Tuesday, 9 June 2015

On Rats and Rabbits

Something historical today - a letter from Michael Halliwell, sent to but not published by the JEP.

To the Editor, Jersey Evening Post.

It is wonderful that those of us who were evacuated from the Island in 1940 have been included in the splendid celebrations of t he 70th anniversary of the Liberation. From recent statements it is clear that a misunderstanding of the Bailiff’s recent speech has arisen. My father, having sent my mother and us four children to England, kept press cutting of some important events of the time. A look at the press reports of the time will make it possible to put the whole ‘rats’ story into its proper context.

On Thursday June 20th 1940 the States met for ‘another urgency sitting’, fully reported in the ‘Evening Post’. The Bailiff reported that he had been advised that farmers were turning their cattle loose and threatening to burn their crops. The Constable of St Saviour said a poultry farmer had called on him and told him that he had locked his poultry up and was leaving the Island. The Constables of St Peter and St Martin reported similar incidents.

The Attorney General then affirmed that all States and Parish officials should remain at their posts and the Bailiff made a solemn declaration that the States would repay any money which the British Government expended on the evacuation of people from Jersey to England.

Then Jurat Dorey, who had just returned ‘very tired’ from England on States’ business addressed the house. He recognised that certain categories of persons were desirous of leaving the Island, especially those going to ‘join up’. He then continued, as the Evening Post reported:

Speaking with deep emotion, Jurat Dorey said that that morning he had been filled with disgust; he could understand some people were desirous of going, but he did not understand those of old Norman stock, who should be rooted to the soil, pressing to leave. We were always a calm, steady people, who had jogged along in our own way loving our lands and our surroundings. He would like the House to express its utter contempt at what these people were doing (Applause) … Clearly the young men should be got away … Such men would be sent on a good mission and they should not be herded together with the rabbits and rats that were leaving otherwise. (Applause).

It is clear that the ‘rats and rabbits’ Jurat Dorey was speaking of were those farmers who were threatening to leave their animals and crops untended and quit the Island. That he was not fully understood at the time is seen from a subsequent intervention from Jurat Le Feuvre who said he objected to people being tarred with the same brush as Jurat Dorey had done. He had a son who was anxious to serve his country; ought he to keep him back. He had a daughter who was also desirous of serving the country; should she remain here. It was unfair to make such statements as had been made.

From the above it can be seen that the ‘rats and rabbits’ Jurat Dorey was speaking of were certain farmers who were cruelly abandoning their livestock, and not those of us who had good reasons to leave. Perhaps it is not surprising that in the heat of the moment Jurat Dorey’s plea was misunderstood. Hopefully the ‘rats and rabbits’ story can now be consigned to history and given a decent burial.

Your sincerely
(Canon) Michael Halliwell,

1 comment:

Póló said...

I don't understand why the Post would not have published that letter. It is a serious contribution to history, resolves a current controversy, and, in fact, supports the Bailiff's interpretation of what he said.

Or does the Post's readership now only consist of Jersey Farmers?