On the 31st December 'Okalolies' (men in costumes and scary masks) wander about the village to chase and capture any children or ladies outdoors. The fishing gong is sounded to ring in the New Year.

Event News

Old Year's Night 2019

Report and photos from Peter Millington, Rob Mrowicki, Emma Nolan and Robin Repetto

The weather was mixed on the 31st December for Tristan's 2019 Old Year's Night celebrations. Rain in the morning led some people to wonder if the Okalolies would be dressing up this year, but the sun came out late morning, so everything went ahead as normal.

Getting dressed up in the school hall Leaving the school gate

The Okalolies getting changed and setting off to marraud the village.

On this occasion, amid great secrecy, the men and boys got ready in the school hall and set off at about 3:35pm to prowl the village for women and children. Their first target, the new Finance Officer, had been forewarned of what to expect and had sensibly locked her doors. The Okalolies left disappointed (below).

Leaving the Finance Office's house Leaving the Finance Office's house Leaving the Finance Office's house

The Okalolies leave the Finance Officer's house disappointed, having failed to find a victim.

The next stop was Robin and Dawn Repetto's house, where they sat outside in total silence, except for grunts from a toy rubber pig. Robin and Dawn handed out drinks. Dawn seemed to be immune to their attentions, but their real targets were her daughters and a female expat who lives in the adjoining guest house. Amber, who bravely brought out drinks for the Okalolies, was chased back into the house, but the guest house remained firmly locked, and the other women escaped.

Dawn Repetto handing out beer in her garden Okalolies seated in Robin and Dawn's garden

Dawn and Robin Repetto hand out drinks to the Okalolies in their garden

At this point, visitor Peter Millington took out his accordion to play some traditional Tristan dance tunes. From then on he joined the Okalolies to play for them as they marched round the village.

Marching round the corner past Conrad Glass's house

Marching round the corner on the top road to the next house

The men continued their tour of the village calling at various houses and receiving hospitality until they struck gold. Despite all warnings, biologists Rob Mrowicki and Emma Nolan were sitting in a garden with friends when the Okalolies arrived. The children's paddling pool was too much of a temptation, and Emma was duly dumped in the water. She cannot have been too upset though, as she asked to have a group photograph taken with the perpetrators.

A soaked Emma Nolan posing for a group shot with the Okalolies

A soaked Emma Nolan posing for a group shot with the Okalolies

The tour included a visit to Tristan's oldest resident, Aunt Ellen, aged 101, who handed out biscuits. The Okalolies respectfully lifted their masks for a group photograph with her and toddler Leah-Faye Green, who until recently was the youngest islander.

With Aunt Ellen

The Okalolies with Aunt Ellen Rogers, Tristan's oldest resident

The heavens opened as the crowd was taking a break outside Prince Philip Hall later in the afternoon. However, the rain did not last long, and they continued undaunted until it was time for the Administrator's Old Year's Night Reception.

Outside Prince Philip Hall

Taking a break outside Prince Philip Hall

At Dr Alex and Sally's house - not gaining entry
"We know you're in there!" When a curtain twitched, the Okalolies realised that the doctor's house was not as empty as it seemed. But it remained locked up, and his wife was definitely not coming out.
Okalolie with Hydrangea head approaching the Residency's side gate
Right; An Okalolie brings a Hydrangea flower head for the Administrator's wife as he heads for the Residency.

Administrator's Reception

The Administrator's reception was billed to start at 6:00pm, and the Okalolies made their entrance into the Residency garden two by two shortly afterwards. They were greeted by Marina Burns, to whom they handed the flowers they had gathered.

Okalolies making an entrance to the Residency garden for the Admin's reception, to music and being filmed/photographed by Sean Okalolies making an entrance to the Residency garden for the Admin's reception
Okalolies making an entrance to the Residency garden for the Admin's reception
Men drinking and chatting in the Residency garden at the Admin's reception Okalolies greeting Marina with flowers, viewed from behind through window
The men drinking and chatting in the Residency garden at the Admin's reception Meanwhile, the women inside the Residency watch the Admin's wife Marina Burns receive flowers

The whole island was invited to the reception. Administrator Sean Burns read them a New Year message from the Governor, Philip Rushbrook. While the men milled around in the garden, most of the women kept warm and dry indoors. The Okalolies, on the other hand, walked through the Residency to the wall out at the back, where they could take their masks off and enjoy some food and drink while maintaining their anonymity. However, one or two brave boys and girls brought out refreshments for them. They were less scary without their masks.

Marching out of the Residency to the back wall, with drinks

Walking out of the Residency to the back wall, with drinks

Drinking and eating on the back wall behind the Residency Dean Repetto trying out the accordion
Drinking and eating behind the Residency, with brave children temporarily immune Dean Repetto having a go with the accordion.
Could he learn to play in time for next year?

Message for New Year from the Governor to all on Tristan da Cunha

"In my Christmas message I echoed Her Majesty's comment on the year that has just passed. It was a 'bumpy' one. On Tristan you know more than most of the day-to-day difficulties brought about by bad weather, in particular the two storms that did so much damage and disruption. It was as unexpected as it was frightening, and a setback for the island. But Tristan is renowned for the resilience and the strong spirit of its islanders. No sooner had the storm clouds passed than the community pulled together immediately to start the recovery and to get back on its feet. The quick response from everyone and the UK support mobilised by the Administrator and others meant that most aspects of life have returned to normal. I have little doubt that the rest of the work will be done soon, particularly at the school. What is important now is for you with UK Government help to build for the future as much resilience as possible into buildings. communications, and the essential materials on-island.

I apologise sincerely for not being able to visit Tristan as planned in 2019. My wife and I were preparing to come in September, but the events surrounding the storm meant that the island had other priorities. We are now aiming to come to the island next September on the SA Agulhas II. This will give me a decent period of time on Tristan to meet everyone and get to know you better. I also hope to see the harbour engineering works and look at future projects. This part of the fundamental support from the UK and elsewhere to the island, to ensure essential facilities are maintained. Just as important is the building of skills and capabilities of islanders. I was privileged to meet the three A-level students, Jade, Rhyanna and Janice, before taking up the Governor post in May. Similarly, I met the two Tristanians, Riaan and Kelly, who spent six months in St Helena working in Veterinary Science and Horticulture. This was an excellent example of inter-island cooperation that I hope continues, and look forward to welcoming the future placements, possibly in health and education.

Looking ahead, in the start of the coming year, there will be an air of expectation on the island on the future arrangements to protect the world's oceans. The UK Government with its Blue Belt Programme has been in the forefront of seeking to protect in a sensible way as much of the seas around its Overseas Territories as possible. In recent years, protection of marine resources, including sustainable fishing practices, have been put in place around St Helena and Ascension. I am aware the Island Council on Tristan has also taken the hard decision on its 2020/22 declaration, so I await a future announcement, and for Tristan da Cunha to receive rightly the recognition it deserves. Completion of protection around the ialands has to be one that guarantees respecting both the valuable biodiversity on the seamounts and future fishing opportunities. This would underpin Tristan's reputation to manage its fisheries responsibly. In support of the future intentions I am pleased to learn of the tangible support provided by the UK Government on marine research, a new RIB, a refurbished Wave Dancer patrol boat, satellite surveys for illegal fishing, and expert guidance. The Blue Belt Programme has been extended, so I look forward to Tristan da Cunha continuing its successful engagement.

There will be another big project in 2020. It was good to hear islanders will be working with the RSPB during their initiative to eradicate mice on Gough Island. Improving the breeding success of endangered bird species on Gough will be further testament of Tristan da Cunha's commitment to protecting the environment, particularly since this island is of international importance as a World Heritage Site.

Lastly and equally importantly, I extend my considerable appreciation and thanks for the dedicated work of your Administrator, Sean Burns, and his wife Marina. Sean's tour of duty on Tristan will end in January and he has been a tireless advocate of the needs and aspirations of the island. I am also pleased we will have continuity with the arrival of the new Administrators. Stephen and Fiona will be working as a team and share the time as Administrator throughout the year. They will be bringing two 'firsts'to Tristan: Fiona will be the first lady to be a Tristan Administrator and together they will be the first husband and wife team to share the role. Job share is becoming increasingly common in the Foreign Offie so I feel sure it will work well for everyone.

My wife, Janis, and I look forward to coming to the island later in 2020. In the meantime, as we enter the New Year I wish all islanders a prosperous and successful year. May your hopes be fulfilled and your opportunities be successful.

Philip Rushbrook

Sean Burns added

"My thanks to the Governor for his message and kind words. I have little to add save that I really appreciate the work that went in to getting the Baltic Trader finally offloaded on Christmas Eve. Thanks also to all of those who gave up their Boxing Day to welcomee the passengers of the Bremen ashore on Boxing Day.

Marina and I thank everyone who has been so generous donating food for the reception and for Beverley and the team for their food preparations and organisation

This will be our final Old Year's Night as 'admin' and we look forward to one day being here as guests.

In the meantime, we wish everyone a wonderful evening and all the best for 2020! Thank you all for coming this evening."

Chief Islander's Reception

The Administrator's reception was followed immediately by the Chief Islander's reception. This normally takes place at his or her house, but with the change in the weather, it was moved at short notice to Prince Philip Hall. The Okalolies made the most of the accordion, and entered the hall dancing and cutting capers to laughs and cheers from the audience. And later on there was the popular Pillow Dance.

Okalolies entering Prince Philip Hall and jigging around to accordion music Chief Islander James Glass giving his speech at his reception in Prince Philip Hall
The Okalolies dance into Prince Philip Hall Chief Islander James Glass giving his speech at the reception

Pillow Dance in the hall

The Pillow Dance at the Chief Islander's Old Year's Night reception in Prince Philip Hall

James Glass's Old Year's Night Speech

"I would just like to welcome everyone here tonight as we prepare for the coming of the New Year. The past year has been a challenging one with two storms which have put other work on hold, and I thank the contractors for helping us get back on track.

This year we have a new somewhat younger Island Council, and I am sure that they will support island needs, especially the younger generation in whichever careers they wish to follow. And we thank Peter and the Tristan Association for their support through the Education Fund, because they are our future. However, we must also not forget the older generation for their contribution in getting the island where it is today. The pensioners literally keep the factory operational. With island average age getting higher and the population getting smaller, we will need to do more things by a combined effort. That means more All Hands' Days for larger jobs.

There are challenges ahead; the health of the community being one of them, the roads being another, and I am hoping that funding will be found for a road project next summer. I would also like to see the swimming pool heated and covered if possible, and I have already spoken to the Foreign Office about this when I was last in the UK.

On a positive note, we have agreed to protect at least 51% of our EEZ. The return of the Wave Dancer after being out of operation for a long time is welcome. The wave dancer was refurbished in the UK and funded by the Blue Belt Programme to ensure that the island has the capability to contnue fisheries partols, conduct and support marine research/science, and search and resue operations. But I hope all the community should benefit from it. For example, it will be a great help to people who intend building shacks at Nightingale to get their materials there. I know more people are interested in going on a fatting trip. I would suggest that people think about grouping together and maybe the Wave Dancer can tow a longboat over to Nightingale with everyone wishing to go, and collected at the end when ready. This is the first time in eight years since the community harvested penguin eggs, and I hope that it continues in a sustainable way.

The island has been without an Anglican priest for approximately eight years, and we welcome Reverend Margaret and her husband. The church plays an important part of island life. We also congratulate Lars and Eddie on receiving their BEMs in this year's Honours List.

We say goodbye to Sean and Marina and wish them all the very best in Ascension, and look forward to having the first woman Administrator as a shared post, hopefully seeing Tristan's problems through new eyes. Finally I would like to wish all of you and your families a happy and pleasant New Year. From Felicity and myself; enjoy! Thank you."

Ringing in the New Year

After the receptions had finished, everyone went back home and visited braais at each other's houses, despite the moist weather. As midnight approached, people made their way to the fishing gong at the back of Prince Philip hall to ring in the New Year. This is only time when anyone is allowed to ring it, and most people did. Similarly, some people also went to St Mary's church to ring the bells there.

Emma Nolan striking the fishing gong Jill Repetto near the gong with Marina and Sean Burns
Striking the fishing gong to ring in the New Year Jill Repetto by the gong with Marina and Sean Burns
Jade Repetto helping Charlie Squibb ring the tower bell from inside St Mary's Church Amber Repetto ringing the bell outside the door of St Mary's Church

Above: Amber Repetto ringing the bell outside the door of St Mary's Church

Left: Jade Repetto helping Charlie Squibb ring the tower bell from inside St Mary's Church