St. Kitts and Nevis Island - The First Caribbean Hospitaller Museum (June 2017)
The Order's presence in the Caribbean has, in these last years, grown substantially with very active Hospitallers in various Caribbean jurisdictions such as the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico and many others. However, the motor engine of this growth within the Order comes from the small island of Nevis.
Nevis is a small island in the Caribbean Sea that forms part of the inner arc of the Leeward Islands chain of the West Indies. Nevis and the neighbouring island of Saint Kitts constitute one country: the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis. Nevis is located near the northern end of the Lesser Antilles archipelago, about 350 km east-southeast of Puerto Rico and 80 km west of Antigua. Its area is 93 square kilometres (36 sq mi) and the capital is Charlestown.
Saint Kitts and Nevis are separated by a shallow 3-kilometre (2 mi) channel known as "The Narrows". Nevis is roughly conical in shape with a volcano known as Nevis Peak at its centre. The island is fringed on its western and northern coastlines by sandy beaches which are composed of a mixture of white coral sand with brown and black sand which is eroded and washed down from the volcanic rocks that make up the island. The gently-sloping coastal plain (1 km (0.62 mi) wide) has natural freshwater springs as well as non-potable volcanic hot springs, especially along the western coast.
The island was named Oualie ("Land of Beautiful Waters") by the Caribs and Dulcina ("Sweet Island") by the early British settlers. The name Nevis is derived from the Spanish Nuestra Senora de las Nieves (which means Our Lady of the Snows); the name first appears on maps in the 16th century. Nevis is also known by the sobriquet "Queen of the Caribees", which it earned in the 18th century, when its sugar plantations created much wealth for the British.
Nevis is of particular historical significance to Americans because it was the birthplace and early childhood home of Alexander Hamilton. For the British, Nevis is the place where Horatio Nelson was stationed as a young sea captain, and is where he met and married a Nevisian, Frances Nisbet, the young widow of a plantation-owner.
The majority of the approximately 12,000 citizens of Nevis are of primarily African descent. English is the official language and the literacy rate, 98 percent, is one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere.
On this island, a long persisting dream of the Grand Master of the affiliated Sacred Medical Order of the Knights of Hope took physical shape on the 12th of June 2017. The Chevalier Charles McWilliams, ably assisted by his Lady Wife, Dame Susan McWilliams, who is also the Grand Prior of the Grand Priory of St. Kitts and Nevis Island, finally officially opened the first ever Hospitaller Museum in the Caribbean, with a wealth of knowledge and information readily available for locals and tourists alike.
This permanent museum, which was opened in the presence of the highest political authorities on the island, will be of immense benefit to the island itself due to the thousands of tourists who annually visit the island and who now can include this educational and historic stop within their excursion planning. For the Order of Saint Lazarus worldwide, Charles McWilliam's project is of immense value not only for ensuring the perpetual transmission of the history and ethos of our Order but also to ensure that future generations in the Caribbean will have a permanent reference point in their Hospitaller initiatives.
On behalf of the Supreme Grand Priory, a big well done to our most active confrere and leader of the Sacred Medical Order of the Knights of Hope.