Goree - Encyclopedia

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GOREE, an island off the west coast of Africa, forming part of the French colony of Senegal. It lies at the entrance of the large natural harbour formed by the peninsula of Cape Verde. The island, some goo yds. long by 330 broad, and 3 m. distant from the nearest point of the mainland, is mostly barren rock. The greater part of its surface is occupied by a town, formerly a thriving commercial entrepot and a strong military post. Until 1906 it was a free port. With the rise of Dakar, c. 1860, on the adjacent coast, Goree lost its trade and its inhabitants, mostly Jolofs, had dwindled in 1905 to about 150o. Its healthy climate, however, makes it useful as a sanatorium. The streets are narrow, and the houses, mainly built of darkred stone, are flat-roofed. The castle of St Michael, the governor's residence, the hospital and barracks, testify to the former importance of the town. Within the castle is an artesian well, the only water-supply, save that collected in rain tanks, on the island. Goree was first occupied by the Dutch, who took possession of it early in the 17th century and called it Goeree or Goedereede, in memory of the island on their own coast now united with Overflakkee. Its native name is Bir, i.e. a belly, in allusion to its shape. It was captured by the English under Commodore (afterwards Admiral Sir Robert) Holmes in 1663, but retaken in the following year by de Ruyter. The Dutch were finally expelled in 1677 by the French under Admiral d'Estrees. Goree subsequently fell again into the hands of the English, but was definitely occupied by France in 1817 (see SENEGAL: History).

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