Nestled on the shores, the Souillac marine cemetery offers a journey through time, between tombs and waves. Stories from the colonial era are whispered among the graves, witnesses to the rich and tumultuous history of our country.

Bit of history*

Port Souillac

Port Souillac, formerly known as the Savane district, is located at the mouth of the Savanne River. It was named in honor of François, Viscount de Souillac, governor of the Île de France from 1779 to 1787.

François, Viscount of Souillac

Viscount de Souillac was appointed governor of Isle de France in 1779.

The Viscount of Souillac is a native of Bardou in Périgord, born in 1732. He is the eighth in a family of nine children. He joined the army at the age of 15, then the Royal Navy. After a long naval career, he was appointed governor of Île Bourbon in 1775 and Île de France in 1779, before being promoted to governor general of the French establishments at the Cape of Good Hope. He died in 1803.

Places to visit

The National Coast Guard building.

The village of Souillac has many sites to visit: Gris-Gris beach and La Roche qui cry, Rochester Falls, the Telfair Garden, as well as the eponymous museum, former home of the Mauritian poet Robert Edward Hart. Several buildings from the period are still present, including the police station, another occupied by the National Coast Guard, the old railway station, the magistrature, the Batelage and the social integration office, among others.

Graves of personalities

The grave of the Mauritian poet and writer, Robert Edward Hart, who died on November 6, 1954.

Among the personalities resting at the cemetery, the poet Robert Edward Hart is one of the best known. On the epitaph of his tomb, we can read an inscription reflecting the poet that he was:

“Before the Indian sea lies the poet who sang it; Robert Edward Hart born in Port Louis, of the former Isle de France, on August 17, 1891 and died in his house in Souillac 'La Nef' on November 6, 1954. Ah! Why don't you know the essential verb; what matter now for my free heart finally the fragile pities where I lured my hunger here I am with my whole heart engaged to your sky…”

There is also the tomb of Baron d'Unienville, to whom a tribute will be paid on the occasion of International Archives Day this Sunday, June 9. Marie Claude Antoine Marrier d'Unienville, better known as Baron d'Unienville, was born in 1766. He participated in the campaign for independence in America. He was made a knight of St Louis in 1817 and a knight of the Legion of Honor in 1821. He settled in Île de France in 1792 and played a large role in public affairs as an elected official of the Colonial Assembly. Appointed archivist in 1813, he helped Governor Farquhar to compile important documentation on Madagascar.

On the epitaph of his tomb, we find many details about his life: born January 15, 1766 in Sarrebourg, department of Meurthe, died in Maurice July 27, 1831; captain of ships in the royal navy of France; decorated with the American Order of Cincinnatus; Knight of St Louis; Knight of the Legion of Honour ; colonial archivist and chief registrar of the Court of Appeal of this island.

There is also the tomb of Thomas Etienne Bolgerd, considered the first shipbuilder. Becoming a large owner, he managed the Poste-du-Jacotet estate. He purchased the settlement of St Felix in 1778. It led to the capture of Matthew Flinders, the same man who named Australia.

First properties

The first concessions in the Souillac region were granted in March and June 1729 to Rivière Dragon, Rivière-du-Tabac and Rivière-des-Anguilles. Among the owners are nobles like Simon de la Farelle, François Gachet, Benjamin Dirois, Charles Duverchamp, Anne Germain de Gourez and Baroness de Traverse. The region was abandoned when Port-Louis became the capital. Other concessions were then granted to nobles, soldiers and civil servants. The establishment of Benares was founded by two soldiers: Jean Law de Lauriston, governor of Pondicherry, and Jean Baptiste, governor of Chandernagore.

Naval battles

Several coastal villages were the scene of naval actions carried out by the British between 1809 and 1810, notably in Bel-Ombre, Poste-du-Jacotet and Port Souillac.

The Souillac marine cemetery

The inscriptions on the panel of the Souillac marine cemetery.

Known as the Souillac marine cemetery, it is actually located in Suriname, a village adjacent to Souillac. The enclosures around the family vaults are one of the particularities of the cemetery. There are also tombs of sculpted art, such as that of Robert Edward Hart. There is also a corner with Hindu, Chinese and other tombs, testifying to the cultural diversity of Mauritius. The cemetery has ten sections: Christian, Hindu and Muslim.

Tribute to Baron d’Unienville

Baron d'Unienville is known for his contribution to the field of archives in Mauritius.

A tribute is paid to Baron d'Unienville on the occasion of International Archives Day which is observed on June 9. This is what we can read on the National Archives Department (NAD) website. The International Council on Archives (ICA) considers that this day should be an opportunity “to promote the value of archives and archivists throughout the world”. The site also states that archives and archivists are essential for accountability, transparency, democracy, heritage, memory and society. The theme proposed for this day is: “The archives are you”.

Since the island's capitulation in 1810, a French officer named Marrou has been in charge of the archives. After the signing of Article 31 of the Treaty of Paris in 1814, the archives were returned to their location in the Government House. They were officially recognized in 1815 with the appointment of Marie Claude Antoine Marrier, Baron d'Unienville, as the first colonial archivist. The NAD thus salutes the contribution of Marie Claude Antoine Marrier, Baron d'Unienville, in the field of archives.

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