This morning, His Excellency the Governor Mr. John S. Duncan, OBE had an audience with Her Majesty The Queen at Buckingham Palace.
At their meeting the Governor gave Her Majesty a pouch of salt from Salt Island as a gift from the people of the Virgin Islands. The harvesting of salt was once an annual tradition going back to the days of Queen Victoria in 1867 when the residents would gather once a year to harvest the salt from the lake on Salt Island.
It was customary for the Administrator and later the Governor to send one pound of salt to the Monarch in lieu of rent, on the Queen’s birthday. It was in remembrance of that tradition that the Governor took a special consignment to London today.
The salt for today’s event was harvested specially for the occasion by Calvin “Jandy” Smith of East End Tortola. Calvin is the grandson of the late Clementine Smith, OBE, who was born on Salt Island on 9 May, 1911. Calvin learnt the delicate and dangerous art of harvesting salt from his grandmother and continues that tradition even to this today.
He takes joy in carrying on the tradition of salt harvesting and is often called upon by residents for their supply.
Today the salt, which is of excellent quality, is mainly used at the Peebles Hospital Dialysis Unit. It is also used at some local spas and restaurants in their treatments and dishes. It is also available to residents and tourists in local shops in Tortola and Virgin Gorda both for cooking and in the form of bath salts.
The pouch holding the salt for Her Majesty was screen printed and custom made by Mrs. Lethelma Thomas. Mrs. Thomas, born on September 22nd 1943 on the island of Tortola, was taught the art of sewing by her mother at an early age.
From 1976-1986 Lethelma was employed at Caribbean Handprints for the sole purpose of sewing clothing made from screen-printed materials which were designed with scenes depicting the islands of Tortola, Anegada, Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda and surrounding cays and islets. Other designs included shells, plants and other scenes found in the BVI.
Mrs. Thomas was able to learn the art of screen-printing while employed and although now retired, continues to teach this art to school children.