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The Seychelles which consists of some 115 islands and islets in the Indian Ocean were sighted by Arab navigators as far back as 851. In 1501, the Portuguese Explorer, Joao de Nova discovered the islands of Faquhar in 1502, another Portuguese Admiral, Vasco da Gama discovered the island now known as the ‘Admirantes.
In 1609, an English expedition arrived at Mahé and made the first recorded landing. In 1742, a French expedition landed at Mahé and visited some other inner islands which they named the Labourdonnais islands – in honour of Bertrand Francois Mahé de La Bourdonnais (1699-1753) Governor of Mauritius, after whom the main island of the Seychelles Mahé, was named.
In 1756, the French took possession of the Seychelles which they named so, in honour of Jean Moreau des Séchelles (1690-1960), Minister of Finance of King Louis XV.
In 1770, the first settlers arrived on the island of Ste Anne and in 1778 the fist establishment was created on Mahé. It was called L’Etablissement du Roi. Hundreds of slaves were brought to Mahé to work on coconut and cotton plantations. In 1794, the English captured the Seychelles and in compliance with the Treaty of Capitulation the French commandant, Jean Baptiste Queau de Quincy (1748-1827) remained until 1811 after which he was appointed as Juge de Paix. The Treaty of Paris 1814 ceded the islands of Seychelles and Mauritius. It was administered by a series of civil commissioners until when by Letters Patent of 31 August of 1903, Seychelles became a crown colony with a Governor, Ernest Bickham Sweet Escott (1857-1941), Executive and Legislative Councils.
Julien DURUP(A Student of History)
Saad Zaghloul Pasha ibn Ibrahim was an intelligent Egyptian national hero who arrived in exile in the Seychelles on 9 March 1922 on board the Clematis, a British man- of-war. Soon after his arrival he was known simply as ‘Pasha’. Pasha was born in July 1859 in the village of Ibyana, in the Nile Delta, from parents of modest means and his father died when he was only five years old. As a peasant, he managed to elevate himself to the rank of Pasha- title which was abolished by Egypt in 1950s.
He started his post-secondary education at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, where he became a politician and was arrested and imprisoned by the British. After his incarceration, he practiced Law and became very active in nationalist movements. In 1918, he led a delegation in Paris which demanded complete independence from Britain.
The British in turn demanded that Pasha end his political agitation. When he refused, they exiled him to Malta along three other nationalists. This banishment caused the ‘first populace revolution’ in Egypt, and forced General Edmund Allenby, (“the bloody Bull”), to return him back to Egypt, where he was welcomed as a hero. At the end of 1921, he was rearrested and sent to the Seychelles, where he arrived with W Makram Ebied Bey, a cabinet minister ,who acted as interpreter and secretary. Four more ministers followed them and they were: M F Barakat Pasha, M A Barakat Bey, M E Nahas Bey, and Sinnot Hanna Bey along with a valet and cook for Pasha. They were lodged in three bungalows at Bel Air and Saint Louis. Pasha and his secretary were at Bel Air, and the remainder at Saint Louis.
During all his exile, his wife (of high birth) Sophia Moustafa Fahmi, preferred to stay behind to continue the struggle, and for that, she was later known as the “Mother of Egypt”. Sophia spoke many languages including French and was the daughter of Moustafa Fahmi Pasha (who was born in Crete of Turkish parents). Moustafa Fahmi Pasha was also a two -term Prime minister of Egypt.
Sophia was in touch with Mahatma Gandhi, and was known as Madame Zaghloul Pasha by the French community (including a few Seychellois) in Egypt. One of the Seychellois, Mrs Marie Guénard née Gardette ,a poet, wrote a poem in honour of her in April 1922. An enchanting poem titled “Autour de l’Exile”. She wrote many poems, one of them in May 1916 was dedicated to his nephew France Lanier, a volunteer in the French army. France died in action in Champagne-Ardenne during the First World War. During that time, many Seychellois fought and died for France, sadly no proper study had been done on them.
In the Seychelles, the authorities never imposed restriction on Pasha’s movements but he was never allowed to leave the Seychelles. As a friendly and pleasing man, and member of the ‘Freemasons’, Pasha frequented the very rich and influential families. He apparently did not invite people for banquets at his domicile, but attended dinner parties hosted by his ministers and regularly attended feasts at Government House. As a jovial man, who soon, according to oral tradition, fell in love with an aristocratic lady, who used to roam around Victoria in her rickshaw decorated with garlands? She was apparently Mrs Widow Edmée Anais Avice du Buisson née Morel. She later had two children (twins), (by him???????) and they were known as Marie Gaëtanne Avice du Buisson, and Joseph Gaëtan Avice du Buisson both born on 22 June 1923 at Mahé. They were known as Gaëtanne and Gaëtan. Gaëtanne according to hearsay had a very good resemblance of Pasha and she later left the Seychelles and married an Englishman and settled in England and Gaëtan seems also to have left the Seychelles.
According to the Seychelles’ historical annals, Captain Jacques Cordé left Isle de France on 1 July 1772 for Mahé on the 110 -ton and 10- gun the ‘Nécessaire’ with Antoine Nicolas Benoit Gillot with the spice plants to start the ‘Jardin du Roi.’ However Seychelles National Archives has no information on him and about his mission in the Moluccas Islands.
Jacques Cordé was a prominent Breton sailor, born in Lorient on 12 February 1738, the son of Christophe Cordé and Marie Thérèse Hannier. He must have had an early maritime training because he was a sub-lieutenant in the French Navy in 1752 on the 600-ton and 30- gun Saint-Priest which was built in Lorient on 1 January 1750. On the 3 December of the same year, she made her maiden voyage to India. Jacques Cordé sailed on her during her second voyage on 28 December 1752 to the Bengal and returned to Lorient on the 4 October 1754. The Saint-Priest made three more voyages to India and was captured in 1762.
Arriving back in Lorient, Jacques Cordé was transferred on promotion to the 250 -ton and 18- gun the Légère a newly built frigate at Le Have. which arrived at Lorient on 24 April 1755, she sailed on 21 May 1755 for the Senegal with Jacques Cordé as second officer. The Légère arrived back at Lorient on 23 June 1756 and Jacques Cordé was promoted to first officer. The Légère sailed many times to Sénegal and was later lost at sea in 1758 whereas Jacques Cordé continued his maritime adventure on the 900 -ton and 50- gun Montaran which was also built in Lorient in 1748. He sailed on the Montaran on 31 December 1756, in February 1757 the Montaran returned to Rochefort and was condemned. Before that she made three voyages to China and one to the Indian Ocean.
On 14 April 1758, Jacques Cordé sailed to Pondicherry on the Flute the Eléphant of 650- ton and 26-gun. She was built in Nantes and arrived at Lorient on 31 March 1758, and was disarmed at Corogne on 15 April 1761. She sailed back to Lorient under her new name of Purissimas-Conception and was later disarmed in Chandernagor on 13 July 1767 after making three voyages to India and one to China.
After leaving the Eléphant ,Jacques Cordé boarded the Chameau, a flute of 750 tons and 24 guns as first officer and sailed on 23 March 1762 for Isle de France (Mauritius).The Chameau was also built in Lorient, she was later disarmed in Corogne on 18 April 1761 and renamed Saint Ignace de Loyola. She sailed back to Lorient on 16 October 1761 and disarmed on 5 June 1766 after her fourth voyage to the Indian Ocean.
In Isle de France , Jacques Cordé left the Chameau and took his new post as first officer on the 900 -ton and 64- gun Condé on 21 July 1762. The Condé was armed at Isle de France on 18 August 1763 and later sailed to Lorient where she was disarmed on 12 January 1764. On 8 March 1767, while in Lorient, Jacques Cordé boarded the Lorient -built Dauphin of 1,000 tons and 26 guns under the command of Captain François Julien de Kerongal for Isle de France. On board there were many passengers including Pierre Poivre and his very young wife Françoise Robin, the Dauphin arrived in Isle de France on the 14 July 1767. En route, eight days before they arrived, a girl ,Françoise Céleste Michel was born .She was later baptised , her godparents were Captain de Kerongal and Françoise Robin.
Arriving in Isle de France, Jacques Cordé befriended very high personalities of the island including Pierre Poivre. At the end of 1768, he sailed back to Lorient. On 6 June 1769, he was promoted captain and sailed to Isle de France on the corvette the Nécessaire. He later served from 5 March to 9 May 1770 as captain of the Pénélope, a frigate of 250 tons built in Nantes and based permanently at Isle de France. On the 10 May 1770 he took again command of the Nécessaire in Isle de France.In that same year he received his pension.
As soon as he arrived, Pierre Poivre decided to renew the endeavours to introduce spice plants from the Moluccas Islands. In 1768, he sent Jean Mathieu Simon Provost for an exploration. Provost was born in Morbihan, he became a writer on many ships of the Compagnie de Indes and a Malay scholar ,and later settled in Isle de France. After his first trip, Provost sailed on the corvette the Vigilant under Lieutenant de Trémigon on 3 May 1769. The Vigilant was later joined by Etoile du Matin under Lieutenant d’Etchéverry, they visited the Spice Islands. Provost managed to befriend the Kings of Paney and Gueby Islands and had fresh nutmegs and cloves seeds and plants. As soon as the first consignment of plants and seeds arrived at Isle de France, Poivre promulgated an ordinance to stop its exportation. The germinated plants that Provost brought back to Isle de France with a lot of seeds of nutmegs and cloves were presented on 22 May 1770 to Dr Philibert Commerçon for identification. In the celebration, Pierre Poivre gave a fête champêtre and Louis Antoine de Bougainville was amongst the invited guests and also Jeanne Baret ,the secret lover of Commerçon. .
When they arrived in Isle de France ,both captains and Provost were recompensed and Poivre decided to continue the spice plants expansion projects.. On 3 September 1771, Gillot left Isle de France for the Seychelles on the Nécessaire under the command of Jacques Cordé……..Gillot with the spice plants for his proposed Jardin du Roi at Anse Royale. He was accompanied by Lecerf ,his assistant and forty workers, most of them slaves.
As soon as Jacques Cordé arrived back in Isle de France from the Seychelles , Poivre decided to send him on 23 December 1771 again on the Nécessaire to accompany Captain Le Borgne de Coetivy on the Ile de France to the Moluccas Islands with Pierre Sonnerat (the nephew of Pierre Poivre), and Provost . The parties visited Paney and Geuby Islands and Zamboanga in 1772 and arrived in Isle de France in late 1772 or early 1773 with more plants and seeds acquired from the Kings of Paney and Gueby Islands. Soon after, Jacques Cordé married at Moka Isle de France to Françoise Charlotte Frichot on the 12 January 1773, and they had five children in Isle de France.
According to the important memoire of Abbè Tessier (Henri-Alexandre Tessier ,a famous French Doctor and Agronomist), the spice plants from Isle de France were taken to French Guyana. They were later spread to Martinique and from there to Saint Vincent.
Later Provost was made inspector of plants of the Jardin du Roi in Isle de France and he died later at Port Louis on 28 May 1776.
Jacques Cordé later visited Rodrigues Island. In 1774 he visited Bourbon Island, Madagascar and from there he revisited the Seychelles, presumably his last visit, and arrived at Isle de France with a cargo of 200 green turtles. It seems that he had the chance to see the first creole nutmeg when Jean-Nicolas Céré, the director of the ‘Jardin des Plantes’ of Isle de France, invited on 7 December 1778 Marie Rose Soulbieu (the widow of Provost) to harvest the first creole nutmeg. At the end of his life, Jacques Cordé was a captain of a brulot (firebrand?), a special ship made to set fire to enemy ships .The date of his death is uncertain, it is presumed that he died on or before 1800, and his widowed wife died at Rivière Noire in Isle de France on 26 April 1800..
Who was this humble mechanic that became a famous surgeon and also a physician? He was in fact Louis Gaston Labat born on 11 December 1876 at Victoria, Mahé, Seychelles even though the registration of his birth is in the 1877 register. The son of Simeon Labat of Mauritius and Euphrasie Pontré of the Seychelles, Pontré’s family was well established at that time in the Seychelles. His parent was married in Port Louis, Mauritius on 29 November 1873. They had two more children born previously in Mauritius and two excluding Gaston in the Seychelles, Aimée Louis and Marie Euphrasie.
Louis Gaston Labat MD. Reprinted with the kind permission from
Wood Library Museum of Anaesthesiology, Illinois, USA
In the Seychelles, his father was a trader and he accidently died at sea near North Island on 4 July 1883 at the age of 35 years old. After his tragic death his wife decided to sail back with her children to Mauritius on board the Laconia with her children all under 7 years old. From Mauritius the family went to Durban and stayed for two years with Gaston’s uncle who was a businessman in South Africa, where Gaston completed his primary education. In 1877, the family went back to Mauritius where he studied at the Royal College of Port Louis until 1895. In 1894, he graduated with honors from the Royal College of Mauritius where he earned certificates in English, French, statics, dynamics, hydrostatics, pure mathematics, and practical chemistry. He became a bright student and aimed at becoming an engineer. On 24 February 1902, in marrying Anne Marie Marguerite Brunaud ,his plan changed, he took a job with a court in Mapou and Pamplemousses and occupied the post of “permanent writer” for him to have enough money to maintain her. Their marriage was unsettled and Gaston changed his mind and started work with a local garage with the hope of becoming an engineer. He left his wife and went to Mozambique to learn engineering in the sugar industry. Upon his return to Mauritius after the death of his mother, he received money from the property and business from the Seychelles. He soon started with Raoul Rochecouste (a qualified chemist) ,his brother-in-law, to build a drugstore in Desforges Road and later at 5, Rue Royale at Port Louis where he became an assistant chemist in their shop called “Pharmacie Nouvelle”. While at the “Pharmacie Nouvelle” he met and befriended a famous Mauritian Dr Joseph Anthony Ferrièr
‘Pharmacie Nouvelle’ 5 rue Royale, Port Louis 1912; from Mauritius
whose consultation room was on top of the “Pharmacie Nouvelle”, and was also running a private clinic at Les Casernes. As a good mechanic , Gaston repaired Dr Ferrière’s car. After seeing the extent of Gaston’s talents, Dr Ferrière convinced him to take up medical studies. He sold his shares in “Pharmacie Nouvelle”, and went to Montpellier, France, where he obtained his baccalaureate in 1913. On 22 June 1914, at 37 years old, after completing his further studies in natural sciences, physics, and chemistry at the University of Montpellier, he joinedas a student at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Montpellier. He studied surgery up to 1915 and medicine from 1916-1917 where he became a Laureate Bachelor of Science in 1916.
In 1916, Gaston moved to the University of Paris to pursue his studies to become a surgeon. In 1918-1920, he became a student of Dr Victor Pauchet (one of the most famous French surgeons during that time) and his assistant. Gaston graduated and became a MD (Doctor of medicine) in 1920.
In 1920, while working with Pauchet, Gaston met Dr Charles H Mayo of the Mayo’s Brothers Clinic in the USA. Mayo was in Paris to learn about the new surgical innovations of Pauchet, while assisting Pauchet during an operation Mayo was much overwhelmed by Gaston’s anesthetic. He invited Gaston to the Mayo Clinic in order to teach surgeons in his modern methods of regional anesthesia. In September of the same year, Gaston arrived at the Mayo Clinic and was appointed as a ‘special lecturer’ on all major aspects of regional anesthesia and started work on a textbook of regional anesthesia for the American medical audience. Gaston performed very well and the staff wanted him to stay at the Clinic. After the arrival of Marie-Louise, his French paramour, he left the Clinic in Rochester in October 1921 for New York City, where he set up his practice at New York and Bellevue Hospitals. He taught at the hospital and university until he died in 1934. He wrote many papers, the first edition of his innovative and popular book was published in 1922, the second edition in1928 and the third edition was never published. Since 1977 the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine (ASRA) started to offer the yearly “Gaston Labat Award” for an outstanding medical student.
Click below to see the different personalities of Seychelles