Being a Saint: Customs
In our latest look at the unique culture enjoyed here on St Helena we examine some of the customs intrinsically linked with “Saint-ness”.
Waving and greeting
Don’t be surprised if you are greeted by a complete stranger when making your way down Main Street in Jamestown – you have not been mistaken for someone else, it’s just one of our customs. St Helena is well known for its friendliness and for extending a warm welcome to all, including newly-arrived visitors. At the very least it is expected that you greet everyone you pass, if not engaging in a short (or longer!) conversation before repeating the process with the next passer-by. When driving it is customary to wave at every vehicle you pass, and this is often extended to pedestrians along the roadside.
Music and dancing
Our taste in music is as varied as our ancestry. Country and folk music is popular with the older generation. This might be attributed to the outflow of Saints to Ascension Island in the 1940’s, to work on the construction of the Wideawake Airfield. There they met Americans who were often from the southern United States and were, by and large, fans of country music. To these young Saints this music was new and very different from the more conventional music from home. They adopted it as their own and when they returned to St Helena, brought it back with them.
Younger Saints are more influenced by hip hop and R&B, while the dance and club genres are growing in popularity, as is new age and contemporary music.
Saints enjoy dancing to country or folk music and some of the favourite dances include the Boston, Heel & Toe Polka, Palais Glide, Valetta, Lambeth Walk, the Hokey Pokey and also a bit of barn dancing and waltzing . Dancing usually takes place at weddings and birthday parties as well as at regular community dances.
Start chatting to Saints and you will soon realise that many locals are much better known by their nicknames than by their surnames. Each nickname comes with a unique bit of history and in some cases, for example with “Bite-the-Dog” and “Patch Eye”, it is not difficult to imagine the story behind the names. But certain others may be a bit more obscure.
A few Saints have kindly given us permission to mention the stories behind their nicknames here:
Terry Richards, nicknamed Crasher
As a young boy, when attending a church youth group, Terry had to wait outside until the minister let him in. He could wait no longer and barged in, at which the minister said: “I won’t have any gate crashing here.” The name has stuck ever since.
Raymond Young, nicknamed Buffalo
When taking part in sports at school, Raymond used to run with his head down and his friends thought that he resembled a buffalo.
Jason Lawrence, nicknamed Coolie
Jason’s father used to drive a van on Ascension Island and thought he looked cool doing so. From this an American started calling him ‘’coolie’’.
Nigel Joshua, nicknamed Notchy
He inherited this name from his father who received a very bad hair cut from a friend, full of “notches”.