OPT-NC presents a new 280 XPF stamp issue, designed by André Lavergne, evoking the historic penitentiary on Isle of Pines.
The Isle of Pines penitentiary was established in 1872 as a detention centre for insurgents involved in the Paris Commune, sentenced to deportation to New Caledonia for opposing France's surrender to the Prussians in 1871.
The Isle of Pines was split in two to accommodate the deportees, the east of the island being allotted to the native Kunié people and the Marist missions and the south-west turned into a penal colony. Five deportee villages (complete with roads, barracks, command centres and huts given over to general services such as the bakery and infirmary) were built by convicts from Nou Island penitentiary: Ouro, Koéville, Ouameu, Ouaméo and a fifth village, not far from Gadzhi Creek, used to accommodate exiled Algerian Kabyle deportees.
Ouro was the central community, housing a majority of the deportees and also essential services: hospital, church, provisions depot, bakery, workshops, sawmill, water tower, farm... From 1872 to 1879, when the Communards were granted an amnesty, 4,250 deportees and their families lived on the island. After they left, the Isle of Pines penitentiary remained in use up until 1909 as a detention centre for transportees and repeat offenders.
The water tower is still in operation today but only overgrown vestiges of other buildings remain as reminders of the past. The cemetery where the Communard deportees were buried and the cemetery used as a final resting place for prison guards were added to the South Province historic monuments list in 1995.