By August 1997, two thirds of the island had become uninhabitable, and scientists voiced concerns that volcanic activity might soon also threaten the “Safe Zone” in the North.
Some 7000 Montserratians had already left the island, but the remaining islanders were not inclined to take up Clare Short (then UK’s Secretary for International Development) on her offer of a relocation package:
Montserratians believed that the UK government did not offer a clear and fair relief plan, and that the Montserratian government, headed by the newly appointed Chief Minister David Brandt, did not fight enough for better terms. They voiced their frustration and distrust in the authorities with protests, but also in songs and poetry.
In addition to politicians in Montserrat and Westminster, the song ‘What Next’ by Pop Morris also mentions MVO scientists Simon Young and Steve Sparks, who were at the helm of communicating the exacerbation of volcanic activity.
‘We have a disaster / In this land today
It’s a volcano / It’s a lion I say
It has rockfalls / Pyroclastic flows
All those explosions / Send stones right through the something
If I have to run / I think I would run
But if there’s a chance, I bet / That I will stay
So tell Simon Young / Professor Steve Sparks
That lady Clare Short / that she nah move me
From my country
Because we have a right / As sons of this soil
As proud Montserratians / In a land we call paradise
If it be raining ash / If it be raining stones
Take the advice / Get under a strong roof
We have some people / In this crowd tonight
And I know they can’t / Make up their mind
Whether to stay here / Or take that package
But I am warning you / Just see what’s happening
To all those people / Who are dying from the cold
So beg them please, please, please / Come back home
So tell David Brandt / To tell Bernie Grant
And the rest of his bandwagon / That they nah move me
From this fine sun’
– Extract from Song "What next" by Pops Morris
‘Waiting for the spill of anger
of the mountain is like waiting for a second
coming. Come it must, but no one, not the mountain,
knows the hour of dome collapse, the magic moment
of apocalypse. Will it ride on ash-grey
horses or in chariots of fire? Will it merely
come to pass defiant babels in the North
or will it light new funeral pyres at Bethel?
Will it come, as at St. Patrick’s, a bonus
for epiphany, a thief just after Christmas night,
or noonday as at Molyneaux and Paradise
robbing wretched workers of the light?
Either way, it is to the same sources that we pray
for a dignified send off. Either way. Calm seas
at Carr’s Bay, clear air at the heliport.
We wait upon the mercies of Jehovah and Clare Short.’
– 'Second Coming', poem by Howard Fergus In Fergus, Howard. Volcano Verses. Peepal Tree Press, 2003.