Thursday, 10 February 2011

RIP: Emile Collins

Montfort Tadier has a mention of long time political campaigner, Emile Collins, who has just died:

Emile Collins passed away today aged 98. Emile was a seasoned political campaigner, an enthusiastic follower -and often a critic- of Jersey politics. He was an avid contributor to the lunchtime BBC phone-in. He was both passionate and compassionate. (1)

Indeed, Emile was such a familiar voice on the Radio that he even found his way into an amusing comment on a Jersey forum relating to Global Warming:

Due to Global Warming most of Jersey will be desert by then and the only Jersey Royals will be in the museum. Luckily foreign visitors will be able to come to the island via the bridge from Normandy. Emile Collins, at the age of 183 will still be ringing BBC Talk back and arguing his case. (2)

More details about Emile can be found on Voice's blog, where Team Voice commissioned a bronze bust to be made of him:

Emille Collins was born at St. Helier in September 1912. He has lived in the Island ever since - except for just one single day when he visited Guernsey. He still lives in St. Helier and unlike most residents of the Island - he always votes. In the picture above, Emille and Constable Simon Crowcroft of St. Helier are seen with a bronze- bust portrait of "our hero." (3)

This is on display at the Town Hall. There is also a farewell tribute to him at Voice's blog:

It seems so sad that some people are honoured in Jersey simply for having been in a particular position, be it Bailiff, or Chief Minister (before that President of Policy and Resources) and yet people who fought against the Germans in the war, and have campaigned for justice ever since, seldom get honoured in any such way. It is true that a prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown, so it was good to see Team Voice commission the bronze sculpture:

The BBC also reported on him after this event:

On the Voice for Protest blog they have a photo and details of a new portrait of 97 year old Jersey political campaigner, Emile Collins. Emile was born in St Helier in September 1912 and has lived in the parish ever since. Emile has been an active member of political movements in Jersey for over 60 years, including membership of the Jersey Democratic Union in 1944. That was during the Nazi Occupation of Jersey when it was punishable by death to be a member of a political party. In those early days the JDU members would meet in a house in Stopford Road trying to dodge the German patrols and the curfew. The Jersey Democratic Union later became the Jersey Democratic Movement after the Occupation. Even now Emile is still an active political campaigner in Jersey, regularly attending rally's and contributing to BBC Jersey's lunchtime phone-in and our weekly Sunday political phone-in. (4)

Of course it should be noted that while the JDU worked against the Germans, a lot of those involved helping the Russian slave workers, like Norman Le Brocq, were considered tainted by association with Russian communism, and never received due recognition for their work.

As the Island looks again at the States, here is what Emile submitted last time. When Privileges and Procedures had a consultation on the composition and election of the States in 2006, this was his response:

Mr. Emile Collins - He wanted a fully elected government with no Senators, no Deputies and no Bailiff. He wanted to be able to vote for anyone who is standing for the States not just candidates in his district. He would like all Deputies to have an island wide mandate and to be able to vote for anyone. He had no opinion regarding the number of States members.(5)

And in December 2008, after the last election, he wrote to the JEP as follows:

Now that the elections for Senators and Deputies are over, I am waiting with great interest to see what influence the new States Members are going to have. Could I be so bold as to make a few suggestions? The first priority is homes and jobs for our young Jersey-born people. The States' housing loan could be for people up to 65 years of age. They would still be paying rent, so why not the loan? More young people would be able to take on a loan, as the payments could be reduced. On jobs, we should rejuvenate our building industry and have a States-controlled section, like for instance Public Health. We have local building workers who could do the job. The work on States property would be done by them. There would be no need to import the 'experts', who do not know the cutting edge of a chisel. Agriculture must be given the chance to go organic, to supply local shops and farms, and there should be allotments in every parish. As for tourism, we keep destroying the very things it needs to survive. Fort Regent should be rejuvenated and a permanent ice rink is a must. We also need a proper Island bus service and a census of the population now. (6)

He also had some good ideas about property maintenance and youth unemployment:

I read in your paper (JEP, 00 May) that the States' property maintenance bill could be £120 million. I think that there is a way of reducing that by some millions of pounds. There are teenagers leaving school with no jobs to go to. There must be some retired craftsmen who would be only too pleased to be able to earn a few quid in overseeing a States-owned building force in which some of those school-leavers could be included. They would learn a trade and at the same time save Jersey millions. Is that too difficult a subject for our line up of ministers to grasp? (10)

And when he was 95, he was featured on France 24, giving his opinion (as one who had been around) on haut de La Garenne: "This is just my opinion but I do not see how it is possible, given the way Jersey is run, this kind of scandal has not filtered out and was kept secret for so long. They have always heard things here and there, but they did absolutely nothing. They have done absolutely nothing. " (7)

But Emile's life was not all politics. The Jèrriais page has this lovely anecdote:

The recent daffodils exhibition at the Jersey Museum has set a few memory bells ringing, I hear. Emile Collins phoned to let me know that when he was a lad, daffodils were in plentiful supply in St Peter's Valley. 'No one had money for flowers m those days, so people just used to pick them,' he said, recalling that there were so many daffodils in St Peter's Valley that you couldn't see past them. 'My mum used to call them "pipots".' Pipots is the Jersey-French name for wild daffodils, yet if there is only one pipot, that is a buttercup. Mr Collins remembers walking to St Peter from St John with his friends. 'We used shanks's pony, and we got there when we got there,' he said.(8)

What would be the best legacy? More parents of young children taking an interest in local politics and helping to shape the Island's future. This is what he wrote for the ATTAC newsletter:

Open Letter to all Parents
with Young Children
. Have you really thought about the way that Jersey is going?
. What is there now for your children?
. What will there be in 10, 15 years time?
. You must assert yourselves. Enough is enough!
. We can do it.
By Emile Collins


(apologies for any typing mistakes; I am suffering from a heavy cold and cough)

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