St Helena’s former Senior Veterinary Officer, Joe Hollins, has produced two programmes about St Helena Island for BBC Radio 4, whose audience is measured in the millions.

Both programmes have a strong natural history and cultural theme, including segments on diving, conservation on Egg Island, Island Walks, and interviews with St Helenians (including local historians), Enterprise St Helena and Airport officials – all from Joe’s perspective as a community vet on St Helena.

  • The first episode – ‘The Land’ – airs tomorrow morning, Friday 20 May 2016, at 10am local time.

This half hour programme focuses on St Helena on the brink of air access and captures Joe’s life and his report of what changes Islanders anticipate as they lose their isolated status.

Episode two – ‘The Sea’ – focuses on the retirement of The RMS St Helena, the lifeline for St Helena, as she completes her final tour of duty. This is likely to be aired on BBC Radio 4 at the same time next Friday.

Joe has previously contributed other positive pieces on St Helena to BBC Radio 4.


19 May 2016


  1. I so much enjoyed listening to Joe Hollins talking about St Helena and I wanted to share my connection with the island which began in the mid-fifties.
    I think the year was 1956, we had returned to school after the summer hols and found we had a new class tutor. He was tall with black hair, a soporific voice and very kind disposition. This nervous twelve year old from a country village warmed to him, he was a friend in what appeared often a hostile town environment. His subject was English which I enjoyed but one day he chose to talk about his previous job and showed slides of his life on St Helena where he had taught at the school.
    Norman Kerr’s new post in Stowmarket, Suffolk, was brief and I believe he moved on to become chief education officer for the county. That day in 1956 we were shown scenes of St Helena; pictures of school children and Norman climbing on sheer rocks to gather plants. He told us he sent rare specimens off to Kew Gardens, he also said that water pipes often ran over the surface of the rocky terrain. After his talk I asked him if he had any contacts as I would like to have a pen friend and that is when I gained contact with a ‘Saint’.
    I was given the name of Felicity Furness of Smith’s Cottage, Longwood and for a while wrote to this person who was maybe a year older than myself. My younger sister corresponded with one of Felicity’s young sisters – Francis, but it was a short-lived exchange. My spasmodic letters to Felicity came to a halt about 1960 when she married Wilf Thomas from Ascension Island. She had gone to live on his home island and for many years I never gave a thought to St Helena.
    After compulsory education I spent five years at Art School which led to a career as a furniture designer. Then one day in the 1970s a new secretary joined the firm. She told me her parents were living on Ascension where her father was in the Naafi. I told her about Felicity, suggesting that maybe she could mention her and Wilf when she next wrote to her parents. Quite remarkably Wilf and Felicity had been the first to befriend them on arrival at Ascension.
    Shortly after, Felicity returned with Wilf to her family island and they moved to St Mark’s Villa, Longwood. Once again we began to write to each other maybe twice a year. We had little in common but told each other of family events, often very sad as in the case of Wilf’s early death. My career moved from industry to lecturing in 1990 and although married I had no children. Many of Felicity’s offspring are now in England and she visited me here in Ipswich when she came over to stay with son Gavin.
    Gavin recently sent me a flyer about the forthcoming air flights, but I doubt that I will make the journey now. Forty years back, I would have leapt at the opportunity.
    I read many years ago of Norman’s death and also read an article about his son who had been teaching on Tristan da Cunha. I wonder if any Saints have memories of Norman Kerr. It would be interesting to hear from them.
    Heather Ling Staff 24th May 2016

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