Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Limpet Gathering

This article of mine first appeared in La Baguette, the Parish Magazine of St Brelade's Parish, editor Jeff Hathaway.

There is an online copy of the latest edition of the magazine here: http://www.labaguette.org.je/

Limpet Gathering
And the story of a Connétable who also became unstuck!

There are many things that ordinary people do, that don't make it into the history books. Here is one personal anecdote.

In St Brelade's Bay, as a young boy, I would gather limpets with my sister from the rocks at the end of the bay. The trick is to take a small trowel, and rapidly slice into the rock below the base of the limpet, then it falls off complete. You have to be quick, or it suddenly grips hard, and is impossible to shift.

Ours would be cooked for our cat, Spitfire, but during the Occupation, some Islanders had permission to forage for limpets to supplement their meagre diet. It is estimated that on diet of limpets alone, 400 would be needed daily for enough calories, so they would have been hard pressed to find enough to eat!

The Latin name for a limpet is patella vulgata, which is a description of what it looks like - it means "common kneecap", and if you look at a limpet, it does indeed look something like a kneecap, especially if you had knobbly knees, like I did as a young boy.

Limpets can also be found on the granite walls of St Brelade's Church. Look at the walls by the windows just as you enter, and there they are, the empty shells of limpets from ages past. What tales they could tell!

One story that the limpets might tell dates from 1708.

Before the present Parish Hall was located at St Aubin, and before the Church Hall was built, Parish Assemblies were held within the Church itself.

During one Assembly, the Constable lost his temper, and swore. That was not done in a Church! So one Sunday a shocked congregation heard the Rector, standing in the pulpit, excommunicating the Constable, Monsieur Pipon - "cut off from the Body of Christ as a septic limb". He could no longer attend Parish Assemblies until he had shown public contrition in front of the congregation, because no excommunicated person could enter a church.

I wonder if any Rectors in modern times have felt regret at losing that power over their Constables!

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