22nd February is an important date on the Saint Lucian calendar: it is the anniversary of the day that our nation gained independence. The day is celebrated as a public holiday.
Saint Lucia’s independence came amidst gunshot blasts and blazing fires, but not of a treacherous kind – they were celebratory explosions mimicking the uproar of pride and gratitude of a newborn nation.
Our little gem under the sun and home to the Caribs had been taken over by the French. They in turn fought against the British, with control of our strategically placed island changing hands fourteen times, until Britain finally vanquished the French in 1814.
On 1st March, 1967 Saint Lucia achieved a measure of self-governance when it became an Associated State of the United Kingdom. It was not until 1979 that the country gained full independence – on 22nd February under the leadership of Premier John Compton, making him the country’s first prime minister.
Following the ceremonious signing of documents, Saint Lucia became entirely self-governing and was free to move forward with autonomously strengthening its international relations. Independence gave way to the establishment of the Saint Lucian passport, Constitution, and the legitimization of the national anthem. Ties have been maintained with Britain as the island remains a part of the Commonwealth.
In an audio recording dating back to February 22nd 1979, Compton can be heard saying, “This moment has been celebrated with the sounds of guns, but these guns are being fired in salutation and not in anger. The distant hills – will come the glow of fires but these fires are fires of celebration . . . From the voices of our children have come songs . . . of praise and gladness for this day, the day of our independence!”
With God as my guide, I pledge allegiance to my country, Saint Lucia. I proclaim that I will serve my country with pride and dignity and will defend it with vigour and valour in the pursuit of excellence, justice and equality for all.
Jeff “Pelay” Elva
“Sons and Daughters of Saint Lucia”
Sons and daughters of Saint Lucia,
love the land that gave us birth.
Land of beaches, hills and valleys,
fairest isle of all the earth!
Wheresoever you may roam,
love oh love, our island home.
Gone the times when nations battled
for this ‘Helen of the West’.
Gone the days when strife and discord
dimmed her children’s toil and rest.
Dawns at last a brighter day,
stretches out a glad new way.
May the good Lord bless our island,
guard her sons from woe and harm.
May our people live united,
strong in soul and strong in arm.
Justice, Truth and Charity,
our ideal forever be!
The lyrics are by Charles Jesse. The music – a beautiful melody – was composed by Leton Felix Thomas.
Lucians love to sing their national anthem and will do so in schools and at many public events. The anthem was adopted in 1967 when Saint Lucia achieved self-government and was confirmed as the official anthem upon independence in 1979.