Thursday, 14 May 2015

Walter Benest, Constable of St Brelade 1937-1945

Thanks to James Maclaren for Census information and Daniel Benest for some family tree information. In particular, knowing Walter Benest's date of death enabled me to hone in on the JEP microfilm in the library and find two articles, one on his death, one on his funeral, and thereby fill in the gaps in our knowledge of a man who was very popular in the Parish and Island, but whom now has been all but forgotten. And thanks to the Library staff for kindly threading the microfilm in and showing me how the machine worked.

Walter Benest, Constable of St Brelade 1937-1945

Walter Benest was born in Trinity on November 17, 1883, son of George John Benest and Eliza (nee Amy). He had two brothers, an older one, Emile, and a younger Snowden, who became Constable of Trinity.

He married Emma Margaret Le Boutillier of St Brelade, and settled in the Parish, living at a house called “La Sergente”, at La Moye. They had two daughters.

He first entered the honorary service of St Brelade at the age of 35, when he was elected Inspector of Roads in 1918. He served as Vingtenier for La Moye from 1925 to 1931 and was then elected Constable in 1937, an office he held until 1945, when he declined re-election. He was at the head of the administration of the Parish all through the difficult time of the German Occupation of the Island.

Although the 1901 Census shows he was a solicitor’s clerk aged 17, he turned away from that profession and became a very successful grower at La Moye. He was also connected with the Free Churches of the Island all his life and was a trustee of Ebenezer Chapel, Trinity and also of Tabor Chapel, St Brelade, where he had first sung a solo in the choir, and later filled the position of organist for many years. He was, as was said by the Reverend Underwood, “a man who loved music.”

He was also very interested in the recording of rainfall, and was ever ready with the figures from his gauge at La Sergente.

Walter Benest died, aged 68, on 18th August 1951 after a short period of ill health spent in a nursing home, during which his condition gradually became worse, culminating in his death,  and leaving behind his wife and two daughters.

His funeral service was held at Ebenezer Chapel, with an internment following in St Brelade’s Cemetery. The service at Ebenezer Chapel Trinity was filled with Islanders from all walks of life. The service was conducted by the Reverend John Dodd, with the address given by Reverend G.W. Underwood. There was a strong legal contingent of advocates, solicitors and solicitor’s clerks from Hill Street. The Rev W.G. Tabb, Rector of St Brelade's Church was also present in his capacity as Vice-Dean as the Dean was out of the Island.

Mr P.P. Luce was at the organ and the singing was led by the united choirs of Tabor and Ebenezer Methodist Chapels and the former members of the Northern Male Voice Choir. The service opened with the singing of the hymn "The Lord is my Shepherd", followed by prayers led by the Rev Mr Dodd after which the Rev Mr Tabb read the lesson. Mrs Hilda Baudains sang a solo "How Lovely are Thy Dwellings"

In his address the Rev Mr Underwood said that they had met to pay their last respect to one who was very well known indeed to the people of the Island. He had been a great servant of the Island and of the Parish of St Brelade in particular. He was Constable during the difficult years of the Occupation when he had to make many difficult decisions, many of which were odious to him but necessary and he carried them according to his conscience unheeding of what people might think of him.

Rev Underwood also noted how important music and chapel were to Mr Benest. He said that Walter Benest was a man who had loved music all his life, and at Ebenezer and Tabor always strove that God's songs should be the best possible. He always wanted music in God's dwellings to be beautiful and wanted worship there to be beautiful as well. He had served Tabor for many years and served it well and faithfully. It was stated in the book of Revelation that all good Christian men on earth would be seen as pillars in the Temple of God. This transition was not difficult for Walter Benest because he had always been a pillar of God on earth. By his efforts and work at Tabor, he had wanted God's work to prosper. Now he was gone from his chapel congregation and was now in a larger congregation.

"We are not come here for a memorial service - Christian's don't hold memorial services, but we have come here to thank God for what has been and to say 'thank you' to God for one who is now with God and serves in a higher sphere. In our lives God expects us to set an example as did Walter Benest so in time God may say to us as he is now saying to Walter Benest, 'Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord'".

The service concluded with the singing of the hymn "Abide with Me", and a final prayer.

From the main road up to the St Brelade’s Church lych-gate were lined on each side 120 Boy Scouts paying tribute to the man who had always been a good friend to the Scouting movement. Every year many different troops from England had come over to enjoy their summer camps at La Sergente, and on the day of his funeral the visiting troops present under canvas there were also present to pay tribute at the funeral. The troops present were the 8th Jersey All Saints Troop, the 1st Chesham Boys Troop, the 1st Little Heath Troop, nine Sea Scouts and the 1st Sunbury Troop.

In addition, the municipality of St Brelade and many other friends met at the church for the committal service in the old cemetery, despite a heavy rain shower falling just prior to the arrival of the cortege. The pathway from lych-gate to graveside was lined by members of the municipality of St Brelade, headed by Mr H.E. Le Rossignol, the Constable. Also at the internment were over 150 mourners, including Lady Coutanche, Major General N.G. Hand, Island Commissioner of Boy Scouts, and Constables of St Ouen, Trinity, St Peter, St Saviour and St Lawrence, the Rev G.R. Balleine, Ralph Vibert, and Mr and Mrs Edmund Blampied. There were over 50 beautiful floral tributes, including one from the Bailiff of Jersey and Lady Coutanche, and on the coffin rested a full length floral cross from “his sorrowing wife and family”.

Scouts Tribute, Letter to JEP, 20.08.1951

Dear Sir,

I would like to express a few words of appreciation of Mr Benest whose sudden passing has lost to Scouting such a great friend. We have camped on Mr Benest's estate for four years, and because of his interest in us, they have been four grand years. His visit to us each evening to chat with the boys was eagerly awaited and so sadly missed this year that his passing has come as a greater shock. We are proud to have been numbered amongst his friends. 

Yours sincerely, 

George A.C. King, 
Group Scoutmaster, 
1st Chesham Boys Troop, Bucks.

Funeral List

Principal mourners were Mr and Mrs J.C. Hamon (son in law and daughter), Miss Colette Benest, daughter, Mrs Lilian Benest, (sister in law), Mrs Grace Benest (sister in law), Mr Lyndon Benest (nephew), Mr Laurie Benest (nephew), Mr Philip Benest (cousin), Messrs Raymond Benest, Fracnis Amy Winter de la Perrelle, J.C. Le Boutillier and Stanley Le Boutillier (cousins), Mr Wesley Le Boutillier and Stanley Le Boutillier (cousins), Mr Gordon Picot, Mr S.G. Crill, Mr Donald Labey (Island Commissioner for Visiting Scouts), Mr R Laurens (Scoutmaster 8th Jersey, All Saints Troop), Mr G.A.C. King, Scoutmaster and Mr R Fayres (1st Chesham Boys Troop), Mr F.F.R. Hills (Scoutmaster, 1st Sunbury Troop), Mr Leslie D Rolland (Scoutmaster 1st Little Heath Group), Sea Scouts, Mr E Toquer (foreman) and Messrs E Le Gasmeur, Ernest Le Feuvre and W. Alexandre (staff at La Sergente)

Among those present at Ebenezer Chapel to pay their last respects were Jurat E.P. Le Masurier OBE, Lieut-Bailiff (also representing the Bailiff of Jersey), Mr R Vibert (solicitor-general), Jurat P.N. Gallichan, Jurat S. Hocaquard and Miss Hicquard, Senator Edward Le Quesne, Mr F de L Bois, States Greffier and Mrs Bois, Mr G Cutland, Bailiff's Secretary.

Mr S. L'Enfant, Mr C Aubin, Mr and Mrs J.H. Du Feu, Me E.le G Siouville, Mr J Legge, Mrs and Mrs J.P. Le Brocq, Mr and Mrs G.H. Le Rossignol.

Mr J.P. Newman, Mr J.E. Colback, Mr W Douglas Kenshole, Mr P.M. Denize (also representing Messrs Dennis and Co Ltd), Mr John du Val, Constable of St Peter, Mr J.E. Cabot, Constable of Trinity, Mr T.P. Mourant, Constable of St Saviour, Centenier F.P. Coutanche of St Ouen.

Mr Clifford Orange, Mr G.M. Picot, Me E.D. Gibaut, Mr R.E. Drelaud, Mr and Mrs H.A. Hamon, Mr C Cox, Mr J.P. Vaudin, Depute Sergent de Justice, Mr S.P. Pepin, engineer-manager, Jersey Gas Co, Mr Arther Fiott, Mr C.P. Billot, snr, Major F.H. Blakeway, Mrs L.M. Hacquoil, Mrs C Le Feuvre, Mr D Picot, Mr A.F. Marett, Mr G de la P Hacquoil, Mr Cyril Le Vesconte, Mr Hedley Luce, Crown Solicitor, Mr A Le Brocq, Miss M Langlois, Mr C Hocquard, Mr E.J. Sarre, Mr H.G. Reed OBE, Miss A Haier, Mr N.P. Skelton, Mr J.A. Pallot, Mr D.E. Le Boutillier, Mrs H.C. le Messurier.

Mr T.J. Cabot (also representing Mr T.A. Cabot), Mrs E Rondel, Mr C Lucs, Mr C.W. Blampied, Mrs Queree, Mr E.J. Le Becque, Advocate J.C.K.H. Valpy, Mr F.R Poingdestre (headmaster, St Brelade's School) and Mrs Poingdestre, Mr Alan J Le Brun, Chief Alien's Officer, Mr F Le Feuvre, Mr E Cabot, Mr Cohn Marie, Mrs S.P. Le Ruez, Mr J.S. de Gruchy, Mr J.M. Queree, Capt B.G. de Gruchy, Deputy P Gallichan of St Saviour and Mrs Gallichan. Mr E.J. le Boutillier, Mr J Lucas, Mrs S.G. Crill, Advocate P Crill, Mr R.T. Cabot, Mr W.G. Robert (representing Miss M.R. Luce, les Hetres, St Peter), Advocate J.F. Le Cornu, Miss I Le Seeleur, Mrs F. Ahier, Mrs L. Syvretr, Deputy R.F. Le Brocq (St Clement), Mr T Le Q Blampied, Advocate M de la Haye.

Mr S. Amy, Miss P Amy, Mr E.J. Worboys representing "The Evening Post", Mr E.G. Bisson, Mr M.J. de la Haye, Mr E.J. Gruchy (representing Messrs Normans Limited), Mr J.C. Norman, Mr R R Jeune, Mr W.H. Hibbs, Court Usher, Mr H.P. de Gruchy and Mr F.T. Le Marquand.

Scout Troops present on the main road to the lych-gate were the 8th Jersey All Saints Troop, the 1st Chesham Boys Troop, the 1st Little Heath Troup, nine Sea Scouts and the 1st Sunbury Troop

The pathway from the lych-gate to the graveside was lined by members of the municipality of St Brelade. Headed by Constable H.E. Le Rossignol, they included Centeniers J.H. Le Chevalier and A.C. Fiott, Vingteniers W du H Le Bas, T.M. Duffet, J.P. Allez, H.du H Le Bas, Constables Officers W du H Le Bas, G.T. Picquet, A.D. Le Montais, M.H. de La Haye, J.B. Rive, B.C. Lucas, J.F. Poingnand and J.C. Steel. Messres J.W. Fiott and H.G. Shepard, Churchwardens, Mr C Pullinger, Almoner, Mr C le B Pipon, Mr S.S. Le B Le Brocq, Mr A.J. Bisson and Miss Ahier, Constable's Secretary.

Among those present at the Internment at St Brelade were Lady Coutanche, Major-General N.G. Hand (Island Commissioner Boy Scouts), Mr F Le Boutillier (Constable of St Ouen), Mr J.W. Baudains (Constable of St Lawrence), Deputies E. Huelin and H Morrison of St Brelade, the Rev G.R. Balleine, Mr F Long, Income Tax Comptroller, Hurat F.V. le Feuvre, Brigadier S.D. Graham, Major H.A.W. Ceaghe, Miss Constance Brown, Mr J.G. Fiott, Mr G.G. Le Brocq, Mr H Dart, Mr H.W. Boniface, Mr A d'Aubert, Mr G.A. Bisson, Mr E Holley, Mr E.G. Bisson, Mr Winter Poignard and Mr A..A. Howlett.

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