Monday, 21 March 2016

RIP Don Filleuil

RIP Don Filleuil

Back in 2011, I suggested a series of features for La Baguette, the St Brelade's Parish Magazine, called "Parishioners Remember".

Don Filleul was the first person I asked as he was living in the Parish and was enthusiastic about the idea. Here is the core of two articles, plus some other memories not specific to St Brelade, which he shared with me. The other memories have not seen publication, but I am sure Don would have been happy for them to be shared with a wider public.

The first piece of memories differs slightly from the printed versions, which can be seen online elsewhere on La Baguette website, and which was edited for reasons of space and to put in background context. I've kept one bit here, which is in square brackets. The La Baguette version was taken over by Mike Bisson for his Island Wiki, who had not corresponded with Don, so here, for the first time, is the raw original material from his email to me.

The articles in La Baguette can be read here:

As well as in my published collection of articles for La Baguette, Crumbs from the Table

We also corresponded about some of his early life, and I've added these memories after the main one. I also corresponded with Don over his submission to the Referendum on the States, but that's something for another day!

Don is probably best know for pressing ahead with turning Queen's Valley into a reservoir, despite considerable opposition. He lost his seat as a Senator, largely as a result of the ongoing saga, but returned as a Deputy and was back again as President of Public Works, still pushing ahead. If we had not the reservoir, we would have faced a serious water shortage ages ago - as it was, in the peak of Tourism, the Island would sometimes run out of water, and need rationing measures - usually if we had a dry September just after a sunny Summer.

It is an irony of history that Advocate Richard Falle, who led the campaign against that as a despoiling of the environment, was responsible for Le Pas Holdings dispute with the States, leading to the Waterfront being a built up ugly mess, and hence (in my opinion) despoiling that environment.

Don's own original conception of the Waterfront - along with the Steam Clock and Maritime Museum and Jardins de la Mare - was for a large swathe of green space - rather like you find at Southampton. But Advocate Falle's intervention derailed that ideal, and the bean-counters suddenly realised how valuable all that land was for building upon.

Unfortunately unlike the Waterfront Enterprise Board, which was given land at a peppercorn value of £1, the Maritime Museum rents its land from Port of Jersey, so the States currently has to pay out to its own Corporate Body for heritage. I suspect Don was not best pleased with that.

He was, of course, spealing on behalf of Jersey Heritage in favour of the Societe Jersiaise ceding sites which it could no longer maintain to Jersey Heritage - I remember the meeting when it was carried, and a majority of members (including myself) agreed with Don that was the best way forward.

Don was born in 1926, and a number of his memories encompass a Jersey that is long vanished. I imagine a lot of the official obituaries will concentrate more on his later political career, so it is nice to be able to supplement that with some memories of his earlier life. And what a life, encompassing the old pre-war world of trains and horses, the Occupation years, to corresponding with me by email!

Memories from Don Filleul

Some occasionally accurate ands very personal memories from Don Filleul of 35 Elizabeth Avenue - with apologies for the inclusion/incorrectness of various names,of whom sadly many are no longer with us and thus gave no permission. Those who do remain may respond and refute by their own contribution to the Newsletter.

I was born at Grêve d’Azette in 1926, very close of the to the station of the Jersey Eastern Railway. I can remember travelling to Gorey, and to the Snow Hill terminus. And thus began a lifetime devotion to railways.

Which is how I was introduced to St. Brelade. Taken frequently to Corbiere I reallly enjoyed everything about the journey and began to develop preferences for certain engines. Anyone remember the one painted light green ? I didn’t care for that.

[By the 1930s, the Jersey Railway was under pressure from the buses which could travel over a wider catchment area than trains. During the winter, all the rolling stock of the Jersey Railway was stored in the St Aubin station, and on the night of 16 October 1936, a fire broke out. This destroyed much of the station building, 15 of the carriages, and damaged the Terminus Hotel. Don's father took him to see the devastation.]

The horror of course was the fire at St.Aubin’s station, the destroyed coaches the awful stench of the place is almost still with me. Dad took me there - he was also a bit soft about trains, and we stared with sadness at the catastrophe.

My further memories are mostly happier. We moved to Beaumont in 1941, just before the Germans began the construction of their anti-tank wall.. In those days all there had been between our house and the sea were the remains of Beaumont Station platform and lovely great lumps of golden granite which were the current means of protection from the waves.

We watched the development of the concrete wall and the establishment of the Gunsite with its rather impressive old French artillery piece and some tank turrets sunk into concrete bunkers. (Tobruk )The garrison was housed in the wooden hut, still there, beside the Round Tower, at the top of which lolled a German soldier with his twin anti-aircraft machine-gun. I recall him ringing his alarm bell and shouting “Achtung Flugzeug” when a reconnaissance Spitfire flew over at about 30,000 feet.

As a resident of the district I began to make friends and became involved with what was known as the “Cecil Corbin Concert Party” - names to mind include Graeme Huelin and Roselle Mauger, Roy Pinel, Dorothy Brown, Molly Amy, Ethel Boniface and her sister Hilary, later to become my wife, Hazel Vincent, Rosemary Renouf, Tommy Barker, Barbara Berry at the piano I think. We sang and danced, the latter under the tutelagew of Miss Le Caudey of Beaumont.

The C C C P melded into St. Matthew’s Young People, based on the Glass Church’s congregaton in St. Lawrence. The Romeril family from Malorey Manor were very kind to we youngsters and hosted many parties with much appreciated grub.

There was a place on the right side to the road going up towards the school - the "Hamon Hall". |that's where most local shows took place, we could hire it for private parties too. It is now a private dwelling I believe.

We produced a number of shows at the Hamon Hall, the most memorable was “Streamline”, which we took to a lot of Parish Halls (by horse and van, of course) where, after the show, we were treated with refreshments which revealed the vast difference between farmers’ rations and our own !

I was reminded recently - when the bungalows at Ouaisné were being discussed for a possible development - that some of us, including some of the above but also Ivor Rive, Dorothy Bisson and her brother Roy, rented one called “The Angle”. It was owned by a lady who lived in St,. Aubin - can’t remember her name at the moment - who trusted us to pay every month. I was not allowed to stay there overnight but some did, I think.

In those days restaurants were virtually non-existent but I have a memory of Mrs. Priddy’s café at Portelet. We took our own vegetables, potatoes, salads etc. and handed them in for Mrs. Priddy to cook and present at table. We paid just a small amount for her services which were very well supported by the locals.

Railway Memories

If my memory is correct - I have in my library some data on this but as an instant recollection: The train stopped at West Park Halt, First Tower, Millbrook, Beaumont, those had stations, La Haule Halt.

There was a longer stop at St. Aubin for greater passenger transfer in both directions. It must have taken half an hour Town to St. Aubin but you'll have to look up the old timetables to be sure of that and the time to Corbiere. I can't remember all the stops to Corbiere, certainly Don Bridge and La Moye, I'll try to look these up.

I think an Aunt was my main companion on these journeys. I had no siblings. The coaches were as at the Steam Museum, no corridors of course.

Corbiere had little to offer but the view so I think we just came back ! Food? Sweets perhaps.

I can't help with the high tides, living at Greve d'Azette, their effect on the railway was not of pressing concern to me, especially at the age of nine or ten.

I was intensively interested in the engines - I mentioned the light green one. They all had names and I'll look these up too. But I don't think Auntie allowed me to make friends with the drivers. In those days such contact was out of order.

More Early Memories

I was born at "Ashbury", Plat Douet Road, two doors from "Garthlyn", which was built by Grandfather Hamon to accommodate my mother and father and of course him and Grandma. They died early in the Occupation from the shock of the low-flying Luftwaffe and the Wermacht marching past.

W.F.Filleul was my father, we moved not to Bryn-y-Mor but to Min-y-Don, Beaumont, in 1941.

The 1937 advertisement for our firm is interesting indeed fascinating as it was that business into which I arrived in 1945. It was essentially doing the same things but the emphasis slowly changed to a point where we became Filleul's Business Equipment Ltd with a branch in Guernsey. Much later of course. That's another story but of little interest to St. Brelade.

I remember West's Pictures. You entered via a long corridor with advertising window displays on both sides, we used one of these for a time. West's also had private "boxes" at the back of the stalls, these were useful for courting purposes.

Other cinemas were the Opera House, the Forum, where for 1 penny kids could go on Saturday mornings to see cartoons and a thriller. This always ended with a scene so dramatic, so frightening, that you had to go the following week to see what happened . I'm sure there was another cinema but the brain doesn't include it today. There were a couple of entertainment centres with slot machines, one in New Street had bumper cars. "Olympia" perhaps?

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