It’s a long way to Tipperary, or so the words to the famous song tell you.
It’s even further to Tristan da Cunha - and Horsington pensioner Chris Bates should know that.
Tristan da Cunha is recognised as the world’s most remote inhabited island.
It is situated roughly half way between Cape Town in South Africa and Uruguay in South America: 1,500 miles south of St. Helena and 2,400 miles from the Falkland Islands.
It’s home to just over 260 people, all UK citizens.
For eight years, Chris was the UK Representative of Tristan da Cunha
As part of the island’s 200th anniversary celebrations, a specially made plaque was unveiled, thanking him for his contribution.
The island was settled by the British in 1816 as a precaution against the French using it in any attempt to free Napoleon from exile on St. Helena.
Chris began working on a voluntary basis for the island in 2006, after editing the first book to be written by an islander, its sole policeman, Inspector Conrad Glass.
The role took him around the world, as far as New Caledonia in the South Pacific, Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean, Ascension Island, the Cayman Islands, Corsica and Greenland, as well as into Westminster and Whitehall, putting forward islanders’ views on a range of issues.
Chris (68) returned to the island for the anniversay celebrations.
Although he was made an MBE in the 2015 New Year’ s Honours for his work, a further surprise awaited.
At a reception in the Administrator’s home, The Residency, he was presented with a plaque by outgoing Administrator Alex Mitham and Chief Islander, Ian Lavarello.
Chris said: “For once, I was speechless. Over the years, Julie (his wife) and I have grown close to the islanders and did our best to protect the future of the island by arguing the case with politicians, civil servants and others with influence on the need to repair or replace the harbour, to build a new hospital and to invest in infrastructure and education.
“The harbour has been re-aligned and dredged, a new hospital is being built and ambitious plans are in place to eliminate the mice which threaten the unique albatrosses and flightless birds on Gough Island, part of the Tristan archipelago.
“There’s much investment in the island and the skills of the people and the education of their children and it has been gratifying to be part of building this future – but I was still overwhelmed to be honoured in this way.”
The anniversary celebrations must have gone with a swing - not least because there was “Free Beer Today” for Chris and his wife in what is the world’s most remote pub, Tristan da Cunha’s Albatross Bar in its capital, Edinburgh-of-the-Seven-Seas.
Chris had been involved in the development of Tristan’s beer in which berries grown on the island are infused into beer at Bushy’s, an Isle of Man brewery, as ‘Island Brew’ and then sent more than 6,000 miles back to The Albatross.
There was only one catch. The vouchers for a free drink of “Island Brew” had to be redeemed in Tristan da Cunha, accessible only by a six day voyage across the South Atlantic from Cape Town.
After the journey on the South African icebreaker, the SA Agulhas II, Chris and Julie walked into the Albatross and handed over their free beer vouchers to manager Beverley Repetto who was more than happy to pour their free drinks!
Chris said: “As we live next door to the Elder Tree Inn in Horsington, we don’t normally have far to go for a pint – but it was worth six thousand miles and six days on a icebreaker to get a free beer!”
There is, though, a happy ending to the story.
‘Island Brew’ is now available at the Elder Tree, the first British pub to sell the beer.
And, you don’t need to call on an icebreaker to get there....