Saint who?

February 3, 2012

Travel on the Paris Metro and you will find a network inundated with names of people -some famous (Emile Zola, Victor Hugo, Franklin D. Roosevelt), some not (Etienne Marcel, Richard Lenoir, Louise Michel) – and a huge number of Saints: Michel, Sulpice, Placide, Ambroise… to quote but a few.

Our local boozer, the St Margaret's Tavern

This got me thinking about Travel PR’s own St. Margaret’s in London which, despite being where I spend most workdays, has never puzzled me until now. Who was St. Margaret and what did she do to warrant an area between Richmond and Twickenham – complete with National Rail station – being named after her?

A quick Google search and a whole list of St. Margarets come up. And, as it transpires, not only does does London have a St. Margaret’s, but so too are there St Margarets in Australia, Canada and Italy, amongst others.

Head to the other side of the world, south-east of Melbourne, and you’ll also come across Saint Margaret Island, which acts as a sandy barrier to Corner Inlet, a Marine National Park. The island has a namesake closer to home – off the Pembrokeshire coast, next to Caldey Island. Staying close(ish) to home, there’s also St Margaret’s Hope up in the Orkney Islands – the third largest settlement in Orkney and home to around 550 residents.


This saintly lady – or ladies, as it turns out (for there were two Saint Margarets: Saints of Antioch and of Scotland, respectively) – can also lay claim to a bus station in Leicester, a church within the grounds of Westminster Abbey and a pebbly bay at Cliffe in Kent – the closest point in the UK to France and from where many set off on cross-Channel swims.

Going back to the Margarets themselves, the first (of Antioch) died in 304 A.D. and, or so the story goes, had an encounter with the devil in the form of a dragon. The other, who died in 1093, had a more fairytale life, escaping England as Princess Margaret, only to fall in love with King Malcolm of Scotland.

Meanwhile, across the pond there’s St. Margaret’s Bay in Nova Scotia, opening out onto the Atlantic. “A scenic spot and popular with sailors” the brochures say, highlighting its wildlife and ‘Lighthouse Route’. Translate Margaret into Italian, and the name becomes the somewhat more exotic-sounding Margherita, giving way to Santa Margherita Ligure. Aha, here’s one I do know about – it’s on my client Essential Sailing’s new Italian route. An elegant seaside town, it too is popular with the boating crowd and, less known than glitzy neighbouring Portofino, boasts a laidback feel.

But really, this is just skimming the surface of the St. Margaret world; take away the saintly prefix and there are even more – Margaret Island in Budapest, Isla de Margarita in Venezuela, the city Margaret in Alabama… one of the planet Uranus’ 27 moons is even called Margaret!

Despite all these Margarets dotted across the world, the name itself hasn’t appeared on charts of England and Wales’ Top 100 Baby Names for a number of years, with Olivias, Sophies and Emilys taking the lead… Perhaps we’ll soon see a host of bus stations, islands and astronomical discoveries following suit.

Helena Hamlyn.