Top job: Kevin Betsy is the new Under 23-team coach at Arsenal
12th August 2021
Congratulations have been pouring in from all over the world after Kevin Betsy took up a new job managing the Under 23-team at top London football club, Arsenal.Seychellois-born Kevin, 43, had previou... more...
Campaigners for Press freedom: Lewis Betsy, left, and Bernard Verlaque
29th June 2021
By Lewis Betsy From the moment I left Seychelles on 1st April, 1980, and then settled in the UK, my thoughts have always turned to the same thing: the vital need for Seychelles to have a free Pre... more...
25th June 2021
 By Lewis Betsy The 29th June has always been an important day for me and for my beloved Seychelles. The independence of our nation from Britain on that day in 1976 was a turning point ... more...
Sharing the same dream: Lewis Betsy and Georges Bibi
25th June 2021
 By Lewis Betsy I recently met up for a fascinating chat about sport with Georges Bibi, my long-time footballing friend and now chief executive officer of the Seychelles Football Federation.... more...
Testimony: Lewis Betsy states his case at a Commission hearing in 2019
25th June 2021
 By Lewis Betsy The Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission hearings in Seychelles are turning into a farce.This is not easy for me to say as I am a complainant and want the comm... more...
Assured performance: President Ramkalawan at the May Press conference
14th May 2021
 By Lewis Betsy President Ramkalawan has always had his critics, but it was a surprise to me to hear hostile comments made by some who I thought would be sympathetic to him.I talk to a lot o... more...
Honoured: Paul D’Offay, left, Felicity Passon and Joel Melanie with their shields
14th May 2021
By Lewis Betsy Seychelles Life is always keen to encourage the positive side in our society and three Seychellois have today earned our respect and admiration.Felicity Passon, Joel Melanie and Pa... more...
Committed to the task: Alain St Ange relishes his new role
13th April 2021
Alain St Ange, the much-acclaimed former Tourism Minister for Seychelles and who as leader of the One Seychelles opposition party came third when he contested the Presidential election in October 2020... more...

The writer who helps us rediscover the fascinating past of Seychelles

10th February 2015

Acclaimed historian: William McAteer
Acclaimed historian: William McAteer

William McAteer is an authority on Seychelles’ history: from the time Seychelles was haunted by pirates and Arab traders to present times.

It is not unusual for someone to quote one of the Scottish-born writer's books, as he is known to be precise, well-researched and flawless. He has a wide global audience too. Many of his articles have been published in Air Seychelles' in-flight magazine “Silhouette”.

His books are “Rivals in Eden” in 1991 – constituting the first part of the history of Seychelles, from 1742 to 1827, followed by “Hard times in Paradise”  in 2000, which continues this history  from 1827 to 1919.

These were followed by “To be a Nation” covering 1920 to Independence in 1976.

In his just-released book “Echoes of Eden”, a collection of historical essays, McAteer once again helps us to rediscover the past. In many ways, it constitutes a political discovery.

Among interesting anecdotes, we learn that Seychelles’ last crocodile was killed in La Digue in 1810. Towards the end of the book, we read the thoughts and reflections of people who have shaped Seychelles’ history. They include Judge Andre Sauzier, historian and conservationist, Kantilal Jivan Shah, Roy Fonseka, a former Commando in the British army and now owner of Pilgrims Security firm; as well as Ramond Brioche, who helped set up the Biodiversity Centre at Barbarons, on Mahe’s west coast.

Born in Glasgow, William McAteer, was called up to do his National Service just as the war with Japan ended in 1945. On the day he reported to camp in the north of Scotland to begin his military service, the Japanese were signing the surrender document on the USS Missouri. He was in the army until 1949, with service in the Middle East and Greece, and went on to become a  journalist in East Africa.

That is where he met his Seychellois wife, Juliette Mellon, whom he married in Nairobi. Soon after, they retired to Seychelles.

She was clearly the love of his life and bore him three lovely children - Ian, Jean and Brigitte. She sadly passed away four years ago aged 81.

McAteer recalls that it was Juliette who suggested he write a history book.

Juliette probably never realised the research and travelling this work entailed and may later have regretted it. McAteer jokes that she was an “island girl”. When they got married, she told him that she disliked the sea and boats. Yet she had lived on Cerf Island, 2k from Mahe, and had to cross the sea often in a small boat.

“Echoes of Eden” is in ten parts. In the first chapter, we are told about the animals that prevailed in Seychelles before humans. These include crocodiles, giant land tortoises and outstanding plants, such as the disappearing “Sandrago” trees, which have been hit by a fungal disease.

McAteer explains why the French administrator Pierre Poivre wanted to keep Seychelles’ location a secret.

Poivre had found the fabulous nuts that the French characteristically called “Coco Fesse”.

The beginning of human history in the archipelago is contained in Chapter two, which also explains the mystery behind the islands’ name.

Sechelles – later anglicised upon the British conquest in the Napoleonic War – was supposedly named after the French Finance Minister, Le Duc Moreau de Sechelles. But McAteer asks: Was it really him or his young and handsome grandson, Marie-Joseph?

There are also tales of pirates. These include William Kidd, one of the most notorious pirates of the Indian Ocean.

Another is the French corsair Olivier Le Vasseur, who is alleged to have buried a fabulous treasure at Bel Ombre before he was caught by French naval ships. He was tried and hanged on Reunion island.

By then, the islands were too valuable to lose. But, they were also costly to defend.

“Echoes of Eden” recalls how the French captain Jean-Baptiste Queau de Quincy, surrendered five times to the British.

That was the time the first settlements were made on St Anne Island, three miles from Victoria, the capital, in those days, still called “Etablissement du Roi”. For a long time, St Anne was said to be haunted. But that  could have been part of the local folklore. However, it is now the site of the luxury Beachcomber Resort & Spa and no visitor has ever reported seeing any ghosts.

The next part of the history is about the arrival of the first slaves. Seychelles was also used as a dumping ground for emerging rulers from other lands who were an annoyance to their colonial masters.

These include the Sulan of Perak (today part of Malaysia), King Ashanti from West Africa’s Gold Coast (now Ghana) and Archbishop Makarios, who later became first President of Cyprus.

McAteer also writes about the origins of the Seychellois people from many parts of the world, who mixed and constituted a delightful cocktail.

Seychelles joined the British Commonwealth upon independence in June 1976. During World War II, several hundred Seychellois served with the British Army on the side of the Western forces.

Mont Fleuri Cemetery has a cenotaph with a long list of our local heroes who fell in the service of freedom.

McAteer has interviewed some of our war heroes and the book contains interesting stories and testimonies. Today, the memory of their misadventures arouse our interest.

The last chapters contain articles about Curieuse Island, off the coast of Praslin, which at one time was a retreat for patients suffering from leprosy.

We learn more about the Fiennes Esplanade and its connection with the Fiennes Institute for the elderly at Plaisance.

Our islands were a base for American whalers in  mid-1800. “Echoes of Eden” writes about a memorial stone in the cemetery of Rochester in the state of Massachusetts, that record the death of whaling captain Samuel Tripp Bralley in Mahe in 1870.

There are also articles about a number of prominent writers who came to Seychelles during recent times, including Catherine Olsen, the wife of Seychelles’ first President, Sir James Mancham.

“Echoes of Eden” is selling for R450 at Antigone in Victoria and other outlets.

Latest News

Praise from across the globe as Seychellois-born football star Kevin Betsy takes key job at Arsenal
12th August 2021
Top job: Kevin Betsy is the new Under 23-team coach at Arsenal
Congratulations have been pouring in from all over the world after Kevin Betsy took up a new job… more...
Seychelles Life will offer a new voice for the people of our islands… one that will promote unity and compassion
29th June 2021
Campaigners for Press freedom: Lewis Betsy, left, and Bernard Verlaque
By Lewis Betsy From the moment I left Seychelles on 1st April, 1980, and then settled in the… more...
Why celebrating Independence Day is more vital than ever after the havoc caused by Covid
25th June 2021
 By Lewis Betsy The 29th June has always been an important day for me and for my beloved… more...
All systems go for kick-off in August, says Bibi
25th June 2021
Sharing the same dream: Lewis Betsy and Georges Bibi
 By Lewis Betsy I recently met up for a fascinating chat about sport with Georges Bibi,… more...
I appeal to the President: don’t let the Truth Commission hearings end in failure
25th June 2021
Testimony: Lewis Betsy states his case at a Commission hearing in 2019
 By Lewis Betsy The Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission hearings in Seychelles… more...
President Ramkalawan is under-fire – but he showed his critics who’s boss
14th May 2021
Assured performance: President Ramkalawan at the May Press conference
 By Lewis Betsy President Ramkalawan has always had his critics, but it was a surprise… more...
Salute to the three Seychellois heroes who are setting a superb example to us all
14th May 2021
Honoured: Paul D’Offay, left, Felicity Passon and Joel Melanie with their shields
By Lewis Betsy Seychelles Life is always keen to encourage the positive side in our society… more...
I have quit politics and look forward to my new challenge, says Alain St Ange
13th April 2021
Committed to the task: Alain St Ange relishes his new role
Alain St Ange, the much-acclaimed former Tourism Minister for Seychelles and who as leader of the… more...
September's News
News Archive