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Heroes and Forefathers Day – October 16, 2023

Heroes’ and Forefathers Day was celebrated for the first time on October 18, 2021, and is subsequently held every third Monday of October. This year, that falls on October 16. In line with the British Virgin Islands’ move to better promote its culture, heritage, and history, this holiday replaces St. Ursula’s Day. Men and women who built the Virgin Islands are recognized for their outstanding contributions. It honors pioneers and community servants from different sectors such as agriculture and fisheries, boat building, businesses, health, politics, public administration, the arts, and religion.

History of Heroes and Forefathers Day

The British Virgin Islands is a British Overseas Territory located in the Caribbean, east of Puerto Rico. It’s made up of the main islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke, including over 50 other small islands. Dutch pirate Joost Van Dyke first established a settlement in Tortola in 1615, where he engaged in farming cotton and tobacco, as well as trading with colonists in Puerto Rico. Lacking commercial success, they sought to turn islands over to private persons for settlements as well as establish slave pens to support the Caribbean slave trade. The English took Tortola from the Dutch in 1672 and it was annexed to the British-administered Leeward Islands. In 1680, Anegada and Virgin Gorda followed.

As the islands were settled on by plantation owners, slave labor was of economic importance, and the slave population grew during the 18th century. Uprisings were common, but quickly put down. Slavery was abolished on August 1, 1834, though existing slaves were still forced to continue their services for a certain period. After 1901, the territory suffered economically, with little assistance from the British.

On November 24, 1949, community leaders and over 1,500 islanders marched to the Commissioner’s office to petition for their right to self-government. As a result of the demonstrations, a partly elected and partly nominated legislative council was reinstituted under a new constitution the following year. In 1960, they became a crown colony. The islands went on to become a largely self-governing dependent territory of the U.K. in 1967.

Heroes and Forefathers Day timeline

1493
Land Ho!

Christopher Columbus first sets his sights on the islands during his second voyage to the Americas.

1949
The March Of 1949

The people demonstrate and appeal for the right to govern themselves.

October 16, 1954
First Session

The First Sitting of the First Session of the Second Legislative Council of the British Virgin Islands is held.

1958
The West Indies Federation Is Established

To maintain close economic ties with the U.S., the British Virgin Islands decline to join.

Heroes and Forefathers Day FAQs

What is the motto of the British Virgin Islands?

This British overseas territory’s motto in Latin is, ‘Vigilate.’ In English, this means, ‘Be Watchful’ or ‘Be Vigilant.’

Why are the Virgin Islands called virgin?

Christopher Columbus named the islands ‘The Virgins’ after the legendary beauty of St.Ursula and her 11,000 virgins.

Are British Virgin Islanders British citizens?

They are British Overseas Territory citizens and have held full British citizenship since 2002. Its citizens are also part of the European Union.

How to Observe Heroes and Forefathers Day

  1. Read about famous British Virgin Islanders

    Besides politicians and military personnel, others have made their mark in British Virgin Island history and culture. Read up and see who you can recognize from your own knowledge.

  2. Honor it online

    Use social media to spread awareness of the replacement of St. Ursula’s Day with Heroes and Forefathers Day. Post the information you find on Instagram.

  3. Have a Painkiller cocktail

    A cocktail you can make yourself that’s made with fruit juices, coconut cream, and rum. Toast to the heroes and forefathers with this signature British Virgin Island drink.

5 Notable British Virgin Islanders

  1. Theodolph H. Faulkner

    He was a fisherman from Anegada who rallied the people to appeal for autonomy in 1949.

  2. Isaac Glanville Fonseca

    One of the British Virgin Islands’ community leaders who participated in the March of 1949 and later became one of its longest-serving legislators.

  3. Richard Georges

    The first poet laureate of the islands, his writing addresses the history of the Caribbean as well as recent events such as the climate crisis.

  4. Samuel Hodge

    He was a West Indian soldier in the British Army who won the Victoria Cross for gallantry in the face of the enemy.

  5. Jennie Wheatley

    As a historian and writer, she has worked to preserve the islands’ culture and history.

Why Heroes and Forefathers Day is Important

  1. It’s educational

    It teaches citizens about their history. It shows them how far they’ve come and where they are now.

  2. It keeps culture alive

    Continuing to celebrate important historical days is important. It reminds people to value their unique culture and traditions.

  3. It gives citizens a clear identity

    It helps develop a stronger British Virgin Island identity within its people. It gives a sense of community with other islanders, wherever they may be in the world.

Heroes and Forefathers Day dates

YearDateDay
2022October 17Monday
2023October 16Monday
2024October 21Monday
2025October 20Monday
2026October 19Monday

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