Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Election Odds and Ends














Election Bribes?

One of the great things about being a Minister is that you can always bribe the electorate, or is that just me being cynical.

It does strike me as remarkable that over years of inaction, suddenly as the elections come around, matters that – we are told – have been in the pipeline have just come to fruition.

So Alan Maclean is giving better student grants now, rather than last year or the year before when there was no indication that any kind of rethink was taking place. He cannot guarantee how long the new system will last, which is not surprising as it has already been cut back a bit after Reform questioned how it was to be funded. Of course education is important, but isn’t it remarkable that this should just have come to the forefront now?

Lyndon Farnham meanwhile is waxing lyrical about getting an inter-island ferry, and a lot of statistics come from him about how good it will be for tourism. Those probably don’t really stand up to scrutiny, but they are intended more to instil a feel good confidence that the Minister has been responsible for boosting tourism. He has even, dangerously, said that a new deal will be forthcoming with Ports of Jersey on the Jersey Aircraft Registry, but there he may come a cropper, in which case he will probably pass it back to poor Murray Norton to make a statement.

Susie Pinel, meantime, has come up with a good deal for new mums – better maternity provisions. Cleverly this is something which the employers fund, while she gets the votes. That’s a very clever deal, but isn’t that amazing that it only came to fruition after being worked at so invisibly it was not even on the radar – when an election looms.

Of course, politicians using their office to bring forward projects just at election time is nothing new, and goes on all the time across the world. They always protest that it is just a coincidence! So is rolling two sixes on a pair of dice five times – it is within the bounds of chance, but the more times you see it, the more you ask: are those dice loaded?

A Period of Sensitivity

In the UK, the Cabinet Office imposes a “period of sensitivity” or “Purdah” before elections. This is a period of roughly six weeks in which Government Departments are not allowed to communicate with members of the public about any new or controversial Government initiatives (such as modernisation initiatives, and administrative and legislative changes).

During a general election Ministers remain in office and in charge of their departments but it is customary for them to observe discretion in announcing initiatives that are new or of a long-term character in their capacity as a minister.

I hope that Jersey follows the same custom here.

Election Time Lag

One thing I do wish would happen, however, is when nominations are made at Parish Halls officially, that Jersey followed the lead of the UK and many other Parliaments.

When the election takes place, each individual MP assumes office immediately upon the declaration by the local returning officer. The situation in Jersey by which the old States can continue operating until the new States are sworn in does not happen. In the past, this has been extended up to six weeks (when a budget debate took place), and this does no good for democracy.

Jersey should follow the UK’s lead in that after an election, those voted out are out, and even while awaiting swearing in at the first States sitting, those newly elected represent those who voted for them.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Haut de La Garenne and the Redemption of Memory










Haut de La Garenne and the Redemption of Memory

“Hiding the evidence and scars of such events is, in many ways, an act of denial.” (Kenneth Foote)

The JEP recently asked people what to do with Haute de La Garenne. For residents who survived and were abused there, it is still a raw wound. But equally, it has now become home to “The Jersey Accommodation and Activity Centre” where it is providing a life enhancing experience for young people. What can be done to remember the past, redeem the memory of past abuse so that it is not hidden or forgotten, and yet also look forward to the future?

One way in which the past might be memorialised would be to have an interpretation area, perhaps a wall or walls, sculptures, a plaque, and a memorial garden. There is already a war memorial in the entrance, but to one side, there is plenty of space for a very special memorial to the survivors of the home.

Remembering the Past in Memorial

In his book, “Commemoration and Bloody Sunday: Pathways of Memory”, B. Conway looks at ways in which the past can be remembered and transfigured.

Bloody Sunday occurred in the Bogside area of Derry on 30 January 1972. Also known as the Bogside Massacre, civil rights protesters and bystanders were shot upon by British army soldiers. As part of the healing process, a memorial was placed at the site. The memorial is a twelve foot obelisk of limestone and bears the names of the fourteen people killed.

Conway notes that “A memorial is more likely to have ‘legs’ when it is located in a publicly owned site, lacks competing claims on the space it occupies, resonates with a wide audience, and is promoted by memory choreographers.”

He suggests that this “suggests that the commemoration of a single event can encompass both fragmented and consensual commemorations.” They do not speak completely, but they tell their story, and they also contain the names of victims inscribed on the memorial.

In the USA, the Veterans Memorial Garden is located at 3200 Memorial Drive in Antelope Park. This also commemorates the past with a “brick of honour” on a wall next to the memorial, available for is available for all Veterans, living or deceased.

In the book “Deleuze and Memorial Culture: Desire, Singular Memory and the Politics of Trauma. Contributors”, Adrian Parr comments that:

“When expressing grief over a violent event, a community often memorializes the area where the incident happened, paying tribute to the victims of violence. Certainly moulding the landscape in order to respond to a shared loss is one way of reempowering a community.”

“Geographer Kenneth Foote, for instance, understands landscape memorialisation to be a platform whereupon the past is interpreted and given meaning. He examines how traditions are reinforced and even changed through what he describes as the sanctification of particular sites.”

Foote explained in an interview the different ways we can treat sites associated with traumatic events and history:

“At one end is the response I term ‘sanctification,’ where people see some real moral value or lesson epitomized by tragedy. Gettysburg or shrines to prominent leaders like John F. Kennedy are examples. Also, when communities experience loss, they often want to honour the victims and families who lost loved ones.”

“At the other end of continuum is ‘obliteration’; After events like Aurora, which are shocking or shameful, or involve taboo subjects like child abuse, people tend to obliterate or remove the evidence of the crime in efforts to downplay the event and create some distance.

“In between sanctification and obliteration are ‘rectification’ and ‘designation.’ With rectification, people fix up and reuse sites, perhaps after a fire or accident. People know why it happened and they’re saying, “Let’s get on with life.” The last area on the continuum is “designation.” People put up a sign indicating that the place is significant. Someday, it might be sanctified, but it isn’t quite at that stage yet.”

Redeeming Haut de La Garenne: A Proposal

A local example of what Foote calls “sanctification” is found in the Bunker at Hougue Bie. Once more of a museum displaying life in the bunker, it now has photos and quotations from those who were victims and survivors in the Occupation of Jersey. It is an interpretation of the events, and the suffering which took place, and while it is of historical import, it is also raw and painful to walk through.

Shrines to trauma and suffering such as this, and those examined above, are examples of sites which memorialize the horrible events that occurred there, and also the grief of relatives, survivors and complete strangers who feel kinship.

So I would recommend keeping Haut de La Garenne, because also part of the healing process is turning it from a place of suffering to one of joy, from a place where children were abused, to one where children can come in safety. That in itself is a good memorial.

But more is needed. An interpretation wall or memorial, and a garden, and perhaps the first names of those who suffered abuse (if they wanted it) in the grounds, in the public space before the building and in front of it, would also sanctify that space. This is, as Foote would say, something which everyone in the community should never forget. It is specific to the survivors, but the Care Inquiry Report showed that the tragedy of how children were mistreated was also a common, public loss: the whole community bears the scars as well.

Why a garden? A garden also points to future hope, that we find “in the sorrow, the seeds of joy” It is more than a bare memorial; it is a living symbol of those who survived. And it can be planted afresh to keep the memory alive.

In exact terms of deciding what should be placed in the grounds, Foote has some useful words of caution. He says that “the views of all parties touched by a tragedy need to be heard as plans for memorializing develop. If one group or a small group takes charge of major decisions, conflicts often arise. Conflicts may also arise when decisions about memorial making are rushed. Pushing for decisions too soon can cause resentment and friction later.”

But expertise should also be made available. As Kenneth Foote notes, “artists and landscape architects have been trying to develop innovative ways of symbolizing and expressing loss and grief.” They can suggest what might be possible, and what might work best and work with those looking for a memorial space.

And if there is a ceremony to open the interpretation wall and garden, there must also be the survivors at the forefront of that. The failing of the church services held by the former Dean of Jersey was that it was very much the establishment come to pray. The church may be present, but it should be the survivors who are allowed to take the lead and initiative over the form of any opening ceremony, and also any annual commemorations thereafter.

What needs to be heard are the voices of those who were unheard: people telling their stories as a way to make it real for them and for us.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Stormy Waters














Whatever Happened to the Jersey Independent Lifeboat Committee?

I’ve just been reviewing Ben Shenton’s recent press release. He is the Chairman of the Jersey Lifeboat Association. He commented:

“I am delighted to be associated with the Jersey Lifeboat Association. The provision of year-round lifeboat facilities to a small island community is of vital importance. The charity aims to work closely with the community in a manner that only a locally managed organisation can, with monies donated fully accountable and identifiable. The appreciation and respect of volunteers shall be at the forefront of everything that we do.”

“The council members of the charity are delighted to have a strong body of  volunteers working with us under the leadership of Paul Battrick MBE as  Chair of the JLA Volunteers Committee. “

As well as Mr Shenton, the founding council members of the Jersey Lifeboat Association are accountant Ian Jones as treasurer, trustee Tim Cartwright as secretary and marketing director Simon O’Donoghue as council member.

So effectively the old crew are now part of the JLA Volunteers Committee and not in the direct management of the JLA.
  
Remember this – 22 December 2017:

“An independent lifeboat for Jersey could be ‘in the water’ by early January, organisers have said. Philip Rondel, who chairs the Jersey Independent Lifeboat Committee, said they were looking at a vessel currently based in the UK, expected to cost about £250,000.”

That was the committee of what was also called the “Jersey Independent Voluntary Lifeboat Service”. It was chaired by former St John Deputy Phil Rondel, former crew’s spokesman Paul Battrick, and several others, as the JEP reported:

“Former St Helier coxswain Andy Hibbs and his partner Anna Davies are also involved, as is Senator Sarah Ferguson, long-distance swimmer Sally Minty-Gravett and fishmonger Vicky Boarder.”

“Founders of the political lobby group the Jersey Action Group John Baker and former States Member Sean Power are also on the committee, together with former St Helier crew member Robin Ovenden, jeweller Rachael Fay and Annalisa Bale.”

It had its own Facebook page, together with mug shots of some of the principals. And its first meeting was described on 28 November 2017 in the JEP:

“There was standing room only at the Town Hall as the Jersey Independent Voluntary Lifeboat Service committee held its first public meeting since the St Helier crew's acrimonious split from the RNLI.”

“In paperwork handed out to the crowd, the committee displayed vessels it intended to acquire and estimated that two million Euros would be needed to by two boats (1.8 million Euros for an all-weather lifeboat and 200,000 Euros for an inshore vessel).”

“Addressing crowds, former Deputy Sean Power, a member of the new committee, said the Island must not let people in the UK decide the future of lifeboat cover in Jersey.”

So whatever happened to the Jersey Independent Voluntary Lifeboat Service committee? It seems to have gone, or been subsumed into the JLA Volunteers Committee, although apart from Paul Battrick, there is precious little information about membership. Phil Rondel seems to have retired again, although Sarah Ferguson is bringing a petition to the States.

On December 5th, the JEP reported:

“Following meetings in St Helier and St John – both of which were filled to capacity – the Jersey Independent Lifeboat Committee is to give a presentation at St Peter's Community Centre at 8 pm on Tuesday. A question and answer session will also be held. Former Senator Ben Shenton will be in attendance.”

So whatever happened to it? When Senator Sarah Ferguson lodged a petition on 18 January, it asked the States "to support the Jersey Independent Lifeboat Service Committee in establishing an independent Jersey Lifeboat Station, disassociated from the RNLI." 

This calls the old committee a "steering committee" and says "A steering Committee was formed, under the joint chairmanship of former Connétable Phil Rondel and Mr. Paul Battrick, M.B.E., in order to set up the organisation required to provide the service. This will be led by an Association." 

But with the advent of the JLA, it seems the Steering Committee's raison d'etre has vanished.

It is notable that the new Jersey Lifeboat Association Facebook page says firmly:

“WELCOME TO THE OFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGE OF THE JERSEY LIFEBOAT ASSOCIATION.THE ONLY PAGE AUTHORISED BY THE JLA TRUSTEES..

The objects of the Association are: 1. To save lives, promote safety and provide relief from disaster, in relation to the coastal waters of the island of Jersey. 2. To advance the education of the public in matters relating to sea, and  inland and flood water safety.”

This is a far cry from December, when the other committee was in charge and when Ben Shenton was only  "in attendance".  

The fact that this is the "Only Page Authorised" seems to indicate that the previous steering committee has been sidelined and the new one certainly doesn’t want any supporters shouting their mouths off when it looks to work more closely with the RNLI:

“We have received a letter from the RNLI saying that they are willing to give their assistance in establishing the Jersey Lifeboat Station. We are not sure what form this assistance will take, but we are looking forward to working with them”

The JLA also says it “has the support of Andy Hibbs”, in other words, he is no longer on a decision making committee, although no doubt his input and expertise will be used by the JLA:

“The council is delighted to have the support of Andy Hibbs and the former St Helier lifeboat crew, whose knowledge of local waters and professionalism is unsurpassed.”

Interestingly the claims of the new JLA have moderated as well. On 4 February, the JEP reported Ben Shenton as saying:

‘We are in the very early stages, but I hope we will have a boat in the water in a matter of weeks rather than months”

But as Ben has been finding out, you need administration to manage the books and fundraising, insurance for the crew and equipment, rules to govern how the boat is used and when.

"When the RNLI raised the prospect of setting up an Independent Lifeboat,  during negotiations with the St Helier Crew, there would have been little comprehension amongst the crew of the enormity of the task ahead. Albeit  they did have the RNLI’s offer of support."

"To build a Charity from scratch is an enormous task and fortunately the JLA  has a very large bank of volunteers behind the scenes. The public have not  seen much yet because strong foundations are being laid and there is a massive amount of paperwork.”

Steve Luce, back in November 28, warned that setting up an independent lifeboat organisation would be “massively technically difficult” – he didn’t say impossible. Now that the initial euphoria has begun to evaporate, and more level heads like Ben Shenton are looking at the JLA, it is becoming clearer that this is not an overnight task.

One final comment – Ben Shenton comments that:

"Rather disappointingly we have received a very negative letter from the  Jersey Government, signed by the Chief Minister. This is not a problem as it is preferable to know where people stand on issues at the outset than be  misled, and we shall endeavour to convert our political leaders. I am proud
to be the spokesman and I am sure that the JLA will live up to the public’s  expectations."

It would be nice rather than giving an opinion on a letter, he explained what the contents were that were “very negative”. It couldn’t be that the States were not prepared to provide financial support for an Independent Lifeboat, perhaps, when the RNLI would provide cover for free? It would be nice to know, one way or the other.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Coffee and Conversations and Gender Matters














Coffee and Conversations

I was reading Gavin Ashenden in the JEP, which is something I generally try to avoid doing, as he seems obsessed with telling everyone the world is obsessed with sex, and I read this:

“I was careless the other day and glanced at a letter in which my critic found himself bemused. He had met me once, at a funeral I had taken, and found me apparently reasonably humane. He just couldn’t square the experience of meeting me in person with the person who expresses the ideas I do, in print.”

Actually that does not surprise me at all. People writing, at a distance from the people they are writing about, are generally more outspoken than they might be if they met someone, for example, for a coffee and a chat. That’s certainly true of myself, and probably true of Gavin Ashenden. I suspect that even the late Ian Paisley would not conduct a conversation over coffee in the same strident way he made his speeches for the media.

But just because people are reasonably humane if met in person, doesn’t mean they may not hold values which can be seemingly at odds with the pleasant person you might meet.

As an example of Godwin’s law, I cite (of course) Adolf Hitler. There are home movies of Hitler in his mountain retreat, drinking cups of tea, being kind to his dog, and generally behaving in what seems like a very affable way. People like Lloyd George or Neville Chamberlain, who met Hitler face to face, remarked on his charm and charisma. But that does not mean that Hitler, in full rant, at Nuremberg, was a very different kind of person.

Now I’m not suggesting that Gavin Ashenden is in the slightest bit like Hitler. All I am doing is giving an example of an extreme case to illustrate a general truth. How we behave depends a lot on the social context and who, and how, we are interacting.

So it is quite possible for someone like Gavin to express his views forcibly in the medium of a newspaper to an unseen readership, than it might be if he was meeting someone face to face. For one thing, it is not likely he would push the same views at a funeral, because there is a certain standard of decency in behaviour at funerals which most people adhere to.

Meanwhile in his JEP article, we have:

“Sexual appetite is one of our least noble and most basic, and almost animalistic of our appetites and activities; however fun, captivating and sometimes almost addictive it might be.”

I could not help but think how different a position (and so much more positive) was taken by C.S. Lewis in “The Four Loves” about human sexuality:

“It has been widely held in the past, and is perhaps held by many unsophisticated people to-day, that the spiritual danger of Eros arises almost entirely from the carnal element within it; that Eros is "noblest" or "purest" when Venus is reduced to the minimum. The older moral theologians certainly seem to have thought that the danger we chiefly had to guard against in marriage was that of a soul-destroying surrender to the senses. It will be noticed, however, that this is not the Scriptural approach. St. Paul, dissuading his converts from marriage, says nothing about that side of the matter except to discourage prolonged abstinence from Venus (i Cor. VII, 5)”

“With all proper respect to the medieval guides, I cannot help remembering that they were all celibates, and probably did not know what Eros does to our sexuality; how, far from aggravating, he reduces the nagging and addictive character of mere appetite”

I do detect a hint of asceticism and disapproval of sexuality in Gavin Ashenden’s piece. The only time he mentions “love” in the entire piece is in the context of an anecdote in which he decries the use of it:

“I remember a friend of mine whose hand I held as she ‘came out’ to her parents and grandparents when she was 21. I wiped her tears and helped her be brave, and encouraged them, to love her enough to hear the truth. Which is why I was so taken aback when she told me when she was 30, that she was in love and marrying a man.”

He find he cannot understand the modern “gender fluidity” and this is an example, and also explains why he says: “One practical problem for me is that I have found sexuality so complex, variable and fluid, that don’t see how anyone can sensibly use the clumsy term ‘gay’. “

I think part of the trouble is that the modern changes in how we view gender is largely cultural rather than biological, and we get muddled because we are trying to bring together rather different things which may overlap, but do not necessarily do so.

Biologically, gender is very simple, it is denoted by what are termed secondary sexual characteristics, which are markers of someone being male, or female, or in rare instances both – while hermaphrodites occur, they are rare among human beings. Nevertheless, they do happen in nature, and this shows us that biology cannot be constrained into a simply binary system, and Darwin’s own observations suggested that origin of separate sexes came from an ancestral hermaphroditic organism.

But gender as a cultural and fluid phenomenon seems to resemble far more a language, where words may appear the same, but the underlying meaning and usages changes over time. There is nothing right or wrong about linguistic changes, they are simply how language functions.

The problem with language is when you try to impose artificial grammatical rules on it, to make it fixed according to some basic system, when language is not like that. The Victorian grammarians and the French Académie française (which speaks of “linguistic treason”) both try to make language behave in ways that it was never meant to behave. A grammarian is often bewildered by the change in the English language over the last century or two, and the preponderance of books telling people how language should be used properly is testimony to the rearguard action of non-linguistics confronted with a breakdown in what they saw as eternal verities.

“Gay” was one of the earliest terms for colloquially describing homosexuality. Both homosexuality and bisexuality have a long history, and Freudians would have a field day with both monastic communities of the Middle Ages and public schools. For illustration, grounded in basic historicity albeit fictionalised, I would look at Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose”, and the Lindsay Anderson film “If”.

Terminology can be scientific in tone – “homosexual” being an example of what is essentially a description of certain markers in sexual attraction, while a term like “Queer” tended to be used in a more insulting fashion, as did “a queen”. When “gay” began to be used and rose to become dominant, sometime during the 1970s and 1980s, it was very much a term adopted by homosexuals themselves, taken over the dominant meaning of the word “gay” which had been extant, and which still can be seen in words like “gaiety”. It provided a non-derogatory term which therefore fulfilled a need.

Gavin Ashenden is surely being disingenuous when he claims not to understand this, and also how gender attraction can change depending on many factors. One I alluded to in the film “If” was the public boarding school, in which some boys, deprived of female company, may have formed homoerotic attachments which they left behind when heterosexual relationships become possible. There’s a whole field of study on this described as “situational homosexuality” which also occurs in armies, prisons and other same sex environments, and has been described as early as the commentary by Josiah Flynt, published in 1899.

That is not to say that all homoerotic attachments are of this sort, and among gay people they persist. Nevertheless, in the sealed unit of a male boarding school, where adolescent boys go through the hormonal changes and emergence of sexual characteristics, it is hardly unlikely that some transient same sex attractions will result because of the lack of female company. Certainly the Victorians were aware of this with their emphasis on “Mens sana in corpore sano”.

What is interesting about situational homosexuality is that it can also cease to be transient and lead to a change in sexual attraction. In this respect a 2013 study is most interesting

“A 2013 study found that male inmates who once identified as heterosexual were 52 times more likely to change their sexual orientation after engaging in homosexual behavior.1 Conversely, even the most extreme forms of deprivation do not motivate other heterosexual males to engage in homosexual activity. Similarly, many homosexual males who are repressing their sexuality will still refuse to engage in heterosexual behaviour for their entire lives. This phenomenon gives credibility to the understanding of sexual orientation on a continuum rather than being binary.”

An interesting book on this subject is “The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World and Us” by Richard Prum (William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology at Yale).

Prum makes exactly this point – that the human desire to make rigid categories simply does not work in the natural world:

"The idea that sexual behaviour is a marker or definition of a person's identity is actually a quite modern, cultural invention--perhaps only 150 years old. Because we live in a society that is accustomed to conceiving of sexual behaviour in terms of sexual identity, we tend to think that sexual identity categories are biologically real and, therefore, require scientific explanation."

Prum sees the origins of sexual behaviour in the evolution of human beings from the lineage of African apes where the females look for a mate rather than the male, a pattern of female dispersal among social groups. Within such a situation, females are at a disadvantage, “because of the lack of social support of developed social networks to help them resist male sexual coercion and social intimidation.”

He sees female same sex relations as part of mutually supportive bulwark against this, which makes up for the alliances lost “when the females left their original, natal social groups."

Meanwhile, female mate choice has selected not only on male physical features but also by social traits, “"in such a way as to remodel male behaviour and, secondarily, to transform male-male social relationships."

So in selecting this way, the male population was changed by the female population and this also gave rise to a propensity for male same sex preferences -“ selection for the aesthetic, pro-social personality features that females preferred in their mates also contributed, incidentally, to the evolution of broader male sexual desires, including male same-sex preferences and behaviour."

This means that all these potential traits became, by sexual selection, part of the male population, regardless of the individual’s actual heterosexual or homosexual practice:

“The aesthetic theory of the evolution of male same-sex behaviour does not imply that men with a predominantly same-sex orientation have any physical or social personality traits that differ from those of other males. Exactly the contrary, in fact. The hypothesis maintains that there is nothing distinctive about such men, because the features that evolved along with same-sex preferences have become a typical component of human maleness in general. Therefore, individuals with exclusively same-sex sexual preferences are distinctive only in the exclusivity, not in the existence, of their same-sex desires.”

By placing this within a framework of evolutionary theory, Prum’s hypothesis shows a much more complex human biology than can be easily constrained within rigid demarcations, and it is the breakdown of these – that the term gay represents an area mapped out on a surface (to use a geometric metaphor).

As a shorthand for sexual preferences, and self-identification by individuals, it is useful however, because of the prejudice in society, in which markers can be useful, to turn from being scapegoated to being accepted.

That sexual identity is more fluid that previously believed seems to be the case. That much of Gavin Ashenden’s thesis, I would accept. That it is somehow a distortion of what makes us human beings, however, is manifestly untrue, and the idea that being gay – as Gavin Ashenden states elsewhere – is “a perversion which becomes more prevalent in an idolatrous society and undermines the teaching of the Gospel” is to introduce morality and religious prejudice into an area where it has no place to be.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

The Fall













The Fall

The fragility, that sunset touch,
Just one misstep, a sudden fall
Broken leg, limping as with crutch
And life comes to so swiftly stall

Stride along, masters of our fate
Easy sauntering through the town
Until the pavement is not straight
And pride is sent fast crashing down

Frail we are, made flesh and bone
Life is lived between each breath
The pain of falling makes me groan
Travelling on from birth to death

Touched by an angel or by fate
Either way, the hour is late

Friday, 16 February 2018

Jersey Our Island: A Brush with the French – Part 2












Published in 1950, this is an interesting snapshot of the Island and its customs as it was in the immediate post-war period, and not without humour. Most guide books of the time give the tourist information, or give the impressions of an outsider to the Island, but this is in "inside view", which is rarer.

Jersey Our Island: A Brush with the French – Part 2
By Sidney Bisson

D-day for the invasion of Jersey was December 26th, 1780. The idea was evidently to surprise the defenders before they had recovered from their Christmas celebrations. On Christmas night there was a spy scare. A light signal was seen on the north coast, answered by one from the coast of France. Perhaps because it was Christmas, no one seems to have done very much about it, though it was later supposed to have informed the French that the coast was clear of English naval units.

On Boxing Day the expedition sailed from Granville, twelve hundred men with four field guns and two mortars in boats of shallow draught to facilitate a beach landing. It is surprising that Baron de Rullecourt, who commanded the expedition, should have been content with such a small force, as he had been second in command to the Prince of Nassau, whose much larger expedition had been unable to gain a footing the previous year. No doubt he relied on an element of surprise to make up for his smaller numbers. Nassau had attacked in daylight under cover of naval guns. Rullecourt proposed to land his men under cover of darkness.

The first attempt failed. Contrary winds prevented the ships from making Jersey, and they had to take refuge amongst the Chausey Islands, a small group off the coast of France. Here, according to one account, some of the men complained of cold and hunger. Whereupon Rullecourt split one man's head open with his sword and condemned another to be tied to a rock and drowned by the incoming tide. By January 5th the weather, and perhaps his temper, had moderated, and the ships set sail once more.

This time the wilds were favourable, and shortly before mid= night the troops started to disembark on the extremely rocky beach of La Rocque. Rullecourt had as pilot a Jerseyman named Pierre Journeaux, who had taken refuge in France after killing a man in a brawl. Journeaux was a La Rocque man, and presumably knew what he was about when he offered to guide the French ships along this very dangerous coast. Why he did not take them to the sandy beach a little to the north is a mystery. It has been suggested that he aimed at it and was swept south by the currents. More likely Rullecourt was afraid that the obvious landing places might be guarded. Whatever the reason, he lost two of his transports during the operation, and two hundred men were drowned, including his artillerymen.

Between five and seven hundred men reached the shore and immediately occupied a small battery, which was apparently undefended. Leaving a small party here, Rullecourt marched the rest of his troops to St. Helier, avoiding the coast road, which was likely to be watched. He reached the outskirts of the town at dawn, halted his troops, traditionally-in what is now Roseville Street, and sent out scouts. A house in Roseville Street still bears the commemorative name of `The Halt.'

All being quiet, the march was resumed along La Colomberie, where an old main who came out to see what was going on was promptly killed. The sentry in the Royal Square suffered the same fate, and the guard was captured except for one man who ran to the Hospital to warn the Highlanders of the 78th Regiment who were quartered there.

The French could not keep their arrival secret much longer. A number of people were roused by the commotion, and one of them, Captain Hemery of the Jersey Militia, went to warn the Lieutenant-Governor, Major Corbet. Corbet immediately ordered line to ride to Fort Conway and warn Captain Campbell who was in charge of a detachment of the 83rd (Glasgow) Regiment stationed there. Before Corbet could take any further action his house was surrounded and he found himself a prisoner.

So far the various accounts of the invasion are in general agreement, though they differ in matters of detail. What happened afterwards, and particularly the order in which things happened is not so clear. Some reports omit certain events completely, others give a different sequence of events. One can only present what seems to be a logical sequence and hope that it is correct.

So much does history depend on the historian !

Having rounded up various other officers and local officials, Rullecourt had them brought to the Royal Court together with the Lieutenant-Governor. Here he impressed on Major Corbet that the capture of the island was a fait accompli. He claimed that he had landed several thousand men, captured the 83rd Regiment at Fort Conway, and had two battalions in the outskirts of the town and others it the rural districts. To back up his assertions he sent messages to the troops that he claimed were in other parts of the island, and wrote a letter to France announcing his success.

Finally he issued a proclamation to the inhabitants guaranteeing their rights and privileges and freedom of religion if they offered no resistance to his troops.

Hoping that Corbet would have been impressed by this display, he now produced Articles of Capitulation for his signature. Corbet started to argue, until Rullecourt dramatically placed his watch on the table and announced that if the capitulation were not signed in half an hour he would destroy the town. Corbet then signed, as did a Mr. James Hogg, who is described as the `Fort Major.' Two civilian officials, the Avocat General and the Connétable of St. Helier, were also pressed to sign, but refused in spite of being threatened with death.

Apparently content with the military surrender, Rullecourt now became more affable. Producing a commission from the King of France naming him Governor, he announced that he would give an official dinner at Government House that evening, and invited some of the prominent citizens to attend. Whether they accepted or not is not recorded. Seeing that the defending forces were still intact and none of the fortifications captured, Rullecourt seems to have been remarkably optimistic. No doubt he relied on the orders which he had compelled Corbet to issue being implicitly obeyed. All troops were to remain in their barracks and offer no resistance.

He soon found out his mistake when, accompanied by Major Corbet, he set off at the head of his troops to receive the capitulation of Elizabeth Castle. No sooner were they in sight than the castle defenders fired a warning shot over their heads. As they continued to advance, a second shot was fired which caused some casualties.

The French halted and sent a messenger to the garrison with a copy of the capitulation. Captain Mulcaster, who received him, stuffed the papers in his pocket and said that he did not understand French. When the officer pointed out the strength of the invaders and added that ten thousand more men were expected the following day, Mulcaster replied grimly, `All the better. We will have more to kill.' To emphasise his words he blindfolded the Frenchman and led him to the top of the castle, where he showed him all the guns that could be brought to bear on the troops if they advanced. Then he sent him away.

There being little hope of taking the castle by storm, Rullecourt withdrew his troops to the town, which he would probably have set on fire in his anger had not Corbet intervened and offered to send another message to Captain Aylward, who was in command of the castle garrison, ordering him to surrender. This time a Jerseyman was chosen to carry the message. Obviously unwilling, he tried to excuse himself on the grounds that he was a poor horseman. Rullecourt, guessing it was an excuse, ordered one of his men to ride behind him to see that he did not fall off. Captain Aylward's reply was in the best British tradition:

`You know our situation and strength; when we reflect that the British flag has received Honour from the defence of this garrison in former times, we will not suffer its lustre to be diminished, and are therefore determined to hold out to the last.'

Ironically, he signs himself `Your most obedient Servant.' 



Thursday, 15 February 2018

And so to bed...

My regular round up of quotes and photos:













And so bed... quote for tonight is from J. Michael Straczynski:

They told us not to wish in the first place, not to aspire, not to try; to be quiet, to play nice, to shoot low and aspire not at all. They are always wrong. Follow your dreams. Make your wishes. Create the future. And above all, believe in yourself. 













And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Anne Rice: 

The finest thing under the sun and moon is the human soul. I marvel at the small miracles of kindness that pass between humans, I marvel at the growth of conscience, at the persistence of reason in the face of all superstition or despair. I marvel at human endurance. 













And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Jess "Chief" Brynjulson:

All my life I've always come back to one thing,
my need to feel free and the need to feel the breeze,
the ride provides a freedom this gypsy needs,
where every road is another blessed memory,
a new experience to carry inside my journey,
a sense of belonging to a familiar tribe,
a brotherhood that goes beyond a bloodline. 












And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Julian Grenfell:

All the bright company of Heaven
Hold him in their bright comradeship,
The Dog star, and the Sisters Seven,
Orion's belt and sworded hip
The thundering line of battle stands,
And in the air Death moans and sings;
But Day shall clasp him with strong hands,
And Night shall fold him in soft wings. 













And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Robert Louis Stevenson:

The best things are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of God just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain common work as it comes certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things of life. 











And so to bed... quote for tonight is from T.S. Eliot:

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings.