Every year on 30 May we celebrate Anguilla Day, most famously with the round-the-island regatta – perhaps not the most popular but certainly the most hardcore of the boat races in the calendar.
Why 30 May, though?
Because that was the day when Anguillians spontaneously decided to take matters in their own hands, split from the Associated State of St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, and look for a better arrangement elsewhere. In other words, they staged a revolution.
Between 30 May 1967 and 19 March 1969 Anguilla became a rogue State which declared independence (twice!) while at the same time clamouring to fall under direct administration of a larger conglomerate – Britain, ideally, else the United States or even Canada. They were violent, often contradictory and ultimately pivotal 22 months in the history of the island. Here is how it all unfolded:
St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla Constitutional Conference takes place in London, involving among others Robert Bradshaw, Chief Minister of St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla; Peter Adams, elected representative of Anguilla; Fred Lee, British Secretary of state for the Colonies; and Fred Phillips, Governor of St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla. It was agreed that, upon approval by the Legislature the Associated State of St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla would be created.
Upon consultation with the Anguillian electorate, Peter Adams made a formal petition for the British to send a senior government official to discuss the possibility of direct administration from the UK.
Second request is made for the British to send a senior government official to Anguilla.
27 January 1967
Local government expert Peter Johnston visits Anguilla to allay misconceptions about Associated Statehood, a form of self-government that would keep ties with Britain only for defence and diplomatic purposes. Johnston is escorted out of the island by an agitated crowd.
4 February 1967
Government holds a Queen Show in celebration of the imminent arrival of Statehood at the Secondary School in The Valley. Pageant is aborted after protestors outside the school had to be dispersed by the Police Task Force using tear gas.
15 February 1967
HMS Salisbury lands in Anguilla unannounced. Governor Fred Phillips leads search for cached guns and fugitive freedom fighters, most prominently among them Atlin Harrigan and Ronald Webster.
23 February 1967
Atlin Harrigan and Ronald Webster charged with stone-throwing and the use of indecent language. That same day assistant Under Secretary of the Commonwealth Office Henry Hall is heckled out of the island by protestors.
26 February 1967
Deputy Chief Minister Paul Southwell and Lord Bottomley, British Minister of Overseas Development, are harassed from town to town on their tour of Anguilla one day before the official declaration of Statehood.
27 February 1967
Warden Vincent Byron, in his pyjamas, has the flag of the Associated State of St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla replace the Union Jack at Government House after all-day protests had delayed the ceremony until the small hours of the morning.
1 March 1967
Mock funeral held in The Valley for Statehood.
9 March 1967
Government House is burned down. Warden Byron leaves island.
Acting Warden Hughes leaves island after his temporary residence (Lloyd’s Bed & Breakfast) is targeted by freedom fighters.
Police Station is raided repeatedly, with recurrent violent attacks against perceived Bradshaw sympathisers (Bradshers).
29 May 1967
Peter Adams calls a public meeting at Burroughs Park. Riled crowd marches to the Police Station and demands the full Police Task Force leave the island.
30 May 1967
All 16 members of the Police Task Force are evacuated by land and sea, while all their guns are confiscated. Peter Adams is left as the sole representative of the St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla government on island.
Anguilla Peacekeeping Committee is formed, consisting of 15 prominent members of society (Ronald Webster, Atlin Harrigan, Peter Adams, Wallace Rey, Emile Gumbs, Bob Rogers, Charles Fleming, Alfred Webster, Philip Lloyd, Wallace Richardson, Mac Connor, Clifford Rogers, Camille Connor, and James Baird) chaired by Walter Hodge.
31 May 1967
Peter Adams asks UN Secretary-General U Thant for help. That same day a delegation of four (Peter Adams, Reverend Leonard Carty, Reverend Martin Roberts and Walton Fleming) is sent to St Kitts to present Governor Fred Phillips with an official plea to separate Anguilla from the newly formed Associated State.
1 June 1967
British journalist David Smithers travels from St Kitts to Anguilla with two letters, a cabinet statement demanding Anguilla stick to the rules of the constitution and return all confiscated weapons, and a personal letter from Premier Bradshaw to Peter Adams declaring a State of Emergency in all three islands.
9–10 June 1967
18 men (Valentine Ruan, Mitchell Harrigan, Lemuel Phillip, Todville Harrigan, Reuben Gumbs, Clarence Rogers, Collins Hodge, Connell Harrigan, Oliver Gumbs, Henderson Smith, Wilkin Smith, Randolph Richardson, Albert Gumbs, Ronald Webster, Atlin Harrigan, Dean Densman, Roy Rosene and Phil Clarke) set out aboard the 35-foot motorboat Rambler towards St Kitts, in a failed attempt to overthrow the government. Mitchell Harrigan, Lemuel Phillip, Todville Harrigan, Collins Hodge and Churchill Smith remain detained in Basseterre.
23 June 1967
Three rowboats carrying some 30 men from St Kitts are repelled by Anguillian militiamen patrolling the beaches. Five stranded invaders wreak havoc in Anguilla over the following fortnight.
28 June 1967
Caribbean Fact Finding Mission visits St Kitts and Anguilla. New conference is convened later same year.
29 June 1967
Jeremiah Gumbs and Harvard lawyer Roger Fisher travel to St Kitts to present Anguilla’s case before the Fact Finding Mission, Governor Fred Phillips and Premier Bradshaw.
4 July 1967
Fact Finding Mission ends, with recommendations for a new conference to be held in Barbados later the same year.
(First) Republic of Anguilla
11 July 1967
Referendum is held in Anguilla to determine whether the island should declare independence or go back to St. Kitts and Nevis. The result is 1813 votes in favour, 5 against. Walter Hodge, Chairman of the Peacekeeping Committee, reads out a Unilateral Declaration of Independence, drafted by Roger Fisher.
Constitution of Anguilla, prepared by Roger Fisher, abolishes the Peacekeeping Committee and appoints instead the first Anguilla Council, consisting of seven members (Peter Adams, Walter Hodge, Ronald Webster, Emile Gumbs, Bob Rogers, Reverend Leonard Carty and John Hodge).
25–31 July 1967
Caribbean governments of Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados convene with delegations from Anguilla and St Kitts, as well as the British Minister for Commonwealth Relations, Lord Shepherd during the so-called Barbados Conference.
28 July 1967
Pressured into accepting a return to the status quo, Peter Adams, chair of the Anguilla delegation, asks for an adjournment and for the delegation to be expanded from 5 to 10 members.
31 July 1967
Peter Adams, Walter Hodge, Emile Gumbs and Bob Rogers sign a relatively favourable agreement, which nonetheless preserves the integrity of the Associated State of St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla. Ronald Webster, Vanier Hodge and Claude Richardson refuse to sign it. The other three members of the delegation (Atlin Harrigan, Jeremiah Gumbs and Alfred Webster, as well as Barbados lawyer Henry Forde, are only allowed to participate as advisors).
1 August 1967
Anguilla delegation returns from Barbados (via Antigua) to a disgruntled mob, led by Ronald Webster, who has been back a full day. Internal dispute leads to a change of guard in Anguilla’s leadership, with Ronald Webster effectively taking over from Peter Adams and Walter Hodge, as he informs regional leaders Anguilla will not abide by the terms of the Barbados treaty.
7 August 1967
Emile Gumbs travels to Barbados to dissuade Prime Minister John Tudor from contributing to a Caribbean Police Force in Anguilla.
That same day the New York Times publishes the first of a number of articles focusing on the island’s complex predicament.
13 August 1967
Second Barbados Conference fails to find consensus between the governments of Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana in regards to sending a Caribbean Peacekeeping Force to Anguilla.
17–20 August 1967
Caribbean governments inform British counterparts during the Jamaica Conference that they will not take part in an invasion of Anguilla.
San Francisco Group, a loose array of primarily Bay-area supporters of Anguilla, organise a fundraiser at the Francis Hotel in San Francisco, design the island’s notorious “mermaid” flag, mint 2500 Anguilla Liberty Dollars and come up with the idea of counter-marking Anguilla stamps and selling them as collectors’ items.
Jeremiah Gumbs presents Anguilla’s case before the III Sub-Committee of the United Nation’s Special Committee on Colonialism but the British delegation blocks his request to speak before the Committee of 24.
14 August 1967
Even as Jeremiah Gumbs and Roger Fisher are speaking before the UN’s III Sub-Committee on Colonialism, Scott Newhall and Howard Gossage, both from the San Francisco Chronicle, take out a full-page ad in the New York Times to print “(The Anguilla White Paper): Is it ‘silly’ that Anguilla does not want to become a nation of bus boys”, a not altogether accurate outline of Anguilla’s predicament.
31 August 1967
Peter Adams gives up his seat in the St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla Legislature and is officially installed as the sole Magistrate on Anguilla.
Atlin Harrigan and Canon Guy Carlton launch The Beacon, Anguilla’s first newspaper. Meanwhile, the “dolphin flag”, designed by Lydia Gumbs and Marvin Oberman, replaces Scott Newhall’s “mermaid flag”.
25 October 1967
First elections under the Fisher constitution result in Collins O. Hodge, Hugo Rey, John Hodge, Wallace Rey and Ronald Webster being elected unopposed, while Bob Rogers and Campbell Fleming completed the Anguilla Council as appointed members.
On the same day Collins J. Hodge, detained in St Kitts since 10 June, is acquitted from the charge of shooting with intent and flies home to a raucous reception.
14 November 1967
Mitchell Harrigan, Churchill Smith and Todville Harrigan are acquitted in St. Kitts from the charge of shooting with intent but they are immediately arrested again, accused of stealing arms from the police in Anguilla.
27 November 1967
Court case against Todville Harrigan and five others (including leader of the opposition Billy Herbert) for conspiracy to overthrow the government is abruptly ended by the St Kitts prosecution. The men are found not guilty but immediately the government forms a Commission of Inquiry to look into what went on the night of 9–10 June.
At the end of a three-day fact-finding mission Mr Stuart Roberts, the British Representative to the West Indies Associated States, recommends a parliamentary delegation pays Anguilla a visit.
9 December 1967
Jeremiah Gumbs and Roger Fisher are finally allowed to present Anguilla’s case before the UN’s Committee of 24.
18 December 1967
After a two-weeks visit by Tory MP Nigel Fisher and Labour MP Donald Chapman, the parliamentary delegation propose an Interim Agreement, whereby Anguilla would be provisionally governed by a British administrator
9 January 1968
One-year Interim period begins, with Tony Lee as Interim Administrator.
23 January 1968
Todville Harrigan, Mitchell Harrigan, Wilkin Smith and Lemuel Phillip escape St Kitts, as they are helped by a sympathiser to a 16-foot motorboat, 40 gallons of fuel and a few guns.
Bank of America opens a branch in Anguilla, alleviating banking restrictions from the central government in Basseterre.
14-member Advisory Board is set up to assist the Anguilla Council in formulating affective policy.
30 July 1968
New elections are called, this time for seven members. Five of them stand unopposed again (Ronald Webster, Atlin Harrigan, Collins O. Hodge, as well as John Hodge and Kenneth Hazell) while Emile Gumbs and Wallace Rey win their respective seats.
14–23 October 1968
British Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Whitlock, holds talks in London with Bradshaw and a delegation from Anguilla consisting of Ronald Webster, Rev Leonard Carty and Trinidadian lawyer Karl Hudson-Phillips. No breakthrough results from the London Talks.
30 December 1968
Webster addresses a letter to Lord Chalfont, Minister of State of the Commonwealth Office, reiterating Anguilla’s demand to secede from St Kitts and the island’s willingness to be ruled directly by the UK but declining the chance to extend the period of Interim administration.
9 January 1969
Interim Administration period expires.
7–15 January 1969
At the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers held in London the issue with Anguilla is brought up but no solution is reached.
16 January 1969
Tony Lee leaves Anguilla, one week after the expiration of the Interim Administration period.
(Second) Republic of Anguilla
2 February 1969
In a public meeting at Ronald Webster Park (formerly Burrowes Park), Ronald Webster presents the new Constitution of Anguilla, inspired by the US Constitution and drafted by Jack Holcomb, Webster’s new American wingman.
6 February 1969
Second referendum is held to decide whether Anguilla should go back to the Associated State of St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla or declare independence. The result is 1739 votes for independence against 4 for the return to St Kitts.
18 February 1969
Jack Holcomb becomes Anguilla’s first certified attorney, even though he lacks qualifications from anywhere else in the world.
27 February 1969
Winston Harrigan, Lucas Wilson, Uriel Sasso, James Woods, Charles Fleming and Mac Connor are declared members of the Anguilla Council for their respective districts after standing unopposed. Island-wide elections for the remaining 5 council members are scheduled for 12 March.
1 March 1969
Ronald Webster stands unopposed and is therefore duly declared Anguilla’s first President.
11 March 1969
British Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Whitlock, brings British proposals to break the deadlock. After snubbing Ronald Webster, insulting the crowd that greeted his arrival and bypassing the official welcoming luncheon at Rendezvous Bay Hotel. Shortly thereafter, he’s escorted out of the island – at gunpoint.
14–17 March 1969
In last-ditch efforts to prevent a bloodbath, Jeremiah Gumbs speaks on consecutive days to the UN’s Committee of 24, comparing the impending invasion to “a bunch of gorillas running into an orphanage”.
17 March 1969
British government sets Operation Sheepskin in motion, mobilising 135 paratroopers and 40 members of Scotland Yard from Brize Norton via Antigua to Anguilla. Bad weather forces an RAF Vickers VC10 to rough land in Bermuda instead, stranding half the contingent.
18 March 1969
London’s Daily Express and Evening News dailies leak news of the Anguilla invasion, a day before it actually takes place. Jeremiah Gumbs, pleads with the UN to send a delegation to Anguilla to avoid a human tragedy.
19 March 1969
HMS Minerva and HMS Rothesaybeach close to 200 men at Crocus Bay and Road Bay before the break of dawn. The entire island is secured by 8am. Tony Lee returns to Anguilla as HM Commissioner.
Lord Caradon, the chief British delegate to the United Nations, visits Anguilla repeatedly between 28 March and 12 April, promising not to impose a solution that goes against the wishes of the Anguillian people and drafting together with Ronald Webster a Seven Point Declaration that paves the way for normality to return to Anguilla.