South of the crater of Soufrière Hills Volcano, the Galway’s Soufrière were hot springs related to the hydrothermal activity of the volcano. They were a popular tourist destination.
However, in October 1996, the south wall of Soufrière Hills’ crater (‘Galway’s Wall’) looming behind the hot springs started showing fractures and other signs of instability. The growing lava dome gradually overtopped the crater rim and destabilised it. This was a major concern for MVO scientists.
It wasn’t until Boxing Day 1997 that the whole wall finally collapsed, followed by a lateral blast, wiping out the evacuated villages in the southwest of Montserrat overnight. Galway’s Soufrière was also buried.
Zunky N’Dem’s Song ‘South Gone’ commemorates this event.
‘I used to hear people say that it’s on holiday / Big one’s come
We had a fine Christmas day / Incident free and warm
But foreday Boxing day / Few really know what went on
Suffice it to say the news was / South gone
– Extract from Song 'South Gone' by Zunky 'n Dem
There’s nothing there to look at, there’s nothing there, because the whole village, it seems as if everything was just, and it was, just blasted off the face of the earth. There was nothing to be seen in what was St Patrick’s and all you could have seen at the edge of the waters was just everything, rubble, in what was the houses, the trees all the gas bottles from the home, everything was just downstream in the sea. There was nothing at all left. Where there were soil and vegetation and everything, all you could see was a bare landscape with the yellow sulphur thing because all the top soil had just stripped off the face of the earth. And we were in the helicopter… and there was nothing to see.
– Montserrat Resident, 2019