Story & Photos by Stan Bishop
Like many other Saint Lucian villages and towns, Laborie is filled with a colourful history and a promising future. Nicknamed “The Lab” by especially those who have close ties to the community, Laborie is a beautiful blend of the antique and modern, a quality that adds to its enviable charm.
Located on the southern coast of Saint Lucia, Laborie, originally known as Quartier de l’Isle Caret after the Loggerhead sea turtles found nearby, was later renamed in honour of Baron de Laborie, the French Governor of Saint Lucia who served from 1784 to 1789.
Around that same time, Laborie had 5 of the 43 estates dedicated exclusively to sugar production and the population stood around 700. The first school there opened in 1838, catering to 80 children and run by the Lady Mico Trust until 1891 by which time a Catholic school had also opened up there.
Morne Le Blanc, a small hill from which a picturesque and panoramic view of the village can be had, was the site where American troops set up a radar station during World War II to protect the airfield known today as Hewanorra International Airport, the larger of the island’s two airports.
Today, Laborie is a vibrant fishing village that preserves the country’s past while adapting quickly to modernity. Laborians are a proud and hardworking people and their influence spreads across various sectors, especially in sports, agriculture, fishing, culture, education and politics.
In fact, former Governor General of Saint Lucia (1997-2017), Her Excellency Dame Calliopa Pearlette Louisy, was born and raised in Laborie. The street where she grew up has since been named in her honour. Journalist and former professional bodybuilder, Rick Wayne, also hails from Laborie. Renowned engineer, Karlis Noel, who invented a desalination plant that does not produce brine, is also from Laborie.
Another outstanding Laborian, Quill Barthelmy, has been credited with fostering the high level of volunteerism in Laborie. For more than half her life, the 45-year-old has been a steel pannist. Today she runs the Laborie Steel Band Orchestra which, since 2006, has been offering youths in the community the chance to hone their musical skills under a few conditions, including that they perform well in school.
In 2012, the Laborie Steel Band Orchestra entered the annual Panorama for the first time, winning their first title in 2016. Barthelmy chalks the win up to a common denominator: the abundance of talent that abounds in the tranquil village that boasts one of the best beaches on the island, the Rudy John Beach.
“Laborie has a lot of potential,” said Barthelmy, who received the British Empire Medal (BEM) in 2016. “Volunteerism, something we lacked before, is growing at a fast pace as more people are coming forward to assist especially the youth.”
Whether it’s the congenial people, the beautiful vistas, the mesmerizing terrain or the seashore that whets your appetite, Laborie is certainly a Saint Lucian gem filled with a treasured history and endless potential.