Many a traveler flying to the British Virgin Islands has been perplexed to see that Beef Island, not Tortola, is their final destination. The reason is simple: Beef Island, which is connected to the southeastern coast of Tortola by a two-lane bridge, is home to the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport, the port of entry for many visitors to the British Virgin Islands.
Beef Island got its name from the cattle that were raised there during the plantation period. There is a popular legend about a widow who lived on Beef Island, raising cattle, during the age of piracy. It is said that she became fed up losing livestock at the hands of pirates, who used the waters around Beef Island for a rendezvous point. One day she invited the whole pirate gang to dinner and poisoned them with rum tainted with juice from the toxic manchineel fruit. The island’s pirate legacy lives on in name: Bellamy Cay, just off the coast, is named for Black Sam Bellamy, a pirate said to have used the cay as his base while prowling the northern Caribbean in the early 1700s.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Virgin Islands, 4th edition