) has been
carefully studied over the last two centuries
from the remains of its fossil bones found
in the caves. There are also good descriptions
from early visitors and in particular Francois
Leguat who many people believed to be drawing
on fantasy rather than science. Tafforet
also mentions the birds in 1726 where they
were still living virtually undisturbed.
By Pingrés visit in 1761 the bird
was limited to a few survivors and was extinct
The birds were initially very common on
Rodrigues, and were named Solitaires as they
were usually found on their own. It was a
large, flightless bird with a large hooked
beak and tall neck. They weighed up to 20
kilos and lived mostly in the woods where
they fed on leaves and fruits. They made
nests of palm leaves which were heaped up
to half a metre high in clear ground. Both
parents looked after a single egg.
Leguat also observed that the bond of mates
was very close and that strangers were driven
away. Once a young bird had left the nest
a company of 30 to 40 other birds would bring
another young one to it and then leave them
in a kind of arranged marriage.
Solitaires could never be tamed and when
caught and caged they refused all food until
The remaining centuries have revolved around
teasing out the mystery and the reality of
this strange bird. The first bones were discovered
not long after its extinction by de Forvalle
in 1786. Charles Telfair from the society
for Natural History in Mauritius managed
to get some bones in 1831 and presented them
to the Zoological society of London.
Further expeditions were sent out by the
Zoological Society of London to search for
more remains of the didine birds in the Mascarene
Islands. Henry Slater found that many caves
had already been explored although he did
find one complete skeleton. A further expedition
in 1875 for the same society found more skeletons
and also confirmed the presence of the large
stones which the bird carried in their gizzards.
There are also a variety of theories as
to how the birds finally became extinct.
The population was initially pressured by
capture, reduction of their habitat and competition
from cats and dogs; but the last individuals
may have been wiped out by a fire or large
The caves in the west have not only lost
many of their fossils. Many of the early
visitors have hacked off stalactites and
stalagmites, even as recently as 1967 the
crew of two Soviet ships left with handfuls
of these ancient relics.
William Vandorous was an American Red Indian
sailor from a Whaling vessel who stayed on
in Rodrigues from around 1875. He made several
daring and desperate voyages from Rodrigues
to Mauritius in small pinnaces to raise the
alarm when Rodrigues was suffering from drought,
famine and the effects of bad cyclones.
He made his first trip in 1878 when he crossed
in the Victoria to ask for rice and assistance
following a bad cyclone. His second trip
was in 1879 when he crossed to Mauritius
to report an outbreak of Typhoid in Port
Mathurin and to bring a doctor back..
His third and most eventful trip was in
1886 when they set out after a severe drought
to find the trading vessel Hattonburn. He
left in an open boat and was wrecked off
Coin de Mire. They succeeded in sending the
ship to Rodrigues with 1000 bags of rice.
The last and saddest episode of this story
is the loss of his two sons in one tragic
rescue. When a member of the Eastern Telegraph
Company became ill in 1911 they refused to
use a government doctor and brought over
their own cable steamer with a doctor from
Mauritius. There was a strong gale and the
government pilot was unable to reach the
steamer. The steamer altered course away
from the northern reefs, but the 32 ft pilot
pinnace did not have enough ballast and was
unable to turn into the wind. The boat was
blown out to sea and lost with all hands.
Ships and Shipwrecks
In the first half of the nineteenth century
a shipwreck would have been quickly stripped
of any useful materials.
Like the stormy coastlines of Ireland and
Cornwall, the wreck of a ship provided the
islanders with a windfall of wood and salvaged
cargoes. Following a wreck, the men would
be out in boats picking up what they could
and the women would comb the reefs and beaches.
The business was very profitable at the time
and provided a good income for a few.
Many ships were lost on the reefs and often
the crew and passengers had to stay in Rodrigues
until a boat could bring them to Mauritius.
The Nasser Sultan was lost on the northern
reefs on 5th January 1860, but the 46 man
crew were all saved.
The iron barque Cadzow Forest bound from
Calcutta to Demarara with rice again went
aground on the reefs opposite Port Mathurin.
The ship was undamaged and most of the cargo
could be saved, but the islanders considered
the wreck as a bounty and asked for impossible
terms. Eventually the French man of war,
Cher pulled the vessel free.
A new trading vessel for Rodrigues, The
Stanhope was lost in the southern reefs in
1883. The ship carried a full cargo of teak
logs which were all salvaged. Another trading
vessel, the Jane Bell was wrecked by a severe
One of the saddest and most enduring stories
tells of the Traveller a ship which was bound
for Delaware from Java with a cargo of sugar.
Unfortunately she also carried a deadly Java
fever and eleven people on board had already
died by the time she reached Rodrigues. Once
the islanders heard about the disease, they
panicked and prevented the boat from coming
ashore even though the wind was rising.
During the night, the ship dragged its anchor
and was wrecked on the reefs. The crew and
passengers were taken to Sandy Island where
they were looked after for three months with
deliveries of food. Most of the sugar was
recovered after the ship was fumigated. When
news of this disaster reached Mauritius and
the outside world, the islanders were blamed
for not giving help. A board of enquiry found
that the loss was a combination of bad seamanship
and the delay in despatching assistance.
Another Rodriguan trading vessel, the Zeta
was lost in a gale in 1906.
Churches and Religion
Rodrigues remained true to her first influences
and has remained almost entirely Roman Catholic.
There is a Mosque, Hindu Temple and an Anglican
Church besides some of the smaller fringe
Visiting ships would have sometimes carried
chaplains who could carry out baptisms and
weddings. Following the request of some 'respectable
inhabitants' to be visited by Roman Catholic
Clergyman some missionaries were sent out
in 1841. One of the most famous names in
Rodrigues history was among those who arrived
to work amongst liberated slaves, Pere Laval.
His name is still common today.
Another influential priest was Father Thevaux
who was persuaded to stay in Rodrigues for
six months following two harsh years in Australia.
He remained for many years and used his immense
energy and good judgement not only to evangelize
and preach but also to help the constantly
arguing and jealous population to live in
harmony with each other. He constructed two
chapels, one in Port Mathurin and one in
the hills where he bought the land from Gabriel
Begue-This chapel now is the largest church
in the Indian Ocean. And was constructed
over two decades by its own parishioners
who would all carry up a small amount of
sand or a block after church on Sundays.
Pirates and Treasure
Pirate ships were very active in the region
around Madagascar and Comores and there are
plenty of legends of buried treasure. Ile
Sainte Marie off the east coast of Madagascar
has a burial ground of many famous pirates
and plenty of stories of treasure chests
full of gold and jewels.
One story in Rodrigues tells of a ship that
came to bury a member of its crew who had
died nearby. Some months later, the crew
returned to dig up the coffin which was rumoured
to contain gold.
The infamous pirate Laurent Lemoine escaped
a pursuing British man of war bu slipping
into Grand Passe and hiding behind Ile Hermitage.
Here he is supposed to have hidden his treasure.
Later on, he was arrested for murdering Portuguese
seamen off Mocambique although he was never
imprisoned. On his deathbed, he is said to
have given details of where he had buried
his treasure on Ile Hermitage. Unfortunately
the plan was so complicated that no-one has
yet been able to find it.
Treasure is also meant to be buried at Anse
aux Anglais and many have tried to find it.
One Magistrate in particular spent a great
deal of time in a fruitless search. Leon
Leclezio studied the signs end encryptions
on the rocks, but his search was stumped
when some of his helpers moved the rocks.
(Information based on 'The Island of Rodrigues'
by Alfred North Coombes)