Bigsand Hotel

Union Island, St Vincent

Bigsand Hotel

About Union Island

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In the heart of the unspoiled Southern Caribbean lies a set of small Islands called the Grenadines. Most of these islets are deserted and preserved as a natural resource (the Tobago Cays are a well known example).

The average yearly temperature is about 27°C (81°F). The coolest months are between November and February. From May through October, short spells of rain are frequent in the mountains of St. Vincent. The average rainfall on the coast is limited to 200 cm (80 inches) per year.

Union Island is 2,100 acres mountainous island fringed by superb beaches and abundance of brilliant flora and exciting fauna. From the semi-arid climate of the nearby Tobago Cays to the rainforests of mainland St. Vincent and from the other worldly undersea coral reefs to the mist shrouded peaks rising 1,000 feet above sea level, St. Vincent and the Grenadines are a real paradise for those who love to be in close contact with untouched nature. Both much appreciated by hikers and scuba divers.

The Pinnacle is the highest peak on the island at 1,000 feet and affords spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea and the neighbouring islands. There are plenty of hiking options all over the island. Day hiking excursions can be organised and Bigsand Hotel offers mountain bikes for hire to explore the majestic hills of Union Island.

The local population of Union Island mainly consists of some 2,500 indigenous inhabitants, happily living together with a small group of foreign immigrants and an ever-increasing number of visitors.

The Island’s History

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Union Island is located midway between Grenada and St. Vincent and is equidistant from Barbados, Trinidad and Martinique. Amerindian tribes from South America used it as a stop-off point and archaeological discoveries have established that they settled here from as early as 5400BC and remained until the 1750s when the Europeans arrived.

The first Colonists of note were two Frenchmen, Jean Augier and Antoine Regaud, who settled in Union Island before 1763 with 350 slaves. After their departure, Samuel Span, a wealthy merchant from Bristol, England set up a trading post – S & J Span & Company. Although the Span family was involved in general maritime trade they were also heavily active in the slave trade. They brought with them hundreds of slaves who most likely originated from Cameroon and Angola. The Spans were the first owners of Union Island.

A 1778 report states that the population of Union comprised of 16 Europeans and 430 African slaves. The Colonists grew cotton and their substantial harvests yielded 250,000 pounds per year. Slavery was abolished in 1834, and sixteen years later Span sold Union Island to Major Collins from St. Vincent.

Collins himself did not engage in any trade and leased the island to a Scotsman, Charles Mulzac. Sharecropping replaced the regime of slavery but life changed very little for the people of Union Island. Apart from a little trade in poultry, turtle shells and wood to the neighbouring islands, most inhabitants relied on subsistence farming for survival.

In 1893 Mulzac died and his son Richard took over the leases. Richard’s son, Hugh was the pride of Union Island in 1940 when he became the first black man to command a ship of the American Navy.

The 1898 hurricane, coupled with poor cotton harvest, forced Mulzac to sell Union Island to a Vincentian – Mr. Richards.

His ownership was not a successful one and the workers’ protest caught the attention of the British Crown, who bought the island in 1910 and set up the Union Island Land Settlement Scheme.

The Island was divided into two and four-acre parcels and sold on credit to the local population at concessionary rates, bringing the subjection of the people of Union Island to a definitive end. People began to build their own homes which were huts with straw roofs.

In 1939, a steady flow of emigrants headed towards the USA and the larger neighbouring islands. The first car was unloaded in 1956, the first school was opened in 1972 and the airport was opened in 1974.

Today the Island is attracting an ever increasing number of visitors to its shores.