Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Tide is High

This year we have seen more of what are called "super high tides". February 21 saw tides of 12.15 metres (39 feet, 10 inches), and on 31st August there was a tide that was 12.1 metres (39 feet,8 inches), while on 28th September we saw a tide reach 12.2 metres (40 ft, 0.3 inches).

These high tides result from an unusual alignment of the sun, moon and Earth so that the gravitational pull on our oceans is higher than usual five more times this year. But is there is risk of flooding? That depends more on pressure and wind.

The tidal gauge in St Helier at Albert Pier is the source of the information that gives us the exact readings of high and low tides.

This records the actual tide as opposed to the forecast tide, which can vary.

Barometric pressure affects the height of the tide, if the air pressure is low the tide will be higher than the tide table prediction. Wind speed and direction is also a prime factor on how such tides will affect the island's coasts. Strong winds can pile up water on coastlines and low pressure systems can also cause a localised rise in sea level.

Fortunately high air pressure and low winds meant no flooding. Instead, we could just enjoy the tide, very high, lapping at the sea wall, which is rather magical.

Jersey marine biologist Andrew Syvret explained there is a common misunderstanding about how the tides work.

He said: “People think the tide rises and falls in the English Channel; that it floods and empties.

“The reality is you have a huge see-saw of water, with high tide at one end and low tide at the other. This massive bulge of water moves backwards and forwards twice each day.

“When it arrives in our corner of the English Channel this bulge of water really hasn’t got anywhere to go. We then find ourselves in a giant anti clockwise tidal gyre – a great whirlpool.”

And gravity over the surface of the land and sea varies due to differences in the subsurface and surroundings -- the greater the mass, the greater the gravity

In addition to that, there is a very small but significant rise in sea levels in recent years. This is measured in millimetres, not metres.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Domant Bank Grab: A Guest Posting

A new law is coming which will enable the States to put to use funds from dormant bank accounts for charitable purposes. There are some exceptions:

"Precious metals or precious stones which have been sold can generally be replaced by another item of identical weight and quality.  However, if the custody account contains shares and shares in a specific company are sold, there may be circumstances in which identical shares cannot be repurchased in the market. "

It also notes that the scheme extends to “the cash from, or proceeds of sale of precious metals and precious stones (excluding jewellery) from, safe deposit boxes upon which the lease or rental period has expired”.  Jewellery is excluded because the sentimental value attached to it could be significant and would be difficult to replicate in the event of a reclaim".

But what if you come along and want to reclaim your money:

"For a customer who wishes to reclaim the monies placed with a bank they will need to contact their bank and fill in the requisite forms.  On being satisfied that the person is the owner of the account and that there are no legal or regulatory reasons to the contrary, the bank will restore access to the banking facility or transfer the monies to the customer.  The bank will then be able to reclaim the funds that were previously transferred to the Jersey Reclaim Fund."

"After 10 years has passed cases will be dealt with on a case by case basis.  Where a branch has simply closed in Jersey the customer can still contact the head office overseas to seek repayment.  Where the legal entity has been dissolved the Minister still retains the power to pay out claims where there is sufficient evidence produced by the customer."

How easy that will be is another matter.I can see people jumping through all kinds of hoops to prove that the bank accounts are theirs, especially if the basic records which banks insist on - copies  of a passport, for example - are not available when the bank account is old.

Some other questions marks over the scheme have been raised by Sarah Ferguson in the JEP, and I reprint what she wrote here;

Guest Posting: How many more Piggy Banks can the States raid?
by Sarah Ferguson

I get the impression that the government is trying to extend its tentacles even further into our lives. The latest is the “let’s tax sugar drinks”

At least that is overt. Consider the proposed Dormant Bank Accounts Law, currently in consultation.

It is proposed that balances on accounts where contact has been lost with the customer for 15 years should be transferred to a central “Jersey Reclaim Fund”. to be administered by government and used to support good and charitable causes in the local community. To begin with, the dormant accounts will be limited to banking deposits.

It is maintained that this is a totally reasonable Law since the UK, Cayman Islands and Ireland already have this and the Isle of Man is developing one. Gordon Brown first developed this concept. Does this mean that we should blindly follow suit?

The purposes for which the confiscated funds should be used are alleged to be good and charitable purposes and are the arts, sport; the heritage of Jersey; charitable purposes; and purposes connected with health, education or the environment.

The intricacies of administration get even more byzantine since the law covers sterling and currencies. Currencies will be converted to sterling at the prevailing rate. If the owner appears and requires repayment, it will be repaid – but at the exchange rate at the time of the repayment even if the rate has fallen.

The consultation notes that custody accounts will not be included for the moment but that the scheme will provide for the category of dormant accounts to be extended to custody accounts including precious metals and precious stones (but not jewellery) by Order - meaning at the Treasury Minister’s whim. The provisions also permit monies to be used to cover the costs of the Commissioner of Charities and other expenses under the Charities (Jersey) Law 2014.

The final indignity is in paragraph 31 in which it is stated that “it is considered appropriate to protect the Jersey Reclaim Fund against the risk of currency fluctuations rather than the customer.”

So, it is proposed effectively to confiscate depositors’ funds and, eventually, custody accounts, and to use them to bolster up our economy? Furthermore, if the owners appear eventually – and there is a loss on the assets – the customer (who thought their assets were held securely) will stand the loss.

The excuse is that the banks cannot use these assets and would like to remove them from their balance sheets. Actually this should improve their profits and their bonuses. Certainly the Treasury Minister would like the funds – the quantum of which is not stated. Win/win for the bankers and Minister – but what about the customer?

I wonder if there are any more piggy-banks the Ministers can raid.

Monday, 28 September 2015

A quiet beauty

"A solar eclipse is spectacular, but a lunar eclipse has a quiet beauty all of its own" Sir Patrick Moore.

I had my trusty Pentax Option P80, very basic camera, on night setting, timer delay and tripod to capture the lunar eclipse.

Notes on the unfolding event.

Just woken up: Clear skies, moon very high, and half eaten away.

Moon the shape of one of those candied orange and lemon sweets you can buy at Christmas.

You couldn't wish for better. Moon so high it is visible virtually anywhere looking up, and no clouds whatsoever.

The outline of the earth's shadow against the moon is very clear. You can see the moon is being obscured by our shadow.

The Inca thought a jaguar was attacking the moon, and beat their dogs! Nasty. But if you have dogs, are they reacting? Please don't beat them!

Getting down to a tiny sliver of light..

Camera on tripod getting nice shots

Almost entered totality

This was definitely worth setting alarm to see

As the light of the moon fades more stars can be seen around that area of the sky

Looking to the south east, Orion s Belt and Rigel very clear

Capella almost vertically above looking east

Moon now like a lump of coal, glowing in the sky

Well some of us have to go to work, so I'll leave the moon to return to its resplendent white fullsomeness all by itself. If you are a night owl, have fun watching. Just to tell you: far east and low, Venus has just risen. Look for the very very bright star.

Tweets on the event...
Astronomy Magazine ‏@AstronomyMag 1h1 hour ago
September 27/28 sky event: Full Moon occurs at 2:50h UT (10:50 p.m. EDT) in a total lunar eclipse, which begins in just over an hour

Sky & Telescope ‏@SkyandTelescope 1h1 hour ago
So much red.

Malcolm Ferey ‏@MalcolmFerey 52m52 minutes ago
He who is illuminated with the brightest light, shall cast the darkness shadow #BloodMoon

Binky Bowles-Balls ‏@TheOnlyGuru 39m39 minutes ago
This #SuperBloodMoon has to be one of the most spectacular things I've ever seen.

It's creepy and so dark out here.#jerseyci

Will Rodgers ‏@WilliamRodgers 50m50 minutes ago
SuperMoon will never be as cool as BatMoon...

Gyles Brandreth ‏@GylesB1 27m27 minutes ago
And is it my imagination or do the stars seems brighter? (The cocoa certainly seems darker.)

Gyles Brandreth ‏@GylesB1 25m25 minutes ago
"@swansonian: I really enjoyed that but baby's nightlight moon would have been a more accurate name.". Nicely put.
More photos on

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Portent of Doom?

Lunar eclipses are caused when the Earth crosses between the sun and the moon, which passes into our planet’s shadow. The one tomorrow happens starting at 1.11 am, with a partial eclipse by 2.07 am and a full eclipse by 3.11 am.

However, it doesn’t go completely dark or disappear from view completely, but instead turns red.

This is because of light bending in the Earth’s atmosphere and is the reason why lunar eclipses are sometimes known as ‘blood moons’.

European Astronomy was pretty accurate in charting the sky, and Christopher Columbus had an almanac which showed a lunar eclipse in February 1504. He could not get the natives of Jamaica to give him food and shelter, try as he might. So he used this knowledge as a way to scare them into submission, telling their chieftain that God was angry that the natives wouldn’t help him. He said that God would turn the moon blood red, and then make it go away completely, as a way of expressing his displeasure.

Sure enough, the moon disappeared, and there was a great deal of terror among the locals. As the eclipse was about to end, Columbus said that God was going to forgive the natives as long as they kept the sailors fed. The moon reappeared, and Columbus and his men ate well until the next Spanish ship arrived.

It is a good example of how a people ignorant of science can be cowed by religion, and I rather think Columbus did not do Christianity any favours by abusing science in that way. On the other hand, I’m not hungry, negotiating for food for myself and my men, and facing starvation. It was, I think, better than going in and taking the food at gunpoint, but only marginally so.

The Inca feared that a lunar eclipse was caused by a jaguar attacking the moon. They would try to drive it away by making noise, including beating their dogs to make them howl and bark. Nowadays, Animal welfare groups would be on their case, but the Inca didn’t sacrifice the dogs, only people...The Inca no longer exist. The Spanish conquistadors saw to that in a rather brutal and nasty way, while at the same time imposing their brand of Christianity on the native population, but probably didn’t enlighten them about lunar eclipses.

The ancient Mesopotamians also saw lunar eclipses as an assault on the moon, says E. C. Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California. This was an attack by seven demons.

We know from written records that Mesopotamians had a reasonable ability to predict lunar eclipses," says Krupp. So in anticipation of an eclipse, they would install a surrogate king intended to bear the brunt of any attack.

"Typically, the person declared to be king would be someone expendable," Krupp says. Though the substitute wasn't really in charge, he would be treated well during the eclipse period, while the actual king masqueraded as an ordinary citizen. Once the eclipse passed, "as you might expect, the substitute kings typically disappeared," Krupp says, and may have been dispatched by poisoning.

Maybe the installation of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader at this time has something to do with this myth!

Not all cultures view an eclipse as a bad thing, says Jarita Holbrook, a cultural astronomer at the University of the Western Cape in Bellville, South Africa, in an interview last year.

"My favourite myth is from the Batammaliba people in Togo and Benin" in Africa, she says. In this myth, the sun and the moon are fighting during an eclipse, and the people encourage them to stop. "They see it as a time of coming together and resolving old feuds and anger," Holbrook says. "It's a myth that has held to this day."

This was something that came up today when I was reviewing the papers on BBC Radio Jersey. I mentioned it to Christian May, who was talking about the recent news that Gay marriage has been approved in Jersey, and the law will be forthcoming. 

It was, I said, a time when the consensus in the States was to see this as a time of peace and reconciliation between opposing views, and that the advent of Gay marriage does make for a more accepting society. So perhaps the lunar eclipse at that time is propitious!

Christina Ghidoni asked me about the prophecies of doom. Among the more alarming Biblical verses referring to the moon can be found in Joel 2:30: “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth:
 Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness. And the moon into blood,
 before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord” (KJV).

But lunar eclipses have happened before, and the world has not ended.

I suspect the same will happen this time, and it will be like the Beyond the Fringe sketch:. The doomsayers will say: “Not quite the conflagration we had anticipated,” followed by “Oh well, better luck next time, chaps!”

Saturday, 26 September 2015

The Golden Harvest

As we've just had the autumn equinox, an appropriate poem. This looks to Greek mythology and ancient Greek equinox rituals for much of its inspiration, with a touch of Egyptian lore at the start (when Alpha Draconis was the North star, and not Polaris), and a bit of Celtic lore at the end.

The Golden Harvest

When night and day are side by side
See that concealed, things we hide
That which is hidden out of sight
And that which comes into the light

Now Alpha Draconis in the North
Shone brightly, and was calling forth
The shafts of sunlight on the wall
Made spiral shape in shadow scrawl

This was the riddle of the sphinx
The chain we make of many links
Of darkening light at time of fall
Demeter answers Hades call

Zeus looked down from his great throne
Saw that seeds that once were sown
Would rise again in harvest gold
Before the chill of winter’s cold

The Minotaur within the maze
Awaiting for the sun’s own rays
Saw Daedelus take wing and fly
And Icarus falling from the sky

Athena called out wisdom’s name
Reflect, oh mortals, on your shame
Beware the wolf and bird of prey
This also is their harvest day

Priestesses in the Temple wait
In Athens, for the time of fate
Comes Bacchus, dancing maids
And torchlight to dispels the shades

Within the grove, a holy place
Let autumn be a time of grace
Harvest seeds of spring time dreams
And drink to full of living streams

Within the grove, cut willow wand
The equinox makes magic bond
Look forward, into night ahead
As we partake of harvest bread

Friday, 25 September 2015

The Steel Cage: Border Controls in Europe

The Steel Fence

Hungary has built a 175km (110-mile) fence along its border with Serbia, to try to slow the flow of asylum seekers into northern Europe. The authorities will decide later on whether to declare a state of emergency along the border with Serbia. Hungary's prime minister also says the country will build a fence on some sections of its border with Croatia.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that Hungary had so far spent €200m (£147m; $226m) to handle the refugee crisis, and had only received €4m from the European Union.

Hungary is not a rich country, and the extra impact on its finances is clearly something the government has decided it cannot afford. But as Hungary toughened up its stance on migrants, its forint was at its strongest in almost two weeks.

The changes to the penal code now make border crossing and damaging the new fence a criminal offence, which can be punished with jail sentences of up to three years. However, it is likely that judges would expel asylum seekers from Hungary, rather than imprison them in already overcrowded jails.

An interview on PBS highlighted how ordinary Hungarians see the crisis:

Gyorgy Zimoni, Szeged resident (through interpreter): "My opinion has two levels. On the one hand, I feel sorry for the migrants, as the conditions they’re in are very hard. But I also feel sorry for the whole country. They were not prepared for this, just as all of Europe wasn’t prepared for this wave. We can see no end of this."

George’s friend of 20 years, Abdul Latif-Zanda, is originally from Libya, but he is now a Hungarian citizen. He’s says he’s living proof that practicing Muslims can integrate into European society.

Abdul Latif-Zanda, Hungary (through interpreter): "I have lived here for 30 years now. I have never had a problem with anyone, neither for political nor religious reasons. Islam teaches that you should lead a decent life, and you should treat others fairly. There are many others, however, who use religion, money, or whatever else to convince poor Muslims to do stupid things. In Europe, you can lead a normal life. And if you are normal, you will be accepted."

Finding an alternate route

Migrants are now going to Croatia and Romania but whether they loop round to cross through Hungary's still almost unguarded borders remains to be seen. The borders with those countries arer longer - Romania - 450km and Croatia 350km.

More than 6,000 people have entered Croatia in just one day, putting strain on their system. Migrants have turned there after Hungary used water cannons, pepper spray and tear gas to keep them away from its territory.

To give some sense of scale, Croatia is ready to provide care and shelter to just 4,000 refugees at any single time, and in comparison to its population and GDP, it is in the same situation as Germany would be if it suddenly took in half a million people.

Serbia has been dealing with refugees but they have been flowing through fairly rapidly. If the numbers now begin to rise, this may challenge its capacity for dealing with asylum seekers and its current attitude of the population which shows considerable tolerance and empathy.

But there are extra dangers to refugees. Medecins Sans Frontieres, one of the aid groups assisting with the refugee crisis, warned about the presence of Balkan landmine: "Safe and legal routes needed now: #refugees may inadvertently stray into Balkan minefields in search for ways round new border restrictions"

About 51,000 mines are still buried as remnants of the Balkan Wars, but most are clearly marked with large signs.

Raising the Barriers

Much has been made of Hungary’s fence, but at least four more European countries have built fences in the last few years in a heightened effort to keep migrants out. Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia all have fences of one sort or another, ranging from flimsy enough to be easily trampled, others are intricate tangles of barbed wire.

Barriers have long been in place around the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco, but were significantly expanded in 2005. There is a 15-foot wall topped with razor wire on the border between Morocco and Melilla.

A wall was built by Greece in 2012, constructed with the intent of keeping out migrants and refugees crossing from Turkey. It covers a mere 6.5 miles of land border with Turkey and has failed to stop the growing number of migrants who reached Greece by boat.

Bulgaria built a 20 mile fence along its border with Turkey in 2014. This was a three metre high structure and cost £3.5million to construct. The Bulgarian government recently announced plans to extend it by 90 miles.

And of course, in the French town of Calais, the British government recently spent around £6.5 million to erect improved fencing around the Channel Tunnel.

Borders in Europe so far include:

Ukraine – Russia – for other reasons than migrations
Estonia – Russia – for other reasons than migrations

Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa
Greece - Turkey
Bulgaria - Turkey
Hungary - Serbia
France – Britan at Calais

The Return of Border Controls

Slovenia, surrounded by Croatia, Hungary, Austria and Italy, is enforcing a temporary border control with Hungary "until a common European solution" is found, according to a press release by the Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar.

Germany reinstated border controls, admitting that their influx is at the limit of its capacities. Germany is strong and can handle a lot,” Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel wrote. “Nevertheless, in the past few days we have experienced how, despite our best efforts, our abilities have reached their limits.”

And Austria has begun border control measures to the south near Slovenia after migrants appeared to be veering away from the Hungarian border toward Austria. Austria is on the main route for refugees crossing the European Union by land, and it is now struggling to cope with a backlog of thousands trying to reach Germany. Austrian refugee shelters are mostly full, an Interior Ministry spokesman said, adding that the present situation is “way beyond our capacity.”

Recently some 2,500 people spent the night in tents at the Austrian border, set up by the country's army. “If Germany carries out border controls, Austria must put strengthened border controls in place,” said Chancellor Werner Faymann of Austria

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said his country would not hesitate to re-establish temporary border controls if necessary. France has already reinstated controls on its border with Italy as large numbers of migrants arriving by boat in Italy tried to cross into France.

The Netherlands introduced border controls last Monday. Dutch authorities said that they would conduct spot checks at their country’s border with Germany.

Further afield, Poland ordered an inspection of its borders and said it could restore checks if any threats are identified.

Karl Kopp, who represents the group in the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, said: ““It’s a deep crisis of the whole European Union. Free movement for 400 million Europeans is now seriously threatened. Introducing Schengen border controls again is a fatal mistake. It created already a domino effect”

A Steel Trap Tightens

Early last Saturday morning, Hungary completed the construction of a 41-kilometer border fence, which will separate the country from Croatia with barbed wire, reinforcing the natural barrier of the Drava River.

This week, the Croatian authorities have banned Serbian citizens and cars from the country entering its territory. The move comes after Serbia banned all Croatian goods and cargo vehicles from entering its borders. Last week, Croatia closed most of its road border crossings with Serbia, leaving only one open on the main road linking Belgrade and Zagreb at Bajakovo.

Meanwhile, news from Warsaw. Poland's conservative party leader - who appears poised to win the October general election - has ruled out taking in refugees, bolstering the hardline of other eastern EU countries on the migrant crisis.

So far the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have staunchly rejected a European Commission plan to relocate 160,000 refugees among the bloc's 28 states via a compulsory quota system.

Germany introduced border controls on September 13 for a period of 10 days and is now asking the European Commission to allow it to extend the measure for another 20 days to cope with record refugee flows. A poll shows that 78% of German respondents, particularly those near the Austrian border, approve of establishing border controls.

Norway is intensifying its border controls in an effort to gain a better overview of asylum-seekers. Finland is prepared to start border controls. About 12,000 asylum seekers, most of them from Iraq, have come to Finland.

And Turkey has begun enforcing long-dormant rules on Syrians' travel within the country, in part over concerns about how the flow is affecting the country's image.

Paperwork and Quotas

From April through June 2015, 213,200 people applied for asylum. Germany receivied the highest number of applications – more than a third. Hungary had 15 percent, Austria 8 percent, followed by Italy, France and Sweden with 7 percent each.

“The EU migrant quota plan to relocate thousands of migrants across the continent is “unfeasible, unrealisable and nonsense”, Hungary's foreign minister said, as Europe's east-west division was laid bare on Wednesday.” And he added “"One of the many reasons the compulsory quota system is unsatisfactory is that many more people have entered the European Union since the original debate on the distribution of 120,000 immigrants."

The Daily Telegraph reported that:

“Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary voted against the plan to take in refugees and migrants from Italy and Greece but it was forced through on Tuesday.”

And Slovakia says it will go to court to challenge quotas for relocating 120,000 asylum seekers approved by European Union ministers.

And even if quotas are introduced, there is no indication that migrants will wish to go where they are told to go. Many migrants have already relocated to Germany, Austria and other European countries they favour. In which case, how are they to be moved? A forced relocation would be very complex and controversial, and probably meet with a degree of resistance.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Philippe Filleul

From "The Pilot" of 1991, a rather controversial Rector. One interesting fact to note - there has been a call recently for elections to take place at weekends, and evidently some took place on Sundays in the past. Philippe Filleuil was mainly responsible in 1830 for the abolition of Sunday elections, usually taking place in church after morning service.

Philippe Filleul

The Town Church has had many notable Rectors, but few of such abounding energy as Philippe Filleul. He came to St Helier's in 1850, having been previously Rector of St Brelade's, then of St Peter's, then of St Saviour's.

He first attracted notice in his St Peter's days by his denunciation of Sunday elections, and he did not rest till he had secured the alteration of the law. A Methodist Revival was sweeping the island; but he disapproved of its methods. He challenged its preachers to public debates; he published a flood of tracts, “Christ, est if diuise? Sur le Schisme”, etc. He wrote long articles on “Religious Excitement is not Religious Awakening”. So he was well-known in the island before he came to St Helier's, where he remained for twenty-five years.

Here his dynamic personality transformed his parish, but a lack of tact made his incumbency a very stormy one. Jerseymen hate to be hustled, and Filleul had no patience with potterers. Two needs were obvious. The Town had grown so rapidly that he had more than 29,000 parishioners.

The parish must be divided and new churches built, St Luke's was then nearly completed, and, as soon as it was consecrated, he gave it an independent Ecclesiastical District. The Harbour was at this time always full of shipping; so he fitted up a carpenter's shop in Castle Street as a Seamen's Mission Church, and put one of his Curates In charge; and from this sprang the Church of St Andrew, which used to stand on the Esplanade. To this too he gave an independent District. Another Curate was sent to start Services in the Cannon Street Ragged School, from which grew St Simon's Church and yet another District.

But this division of the parish was not accomplished without friction. Civil and ecclesiastical parochial affairs are so closely interwoven in Jersey that many parishioners intensely resented being cut off from the Parish Church.

One of his ventures in this direction led to a scandalous quarrel. He bought a Chapel in Union Street called La Chapelle Sion, renamed it St Jude's, and put it in charge of Thomas Le Neveu, who later became a deeply respected Rector of St Martin's. The Curate was a stirring preacher, who rapidly filled his Church, and drew away some of the Rector's congregation.

This Filleul disliked; so after some years he withdrew Le Neveu to the Parish Church, and sent another Curate to St Jude's. But the Churchwardens there refused to allow him to officiate. Filleul then decided to take the Services himself; but, as soon as he entered in his surplice, the congregation walked out. As he persisted, some hot-headed St Judites used to follow him home hooting, and there was some stone-throwing. So he had to appeal for police protection, and eventually St Jude's was closed. It is now a store.

The restoration of the Town Church was the next task he tackled. This was badly needed. The interior was choked with a higgledy-piggledy mess of high deal pews. The chancel was filled with pews facing west. There was neither font nor alter; but a queer combination of the two, rather like a carpenter's bench, was carried In and set in front of the pulpit when needed. Large galleries hung precariously from almost every wall, threatening to collapse at any moment as their beams were rotten.

Church restoration is seldom effected without differences of opinion; but few restorations can ever have been fought over quite so fiercely. The battle began with the pews. Pews were still private property that could be bought and sold, and owners claimed the right to keep them locked, when they were not using them.

Filleul wanted to abolish the pew-system altogether; but Francois Godfrey, the eloquent leader of the Jersey Bar, made himself the champion of the new-holders, and by his tempestuous eloquence swayed every Parish Meeting to reject all the Rector's proposals. There were big fights over the choice of an architect. Every trivial detail was contested. Even when the work was done, the trouble was not over. More than one local paper stormed at the font as a Popish device, soon to be used to hold holy water. One ingenious writer even discovered that the surplice-cupboard in the vestry was so constructed that it could be used as a confessional!

Only a man of tremendous driving-power could have carried this work through success-fully; but that driving-power won for Filleul innumerable bitter enemies.

This church-building cost money; so he launched a scheme which later caused him endless embarrassment. Ten years before two of his sons had bought a sheep-run in New Zealand. They sent home such glowing accounts of the profits to be made, that their father published a pamphlet, “An Earnest Appeal to Stewards of the Lord's Goods”, inviting their aid in" the Subdivision of the Parish of St Heller's into Smaller Incumbencies, each with a Separate Endowment and Free Church for the People, by means of a Safe and Profitable Investment of Capital as Lent to the Lord and Increased by His Blessing".

The plan was that investors should buy sheep in New Zealand and entrust them to his sons, being content with 5 per cent on their money, all additional profits to go to Church extension. Filleul persuaded many Jersey people to invest, and at first all went well. The first year's dividend was 18 per cent, and next year's 22. Then came a slump. Profits disappeared, and Investors turned furiously on the Rector declaring that he had swindled them. In vain he urged them to be patient. They even clamoured for his prosecution. But eventually the industry recovered; and before his death he had repaid every investor and added a handsome bonus.

Another scheme for which he worked hard was the establishment of a Bishopric of the Channel Islands, which should also have the supervision of the Continental Chaplaincies. Between 1858 and 1865 he paid frequent visits to England, interviewing Bishops and Politicians to expound his plans; but, though he obtained some support, this project came to nothing, He died in 1875.

After his death it was found that his will made no provision for the disposal of St Jude's. So his eldest son sold It and presented the money to the Dean to form the nucleus of a Fund "for increasing the endowments of the poorer benefices of the Church in Jersey.". So St Jude's turned out not to be the Patron Saint of lost causes, after all.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

A Rather Comfortably Warm Seat

A Rather Comfortably Warm Seat

Voice for Children has recently criticised the BBC for its lack of balance with the “Hot Seat” programme:

“Every month the Chief Minister is invited on to the show supposedly to be challenged on his policies, actions, and in-actions, but the reality is, there is no challenge, and the programme is little more than a Party Political Broadcast for The Establishment Party”

“The Chief Minister is NOT joined on the show by any politician with alternative views or policies, he holds court, and listeners could be led to believe there are no alternatives to his policies including the Medium Term Financial Plan and the austerity measures being implemented by the government. How is this a balanced view for State Radio listeners? In the interest of fairness and balance the Chief Minister should be joined on the show by somebody/ANYBODY with an alternative view or a researched/challenging compare/host. Unfortunately the BBC looks to have adopted a policy where there can be no robust political debate and politicians/people with differing views cannot be live on-air together.”

Deputy Sam Mezec has called it “A propaganda hour.”   I would not go that far, but I have some sympathy with their views.

The programme is both an opportunity for questions to be asked, but also an opportunity for the Chief Minister to air the position and plans of the Council of Ministers. It cannot be otherwise: if people don’t phone in, or in between phone calls, how else is the empty space on the airwaves to be filled?

The idea is that people who are in positions of power are “in the hot seat”, and this works very well when you have non-political positions. The Managing Director of Condor Ferries, for example, would be a good example, if he feels brave enough to answer questions. It is both an opportunity – to explain and answer criticism – and also a chance for the public to have their say.

But once you enter the political arena, there is always a problem with balance. The BBC has got clear guidelines about Party Political Broadcasts in the UK:

“Party broadcasts are quite separate from our own journalism and their transmission does not imply BBC support for the views contained in them.”

And there is also a guideline in place:

“Any approach by a government department to relay official messages or information films which involve a degree of public policy or political controversy must be referred to Chief Adviser Politics”

The problem comes in Jersey where there is only one political party, there is not really any official “party politics”, and a forum like “In the Hot Seat” actually provides the Chief Minister an opportunity to explain his Council of Minister’s policies without airing contrary views by other members of the States.

Unlike a Party Political Broadcast, there is an opportunity for questions, but on the other hand, Ian Gorst is being given a golden opportunity for publicity for the Council of Ministers that other members of the States do not. And there is always the danger that supporters of the Council of Ministers can call in and ask “loaded questions”. It is not clear how that can be avoided. The BBC after all, must allow a variety of views.

Now Reform would like someone from their party as “the only opposition” to have a say, but equally it could be argued that Scrutiny does a good job of producing reports to hold the Council of Ministers to account. In a sense then, the Chairs of various Scrutiny panels could also be seen as “the opposition”.

In so far as Scrutiny provides a different viewpoint, but also an opportunity to talk about issues, or about reports they have published, and invite public questions, I think they should also be invited on to be “in the hot seat”.

That’s not to say that Reform could not also have a “bite of the cherry” with their own proposals, because some of the statements they make certainly get public comment in other forums, such as the JEP.

But Scrutiny provides an exceptionally important function. For instance, a recent report about vacant housing, and proposals for what to do about it, was produced by a Scrutiny committee. Surely it is right that the chairman of that committee should be “in the hot seat” answering questions about it, and saying why the Council of Ministers should take up proposals?

So I think more could be done to improve matters to provide a broader outline of political variation within the States of Jersey. It’s almost like a “right to reply”, and it would be an acknowledgement that a programme that puts a politician in “the hot seat” is also giving them free airtime and publicity.

Looking further afield, I came across an article “Political talk radio and democratic participation” by Karen Ross in “Media Culture Society” (2004). This posed the question: to what extent can programmes which engage directly with the public enhance the political process in ways that are more genuinely participative

In particular, it looked at a “hot seat” election call series of programmes, which were clearly a special case, but I think are still instructive. I think the motivations are probably similar:

“The reasons why members of the public decide to ring the Election Call hotline are numerous but the most frequently mentioned were: longstanding disquiet about a broad issue (76 percent); desire to speak to a particular politician and/or party spokesperson (54 percent); and anger over personal experience (10 percent).”

I’d say that range of callers probably is reflected very much in those calling the Jersey “Hot Seat” as well, although there may be the unwelcome caller who really wants their five minutes of fame, but you will always have that.

Call me a cynic, but I also think that politicians develop almost a reflex action to prevaricate, and not answer questions directly or simply. It is a defence mechanism, which is almost Pavlovian in its operation. I would suspect the following is true of callers’ perception of their calls:

“Of crucial importance in a phone-in programme that purports to enable dialogue between the public and the politicians is the extent to which callers feel that they (and their question) have been treated seriously. When asked, 41 percent of callers gave an unequivocal ‘yes’ to this question, a further 26 percent said that the politician had answered the question but only superficially or with some kind of spin, and 29 percent gave an unequivocal ‘no’ or said they had been ‘fobbed off’.”

The study concluded that: “What seemed to be consistently revealed in our study was the credibility gap that exists between the political rhetoric of democratic participation and respect ‘for the people’, and the lived experience of publics attempting an engagement with the political process”

It also noted that most politicians are highly skilled in the art of dissembling and that interviewers have a very hard time in pinning them down, which has been noted in other studies. And the report says that:

“The format of the programme does, to some extent, limit the likelihood of real dialogue, since callers are hurried through to make room for the next one waiting. Part of the reason for cutting callers short is doubtless to stop the boring caller and/or release the embarrassed politician, but partly it is also because the programme must sit within the ‘infotainment’ genre, which requires a pacy rhythm and a stream of different views, including hostile ones, to maintain audience interest.”

As a result, the “perceptions of most of those engagements are that they constitute little more than gentle probing with an instant withdrawal if the politician seems irritated by the line of questioning.”

Or as we might say with respect to Ian Gorst in “The Hot Seat”, it seems rather more like a rather comfortably warm seat!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Guernsey Watch

Guernsey Watch

Another of my occasional looks across the water at our sister isle, and breaking news stories unfolding there.

Guernsey is taking in 25 migrants. Hundreds of people have offered to rehome them. These are not, however, refugees from Calais, but dogs. 25 dogs were brought to the island from Slovakia illegally, and are costing the Guernsey Society for the Protection of Animals around £400 a day to keep.

But what about migrants? The Guernsey letter writer, B.W. Tomkins does not think it is a good idea. He writes that “having a barbecue the other day here, close friends and relatives were as shocked as I was to read that Guernsey was contemplating taking in refugees.”

He has clearly been well-education by the Daily Mail, as he notes:

“Many of these refugees have ‘lost’ their documents and some, we are told, are cold-blooded trained groups. Well-known authors and security experts have declared this influx is unstoppable. Does the island have a strong security force/army personnel who could be flown in? If these organised refugees arrive in large numbers by their own boats, on the ferry, cargo, who will stop them? Tourism will be damaged, the economy, house prices will be affected.”

Jersey is closer, but I’ve not heard any talk of migrants trying to find boats to get over here. The reason is probably obvious, and it is this: if you manage somehow to smuggle yourself into England, and goodness knows people try, it is a large country with a big population, and you are a drop in the ocean, and may find work in the cash economy.

If you arrive in Jersey largely destitute, without any papers or documents, you will be spotted very quickly, especially as you need to register before being employed, or taking up housing. Mr Tomkins doomladen predictions are a fantasy.

And he ends with an almost apocalyptic warning: “Open the ‘charitable gate’ and Facebook and mobile phone communication will bring more from Calais. Be wise in advance.”

It’s a letter which invites contrasts, and I cannot help but think of migrants in “the Jungle”, with very little water (four standpipes), hungry, dependent on charitable food, and Mr Tomkins, well-fed and relaxing in his garden after his BBQ, smugly penning this letter while he reclines on his sun-lounger, and sips wine..

But leaving migrants aside, what is happening with housing for locals in Guernsey? Policy GP11 which is about “Affordable Housing of the Island Development Plan” is causing a rumpus among builders. It seems innocent enough:

“For the first time in Guernsey, in certain circumstances, housing development schemes will be required to make provision for an element of affordable housing to seek to address the challenge that appropriate housing is available to meet all of the Island community’s housing needs.”

As the Guernsey Press put it, Landowners not taxpayers will help fund new homes.

But it is the thin end of the wedge, according to Eric Legg, Chairman and spokesman for the Construction Industry Forum. In a letter to the Guernsey Press, he wrote:

“The Construction Industry Forum recently met and felt obliged to respond setting out the difficulties it sees with regard to GP11and the Environment Department’s single-minded determination to drive through a policy purely aimed at affordable or social housing.”

“The construction industry is a vibrant part of Guernsey’s economic landscape. It is currently suffering a slow down with a lack of major projects in the market at present or in the pipeline. This policy (GP11) will be a major blow to the industry and to the 3,000 people employed in it.”

Isn’t there such a think as corporate social responsibility? The policy, anyway, says “in certain circumstances”. But to read Eric Legg, you would think that Jeremy Corbyn and rampant socialism was loose in the Island.

Peter Roffey, meanwhile, thinks that the time may be right to revisit States loans.

“With the high price of property in Guernsey, and landlords expecting a decent return on their capital, private rentals don’t come cheap. So if home ownership is to remain beyond the reach of many Guernsey people, there are three basic options. Either we let islanders pay a very high percentage of their incomes on rent, which will inevitably lead to relative poverty and suppress the domestic economy. Or we help them pay their rent through some form of housing benefit, which would be a very big burden on the States’ revenue account. Or Guernsey massively increases the amount of social housing in the island – a huge capital cost.”

And he concludes:

“By and large, I prefer measures to help people who want to own their home to any of those options. Not only to help them fulfil their own aspirations, but also because I think Guernsey’s tradition of high home ownership has tended to have a stabilising effect on society.”

Housing and population may feature in the next Guernsey Institute of Directors talk. The focus of the debate is the key demographic issues facing the islands, with a talk on how the island can stimulate growth and prosperity in the face of the imminent demographic challenges.

Another assessment is coming from the EU via “Moneyval”. Moneyval is a body of the Council of Europe tasked with assessing the effectiveness of measures in place to prevent money laundering. The island was inspected by Moneyval earlier this year and it is understood that its findings will be discussed in Strasbourg. This is looking at Guernsey’s systems for preventing financial crime, and will be viewed with interest. I wonder if they’ll have noted the £2.6 million fraud committed against Guernsey States!

Meanwhile, cross-channel co-operation has been taking place over the winding up of cross-Channel shipping line Huelin-Renouf. Instead of both Islands being processed separately, “pooling” can take place. Law firm Ogier and liquidator Grant Thornton applied to the courts in Guernsey and Jersey to pool the liquidations of the long-established shipping lines. This means the Jersey and Guernsey companies would be treated as one for the purpose of distributing a dividend to creditors and the courts’ approval means that a dividend to creditors in the islands is due to be paid before the end of the calendar year, rather than be delayed.

Partner Mathew Newman said the decision demonstrated the flexibility of the Guernsey insolvency regime: “This cross-border cooperation develops insolvency law in both jurisdictions for the better. It provides a just, fair, cost-effective and reasonable outcome for creditors of the two companies”

Why can’t the States do what the private sector manages to do? All we’ve had so far are talks and meetings between Jersey Ministers and their Guernsey counterparts, and press releases full of that fake exuberance which evaporates like morning mist. For when fishing or air registries are on the agenda, and real progress could be made, the intransigence of one side or the other usually scuppers the deal.


Monday, 21 September 2015

That Condor Moment

A man with a pipe followed by a group of Japanese visitors in an aerodrome. An airplane loops the loop. The man sucks the pipe and after a long pause says: “Ahh … Condor”. Yes, it’s that Condor moment!

Adverts for pipe tobacco of that name no longer crop up on television, but Condor moments are still with us. Unlike that of the erstwhile smoker, these are not moments of relaxation, gently puffing at a pipe. If someone had a pipe, the modern Condor moment would see it tightly gripped between the teeth, in a rictus grin of frustration and anger.

That is because the modern Condor moment is all to do with Condor Liberation, and the catalogue of disasters that seem to have happened ever since it went into service.

Some background on the vessel.

Press release from 2014:: Austal Limited (Austal) (ASX:ASB) is pleased to announce it has completed the sale of “Austal Hull 270”, the Company’s 102 metre trimaran stock vessel, for $61.5 million, further enhancing Austal’s capital flexibility.

Austal built the 102 metre trimaran ferry, the Austal Hull 270, on spec in WA during the global financial crisis. The Perth-based shipbuilder built the vessel at its West Australian shipyard, launching it in December 2009. However, it was unable to find a buyer for four years until Condor bought it, at quite a discounted price. Why were there no other buyers, one might ask?

When it was bought, Condor Chief Executive Officer James Fulford said: "It is fantastic to be adding this prestigious ship to our fleet. The 102 will offer increased reliability, capacity and comfort for our guests and we are very much looking forward to her arrival in our islands in the Spring."

Meanwhile, some kind individual has documented the catalogue of problems online besetting the smooth running of the vessel, in which - contrary to Mr Fulford's remarks - there is poor reliability, and little comfort for guests on those occasions when they have been unable to disembark, or even been left behind, or had cars damaged on the journey:

13 February 2015 - ‘Liberation is very manoeuvrable and much more stable so once on-board the ride will be a lot smoother,’ Capt. Collins said. ‘She is a conventional ship, so she is much more capable of travelling in bad weather conditions compared to our other ferries.’

27 March - First sailing from Poole after three months of sea trials. Incurs delays of approximately 2.5hrs during rotation.

28 March - Suffered minor damage to protective belting while mooring in bad weather in St Peter Port. Not so manoeuvrable after all.

30 March - Sailing to Poole for repairs cancelled due to bad weather. Capability for travelling in bad weather is not so good, after all.

3 April - Poor weather conditions mean essential welding work could not be carried out. Condor Express returns to service to operate Good Friday services between the Channel Islands & UK.

5 April - Returned to service after repairs

6 April - Sailings from Guernsey to Jersey cancelled because of a recurring electrical fault in an engine.

11 April - Problems with a ramp for loading vehicles delayed a crossing from Poole by 40 minutes. The ferry was unable to load 24 cars and 60 passengers at Jersey due to a combination of late running and an issue with a section of hoistable deck

24 April – Complaints regarding stowage of vehicles on open deck at the fore of the ship following vehicles being covered by salt spray during crossing.

9 May – Sailings on Liberation Day cancelled due to a technical fault.

18 May – Video of Liberation rolling significantly in seas of 1.5m – 2m is uploaded to YouTube:

27 May – UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency announces it is to investigate sailings of the Condor Liberation. Note: no results reported yet.

28 May – Guernsey Harbourmaster suggests that passengers merely need to retrain their stomachs in order to get accustomed to the motion of the craft!

29 May - An independent report to confirm the suitability and review the performance of Condor Liberation has been commissioned by the States of Jersey and Guernsey and Condor Ferries. No sign of that yet.

9 June – Condor Liberation unable to berth in Jersey due to strong winds. Ship returned to Guernsey and Condor Rapide was used to provide a connection for Jersey passengers.

8 July – Passengers board Liberation only for ferry to be cancelled due to fault with engine starter system and crew reach limit of legal working hours.

24 August - the ferry was unable to dock in St Peter Port. Condor stated that another vessel was impeding safe access, and the ship continued to Poole

12 September – External door ‘comes loose’ during passage between Guernsey and Jersey. Technical problem with engine causes delay of 2 hours during afternoon services.

15 September – Evacuation Slide cover falls off the ship, necessitating the cancellation of the evening sailing to Jersey.

18 September – Technical fault with exhaust system results in cancellation of morning Liberation sailing. Afternoon sailing only calls into Guernsey and Jersey passengers must trans-ship to Rapide (with 1 hr delay) causing disruption to Jersey – St. Malo sailings. States of Jersey announce investigation into the SLA following ‘unacceptable disruption’. No sign of result of investigation.

19 September – All Liberation sailings cancelled and Rapide services rescheduled to accommodate affected passengers. Condor request that passengers cancel any non-essential travel plans

20 September - "Systems error" leads to 70 passengers being unable to sail - effectively the Liberation was overbooked. The company said it would conduct a thorough investigation.

Jersey chief minister, Senator Ian Gorst said Condor needed to improve its service. He said: "The government's view is they need to get the problems sorted out and provide the level of service we expect from them.". No timetable given for this to be done.

Senator Farnham said: 'You may be aware of operational problems that have arisen again with the Condor Liberation in recent days. Whilst delays and cancellations earlier in the week were weather-related, today's cancellations are as a result of technical problems with the vessel.'Clearly the situation is unacceptable. Whilst Condor have instigated an element of contingency, the disruption to car and passenger services during what is a busy month for visitors' and residents' travel to and from the UK has been significant. "

He added: "I also wanted to let Members know that I am examining the operating agreement signed with Condor in early 2014 to establish what remedies the States may have. '"

I can tell him that, or he could ask his predecessor, Senator Alan Maclean, who signed all the agreements off in 2014 as Minister in charge. The BBC report said at the time "Jersey officials have negotiated a get-out clause that comes in after seven years if things are not running as expected."

That's a fat lot of good now! Senator Maclean should really be held to account for signing off such a soft contract with Condor without sufficient remedies or even fines if the service did not come up the scratch.

Supposedly there are some. Bailiwick Express reported: “The agreement was announced to the States yesterday by Economic Development Minister Alan Maclean, who said after a year of tough talking the authorities had negotiated a deal that was in the long-term interests of the Island.”

Bailiwick Express also said this: The proposed agreement was announced in the States by the Economic Development Minister, Senator Alan Maclean. He said the new vessel would be more reliable, and Condor would have to deliver what he called "strict performance targets".

So let’s have some tough explanations from the Senator now about what we can do. What happens if Condor delivers miserable performance? Indeed, what were these targets? Can he tell us?

And do Senators move on to new positions, and rather like Pontius Pilate, wash their hands of anything they did in a previous Ministry? Alan Maclean signed the agreement; he waxed lyrical about it, about "tough talking". He should now explain to the House what can be done. Or has he suddenly suffered a bout of political amnesia?

I suspect however that Senator Farnham will end up playing the part of Oliver Hardy to Alan MacLean’s Stan Laurel.

The real joke is this part of the report back in 2014:

"Senator Alan Maclean, the Economic Development Minister, has previously said other ferry operators were welcome, but would have to provide the same level of service as Condor."

So delays, breakdowns, problems with tides, damage to cars, passengers left behind.... any other ferry operator will have to ensure their service manages at least that before we let it in!

Guernsey Deputy Paul Luxon, who signed the agreement with Guernsey, must also be keeping a low profile. Back in 2014, he said:

"Condor's proposed new vessel should provide islanders with a greatly improved travel experience, in terms of ride comfort and reliability. Importantly, the vessel will enhance visitors' experience of travelling to the islands, which is a real plus point for Guernsey's and Jersey's tourism sectors'.

Sadly, I think the tourism sectors are rueing the day that Condor Liberation went into service, and instead of two vessels which broke down, but not usually at the same time, we ended up with one.

It is also worth noting that Collas Crill, led by Rosie Stott in Jersey and Wayne Atkinson in Guernsey, provided corporate, finance, competition and regulatory advice to Condor to secure the new vessel and an agreement with the States of Jersey to provide combined freight, car and passenger ferry services. So they apparently had a hand in the contract. Perhaps they could advise the States about the contract?

Lead lawyer Rosie Stott said that: "We believe that the introduction of the new vessel will deliver long-term certainty to the Channel Islands regarding such essential matters as freight supplies and all-weather passenger services and we are extremely proud to be have been involved in something that is so crucial to our islands as a whole."

I wonder if they feel as proud today.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Accidents of History

The Accidents of History

A week ago, traffic coming into town in the early morning was delayed by an accident along the road between Beaumont and Bel Royal. 103 FM reported that it was on the zebra crossing at the filter in turn. BBC Radio Jersey reported it had taken place further afield, up at the press button lights.

Both accounts had a pedestrian in an accident with a bicycle, but how we would visualise and possibly expand on those accounts would differ. At Beaumont, where the zebra crossing is, we would visualise a pedestrian crossing and a bicycle coming along the road. At the red lights further along, bicyclists regularly press the button and travel across the traffic, along the pedestrian route, but cycling.

As it happens, I was there, delayed, and from a vantage point, before being turned around, I could see the ambulance further along from the zebra crossing, at the traffic lights. In other words, the BBC report was correct.

But if I hadn’t been there, which source would I have taken as accurate? How would I have judged the two accounts? How could I tell? Perhaps if there had been more information about the accident, I would have been able to infer that one of the accounts was wrong because of the geography of the location, which I might have had details of from other sources. But they could also have been written up on the basis of surmise from the accident's location.

There are a lot of studies of the New Testament which look at different sources. The three gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke have a lot of common material, and clearly have at least one common source. The wording is so much the same, that literary dependence is obvious.

I should comment that the gospels are in fact anonymous. Despite having been given ascriptions, “The Gospel According to Matthew” etc, these are later scribal additions which may have dubious accuracy.

Usually, it is believed that Mark wrote first, and Matthew second, Luke last. Whether Luke knew Matthew has been the subject of debate. The common material between the two has been ascribed to an independent source, termed Q (the German “Quelle”) means “source”), or simply to Luke borrowing from Matthew.

There are contradictions in the text, which are like the road accident report, where we cannot be sure from different sources what happened, if one assumed in any case that the reporting was accurate.

For example:


While he was thus speaking to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, "My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live."


Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Ja'irus by name; and seeing him, he fell at his feet, and besought him, saying, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live."


And there came a man named Ja'irus, who was a ruler of the synagogue; and falling at Jesus' feet he besought him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.

Interestingly, the first harmony of the gospels, Tatian’s Diatessaron (from the 2nd century), goes with the version in Mark and Luke, that the girl was dying, and follows the wording of Mark and not that of Luke (who gives the age and that she is an only daughter at this point)

And a man named Jairus, the chief of the synagogue, fell before the feet of Jesus, and besought him much, and said unto him, I have an only daughter, and she is come nigh unto death; but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.

For fundamentalists, who believe that the text is inerrant, this poses a problem, as two texts say “at the point of death” or “was dying” while one says “has just died”. Often quite convoluted acrobatics take place in fundamentalist commentaries to “prove” that the texts actually agree, but as no fundamentalist believes the translation should actually be amended, we may take this as special pleading.

And there is a good deal of special pleading for what seems to the average reader to be a casual and not significant difference. An example of special pleading can be seen in Adam Clarke: “The Greek word, rendered “is even now dead,” does not of necessity mean, as our translation would express, that she had actually expired, but only that she was “dying” or about to die”

In that case, would it not be better to translate it otherwise? Fortunately translators are made of sterner stuff, and refuse to let theologically motivated concerns “amend” the proper translation of the Greek.

In fact, we can see that Matthew followed through his editorial adjustment with consistency. As Jairus’s daughter dead when Jairus comes to Jesus, leaves out the subsequent arrival of men with news that the daughter has died; in Matthew’s account, that would not make sense.

Mark has:

While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler's house some who said, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?" But ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe."

And Luke:

While he was still speaking, a man from the ruler's house came and said, "Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more." But Jesus on hearing this answered him, "Do not fear; only believe, and she shall be well."

In fact there is a further discrepancy – Mark has “some” who come from the house, whereas Luke just has “a man”.

If we return to our traffic accident, we note that different reports began to circulate almost immediately but despite discrepancies in location, they still reported an actual incident. No one in their right mind would attempt to harmonise these difference, and yet fundamentalists seem to have an almost pathological desire to harmonise even more slender differences in gospel narratives.

The story of the actually healing has other discrepancies:


And when Jesus came to the ruler's house, and saw the flute players, and the crowd making a tumult, he said, "Depart; for the girl is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went through all that district.


When they came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, he saw a tumult, and people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a tumult and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, "Tal'itha cu'mi"; which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise." And immediately the girl got up and walked (she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.


And when he came to the house, he permitted no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. And all were weeping and bewailing her; but he said, "Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But taking her by the hand he called, saying, "Child, arise." And her spirit returned, and she got up at once; and he directed that something should be given her to eat. And her parents were amazed; but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.

The Diatessaron:

And they reached the house of the chief of the synagogue; and he saw them agitated, weeping and wailing. And he entered, and said unto them, Why are ye agitated and weeping? The maid hath not died, but she is sleeping. And they laughed at him, for they knew that she had died. And he put every man forth without, and took the father of the maid, and her mother, and Simon, and James, and John, and entered into the place where the maid was laid. And he took hold of the hand of the maid, and said unto her, Maid, arise. And her spirit returned, and straightway she arose and walked: and she was about twelve years of age. And he commanded that there should be given to her something to eat. And her father wondered greatly: and he warned them that they should tell no man what had happened. And this report spread in all that land.

Matthew’s accounts is almost a précis. He compresses Mark. Luke eschews the Aramaic.

But there is also an interesting example of what Mark Goodacre calls “editorial fatigue”. Luke -who has already moved the age of the child to earlier in his text in his reworking of Mark now has those within the house weeping and then laughing at the notion that the girl was sleeping. It makes for a greater dramatic contrast, but it also begs the question who was actually weeping and wailing and laughed. Mark has that incident placed outside the house before Jesus enters, which makes more sense.

The Diatessaron follows the Markan order but adds little touches from the others - the Lukan “and her spirit returned” and from Matthew “this report spread in all that land”. Curiously he refers to Peter as just “Simon”.

But was the incident a fiction, or could something like a healing have taken place? The following I see as strong historical pointers to something strange taking place, some kind of healing that was out of the ordinary:

1) The lack of references to fulfilment of scripture. While the writers used quotations from the Hebrew bible as a means of suggesting Jesus was fulfilling prophecy, these always raise the question posed by John Dominic Crossan, that they are “prophecy historicised”, that the narrative was created from the prophecy. Conversely, where no allusions are given, that potential invention is much less likely.

2) The mention of Jairus – this is a name which is not significant elsewhere, and it has been strongly argued that when names are mentioned - Simon of Cyrene is another – this is pointing to significant witnesses to the events, and whose names do not feature elsewhere. It is a way of suggesting authenticity. This is that argument of Richard Bauckham.

3) The interjection of the woman who had a haemorage. This story, of the woman who touches Jesus garment and is healed, comes after Jairus has come to Jesus, and while Jesus is on the way to Jairus house. It breaks the flow of the narrative, and yet has been retained.

4) The use of Aramaic in Mark. Mark uses an Aramaic phrase, and Jesus spoke Aramaic. He also translates for his readers, who clearly did not understand Aramaic. Interestingly Matthew and Luke both eschew the original language.

So I see good grounds for treating the material as authentic.But the story shows us how reporting can change, how while the essential substance of an event can be retained, the accidentals of history can vary. That is as true of modern reporting as it is of ancient texts, when both are in fact second hand to the events themselves.

Although I should add one brief postscript - whether the daughter was in a coma like sleep, mistaken for death, or really dead, is a matter for faith, and not historical research. It is not something on which I would comment.

Saturday, 19 September 2015


A poem about the growing crisis across Europe.


Back, back, you cannot come!
There is a sounding of a drum,
Beating, a call to kith and kin,
Even in circles in kind Berlin,
To just look after one’s very own;
Water cannon, tear gas thrown,
And razor wire walls are built,
And no one feels any guilt;
Border controls set up again,
All to break the human chain;
They can be angry, on their way,
Hungry, harassed every day,
And anger can erupt in cries,
And bricks thrown, arise, arise!
Desperation brings out angry men,
Herded in camps, like cattle pen;
Blessed are the meek, not these:
The meek were left behind the seas,
And wait in hunger, pain, for death,
And ISIS coming, like evil Seth;
No mercy there, from tribes of Tash,
Coming now to maim and slash;
Who will stay, and who will die,
And who will like a migrant fly?
I would not remain, if I could go:
Even if what end, I did not know,
I would tramp along a dusty road,
Hoping to find some safe abode;
But where is refuge, where is hope?
All countries say they cannot cope,
And borderlines are drawn again,
And will this be the last amen?

Friday, 18 September 2015

Trade and Smuggling by A.C. Saunders

Some more from A.C. Saunders “History of Jersey in the 17th Century”. I have kept the spellings of quoted text as it stands in Saunders. Saunders quotes from documents as they stand and does not render them into contemporary English, and the spelling is variable and probably largely phonetic.

Despite research, I have been unable to find more on the Lieutenant-Governor Harrys or his successor Colonel Johnson. They do not appear in any online lists which appear, at any rate to be incomplete, nor in any Bulletin of the Societe Jersiaise.

Trade and Smuggling
By A.C. Saunders

In a previous chapter, we have seen how the Bailiff and Jurats had complained that the Governor had employed common soldiers to collect his dues, and that when their efforts were not satisfactory, they were replaced by others who had fewer scruples in carrying out the Governor's wishes. When the Lords of the Privy Council considered the petition, they saw a chance of introducing a check on ingoing and outgoing vessels, and the cargoes.

When granting the Bailiff's request, they decided to appoint a Registrar of Customs for the Island, who would be sworn at the Royal Court to do his duty faithfully and well, and who could claim assistance from the Justices in protecting the interests of the Crown and the Islanders. This may not have been what the Jersey Justices wanted, for they did not want it to be a Crown nomination. They would rather have retained the appointment in their own hands.

But rumours were reaching London that much smuggling was being carried on from the Channel Islands and that all were more or less interested in their endeavour to seize every opportunity to make money. Thereupon we are not surprised to find that, on the 19th March, 1690, Lord Shrewsbury writes to the Governor of Jersey, warning him that the merchants of Jersey were carrying on an illicit trade with France and were sending ammunition from Jersey to St. Malo, notwithstanding that England was then at war with France.

In carrying on this contraband trade the merchants made use of the Ecrehous, where the Jersey and French Agents met to exchange goods for money. It was stated that lead could be bought in Jersey for twopence or threepence a pound, but that it cost two shillings and sixpence a pound in St. Malo.

By an arrangement of signals by means of fires lighted on the Ecrehous, French and Jersey vessels met there and did good trade in lead, powder and other goods prohibited to be exported from the Island.

The Governor was therefore directed to keep a very careful watch on the trade of the Island. Matters evidently went from bad to worse, and an enquiry was held at Whitehall on the 10 to 17 August, 1691, dealing with the accusations made against the merchants by Major Charles Le Hardy.

From his deposition it would appear that this trade was carried on by the Lt. Governor Harrys, Customer Hely, the King's Advocate of the Island, several Jurats of the Royal Court and the Viscount of the Island. He stated that James Corbet, the Viscount, Moses Corbet a Jurat, and George Dumaresq are the principal traders with the enemy, and that by means of this intercourse between masters and merchants, the French are enabled to acquire intelligence of what goes on in the Island. He accused the Lt. Governor of issuing the necessary passes and Customer Hely of clearing the vessels.

The Lt. Governor in reply stated he had orders to allow this trade, and his statement was confirmed by the King's Advocate, and Jurat Moses Corbet declared that he would trade with France in spite of anybody. Possibly they were justifying themselves on the old plea of the Neutrality of the Channel Islands, a condition which had not been utilized for a very long period.

However Captain Snow of the British Navy captured a French boat going to the Ecrehous, with one Le Prerier on board with all his papers. On arrival at Jersey the Lt. Governor released the vessel, and the statement was made that the Sheriff James Corbet and Lt. Governor Harrys received one hundred and three hundred crowns respectively, for setting free Le Prerier and returning his papers.

Then the accusation was made that when Aaron Cabott, evidently an official, stopped a boat with cargo going to the Ecrehous, he was ordered by the Court to beg the pardon of the Lt. Governor, on his knees. George Dumaresq said it was lawful, notwithstanding an order in council to the contrary, to send goods to the Ecrehous and he and the Lt. Governor told Cabott that he had not English enough to know what the order in council meant.

Major Charles Le Hardy was a Constable, and in that capacity he stated, that, when he stopped a boat with two passports on board, he was called a rogue by the Lt. Governor and his commission as Major of the militia taken from him.

It was stated that the Lt. Governor received as presents, casks of French wines, in return that all vessels provided with a passport from the Governor should not be searched. Evidently the case dragged on, for in December, 1693, we find that in a review of the State of Jersey, it was reported that Captain Harrys, the Lt. Governor was almost always in bed and therefore incapable of serving King and State; that he maintains a public service with France which always arrives and departs at night; that he is very poor and might be tempted by the French King who is anxious to get possession of the Island. He has said that if the French attacked the Island he would retire to Elizabeth Castle; That only partisans of his can obtain licences; That experienced Militia officers are deprived of their commissions to make room for raw youths who pay for their commissions; That Hely, Collector of Customs, is one of the greatest traitors in the Kingdom and whilst the French prisoners are allowed to walk about freely, ours at St. Malo are kept close in prison. Hely is also accused of conniving at the smuggling of brandy and white wines into Portsmouth.

No wonder the Channel Islands acquired a very bad reputation for smuggling, when officials and merchants were ready to seize every opportunity to carry on the illicit trade. The defence of the neutrality was not justified, and, even if the Ecrehous were part of Jersey, it was the Governor's duty to see that goods from these islands complied with the regulations for the exportation of goods.

Lt. Governor Harrys did not enjoy his position long for on the 12th December, 1691, he left the Island and was succeeded by Colonel Johnson. William Hely had been appointed Registrar of Certificates by the Commissioners of Custom on the 24th February, 1686, and he had to keep an account of all vessels arriving and departing from the Island, with their cargoes. The Bailiff and Jurats were directed to give him every assistance.

It is pleasant to leave Lt. Governor Harrys and his friends, and hear that a petition was sent to the Privy Council by George Dumaresq, Philip d'Auvergne of Jersey, and Samuel Dobre and James Mill of Guernsey, to be allowed to form a Joint Stock Company to carry on linen and paper manufacture in the Island. The petition is dated 30th July, 1691, and the applicants stated, that, if granted, the Company would be able to employ a large number of men, women and children and that the soil of the Island was very suitable for sowing and raising hemp.

The Council granted the petition, and a Warrant was issued on the 7th August, 1691, authorizing the incorporation of the said Company which was to be called “Governor and Company, of the Royal Corporation of London, to carry on the linen and paper manufacture within the Islands of Jersey and Guernsey."

Old people have some recollections of hearing their fathers talk about some paper mills in St. Peter's Valley but what success was meted out to the company there is no trace.

During the century our shipping trade was principally with America, Newfoundland, and the Mediterranean, but the want of proper accommodation and the dangers attending the many wars prevented these trades from developing to any great extent.

Jersey cider had also a good reputation, and there was a great demand for it both at home and abroad. With the number of orchards in the Island, the States, in order to encourage this Island industry, passed an Act on the 20th June 1681, " Seeing the quantity of apples and other fruits which it has pleased God to bless the Island with, so abundantly that it is forbidden from St. Michael's day next to sell from any shops or house any foreign wine or spirits on pain of confiscation ".. The Acts of the States were not always complied with, and, on the 1st March 1683, it was reported to the Jurats that Taverners, and others, were selling wines and spirits on the quiet, and they directed the Constables of each parish to make careful enquiry, and strictly bring the Act of 1681 into force.

Apparently 1681 was a very dry, and hot year, and most of the root crops were seriously affected. The States directed that, as the root crops afforded poor people their food in times of scarcity, the importation of pigs from Normandy and Brittany was prohibited.

There was always the stocking trade, the mainstay of Jersey people, but there was very little incentive for enterprise and the wages of the lower class did not allow them any margin after they had satisfied themselves and their families with the bare necessities of life. Labourers being paid at the rate of six shillings a week, a. carpenter nine shillings, a plumber ten shillings, a mason nine shillings and a bricklayer ten shillings. Foreigners were forbidden to open shops in the Island.

There is a very interesting letter among the papers at the Société Jersiaise dealing with life in Jersey about the end of the seventeenth century. Mr. Pipon, the writer, had cordially been asked for advice from one who wished to settle in the Island and make a living " to lett lodgings, keep a Coffee House and teach children."

But Mr. Pipon is cautious and says "What incouragement I can give you to come for Jersey is a very difficult thing for me to give since it is but the tyme that can discover tether youll doe well or not and upon such an uncertainty if your coming over proved not to yr: satisfaction I might justly be blamed." But he goes on to tell his correspondent that in Jersey he could hire two good rooms for £5 a year, “one for yor bed chamber and the other to keep yor school and other yr business ; that beef is 3 pence a pound ; that mutton is a groate a pound ; syder 5/- a hozshead, wheet 6/- a bushel and you may guess by that what boarding will come to."

The States evidently were endeavouring to look after the interests of the Islanders, especially in connection with their morality, and good conduct, in the position which it had pleased God to call them. Evidently the people were spending the Sunday as a holiday and turning it into a day of " debaucheries and profanities." Possibly the Rectors were finding that their congregations were falling off.

The influence of these twelve members of the States may be seen in the Act passed on the 7th November, 1681, which compelled all heads of families, their children., and servants, no matter of what rank, to attend public worship. The Constable of each parish, and his officers, were directed to watch those who attended at Divine Service, and take the names of those who waited outside the church, sat gossiping outside their houses, and walked in public roads during church service, so that the offenders could be fined for their bad behaviour. It was also directed that no mills should grind on the Sabbath and no Taverner sell drink, and any person found under the influence of drink on the Sabbath day shall be very heavily punished. The Constable had the power to seize sufficient goods belonging to the offenders to cover the penalty.

Sunday in Jersey in the 17th century was very different from the way it is kept at the present time, and was much more strictly observed than in England, where the "Book of Sports and Pastimes" allowed people to enjoy themselves in dancing and other pleasures, after attending Divine Service. Towards the end of the century, a change took place in England, and strict regulations were issued that on the Sabbath all persons were directed to “plublickly and privately apply themselves by exercising themselves in the duties of piety and true religion ; that no tradesmen, artificer, workman or labourer or any other person shall do any work, except works of charity on that day on a penalty of five shillings. No wares shall be exhibited for sale on the penalty of forfiture of such wares ; no tradesman shall travel on that day on a penalty of twenty shillings and no person shall travel on a Sunday except in a case of emergency, certified by the Justice of the Peace, on the penalty of five shillings, and that any person committing any offence against such Acts shall be seized and set publicly in the stocks for two hours, and the fines and penalties are to go to the poor of the parish”.

And there was one special clause in the Act which directed that any person travelling on the Lord's day who shall be robbed shall be debarred from bringing an action against the said robber.

And then we have the Act of William, dated the 24th February, 1697, against Immorality and Profaneness.

“We do expect that all persons of honour or in place of authority will, to their utmost, contribute to the discountenancing men of dissolute and debauched lives, that they being reduced to shame and contempt may be enforced the sooner to reform their idle habits and practices."

This Act was directed to be read from all pulpits four times each year.