Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Junior Société: A Retrospective Look

Dr John Renouf - Geology Excursion at La Pulente

Here are a few extracts from the Bulletin of the Société Jersiaise regarding the activities of the Junior Société, and the few photos I have from those times..

I remember the Junior Société with great fondness during the 1970s, as a school friend of mine Gary Misson was quite heavily involved, and indeed it was because of his telling me about it that I joined the Société. Gary would later write a very good biography of Arthur Mourant, and became an Ophthalmic surgeon. (You can find 56 of his publications under Gary Philip Misson)

In those days, it was all rather stuffy. Your membership application went on a board on the Société Jersiaise HQ at the museum for members to see, and approve of – or not. Unlike today, when anyone can become a member on payment of a subscription, in the 1970s, the Société functioned like private club, and you needed to be proposed and seconded for membership. Fortunately I was accepted!

I’d been on various local history related activities, because one of the teachers at Victoria College, Charles Green (affectionately known for some obscure reason as “Gloop”) ran a Saturday history club when the weather was fine. He had been at one time the head of the Archaeology section of the Museum. I remember his dog Mandy who used to have water from an old Parazone bottle, and one trip to Seymour Tower, when he would get out his little notes on cards, in his scrawled handwriting, and tell us about them. I had great affection for him, and he also ran the Junior Chess Club. I can visualise him puffing away on his pipe as he played chess.

And then Stephen Lucas also started a Friday afternoon activity group called, initially, Museum Studies, but then Island Field Studies, which looked over three terms at the Island’s geology, archaeology and history respectively. I was in that on the first.

In fact, there was a huge influx of students into Island Field Studies, mainly members of Junior Société once they realised what it was! And meanwhile, I was joining the Junior Section.

The reader of the extracts below will note how there were fund raising jumble sales. What they will not be aware of was how Gary Misson, who had some input into the timing of these events, made sure one was booked in advance to coincide with the Victoria College Cross-Country – that took place on a Saturday. We could then all cheerfully plead a prior engagement and get off being there either within the race or shivering as markers for the course!

Locally, I remember going beneath the Pinnacle rock. I’m sure care was taken with the tides, but I suspect matters were a lot more free and easy than now, when a health and safety risk assessment would almost certainly be required!

I also remember the trip to Normandy, which was the only away trip I actually went on. There was an opportunity to go ice skating one evening, which I declined. I did not, however, decline the opportunity to sink several pints of beer, although I was not the one who walked into a lamp post. I’ll keep their name hidden,

Sadly, the rather stuffy executive committee of the Société did not think Dr Renouf should be engaging with schools, and he was dismissed as Curator, although taken on by Education to provide teaching for Jersey students on the Island’s past and its geology. They also gradually strangled the Junior Société, and I remember hearing that Dr Arthur Hill – not one to mince words – had a very angry session with the executive.

It was probably this lack of enthusiasm from the top, and the gradually departure of a core membership to University, that led to its decline and it ceased, although I‘m not sure precisely when. There was an attempt to revive it around 1996, but clearly that didn’t work as it is not listed among the current sections

I still look back on those days with affection, and my interest in history, and especially local history, certainly began back then. It was days before the internet, before even much in the way of computers, but it was a glorious time none the less.

Junior Société


The year 1968 saw the appointment for the first time in the history of the Society of a paid Curator for the Museum, in the person of Dr J.T. Renouf. Since the retirement of Mr E.F. Guiton, who has given a life-time’s honorary service to the Society, it was felt that the care of the Society’s collections as well as their display would be more than could reasonably be expected from an Honorary Curator. It was therefore decided to appoint a paid official and an amendment was made to our Rules to enable this to be done. The Executive Committee take this opportunity to wish the new curator every success

Commitee: Dr JT Renouf, Mr and Mrs G. Misson, Mr and Mrs G. Upton


Since its inception a year ago, the group has grown in number and has engaged in divers and interesting activities. Unfortunately, Miss Jill Harris, whose enthusiasm contributed so much to setting the Group on its way, reluctantly had to withdraw because of increasing work commitments. A sincere vote of thanks to Miss Harris is recorded for the very much appreciated assistance she gave during the early months following the Group’s formation.

Welcomed on to the organising sub-Committee are Mr. and Mrs. G. Misson and Mr. and Mrs. G. H. Upton. Together we have continued the compilation and distribution of the News Letter with its detail of the programme of activities and contributions from junior members.

Last May the exploration of a cave near Greve de Lecq proved to be an exciting and testing project for our young members who afterwards voted the experience worth the effort in­volved in descending to the cave’s entrance.

A visit, in June, to the Museum was followed in July by the Juniors spending an afternoon at Mont Orgueil Castle and, although the weather was rather cold and bleak, it did not detract from the interest shown in the Castle’s history.

The outstanding event of the year’s programme was undoubtedly a day trip to Guernsey arranged by Miss Harris through Mr. Payne of the Société Guernsiaise. Sailing on the morning mail boat a group of thirty travelled to Guernsey where a very extensive programme was embarked upon commencing with a visit to Sausmarez Manor. The Group continued with the Folklore Museum, a visit to the Royal Court and Archives and then, following lunch taken at a quiet hotel in St. Pierre du Bois, a visit to Icart Point, to Professor Parkinson’s house, and finally, Castle Cornet.

The Autumn programme included a cliff ramble between Plemont and Grosnez with the exploration of another cave, a talk by Dr. Renouf of his experiences during his visit to Salt Lake City, and finally, a Christmas party organised for the Juniors and held at the Rectory Barn at St. John. Incorporated in the party activities was a quiz competition. Members were required to identify old Jersey photographs and objects of historical and nautical interest. In the field of competitions we hope to hold more in the future and we are also encouraging juniors to contribute further articles and drawings etc., for publication in the News Letter.


The first major event of 1970 was an outing, The Day with the Dolmens. This included visits to many of the Island’s prehistoric monuments. Nearly 70 members filled two coaches and set off in a downpour for Corbière; fortunately the rain stopped and the day turned out fine and windy so that all could enjoy a picnic lunch on the sand dunes. A cream tea at Gorey added the final touch to a very full and instructive day enjoyed by everyone.

At the May meeting, following the dolmen excursion, it was decided to enlarge the Group Committee by inviting a number of junior members to serve on it. Five were chosen initially by the senior committee and have taken a very active part since in the planning and running of our activities. It is planned to have elections for the junior committee in June of each year. The 1970 committee was: Susan Blair, Carol Gaudion, Mary Gautier, Anthony Legg and Gary Misson.

The year’s out-of-the-island trip took the form of a day excursion to Sark in August. The state of the sea could have been better for some members, but in spite of this, the 40 strong party walked from the landing place to La Coupee, Dixcart Bay and the Eperquerie without any flagging. The geological finds in Dixcart Bay proved very interesting — and very heavy! Other outdoor meetings included a scramble over the low tide reefs at Petit Port with the examination of many marine animals and a nature ramble at Noirmont with the junior com­mittee heading groups in a competition to find various specimens.

Visits were made to the Police and Fire Station — a real emergency occurred while one group were examining the fire engines — and to the National Trust exhibition at La Valette. Competitions with prizes produced a fine response from members with a high quality in all cases. The year’s activities concluded with the annual Christmas Party, held this time at St Aubin’s Parish Hall.

Members at the Pinnacle and a glimpse beneath


Variety has been the keynote of this year’s activities. One of the most successful and most enjoyed was the 'dig' at Mont Orgueil Castle in February. At the suggestion of the Department of Public Works, a bank of accumulated rubble and debris was sorted through one blustery but sunny day. An exciting and energetic day yielded pottery from the 17th century onward, 3 clay pipes two of which were early 17th century and an assortment of glass, bones, metal ware and mortar.

A coffee evening in March was well attended and gave the Junior Committee the chance to meet parents. Unfortunately a follow-up excursion to Guernsey arranged for July was very poorly supported.

The Spring day excursion included visits to St Brelade’s Church, Tesson Mill, Gigoulande Quarry and a ramble through Rozel Valley. The lack of a good botanist on this walk prompted the group to ask a botanist along on the September outing in the Belle Hougue area.

An adventure scramble at the Pinnacle in June introduced many members to a through-cave they had not known of before and the need to wade through a knee-deep pool in the semi-dark provided all the sense of adventure needed to give the afternoon its moments of both excitement and apprehension.

The autumn programme centred about the Committee’s efforts to raise money for an ex­cursion to France. In the event two highly successful jumble sales held at Glenham Hall raised a total of £75 and this has encouraged the Committee to press on with arrangements for a 3-day excursion in July of 1972.The Junior Committee would like to thank all those parents who have given help during the year’s programme of events

The high point of 1972 was the three-day excursion to Brittany in July. In spite of fog, which delayed us eight hours on the outgoing trip, and a wet Sunday, everyone arrived back in Jersey tired but happy. The programme included mineral collecting near Brest, fossil hunting in Plougastel, the sights of Brest and a number of interesting smaller towns such as Landerneau and Sizun. In Plougastel the party examined the famous Calvary and at Huelgoat the famous chaos of boulders fascinated all.

The Spring Day Excursion group visited Grouville Mill and the Lavoir at St. Cyr finishing the morning with an exciting up and down climb into the belfry of St. John’s Church. This exploit was followed in the afternoon by the long down and up scramble to the Wolf Caves. Both were noisy experiences, with the bell in one and the crashing of the sea in the other.

Another visit standing out in the memory is the wet afternoon spent at Morel Farm. Here Mr. George Le Feuvre held our attention throughout a couple of hours with his description of old farm activities and his account of the filming of Neither the Sea nor the Sand. It might be noted that Jersey doubled so well for the wild shores of Caithness that no less a newspaper than the Observer seemed to assume that both Jersey and Scotland were used for the locations.

Other outdoor rambles found the Junior group at Crabbe, scrambling into La Cotte Cave, and sauntering in Spring sunshine through Rozel Woods. The Post Office at Mont Millais was our host in November and indoor meetings included the usual gatherings at St. Aubin.

An unexpected feature of the October meeting was the filming of the group at the back of the Bulwarks for the Centenary Film prepared for Channel Television by Mr. Roy McCloughlin. The Junior Group was also honoured by the printing of a photograph taken at Huelgoat in the Centenary Appeal Brochure.

Ending on a sad note, the May excursion to Elizabeth Castle had to be cancelled as the result of an unseasonable storm. This is the first ever trip that had to be stopped because of the weather


If the Alderney visit was the highlight of 1973, the three-day excursion to Normandy was the highlight for 1974. Departing from the usual procedure the Committee organised the travel and accommodation through Messrs Bellingham which meant that more time and effort could be put into the itinerary.

The journey from St Malo to Caen was via Granville, Coutances and Bayeux. At St Pair, south of Granville lunch was had on the banded Brioverian sediments similar in age to those forming St Ouen's Bay. A halt in Coutances gave everyone the opportunity to examine the Cathedral and for Dr Renouf to explain the age-old ecclesiastical links between the See of Coutances and the Channel Islands.

At Bayeux the party visited the famous Tapestry and spent a fascinating hour, with headphones glued on, listening to the commentary. Time was also available for a look around the main museum nearby. In the evening, members had to opportunity to go to an ice-skating rink.

After a night in Caen Dr Renouf led the group through Caen to the Chateau where the chance to examine a moated castle was eagerly taken up. A finale to any visit to the Chateau at Caen is provided by the Musee de Normandie. The fine displays of local crafts were appreciated by everyone.

The afternoon was devoted to the collection of middle Jurassic fossils in an excellent state of preservation from the shore at Luc-sur-Mer followed by the ever fascinating tour of the Normandy landings Museum at Arromanches.

The last visit of the day, to a pottery works at Noron-la-Poterie, gave the chance to buy a piece of good quality and traditional Normandy stoneware. There was little time on the return journey the following day to visit other than the Abbaye de Hambye. Madame Beck, however, proved an interesting raconteur of both the history of the abbey and her recent efforts to have it restored

Other Meetings: The usual range of outdoor meetings was held and included visits to Rozel Woods, a day with the dolmens and a very wet afternoon at Les Ruaux on the north coast.

Mr Robin Cox led an excursion in St Brelade’s Bay and brought the attention of the party to many intriguing glimpses of the past including several aspects of the German Occupation.

A day excursion to Herm was blessed with fine weather and after a successful tour of the island a visit was made to Castle Cornet where the guardian, Mr Winfield, gave a guided tour


1975 was an active year for the Group with a full programme of local events and two out of the island.

Visits in the island included an adventure outing through the cave from Greve de Lecq into Le Val Rouget repeating a successful scramble made some years ago. Also a repetition, but the more interesting for those attending the second time, was Mr Michael Ginns’ and Mr John Bouchere’s entertaining and informative excursion over Grouville Common.

More notable perhaps because of the element of the unusual in it was Mr Robin Cox’s guided tour through Green Street Cemetery early in the year. For those in search of something different to do of a weekend afternoon in winter, a graveyard visit is full of fascinating asides on human life— and death!

The day trip to Guernsey in July was as full of interest as any the Group has made. A cliff path ramble— endurance test some would have it— in the morning from St Peter Port to Jerbourg was followed by a visit to the nearly completed Fort Grey Maritime Museum on the west coast in Rocquaine Bay. Here, Mr Brian White, Secretary to the States of Guernsey Ancient Monuments Committee, told the party something of its history and showed the new exhibitions in preparation.

A drive along the west coast with a short cut across the northern end and the party arrived at the abandoned Chateau des Marais. This earthwork with more recent stonewalls sits on a rocky outcrop within the marsh area north of St Peter Port. It was the site of a considerable archaeological dig the following month and yielded early medieval potsherds at its lowest levels.

The year’s most exciting event was the French Excursion when a whole variety of topics and scenes filled the three days. A beach of geological interest investigated, a forest walk and a limestone cave explored were three of the activities, but the climax to the trip was at Jublains, east of Mayenne, where Monsieur R. Diehl, the local archaeologist-in-charge, took a personal interest in showing the Group the results of the excavations into the Gallo-Roman site inside the local church. A scheduled stop of one hour extended into three.

A walk through Fougeresby night with the castle and adjacent areas floodlit was most impressive for those who went out after supper. In the morning the misty rain did little to banish the rather medieval atmosphere of the night before


Junior Activities Dr J. T. Renouf (Chmn), G. P. Misson (Sec.), Dr & Mrs A. Hill, Mrs M. Misson, Mrs A. Renouf, Mr & Mrs G. Upton


The Junior Section was restarted in September 1995. The young members have been introduced to a variety of activities by members of the many Sections of the Société. Thanks must go to all those w ho have so kindly helped and continue to help with this very special Section. A visit was made to Guernsey in September where the young people were a e to see an archaeological dig in progress on Lihou Island.

Deirdre Shute

One of my original notes pages from an excursion to Rocco Tower

Personal Field notes made by me of a visit to Rocco Tower

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