Curieuse Island, known for its land tortoises that roam freely on the island, is not only famous for its rich natural beauty but also for its rich history. The Doctor’s House, which houses a small museum recounting the story of the island, is another pride of Curieuse.

After being closed for over a year for renovation work, the building which is now a National Monument re-opened earlier last week in a small ceremony in the presence of Minister Didier Dogley, Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change, representatives from the Seychelles Marine National Parks Authority, Seychelles Heritage Foundation, children from the Praslin schools and various other partners.

Formerly used as a confinement for leprosy sufferers from 1829 to 1900 and again from 1937 to 1965, Curieuse still bears scars of the great fire of 1967 which destroyed an extensive part of the island’s vegetation.

Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, which was common in the 1900s, is a bacterial infection which causes severe disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage to various parts of the body. Due to the fact that the disease was thought to be highly contagious, patients were confined on Curieuse Island to be treated and also as a form of protection for the rest of the community. Built in 1873 as residence of the Scottish Medical Officer in charge Dr. William MacGregor, the one storey building was of a traditional, colonial architecture, much of which it still displays today.

It was Minister Dogley and Air Seychelles representative Allan Renaud who officially opened the doors of the building. This was followed by a visit of the house, not only by the attendees but by eager visitors who were honoured to have witnessed this ceremony.

“I am happy that we could finally complete the reparation works and reopen the building, this is a good start in itself. I remember when I was first took office as the Minister for Environment I was saddened by the state of the Doctor’s House, especially from the wonderful memories I had of it from the time of Mrs Danielle De St Jore; it was really a beauty then. I am fascinated by old buildings and believe they should be preserved. So we decided that we had to do something to restore the Doctor’s House. We are grateful to our partners especially Air Seychelles. Though much has been done, the project remains ongoing especially for the exhibitions inside. Much emphasis has to be put on maintenance as well, so as to keep the building in a good condition,” Minister Dogley shared.

Air Seychelles, the project’s main sponsor, printed and updated the historical data in the re-modelled exhibition in the ground floor of the building.

Being the original sponsor of the exhibition, the national airline welcomed the idea to assist towards the refurbishment of the house. The first floor of the house rather displays the natural heritage of the island from artwork by local artists Dodo, Ally and Ernesta. From landscape paintings on the walls to hanging fish from the ceiling and dried tortoise shells, this floor depicts the ecological beauty of Curieuse and various species which occupy the island and its surrounding waters.

In his address to the invitees, Selby Remie, the chairperson of the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA), thanked all their partners and sponsors for their contribution towards the project and shared their desire for further partnership building.

He also advised the attendees that the project is an ongoing one and there are still some more work to be done.

Air Seychelles and Minister Dogley received tokens for their dedication towards the project in the ceremony.

Marvin Pool, a young student from Baie Ste Anne primary school, Chloe Michel from Praslin secondary school and Sir Andre and his young choir from Grand Anse Praslin primary school shared their poems and songs on that occasion.

“Those wooden doors which once welcomed so many people whom the society had left aside and abandoned, today welcomes so many visitors to share the story of a small island of great history and natural heritage. The Doctor’s House not only preserves the history of the island but also remains open for future documentations on the island. If only those walls had the power to speak, they could reveal so much. As the future generation we vow to keep this archive alive.”

The accompanying photos show highlights of the ceremony.