The following article was originally published in the first edition of TRUE Anguilla magazine in 2014.
That Girl with the British Accent
Armel Harrigan is famous. She has fans all over the world and regularly receives invitations to vacation in America and Europe. She’s spent a week with Jay-Z and Beyonce. She’s been handed the keys to a car—free. People have sent her children everything from Ninja Turtle Backpacks to iPads. Someone sent her a foot brace because he or she “didn’t want her feet to hurt.”
But what is Armel famous for? Is she a TV or Radio personality? A writer? A famous singer? No. Armel Harrigan is a waitress at Meads Bay’s popular Straw Hat Restaurant—a very good waitress who’s worked in some of Anguilla’s most popular tourism establishments and who has created a fan base aspiring pop stars would envy. People tell us that ‘the people’ are the reason they keep coming back to Anguilla, and Armel is definitely one of those ‘people.
Born and brought up in the UK, she came ‘home’ to Anguilla when she was 21 to work at the recently opened Malliouhana Hotel. She moved on to one of Anguilla’s first restaurants, the Fish Trap in Island Harbour, and she was subsequently poached by friends Tom and Julie to work at Arlo’s until Hurricane Luis wiped it out in 1995.
A lifetime of friends
Armel stays close with her friends from those early days, including Bryce and Nancy Bugg, who have supplied her with a most essential and intimate item ever since they met: “I haven’t had to buy a bra for 30 years,” Armel says, ”not that you can find a 44DD Bra in Anguilla.”
We talked about the friends she made over the years. “I have so many stories… so many friends, I can’t mention them all, but I’ve met some dear, dear people…. when I’m on vacation, I will meet up and stay with them or go to dinner.
When my mother was sick, friends helped me get back to the UK. I’ve never asked, but people are so generous—they bring me gifts and stuff for my kids, and people come back every year to Anguilla, sometimes just to see me. My friend Mary Stevens says a year without Anguilla and Armel is like a year without sunshine.”
Armel loves her job
Armel spent 7 years at Ripples Restaurant, crediting owner Jacquie Ruan with turning her into “a proper waitress” before moving to Straw Hat, where she’s been since it opened 16 years ago. Peter Parles, who co-owns the place with his wife Anne, tells us, “Most people love her and can’t get enough of that British accent.” When he first approached Armel about joining them, she apparently drawled, “Oh, darling… you can’t afford me!” We assume he must have come up with the money, because that same British accent still lilts through their daily specials!
One guest once said, “Woman, you make that food sound so seductive, I want to try all of it.” Armel clearly loves what she does. Warm, unique, opinionated, and flamboyant, she offers advice, greets guests as “Darling”, and calls colleagues her “Straw-Hat Family”.
After 30 years of working in tourism, it’s clear she is an expert on the experience visitors have here. So we asked her, “What makes Anguilla a special destination?”
“The way people treat you. You’re not an anonymous tourist: you’re a person. In Anguilla, you will be remembered when you return.”
Want more Armel? Then watch her on TRUE Anguilla TV.
In the first episode of TRUE Anguilla TV we catch up with some of the special people we have interviewed over the years and find out what’s changed for them since we last spoke to them. So check out the show to hear the latest on Armel, Omari Banks, Kenroy Herbert and the dynamic ladies from Blue Sea Anguilla, Mimi and Amelia.