Insider’s guide to St Helena: Basil George
This week we catch up with local tour guide, Basil George, to get the inside track on St Helena highlights, top tips and how he thinks the Airport will impact the island. Basil is the proprietor of Magma Way Ltd, which specialises in devising and delivering group on-island itineraries for overseas tour companies and agencies.
What made you want to become a tour guide?
My wife Barbara persuaded me to take up the town walk tour she did for visitors when she started the Busy Bee in Napoleon’s Street, the first bookshop on the Island. Things developed from there.
I meet a lot of interesting people from a variety of countries and backgrounds, including descendents of Islanders who have emigrated.
What are your favourite three experiences on St Helena?
Any activity connected with the sea would be one. I grew up in Jamestown and the sea was on our doorstep. There was no swimming pool, we taught ourselves to swim, no scuba so we did free diving – into another world.
Walking is another. I particular enjoy the volcanic landscapes at Sandy and out West.
A third experience is growing up in an island community where you are thrown back on your own resources and have to “think with your hands”. Helping to build a family home is the experience of a lifetime!!
Where will you never get tired of visiting on St Helena?
It is difficult to choose! Visiting the SHAPE centre at Sandy Bay is one place, as I was invited to join a group to set it up. It is a project from the people with input from government, the private sector and a charity in Civil Society, so all sectors were involved in setting it up. I am still a member and though not now directly involved, whenever I visit, I am amazed at how SHAPE is developing with only a small staff maximizing what resources are available, seeing how the disabled are progressing and seeing the support given by many people.
Where’s your favourite place to watch the sun set?
The wharf, Jamestown as you have the dark cliff face of West Rocks contrasting with the colours of a setting sun. The wharf has been one of only two places where I have seen the green flash as the sun set. The other was on the RMS St Helena.
Tell us your top St Helena fact…
That for almost half our history the island was run by the English East India Company as a ‘company island’. But it never paid its way. St Helena was a vital staging post for the Company’s lucrative trade with the Far East. After the Dutch invasion and recapture in 1673 the king at the time gave the company a charter specifically for St Helena. It gave our ancestors full English citizenship, in perpetuity. It is unlikely that there is any other group of British citizens that can trace their citizenship rights to a Royal Charter!
The Airport is going to make a big difference to the Island, how will it affect you?
It is not the Airport itself that will make the biggest difference to the Island but the various reforms, introduction of global systems, timeframe for transition, improved infrastructure and services including delivering all the services of a national government – demands on a resident population of about 4,000 which would only be a small town or village in a developed country. It is the social impact of these collective, concentrated demands that will make a difference.