William “Bill” McAteer, a British-Seychellois historian, has published a new book on the history of Seychelles.
The book – Another Story -The History of Seychelles 1976 to 2020 – charts the most recent and controversial parts of the country’s history as an independent state including the coup d’état of 1977 that introduced one-party rule by President France Albert Rene, a coup attempt led by British mercenary Mike Hoare, the return of multi-party democracy in the early 1990s and all the subsequent historical events leading up to the present day when for the first time an opposition party leader was elected as president in 2020.
The book was launched at State House on May 8, where the author, now 94 years old, presented a signed copy to President Wavel Ramkalawan as well as to family, friends and distinguished members of society.
Ramkalawan said that there was no one other than Bill McAteer who could have completed this chapter of the history of Seychelles.
“I’m sure every Seychellois will go after this book and it is so important because some of our young people do not really know the history of Seychelles. Here you are, the modern history of Seychelles,” he said.
The book was launched at State House on May 8, where the author, now 94 years old, presented a signed copy to President Ramkalawan. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY
His son, Ian McAteer, told reporters that he thought his father would not be able to write the book due to his old age. However, he was able to complete the book over 8 months at the age of 92, in 2018, and he was greatly supported by his son Ian.
“He sent it to me by email and I thought; oh no, I’m going to have to word check it, rewrite it, it would be a mess, this is just more work for me. I got the manuscript and you know what, I was humbled and I was also ashamed; it was word perfect, I couldn’t find a single mistake,” said Ian.
Due to his father’s illness, in 2020, Ian had to finish the last chapter of the book concerning the most modern period of the island nation’s history, for which he interviewed President Ramkalawan, who was elected to office in 2020.
Ian said this chapter represents the year 2020 as well as a new leaf in Seychelles’ political history and that he also wrote an appendix on the economy of Seychelles since its independence in 1976.
The new book is a continuation of William McAteer’s previous three books which were all published between 1991 and 2014. These are Rivals in Eden (1742-1810), Hard Times in Paradise (1827-1919) and To be a Nation (1920-1976). He also wrote a collection of essays on Seychelles in The Echoes of Eden.
The research for his books took him to La Reunion, Mauritius, Paris, London — the British Library, Kew Gardens, Somerset House — the Boston Whaling Museum, the National Archives in Seychelles, and many other places in-between. He started writing and publishing in 1980, inspired by his Seychellois wife, Juliette, and the fact that up until then no proper history had been recorded.
The British-Seychellois historian at his home in Glacis on Mahe. (Ian McAteer) Photo License: All Rights Reserved
“When we first came to Seychelles after the airport was opened, he realised that no one had written the history of Seychelles and he decided then that he was going to write the history of Seychelles,” said Ian.
He added that “my mother made my father swear that he would never write any history about Seychelles after Independence, but you see my father got bored when he wasn’t writing.”
Sadly, the late Julliette McAteer, née Mellon, passed away in 2011. Ian says that in the years that followed his mother’s death, his father found himself questioning this decision to stop writing; even equating it to boredom. However, he also admitted that there was a deeper reason for his mother’s request, that being; the political scene at the time.
Seychelles is forever and eternally grateful, says Bernard Georges
During the book launch, the Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly, Bernard Georges, who is also a lawyer and writer, talked about the fond memories he has of spending time with Bill and his wife and recounted seeing Bill at work.
“Bill has been one of these people who belong to the country, not only because he married here, not only because he lived here, but because he alone of all the people that I know has immortalised our country by writing its definitive history. And that is no mean feat,” said Georges.
“He took his time, he researched everything, and I know the amount of research that Bill did. Whenever I was in the National Archives and that was a lot of times, Bill was always there, every single time. I know Bill, you read every document and you visited every place that needed to be visited in order to write what has become the benchmark history of our country and for that, I think our country will be forever and eternally grateful,” added Georges.’
Ian McAteer describes his father as being very modest, with no big ideas about himself, and “so I am hoping this book will be a useful legacy that my father has given the country.”