Last Boat to St. Helena is a “lockdown” album created by singer-songwriter Martin Aelred Colgan, to memorialise the last sailing of the RMS St Helena from next nearest land mass, South Africa – some 1200 miles away from the island.
The album highlights the last sailing, which is an eclectic mix of styles from the sea shanty version of Last Boat to St. Helena to the Dance track City People with a nod to the Gypsy Kings, and a more mainstream organic folk track entitled Flame. (All three have had lyric videosproduced.) There are 14 songs, performed and produced to a high standard plus 3 bonus acoustic versions of the singles, showcasing both the versatility and talent of the artist.
The remoteness of the island of St Helena coupled with the last sailing to the island in 2018, has provided a rich seam of oceanic inspiration for Martin and lyricist Ronny Anderson. The idea of “lockdown” viewed against the backdrop of a very remote island in the Atlantic for centuries and opening of the St Helena airport offered a unique opportunity to complete the album. It highlights a sense of being cut-off from the world and now being linked to the world and echoes the world opening after lockdown today. The album draws on the musical influences from the diverse island culture of the island – their sunny, positive nature, Napoleonic links and heritage and a tough island life over the centuries with swashbuckling tales of the high seas.
The RMS St Helena was a unique cargo-passenger ship that sailed to the stunning island of St Helena, one of the most remote, inhabited islands in the world. She was also one of the last working Royal Mail ships in the world. Her last journey from Cape Town was in January 2018, after the newly built airport in St. Helena became operational which marked the opening up of the island to new tourism opportunities and closer links to the outside world.
The idea for the song came about when the lyricist’s brother told him that he was going to travel on the Last Boat to St. Helena together with his wife. Martin Aelred Colgan loved both the lyrics and the story of St. Helena and adapted the title track into a sea shanty. The album emerged from the title track and showcases the unique talents and vocal prowess of Martin Aelred Colgan, who also performs as an opera tenor.
Martin noted: “This very serious pandemic lockdown came in the middle of a number of my musical projects and tour schedule, which had to be put on hold and I decided to return home to Glasgow for the foreseeable future. This, in turn, afforded me a chance to reassess and complete the Last Boat to St Helena album.
“When you think about how isolated it is and how the islanders cope so beautifully, there was a real synergy that gave me the inspiration to finalise my album and have it ready to go as soon business started to open up again.
“I have drawn on the importance of the sea, island sailing heritage and given it a real summer type feel with touches of an old ‘ sea shanty ‘ coming through and that feeling of people have when they look out to sea, passing time until the next boat comes in and experiencing the calm of ocean waves.
“It was definitely lockdown and a sense of being a bit cut-off that gave me the impetus to highlight the island and their great courage in moving from being one of the remotest islands in the world to their future as a new tourism destination. I am delighted to say that Enterprise St Helena has already publicised the Last Boat to St Helena clip on their Facebook page and recognise the links to the island and my new music.”
Martin added: “The history of St. Helena is fascinating and the 200th anniversary of Napoleon Bonaparte’s death in exile in 2021 will be marked, not only by France but by anyone interested in history. The future of the island is set to transform due to the airport, and the onset of tourism, so the timing of this album release could not be more apt.”
Now interest in the album is catching attention from local organisation, Enterprise St Helena in the run-up to the launch.
Commenting on the title track, Last Boat to St Helena, Helena Bennett, Director of Tourism, Enterprise St Helena said: “It is nice that the producers decided to make a song featuring St Helena. We encourage these types of initiatives as they all contribute towards the promotion of St Helena. We wish you all well with these endeavours.”
The stunning island and rich heritage of Napoleon’s resting place; Zulu warrior, Dinuluzulu kaCetshwayo having been imprisoned there and 5000 prisoners during the Boer War has attracted many travel writers and TV celebrities to film and document the island as it stands today including Eamonn Holmes, Good Morning Britain and ABC’s Peter Greenberg.