News of Tristan da Cunha's Chief Islanders' visits, meetings, events and duties.
Chief Islander visits Gough Island

Giving a hand with unloading
At the Gough Welcome Sign
Cheers Ian

Chief Islander Ian Lavarello
visited Gough Island
on the inaugural voyage of
SA Agulhas II
in September-October 2012

We aim to publish more of
Ian's pictures in a feature
on Gough Island in the
August 2013 Tristan Newsletter

At the wheel of SA Agulhas

Departing Gough on 3rd October

Old Year's Night 2012
Images above show scenes of Old Year's Night 2012
with Ian Lavarello (left) relaxing after delivering his end of year Chief Islanders' Speech in the far right picture.

Ian Lavarello's Old Year's Night Speech 2012:

It's certainly been a remarkable year for Tristan: one in which our celebration of The Queen's Diamond Jubilee, with our beacon burning cut down invasive species, made the headlines across Britain and the world. When BBC radio news looked at what was going on around the world on the day of the Jubilee, it was to Tristan they turned and reported on what we were doing here to mark this milestone in the Queen's reign, by helping rid our island of these unwanted plants. It's a good indication of how Tristan's unique way of life is now being recognised as something very special in the wider world.

The beacon, of course, was a Tristan initiative – as was the building of the replica pioneer's cottage, in which so many of us worked to make it possible to show our younger generation and our visitors, how our forefather's lived and toiled.

It's a year in which we've seen some good progress on other fronts: the island's claim against the insurers of the Oliva has been settled. It means Ovenstones can get on with developing their business on Tristan, as they hope to sell the lobster into Britain and Europe as soon as the negotiations with the European Commission are concluded.

We've reached an agreement for those children who want to continue on to higher education to be able to so in South Africa. We all know it's a big step for youngsters to move so far from home in their mid-teens, but only through education can the island achieve its full potential so that it can survive in the future. The work to set this up – and all the training and improvements at St. Mary's School, are a tribute to Jim Kerr's dedication and the enthusiastic response of our teachers, parents and pupils. We were sorry to see Jim and Sue leave and hope that now they're safely home in Norfolk, they'll feel able to continue their long and friendly association with us.

Then there's the harbour and the hospital – two of the biggest concerns for most of us. Islanders have long argued that the harbour is in the wrong place and often it seemed, the civil servants and “experts” just wouldn't listen. Finally, we have been able to get message about the urgent need for progress through to the very top. I wasn't able to attend the Joint Ministerial Council in London of the Overseas Territories this year, but our UK Representative stood in for me. He was able to spell it out how necessary this work is. He explained it to the new Minister for the Overseas Territories Mark Simmonds; he explained it to the other ministers and officials from all the other territories at the meeting in London and he explained it to the Prime Minister, David Cameron.

For what I think was the first time, a representative of Tristan da Cunha was invited into Ten Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister. Chris tells me the PM was well briefed about Tristan and our worries over the harbour and he understood the need for progress.

In fact, Chris had a letter from the Minister this week saying he understands the challenges a remote community such as Tristan faces in attracting doctors and of the need to improve the hospital. He said he hopes we will see progress with this soon – something which I think we all agree will be very welcome.

The minister's also promised progress in the New Year on looking at developing the options for the best way forward.

So, bit by bit, we're getting there: many of the island knitters now help to produce exports for New Zealand – I'm told there are no sheep there(!) – we've got a new firm designing and marketing our stamps to collectors – and the progress of Trevor and his colleagues in looking after our natural environment is admired by conservation groups around the world.

Tristan's finances appear to be turning the corner after years of worrying losses and declining reserves. That's a very considerable achievement in a world where economies are in crisis and prices of basic foodstuffs and fuel are soaring and the cause of much hardship.

I'd like to pause for a moment and ask you to remember those who were affected by the tragedy in June as we prepared to celebrate Her Majesty's Jubilee and those who for whatever reason are no longer with us.

And I think we will all want to wish a special Happy New Year to Sean and Marina Burns and their family in what will be their last year working on Tristan. They've overseen some dramatic and often very difficult changes in our community and we have all become firm friends along the way.

Let's wish them well, as we wish each other well and those friends of Tristan around the world, who in their own way, do much to help and support our island. I've been asked by the new Minister, Mr. Simmonds to pass on his hopes that we all enjoyed a very Happy Christmas and that we enjoy a prosperous New Year. I'm sure you will all join me in saying “hear hear” to that!

See also the Christmas and New Year 2012-13 Page for more on Old Year's Night 2012.

Opening of Traditional Thatched House Museum
Photos above show the thatched house on opening day 19th December 2012
Centre picture shows Ian Lavarello (left) with Sean Burns, James Glass, Lars Repetto and Dawn Repetto during the opening ceremony

Speech from Chief Islander Ian Lavarello
A few years ago it was fashionable to agree with that saying “History is Bunk”. Personally I've always thought it wise to remember the other expression: “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it”. Quite simply, if we don't know what's gone on in the past, how can we cope with the future?
All of which, I think, makes today's opening of our Traditional Tristan Thatch House so important, as Tristan depends today and will in the future for its survival on the lessons from our pioneering forebears and how they built a life here in the South Atlantic, so far from anywhere else.
There's a real danger that as we become ever more dependent on technology and the internet – and we deal more and more with the outside world -- that we forget what it took to make life possible here on Tristan. Nothing is more fundamental than our homes and the shelter and warmth they accord us, so building of this traditional house is especially important.
It was a wonderful initiative by our Tourism Coordinator Dawn Repetto, to let today's younger generation learn from the older ones how a traditional house was built – right from cutting the rock, finding the wood, building the walls, thatching the roof and fitting it out. Of course, it will be a big draw too for visitors, who are fascinated by the story of those pioneers and how they battled the elements to make a life here for themselves and their families.
So – special thanks today must go to everyone who helped plan, build and complete this wonderful project – and I'd like to give a special big public “thank you” to Ches, Herbert, Anthony, Donald, Joseph, Eric and Piers for all their hard work in making it possible.

See also: Thatched House and Thatched House Building pages for more.

Chief Islander Ian Lavarello's 2011 Visit to South Africa and Europe

Ian travelled from Tristan aboard SA Agulhas in early October, followed by a training course in Johannesburg, South Africa.

We publish below reports and pictures of Ian's UK trip which concluded with attendance at the
UK Overseas Territories Consultative Council's Conference
on 23rd - 24th November.

Report on the UK Overseas Territories Consultative Council's Conference
from Tristan da Cunha Government UK Representative Chris Bates

An extended report on Ian's UK visit will appear in the February Tristan Newsletter

On the day before the conference, the Minister for Overseas Territories holds a series of meetings known as “bilaterals” with territory leaders. Ian had been asked by the Minister, Henry Bellingham MP, for a note of Tristan's priorities and he used this to make him aware of concerns by the fishery concessionaires, Ovenstone Agencies (PTY) Ltd about the pace of accreditation of the product from Tristan and punitive tariffs encountered in trying to export to China.

Ian explained to Mr Bellingham complexities and apparent inconsistencies between what the Chinese authorities would accept without tariffs and what they would not – and the beneficial effect on Tristan's economy if these difficulties could be overcome. The Minister undertook to try to “unblock” the situation. He went through in detail Ian's points that a new harbour to replace the existing structure would be better for the island and for the British taxpayer; he discussed in detail concerns about the condition of the Camogli Hospital and progress on education improvements, tourism development and conservation.

Later at a reception organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Ian was able to elaborate on these issues with MPs and members of the House of Lords. It was clear there is great interest among them in Tristan and continuing concern over the effects of the wreck of the bulk carrier Oliva on wildlife and the economy.

One of the points Mr Bellingham was able to make when he opened the Conference was that there was now proof that the Government saw the Overseas Territories as assets to be proud of – and not liabilities. He was able to list progress such as the signing of the agreement to build the airport on St Helena; to invest in the rebuilding of the Turks & Caicos Islands' government structures; in ensuring the wishes of the Falkland Islanders to remain British were not compromised and that the dispute between the Ministry of Defence and the Ascension Government over payments had been resolved.

Mr Bellingham said he was impressed by the way other government departments were happy to co-operate and engage with Overseas Territories; Ian was able to list the challenges facing Tristan and was in turn praised for setting up the training co-operation with the Isle of Man.

Ian was also able to speak on the wish of Tristan people to see more visits from Royal Navy vessels to discourage poaching and his support for secondment of departmental workers around the South Atlantic to create opportunities. He warned this needed someone to take charge and there were budget implications. He suggested the airport on St Helena could benefit all the South Atlantic if a new shipping service linking St Helena to Tristan was developed for upmarket tourists and islanders, as well as freight and essential supplies. He welcomed the opportunity for Tristan workers to be employed on the construction of the airport.

The first day's session was concluded by t he Foreign Secretary, Rt. Hon. William Hague MP, when Ian was able to tell him: “It's an honour and a privilege to be able to thank you for all the FCO has done to help the island - its finances and in every other way”. For this, he was warmly thanked by the Foreign Secretary and by Mr Bellingham.

Tristan Chief Islander Ian Lavarello
(2nd left) with other
Overseas Territory Leaders and
(centre front) The Foreign Secretary
Rt. Hon. William Hague MP

Tristan Chief Islander Ian Lavarello meeting
Minister for Overseas Territories Rt. Hon. Henry Bellingham MP

Delegates assembled
in conference
with Ian Lavarello
far right

Photos courtesy of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office

A further eight Departments attended the second day, with UK Government Ministers and senior officials participating from the Departments of Education; Communities and Local Government; Culture, Media and Sport; Home Office; Business, Innovation and Skills; Work and Pensions; Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; and Energy, and Climate Change. They discussed ways to assist the Territories, in line with the new Government-wide approach to supporting their development.

Afterwards the Minister said: This Government has a clear vision for our Overseas Territories to be vibrant and flourishing communities, proudly retaining aspects of their British identity and generating wider opportunities for their people. We have made good progress in the last year in developing our approach to the Overseas Territories. We are investing heavily in the Territories that need the most assistance, including building an airport on St Helena as well as significant development work in Montserrat and on-going work to restore the principles of good governance and sound financial management to the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

Priorities for Tristan listed by Ian, ahead of his meeting with Mr Bellingham:

  • New hospital and associated medical facilities and training of staff to modern standards.
  • Education – standards need to come up to UK standards (of school building, teaching and facilities); this will help to change attitudes of islanders towards the education of their children.
  • Infrastructure: basic service of water, telecommunication, roads need to come up to the standards of the outside world – provision of a new harbour must be a priority for the long term development and future of the island.
  • Conservation: continue to work with government departments, NGOs and UNESCO to conserve and protect the islands' wildlife and environment.
  • Transport – transport links to the outside world need to be improved to give islanders more opportunity to travel and for tourists, freight and those working with Tristan to reach the island.
  • Tourism: needs to continue to be developed but improvements in transport and infrastructure are essential for this.
  • Links with St. Helena and South Atlantic Territories: develop an exchange programme between key personnel, trainers and trainees and have higher profile Royal Navy visits.

50th Anniversary
in Fawley
on 19th November

Chief Islander Ian Lavarello with other Tristan Islanders who attended the 50th Anniversary Gathering
to commemorate the evacuation of the island in October and arrival in England in November 1961 following the volcanic eruption.
The event was organised by Violet Brown (nee Repetto) and helped by other locally based island families who brought food to the Fawley Royal British Legion Club which provided a convenient and spacious location for this special event. The Tristan da Cunha Government Representative Chris Bates coordinated the event and arranged for teams from BBC and ITV to be present.

Photos from Peter Millington above and here show:

Left: Chief Islander Ian Lavarello delivering his speech of welcome

Right: Hostess Violet Brown with her son Ian and his wife Mandy

Violet has sent this message to those who came:

"Thank you for coming to the reunion for the
50th Anniversary of the Evacuation. We all enjoyed ourselves and the event went very well. All our love, Vi, Mick, Sue (daughter), Chris and Ian"

Further Pictures from
Ian Brown, Peter Millington
and Chris Bates

Violet's Volcano Cake
was enjoyed
by everyone

ITV Meridian's
Richard Jones
Left: With Adam Swain
who was a member of the 1962
Royal Society Expedition to Tristan

With Chief Islander Ian Lavarello

Chief Islander Ian Lavarello
and Adam Swain
interviewed by BBC South

After lunch Tristan Newsletter Editor Richard Grundy thanked Violet and her family on behalf of Association members who attended. He then gave a presentation about the Association's work, briefing Islanders about their membership (the Association sends newsletters to all Islanders on Tristan and overseas), the Tristan website run by the Association, plans for a 2013 book (see the 50th Anniversary Book Page), inviting them to the 2012 Annual Gathering (See 2012 Annual Gathering Page), explaining the Tristan Education Trust Fund (see TEF Page) appeal and inviting them to keep in touch with their news and pictures. Included were several unpublished images of the island which will be in the 2013 book.

Visit to the Isle of Man
Report and pictures from Chris Bates

This is what Tristan needs -- Ian denies he tried to persuade the Castletown Harbour Commissioners to sell them their harbour wall and lighthouse to move to Tristan to replace the existing structures!

Ian was unable to attend this year's Remembrance Sunday
commemoration on Tristan so paid his respects at the War Memorial in
Ramsey, in the north of the Isle of Man.

Ian at Tynwald Hill, St Johns, Isle of Man where Tynwald has met for more than a thousand years on a specially constructed mound: once legislation has passed through Tynwald, the House of Keys and the
Legislative Council, it must be promulgated to the public in the open air from Tynwald Hill.

An important part of the Chief Islander's visit has been a "good governance" study tour of the Isle of Man to see this Crown
Dependency's system of government at first hand -- it has the world's oldest parliament, the Tynwald, which has met without interruption for more than a thousand years. With the help of the Manx Government, Ian was also able to study the transformation of the island's tourism industry from its "kiss-me-quick" image to today's emphasis on heritage and conservation, its fishing and agriculture industries, its philatelic and souvenir coin business -- which as on Tristan, forms an integral part of the island's economy.

He gave a presentation to present and retired members of Tynwald, the House of Keys and the Legislative Council, as the guest of the Manx branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association at the invitation of a member of the Legislative Council, Alex Downie MLC, who twice visited Tristan around the time of the 1961 evacuation.

Ian said: "I'm taking back to Tristan many lessons I have learned about the way in which the Manx people govern themselves which has enabled them to build a successful and prosperous society. It's a fascinating island and they clearly welcome the opportunity to be involved in Tristan's development".

Ian was given a tour of the Legislative Buildings in the Manx capital Douglas by the Clerk of Tynwald, Roger Phillips.
The Chief Islander presented a plaque
of the Coat of Arms of Tristan da Cunha
to the Speaker of the House of Keys,
Hon. Stephen Rodan,
accompanied by the UK Representative, Chris Bates.

Ian was welcomed by the President of Tynwald, Hon. Clare Christian MLC, with an overview of the Manx Parliamentary System. The Chief Islander presented her with a copy of the most recent Tristan Newsletter
and a copy of the new edition of Conrad Glass's Rockhopper Copper.

Meetings in London,
Peterborough and Bedfordshire

Ian attended the World Travel Market in the ExCel Exhibition Centre in London's Docklands on 8th November

and on the following day visited

the Joint Nature Conservation Committee's Peterborough offices

and then the RSPB headquarters at Sandy in Bedfordshire

Photos from Chris Bates

Left: At the JNCC in Peterborough, Programme Leader for the Overseas
Territories Tony Weighell welcomes the Chief Islander Ian Lavarello.

Above: At the Sandy RSPB HQ
Discussing the RSPB's involvement in Tristan, (L-R) - Sarah Sanders,
Head of Partnership Development Unit (Africa, Asia and UK Overseas
Territories);Ian Lavarello,; Dr Tim Stowe, Director, International
Operations; Sacha Cleminson, Head of International Biodiversity Policy;
Chris Bates, Tristan UK Representative.

A full report of the Chief Islander's Visit will appear in the February 2012 Newsletter

Chief Islander's
German Visit

Ian flew to Munich in Germany
to visit
Mariah(nee Green)
and Marko Leitner
and their baby son Liam

from 29th October - 2nd November

Photos and report
from Mariah Leitner

Ian at a traditional
German beer garden
on 29th October

Above: Ian in Munich city centre

Left: Ian with Liam

Right: Ian at the German
Aircraft Museum

Chief Islander
Ian Lavarello

observing Jeffrey Rogers and Dereck Rogers
working to rehabilitate
Rockhopper Penguins
in March 2011

Chief Islander
Ian Lavarello
looks out from Nightingale
towards Inaccessible Island
in 2011
Photograph of Chief Islander
Ian Lavarello
on MV Edinburgh
off Gough Island
on 28th April 2010
whilst working
as a Fisheries Observer