Living And Past
The names of places in St. Lucia strongly reflect St. Lucia’s past and the beauty of its present. Several villages, areas and even streets bear the names of important people of St. Lucia’s history. Castries, our capital was itself named after a French minister, the Marechal de Castries.
One of the west coast villages is known as Laborie and one of the main streets of Castries has the same name. Baron de Laborie, governor of St. Lucia between 1784 and 1789, was an engineer by trade. He was responsible for many structural improvements throughout the island, including the construction of the original mineral baths at Diamond Falls.
Marquis Estate, on the Atlantic coast, received its name in late 1722 or early 1723. The first party to land at Marquis Bay was led by the Marquis de Champainy. He then marched with his 1400 men directly across the interior of St. Lucia to join forces with troops at Choc Bay.
Many names are descriptive phrases of the area. Due to long periods of successful colonization by the French in the 1700’s, most of these descriptive names were derived from the French. Not only in St. Lucia, but also in other islands settled by the French, early maps reveal many “anse”, “barre” and “fonds”.
“Anse”, often misspelled as “ance”, refers to a bay or inlet. Literally translated it means “a handle”. Anse-la-Raye, a fishing village between Castries and Soufriere (source of Sulphur), is a bay which was once abundant in small skate-like fish. These fish were known as “rayes” to the French.
“Barre” actually means “a bar”. It is often used to describe a mountain ridge. The Barre de l’Isle is the ridge which separates Cul-de- Sac Valley from the Mabouya Valley. It in fact divides the island almost right down the centre.
Valleys find themselves called “fonds” which translates into “the bottom”. St. Lucia has a number of fonds, among them Fond Doux, Fond Gens Libre and Fond St. Jacques.
Some places have interesting, and sometimes mysterious stories surrounding their name. The area south of Castries harbour is known as La Toc. Earlier maps disclose two different spelling, La Toque and La Taque.
La Toque is a type of hat, hinting that a landmark in this area resembles this style cap. La Taque, the more logical of the two, suggests that off the coastline of this area is where sailing ships would start tacking to enter the Castries harbour.
The mountain range east of Castries is known as La Sorciere. Viewing the range from the back of Morne Fortune, and using a little imagination, the ridge line meets the skyline in the form of a lady lying on her back.
The old legend of La Sorciere tells of the many men who ventures into these hills. They were seduced by the magical powers of “the sorceress” and never returned.
Besides French, another language has left its mark in St. Lucia. Many places have names exemplifying the Amerindians presence in St. Lucia, long before that of the Europeans. Hewanorra, our international airport, was named after the Carib name for St. Lucia. It is a corruption of the Carib word “louanalo”, which means “land of the iguanas”.
The name Canaries, another west coast village, most likely finds its r oots in an Amerindian term. The word “kanaree” referred to one of their clay cooking pots.
A mountain to the southeast of Castries is called “Mabouya”. This again is a Carib name. They used this word when speaking of the most powerful of their evil gods. The word is still used in St. Lucia when referring to something evil.
This is just an introduction to the interesting names of St. Lucia’s places. We don’t have time to tell you all, but keep your ears open. There are many more names reflecting St. Lucia’s history and interesting tales, with many of them hinting at mysteries.