Saturday, 28 December 2019

The Ending of the Year

The Ending of the Year

Christmas is over, dark days head
The cold world, the world of night
Decorations away, a time I dread
And everything a little less bright

Gravestones damp from all the rain
A ten year old, taken by illness, lost
Parents wept, they knew much pain
As they stood mourning in the frost

Ending of the old year drawing near
Janus beckons, turning from time past
To face the future, a time of fear
When rides the storm a shrieking ghast

Shadows of the past, and that still to be
Pray for kindness, that’s the key

Friday, 27 December 2019

The Battle of Jersey: A Contemporary Account

The Battle of Jersey: A Contemporary Account

The Psalmist declared, " All men are liars," and, though he said this " in haste," historians sometimes suspect that his remark was true. We have for example a contemporary account of the Battle of Jersey, written by a Commanding Officer, who took part in the action, published almost immediately after the Battle.

Most historians would regard this as a valuable find. Captain Williams was in command of the Invalides in Elizabeth Castle. a Company of old veterans, who formed part of the regular garrison, and he marched his men out to join Major Peirson on Gallows’ Hill. And he wrote

“I have scarce time. my dear Sir, to inform you of the glorious actions of a few British lads against 2,400 of the best troops of France. Our Lieutenant-Governor's letter will inform you more circumstantially than I can, as he receives reports from the whole, but by commanding the 5th and 6th Companies of Invalides, stationed upon Knott's Mount, Gallows Hill, I can give you an account of their conduct.”

“Perceiving the Enemy advancing to us, I formed two deep, to have a greater length of fire, and placed my two three-pounders one on each flank, and made a regular advance upon the charge upon them ; they halted and gave us their fire, which we returned very severely, and, after standing to it 18 or 20 minutes, the ragamuffins gave way; and upon the approach of about 200 Regulars and Militia ordered to my assistance, they threw down their arms and craved mercy. I received them as Prisoners of War, until the Governor's pleasure is known.”

"Had they stood a quarter of an hour longer, I believe very few would have been left to have related to their Grand Monarch how a few old English Invalides conquered the Flower of the French Army.

Of the Enemy's five Companies, which we engaged and defeated : 2 Captains, 1 Lieutenant, 5 Sergeants, 4 Corporals, 2 Drummers and 48 Privates, killed.”

“All the remaining Officers, Commissioned and Non-Commissioned, and about 238 Privates, laid down their arms, and surrendered prisoners at discretion. In the whole, I am informed that nearly 300 are killed, and about 40 driven into the sea, by the Grenadiers of the Regulars, and drowned; between three and four hundred wounded ; and between eleven and twelve hundred taken Prisoners.''

To this we need only add three observations:

(1) Rullecourt's men, so far from being "the Flower of the French Army " were a scratch collection of scallywags specially recruited for the purpose, hundreds of `those being convicts released from chain-gangs on condition that they joined the expedition.

(2) He only landed 1,400 men at La Rocque, and left some to guard his boats. Only 700 marched to St Helier. So it is odd, if his casualties amounted to over 1,200, and in addition he lost " between eleven to twelve hundred " prisoners.

(3) Moreover, though the British troops mustered on Gallows’ Hill, not a shot was fired till they reached the Square, where the enemy awaited their attack. The Battle of Knott's Mount was fought entirely in Captain Williams' imagination.

Moral:-When you describe what happened during the a battle, don't let your imagination run away with you.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Joseph and the Three Gifts : A Review

Joseph and the Three Gifts takes both the bible stories, comments and additions down the years, and a new story about Joseph told by an Angel, and weaves them into a seamless thread It has a gentle conversational tone, as if one was being told this story by the fireside, or at bedtime, on a winter’s day. And Joseph’s story is linked to the gifts of the Magi – and the question told in this inventive tale: whatever happened to those gifts? And how did Jesus grow up working with Joseph as a carpenter?

I’m not giving away spoilers, but the way in which their use is worked out in the story of Jesus was beautifully and imaginatively worked together, each gift for a different time and so appropriate occasion - and we also find out why Joseph disappears from the gospel stories.

There’s a lot of debunking today of elements of the Christmas stories, such as the number of Wise Men, or the donkey, and that’s right and proper, but this tale shows how we can keep them, even if they sit lightly to history. I really appreciated that. I want that donkey, those three Magi, and here they are, along with other links to paintings (“The Shadow of the Cross”) and stories about Jesus. As a result, part of the story has a dreamlike quality (as the best stories do), but again and again, we are also brought back to the gospel story itself, the terra firma which grounds the tales, where myth becomes fact.

It’s a story that lingers long after you’ve read it, and a story which you can read again and again – always the sign of a good book, as C.S. Lewis noted. And the nice thing about the way the story has been woven, it sits well with Christmas, and Candlemas, and Easter. Christmas has so much focus on birth that it forgets Easter, and yet from the start, the gifts point ahead to Easter.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Advent Comes: A Carol

A substantial rewrite as an Advent Carol of a poem I wrote a few weeks ago. The tune "Irby" is that of Once in Royal David's City. I was very humbled to have it performed by Andrew Parker at the St Aubin On the Hill Christmas Carol Concert.

Advent Comes (Tune: "Irby")

Light in slums of that great city
Light in farm yard, cattle shed
Mother now conceived a baby
Sleep and dreaming, sound in bed
Touched by angels, touch so mild
As if touched by little child.

Stars shine brightly, light our heaven
Planets meeting, signs for all
From the humblest farmyard stable
To Cathedral choir stall
For the poor and mean and lowly
Signs and wonders of the holy

Born anew, in second childhood
Spirit gives us words to say
Blessings on your pregnant mother
Comes the time, the birthing day
Come the promise that should be
Coming of the Lord to me

Advent comes, this yearly pattern
As from infancy we grew
We were little, weak and helpless,
Advent hope makes all things new
Signs and portents in our sadness
Promised hope and Word of gladness

And we wait again to see him
Through his own redeeming love
Healing touch, so quiet and gentle
Spirit coming from above
Come to Bethlehem, come on
Land of strife where peace has gone

Wars and migrants, world unstable
Time to change or time to die
Peace he brings, the hope of heaven
And our voices sing on high
We were lost, but now are found
Love in heaven touches ground

Friday, 20 December 2019

70 Years ago: Noirmont and the Letters Patent

As the year draws to a close, a look back to 70 years ago

A letter in the JEP on 22nd August 1945 suggested that Noirrmont headland should be purchased for the people of Jersey. Prior to the war, the headland was privately owned and off limits to the public.

This letter led to a lengthy debate in the States, ending on 22nd January 1947, when they finally agreed to purchase the headland on condition it be retained as a War Memorial to all those Islanders who lost their lives during WWII - some 450 men, women and children. The price of the headland was £9,000 of which £1,187 and 16 shillings was made up of public subscriptions.

And so it was that on November 22nd 1949, 70 years ago, a document called Letters Patent was signed and sealed by George VI. It recorded a petition to the King from Hope May de Gruchy and Catherine May Miller, widow of Guy Fortescue Burrell de Gruchy, of Noirmont Manor, St Brelade have petitioned the King “that they be allowed to sell land belonging to the Fief, Manor and Seignory of Noirmont, St Brelade to the States of Jersey with the proviso that it be preserved as a memorial to the men and women of Jersey who perished in the Second World War.”

So what is “Letters Patent” and why was it needed? Letters patent (always in the plural) means an open letter or document issued by a monarch or government to record a contract, authorize or command an action, or confer a privilege, right, office, title, or property. In the case of Noirmont, because the land belonged to a Fief Manor, the sale had to be approved by the monarch. The Bailiff is also appointed by letters patent.

Letters patent are so named from the Latin verb “pateo”, to lie open, exposed, accessible. The originator's seal (in wax) was attached to hang from the document, so that it did not have to be broken in order for the document to be read. The opposite of letters patent is “letters close” where a document is closed and sealed, and can only be read by breaking the seal.

In later use, which we are more familiar with, such a document grants for a set period the sole right to make, use, or sell some process, invention, or commodity. That is when, for instance, someone gets a patent for an invention.

And just a note: the Memorial Stone that we see today was placed by the Public Works Dept. on 9th May, 1970 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Liberation, at a cost of £25.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

How do we measure value in an interdependent society?

In “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, Douglas Adams introduces us to the Golgafrinchans, a race of humanoid beings who split their population into three distinct groups and sent their third group, the middlemen, on a spaceship which eventually ended up on planet Earth.

The leaders contained the artists and "achievers". The workers were the people who "did all the actual work", and who made and did things. The middle management was comprised of hairdressers, lawyers, telephone sanitisers (whatever they are!), and other such supposedly "worthless jobs."

This third class eventually crashed onto Earth, while the other two-thirds of their society on Golgafrincham lived full, rich and happy lives until they were all suddenly killed off by a raging disease contracted from a dirty telephone!

Like much of Douglas Adams, behind the humour there is also sharp social comment. The supposedly worthless jobs turned out to be the glue that kept their society together, and the loss of the telephone sanitisers comes back to bite the others.

This interdependence of society came up again recently when I read the Bailiwick Express article with comment by Kevin Keen:

“With a growing population and limited resources, who should be allowed to come and work in Jersey has been perhaps THE most sensitive subject, year after year, in Jersey. In the absence of a proper policy, officials begin to use phrases which come from the economists, like 'high-value' to describe someone who makes a bigger contribution to our GVA. Which is great if you work in finance, but no so helpful to tourism, retail and hospitality.”

A point of clarification here: Gross value added (GVA) is the total profits and total wages of a sector added together, except for the public sector where it is just the total wages.

He looks at the practice of using GVA

“Though per sector GVA statistics are interesting for economists, the measure is highly flawed (as much for what it does not include as what it does) and in my view it can also be divisive when used by our policy makers in an attempt to put a positive or negative money value on each of us.”

And he notes that:

“Financial services depends on the support the wider economy gives, the coder, the baker, the electricity-maker. They also need the public services, cleaners, builders, hotels, restaurants and retailers; the list goes on and on.”

And there’s a problem at the heart of “economic value” which becomes very apparent when we look at farming, an occupation beset by environmental hazard where crops may fail or be lost, long hours, and fairly low levels of income compared to top CEOs of business world. And yet without farming there would be no food, and the top CEOs would starve.

Michael Sandel raised a similar point in his lecture when he asked “Should a banker be paid more than a nurse?”

Now there’s been quite a debate on this issue, but I think the point about asking this question, and looking at the relative merits of the farmer and the CEO, points to a fact that we lose sight of the important values inherent in lower paid enterprises if we purely consider economic value.

We need finance to generate the bulk of the wealth we need to support out governmental infrastructure in Jersey – but when we start to rank finance top for other matters such as population permits, we are heading into dangerous waters. This is the more so because systems which are quasi-Artificial Intelligence are starting to automate far more of the mundane tasks in office based sectors, and a revolution akin to the change from

Dickensian ledgers to computerised book keeping is coming about. I predict that RPA ( robotic process automation) will make significant inroads into office processes in the coming years, leading to efficiencies so that staffing levels may remain static (or in some instances reduce).

So we have to look at how we can value things differently. There’s no reason in principle why this could not be quantified in some way, some basic measures of statistics using ranking as a basic if crude means of sorting out data, and that need not be ranking in terms of purely economic value.

Meanwhile teachers and nurses cannot so easily be replaced, although even there AI is making inroads in, for example, examination of scans to pick up on alerts that even the most able physician may miss – although they need to be cross-checked by a physician.

But on the whole, areas with “coal face” employment – from teachers to hairdressers and dentist to those who serve us, as Kevin Keen reminds us, with our fix of coffee in pleasant surroundings, cannot so easily be replaced with automation. Indeed as we have seen, restaurants have had to curtail opening times because of a lack of chefs – to take just one example. We may replace checkouts in Supermarkets with self-scanning, but hair dressing and cutting cannot so easily be automated, and part of the merit of teaching in classes is not just knowledge but self-discipline and socialisation.

Indeed, one danger, as Michael Sandel, the moral philosopher pointed out in his Reith Lectures, is that a reductionism which looks to purely economic value as the only way of valuing (or the principal way of valuing) goods and services:

“Some of the good things in life are corrupted or degraded if turned into commodities, so to decide when to use markets, it’s not enough to think about efficiency; we have also to decide how to value the goods in question. Health, education, national defence, criminal justice, environmental protection and so on - these are moral and political questions, not merely economic ones. To decide them democratically, we have to debate case by case the moral meaning of these goods in the proper way of valuing. This is the debate we didn’t have during the age of market triumphalism. As a result, without quite realising it, without ever deciding to do so, we drifted from having a market economy to being a market society. The hope for moral and civic renewal depends on having that debate now. It is not a debate that is likely to produce quick or easy agreement. “

And on those lines, E.F. Schumacher wrote about half a century ago in “Small in Beautiful”:

"To press non-economic values into the framework of the economic calculus, economists use the method of cost/benefit analysis. This is generally thought to be an enlightened and progressive development, as it is at least an attempt to take account of costs and benefits which might otherwise be disregarded altogether. In fact, however, it is a procedure by which the higher is reduced to the level of the lower and the priceless is given a price. It can therefore never serve to clarify the situation and lead to an enlightened decision. All it can do is lead to self-deception or the deception of others; all one has to do to obtain the desired results is to impute suitable values to the immeasurable costs and benefits. The logical absurdity, however, is not the greatest fault of the undertaking: with is worse, and destructive of civilization, is the pretense that everything has a price or, in other words, that money is the highest of all values. "

And lastly I like this quote: "the modern tendency is to see and become conscious of only the visible and to forget the invisible things that are making the visible possible and keep it going."

Before we construct a solid population policy, we need to work out where are the invisible things that are making the visible possible and keep it going.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

AD 70

Jerusalem fell in 70 CE, and one million lives had been lost in 8 Months Of combat. This poem reflects upon that fall, and the changes it wrought in the Jewish people. The Romans crucified so many after the fall of Jerusalem that they ran out of wood. This was going to be an entirely different poem, but it went its own way and ended up commenting on this event.

AD 70

Long, long ago, and far away
Beside a broken wall
So many then were crucified
The Romans took them all

The Temple Holy, all we loved
Torn down so hard to bear
No sacrifices more of blood
And rituals that we share

The Romans came, and who can tell
How hard it was to bear
Ancient traditions lost to us
And how we suffered there.

And anger comes, and none forgiven
This truly is not good
It binds in chains, we must be freed
Of vengeance from that blood

And is there justice good enough
To pay the price of sin?
Shalom, shalom, in peace we give
The Wisdom deep within

Friday, 13 December 2019

Jersey As It Is - Part 9

This Friday is a blog in which I have transcribed a translation of an essay called "Jersey as It Is", published in 1844, as the result of a winning entry by F. Robious de La Trehonnais which won first prize in the competition of the Jersey Emulation Society.

His language is at times perhaps rather too flowery, but there are some wonderful nuggets of phrase - I love this one: "History satisfies the soul, tradition interests and surprises it; but legend charms and enraptures it."

His visit to Faldouet sets of his imagination in fine fettle - of course as most guide books of the time note, it was identified back then not as a Neolithic dolmen but as a much later "Druidic Temple". And his imagination runs riot with blood sacrifice - "harrowing shrieks of human victims"! This never happened at any Neolithic site, and it is even uncertain if the Druids practiced it. He also mentions Mont de La Ville, lost to England by this time, and also a visit to Hougue Bie's Princes Tower and the spectacular view - little realising that another monument lay beneath the artificial mound.

Jersey As It Is - Part 9
On the summit of the hill, which overhangs the castle, has recently been discovered, in a state of perfect preservation, a druidical temple. It consists of rough stones fixed perpendicularly, and covered by one only, which astonishes the beholder by its immense proportions.

When seated beneath this ponderous vault, the mind strives to ascertain the meaning of this assemblage of rocks on which no date, no image, no superscription flings the least glimmering ray ; then is it that the weight of this moor stone covering seems to weigh down the spirit, which it overwhelms with its mystery, and with that thick darkness which settles all around, shrouding every annal of its existence, destroying every remembrance of its history. 

In the dim and cloudy distance, where the imagination seeks to plunge itself, what blood-stained images, what ossianic and gigantic shades, flit hither and thither enwrapped in that profound eternal night which the mind dares not fathom ! And when placing our hand on the stern reality which remains, these rocks which testify of facts of which we are ignorant, we endeavour to take up that chain which by-gone ages have snapped asunder, what an abyss discovers itself to the affrighted vision ! How is the dizzy brain hurried down, as in a fever dream, to the bottom of this boundless immensity which time has hollowed out by utterly destroying the links of that chain of which, so to speak, we have but one end in our possession! 

There is in druidical ruins a charm, an interest, which, ruins whose history is known, do not possess. In the latter, the past satisfies the mind by the positive verdict of facts which history or tradition hands down to us; the imagination, powerfully aided by the knowledge of these truths, launches without difficulty into the expanse of the past, builds again with ease those shattered porticos, those decayed turrets, those grassy mounds, where peacefully the lamb and the kid are browsing together, or sleeping in their ivy bed. This solitude is easily peopled ; history then unfolds itself in living pages along those proud walls, in those chambers with their sculptured rafters and emblazoned heraldry. The change is effected in the twinkling of an eye. 

Doubtless the charm is very great ; but when this powerful, this enchanting fairy queen, Imagination, herself and alone, creates the ever-varying aspects of this magic lantern, oh ! Then, at least for me, the charm is still more sweet. Like a rapid courser, the bridle on his neck, the spur in his flanks, unchecked she rushes into space where no mere fact opposes any obstacle. The terrible images which she calls up around her on this rocky theatre, she loves, they are her creation ! Those gentle figures which smile upon you, those venerable shades of Druids which pass before you, half veiled from sight, and leaning on their long white wands,-the harrowing shrieks of human victims which she brings upon the ear,-this is all her work, she is delighted with it, she admires it. 

Laughing to scorn the uncertain intimations which tradition has handed down to us, as no better than the faint and dying echo of echoes still more remote, she models all things according to the fashion of her own will. In the scene which she displays, Fancy is her only counsellor, and in the wide-spread domain of her thoughts she chooses those only which delight her. Hence doubtless, these stirring and exciting feelings which agitate me in sight of these ancient ruins, on whose origin ignorance slumbers, and on whose history the past is silent as the tomb. 

History satisfies the soul, tradition interests and surprises it; but legend charms and enraptures it. Legend ! It is the ignis-fatuus which oft times, at the dead of night, floats over churchyard graves. This druidic monument is not the only one that has been discovered in the island. When the platform of the Mont de la Ville was cleared for building Fort Regent, the workmen brought to light a beautifully preserved druidic temple ; but with a vandalism almost unparalleled the states made a present of it to marshal Conway, then governor of the island, and this gentleman had it carefully taken down and rebuilt in his park in England.

On your return to St. Helier’s you pass by a tower built on an artificial eminence, and surrounded with lofty trees whose majestic boughs, rivalling in height the tower itself, leave its summit alone visible. Nothing can be more lovely, nothing more charming than this tower, clothed as it is with the ivy-leaf from summit to base. A pathway, edged with odoriferous shrubs, with quick-set hedges, and with flowers, sweeps round the little eminence, and you arrive by a gentle and delightful ascent to the entrance of the tower, to which has been given the name of Hougue-Bie or Prince's Tower. 

From the summit you command nearly the entire island. It is one of the most beautiful views that can be seen. You have at a glance of the eye all those beauties which we have now attempted to describe in detail. The eye surveys at once all the gentle declivities of the sea-shore,-the deep indentation of the bays,-the graceful undulation of the valleys,-the towers and steeples of the parish churches springing up as from a verdurous mantle of sombrous hue flung like a veil of mourning over the tombs of the cemeteries beneath.

Before you Fort-Regent and St. Aubin’s-bay appear mellowed by the softening tints of a golden sky, and beneath your feet rich champaigns, intersected by roads only discoverable by the green arch which bends over them, are spread out even to the ocean sand, and above all, as a setting to this brilliant cameo, the blue horizon of the deep broad sea. 

The building of this tower is only to be traced back and found in the antiquity of legendary lore, and that which is related on this subject is already too well known for us to stop to transcribe it here; suffice it to say, whatever may have been the idea which gave being to this delightful retreat, whatever may have been the remembrance which has been sought to perpetuate by building it, we are not the less put in possession of one of the most delightful spots of which the imagination can conceive: a spot where, unexpectedly, the visitor desires to dwell in, where each leaves his name behind, and bears away a remembrance in return. 

To describe the other parts of the island would be merely to repeat what we have already said. Everywhere the same beauty reigns, although sufficiently varied to exclude all monotony. Everywhere exist that freshness, that richness of vegetation, those unexpectedly-beautiful horizons which burst upon you at every angle of your path. Everywhere you perceive that neatness, that air of comfort, which bespeak the prosperous, the happy country.

The stranger, as he first wanders over this earthly paradise, doubtless questions himself as to the cause of that contentment of mind which sparkles in the countenance of all he meets, from whence springs that prosperity of which everything around exhibits such tokens, and which seems to float in the very air he breathes :-inquires he of history ? She replies it is the reward of loyalty:-does he question the constitution ? She exhibits to his view those special privileges which the past has earned for the island ; She points to commerce, which, freed from every shackle, flies abroad on the pinions of innumerable vessels, and returns, like a bee to her hive, laden with wealth and luxuries.

Saturday, 7 December 2019


One from the back catalogue, this was written on 07/12/2005!

Tearscape(A Villanelle)

Tears of sorrow trickle down your face
I seek to find words of comfort to say
But then you smile, full of joy and grace

Rain is falling, drops in empty space
Dark clouds overhead, a dismal day
Tears of sorrow trickle down your face

Time is always fleeting, always a race
Anxiety creeps in, a threatening way
But then you smile, full of joy and grace

Water on the windscreen, like fluid lace
One pattern of life bringing such dismay
Tears of sorrow trickle down your face

The past leaves impressions, a subtle trace
Overcast, it seems that nothing can allay
But then you smile, full of joy and grace

I kiss you, in affection and love embrace
In the distance, sun over sea, bright ray
Tears of sorrow trickle down your face
But then you smile, full of joy and grace

Friday, 6 December 2019

Jersey As It Is - Part 8

This Friday is a blog in which I have transcribed a translation of an essay called "Jersey as It Is", published in 1844, as the result of a winning entry by F. Robious de La Trehonnais which won first prize in the competition of the Jersey Emulation Society.

This tour sweeps along the Northern coast, then the Eastern, reaching Gorey Castle. Two singular points worth noting. The oyster season runs only in the Autumn, Winter and Spring months from "1st of September, and is closed on the 31st of May". And French fishing limits were guarded by French war-cutters! It is not clear how the fishing limits were agreed upon, but it appears they may have been roughly half way between the coasts of Jersey and France.

Jersey As It Is - Part 8
The northern coast of the island is indented by many small bays and creeks, the principal of which are the Greve de Lecq, so celebrated in picnic remembrances ; in the neighbourhood of which are the beautiful Plemont rocks, pierced with deep and mysterious caves.-

Boulay-bay, which is most admirably calculated for a military harbour, and whose perpendicular rocks conceal their base under a water deep enough to float men-of-war; indeed, one of the greatest advantages that England might draw from the possession of Jersey, would undoubtedly be the establishment of that naval station which, in case of a war with France, would counter-balance powerfully the strength of Cherbourg, and would serve as an observatory to watch the enemy's proceedings in that part of the channel. 

The establishment of this port becomes even necessary, if we consider that St. Malo also is being fortified with an immense dock, capable of sheltering a powerful squadron. But dropping these questions of war and politics, let us go and rest our thoughts on the sweet and graceful Rozel-bay, with its verdant cliffs, its misty and gradually-fading distances, having for its horizon the bright shores of Normandy. Then rapidly passing through the shadowy roads leading to the beautiful Rozel manor-house, let us go down along that path, winding amidst orchards and cottages, and let us admire again at St. Catherine those lovely shores, those old Martello towers, looking so peaceful, notwithstanding the silent guns that surmount their summit; and let us listen with delight to the warbling of the birds, answering the deep bass of the beach.

Next comes Mont-Orgueil castle, sitting on its headland, mournful and silent, like a mausoleum. The great part that this old fortress has played in Jersey history, the whole of which seems written on its walls, deserves a detailed description. 

The monuments of the past are the best guides of history, whose philosophy is never so well understood as when studied on ruins. That splendour of by-gone days, which time bands down to us on these remains, enlightens our mind in the chaos of past centuries, notwithstanding the dust of ages that stain it, the ever-invading ivy that covers it. The dates, sculptured on their fronts formerly so haughty, guide our researches and corroborate or belie written history and tradition and the legends so original, so graceful, that emanate from all the old ruins, show much better than the most authentic documents the manners of generations who now are not even dust. 

Such appears Mont-Orgueil, a vast and gloomy structure, hearing in the style of its architecture all the severe character of the age in which it was erected. None of those vain ornaments which elsewhere charm our eye with their fine and delicate carvings : here everything is strong ; it is an old knight covered with his battle armour; gold does not sparkle on his shield : iron all over,-iron only !

Placed on that part of the island the nearest to France, its construction unites all that constituted an impregnable fortress in the times it was built. It is defended on the sea-side by inaccessible rocks, capriciously shaped by the waves, and incessantly beaten by rapid currents formed by the tides confined within the narrow channel between the two coasts. This part of the castle is destitute of ramparts; narrow windows strongly barred alone open to the sea like loop-holes. 

Towards the land strong walls are built on the rock, of which they seem to be a continuation. The entrance is rather strange, though skilfully directed : it is formed by a road between two ramparts, close to the western part of the castle, ending in a vaulted gate, furnished with towers and all the means of defence then in use. The other extremity is formed by another gate, opening on the outer yard. 

The interior construction astonishes by its strange irregularity ; the accidents of the rock are remedied by steps, many of which are cut in the stone. The most singular fancy seems to have actuated the builders in the erection of the castle itself: here, some turrets, now clothed with ivy,-there, some broken arches,-elsewhere, windows all differing one from another, some made double, with a slight stone shaft in the middle,-others single, but barred with iron half eaten by old age 

On the left of the first court is a bastioned gate, giving entrance to the interior; above the door-way may be seen the arms of Edward the Sixth, with the red dragon, and the date 1553. 

On the right is a passage, lined on both sides with a stone seat, where it is said sat the judges in the trial of criminals,-a simple court, like the justice of those days; opposite this tribunal is a narrow cell, where the prisoner was confined, at the vault of which is a book which served as a gibbet to put an end to his life. 

Still ascending the steps, in the wall of the rampart a gloomy vault is found, at its extremity is a very deep well, the water of which is the purest in the island. Farther on, visitors are shown into a small yard newly cleared up, where, under a vault for a long time unknown, exist some stalactites of a marvellous whiteness. At last are reached the ramparts;-here all the majesty of the reminiscences of Mont-Orgueil is summoned up by the imagination.

Upon these walls, enveloped on all sides with ivy, formerly fought Carteret and his valiant islanders, who had to struggle against two of the most famous warriors of France;-Duguesclin, the hero of Brittany, and the duke of Bourbon. These valiant leaders, though assisted by the flower of French chivalry, found in that weak garrison obstacles to which they were not accustomed. 

The arrangements within correspond with those without; the apartments are small and gloomy. The room where the unfortunate Charles resided during his exile may still be seen ; under this room lies the dungeon where was confined Prynne, the poet, so well known in the history of Charles the First, for the bitterness of his writings and the severity of the punishment they brought upon him. This dungeon has a gloomy and dismal aspect, the vault is uneven and green with moisture, the floor is a damp and slippery earth, light penetrates into it only through a grated loop-hole, situated in the angle of an adjoining cell. 

Happily for the poor captive that opening overlooked the watery expanse, which, sometimes calm and blue, gladdened his heart with bright beams of hope, and sometimes furiously lashing the rocks beneath, harmonized with the stormy strain of his own thoughts. Amidst this stern appearance, this display of strength, on the armour of this old hero, there is a place for the cross of Christ, there is a religious thought in this warlike stronghold. 

In the first court may be remarked the remains of a chapel of the highest antiquity, the only entrance has been made in the roof, the depth of the nave having been filled. There has been discovered in it a rough statue of the Virgin Mary, now enclosed in a glass case for the benefit of visitors, who may still wonder at the brilliant colouring of her drapery. The exact time when this castle was built is rather uncertain; some name Robert, son of William the Conqueror, as its founder.

The name of Mont-Orgueil was given to it, according to some historians, by Henry the Fifth, king of England, and on the most creditable authority by the duke of Clarence. Its history, from the famous attack of Duguesclin and its occupation by Maulevrier, presents to us only secondary occurrences ; prisoners sometimes of importance came by turns to its dungeons; noble and royal exiles have found an asylum within its walls; and at length, from age to age, time has handed it over to us, rich with souvenirs, and firm still, notwithstanding its antiquity. 

Beneath the stern ruins of Mont-Orgueil lies the little town of Gorey, whose harbour shelters, in the season, the oyster fishing-boats employed on that fishery between the coast of France and Jersey. The season begins on the 1st of September, and is closed on the 31st of May. During that period the harbour is all life and motion, upwards of 250 boats bring to it daily the result of their toil. 

As the fishing-ground lies almost midway between the two coasts, it has been necessary to fix upon limits beyond which the English fishermen cannot cruise without being seized by the French war-cutters, who are constantly on the look out to protect their countrymen in the lawful exercise of their industry ; but as the most productive part of the bank is within the French limits, it happens that the English often take the opportunity of foggy weather to drag on their neighbours' ground ; and this accounts for so many of their boats being detained at Granville during the fishing season.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Advent Comes

And by way of something different, for the threshold of Advent, a poem looking forward to this Advent, and the hints of a promise of a final Advent in a different way.

Advent Comes

Light in slums of that great city
Light in farm yard, cattle shed
Mother now conceived a baby
Sleep and dreaming, sound in bed
Touched by angels, touch so mild
As if touched by little child.

Stars shine brightly, light our heaven
Planets meeting, signs for all
From the humblest farmyard stable
To Cathedral choir stall
For the poor and mean and lowly
Signs and wonders of the holy

Old I grow, to second childhood
Soon the final words to say
Blessed be, O God our Mother
Come the grave where I shall lay
Come the promise that should be
The calling of the Lord to me

Advent comes, this yearly pattern
As from infancy we grew
We were little, weak and helpless,
Advent hope makes all things new
Signs and portents in our sadness
Promised hope of word of gladness

Friday, 29 November 2019

Jersey As It Is - Part 7

This Friday is a blog in which I have transcribed a translation of an essay called "Jersey as It Is", published in 1844, as the result of a winning entry by F. Robious de La Trehonnais which won first prize in the competition of the Jersey Emulation Society.

Some items of note. The claim by St Aubin to be a major harbour was clearly a noisy one, and only the building of the Albert Pier seems to have fortified St Helier's position as dominant. It is worth noting that the Pier was originally referred to as the North Pier when its foundation stone was laid in 1847.

Trade with Newfoundland was still profitable and they came to St Aubin not St Helier at this time.

At the time of writing, the road between La Haule and St Aubin was not complete, so the omnibuses (which would have been horse-drawn) had to go up La Haule and down the old St Aubin's High Street.

The date of St Brelade's church is false, it comes from an incorrect manuscript which unfortunately made its way into all the early histories and tourist guides. J.A. Balleine notes:

The alleged date of its consecration, viz., A.D. 1111, is based on a statement contained in the "Livre Noir" of the Cathedral of Coutances in Normandy. But it is now well known that the original "Livre Noir" was stolen some years ago and that the existing book was compiled from memory by a monk of the period who had studied the original MS. very carefully, and early chapters prove that the Church existed prior to A.D. 1111. For example: a charter of Robert I, Duke of Normandy, dated A.D. 1035, "confirms the donations made to the Monastery of Montiviliers", and his son, William the Conqueror, adds thereto, "the half of the revenues derived from eight Churches in Jersey", one of which is-that of St. Brelade. As these allocations confirm previous grants, it is evident that the Churches existed at earlier date than that of the Charter of Robert 1.

Finally, he seems to have met some old lady at St Brelade who told him that the wall paintings in the Fisherman's Chapel were her work! Tourist tales were inaccurate even then, just as today, people have been told of granite coffins containing the bones of dead monks beneath the walls, which Warwick Rodwell (who excavated the site in the 1980s) confirms is a complete fabrication.

Jersey As It Is - Part 7

The harbour of St. Helier’s, though safe and spacious, is too narrow and of insufficient extent for the number of vessels required by the daily increasing commerce of the island ; but a new pier is in the process of building, and though this harbour will not perhaps possess all the desirable qualities of safety, it will, however, prove useful, and will not fail to make up in a short time for the enormous expense it will cost when finished. 

When it was talked of beginning this harbour, a contest between the inhabitants of St. Helier’s and St. Aubin as to the relative merits of the two situations for the harbour was carried on with much spirit on both sides ; after serious discussion and some bitterness of feeling had expended itself in noisy meetings, the claims of St. Helier’s were declared superior, and St. Aubin retired vanquished. 

Though of much less importance than St. Helier’s, St. Aubin holds the second rank in the island. Frequent communication between the two towns is established by means of omnibuses, and the small distance they have to run allows them to make many trips a day. 

A new road is now making under the cliffs, beginning at la Haule. This alteration in the line of the carriages will not only be advantageous by shortening the distance, and avoiding the steep hill, which renders the entrance to St. Aubin so dangerous and toilsome, but will still add to the picturesque beauties of that road already so attractive. 

Up to that place it is but a long street, nearly four miles in length, bordered on one side with houses and villas surrounded with gardens, orchards, and shadowy groves ; on the other, is the sandy beach as polished as a mirror, in which the clouds and sea-birds are reflected in their flight. 

On the right, the hill, forming the rich and varied outline of the bay, rises up in some parts in a gentle slope, in others steep, and in every part displaying the most luxuriant vegetation. On the left, is the Elizabeth castle, with its old tower, its greyish ramparts, and the enormous rocks which rise on all sides as if to defend it. At length, at the entrance of the valley, appears before you the village of St. Aubin, with an air of sweet tranquillity and mysterious silence, which cannot fail to convey a pleasing impression. 

Then, as a contrast to this peaceable picture, is seen the Tower, that inoffensive parody of a fortress. The harbour is large and commodious ; but, as there is no trade whatever going on, it is rare to see more than two or three vessels at the same time, except in winter, when the Newfoundland fishermen return to spend that season. There is also an excellent building-yard, where the largest vessels are constructed.

In summer, the hills that overhang the town preserve in the houses a delicious freshness ; and the tranquillity that reigns through the deserted streets makes it one of those peaceable retreats, where those whose hearts have been wounded by contact with the world and its passions, may come and live alone with their own thoughts, and with but few of the distant echoes of a society they have abandoned, to raise the partially-extinguished embers of their griefs. 

The environs of the village harmonize in every point with the stamp of quietness that is so deeply impressed on this little paradise. If the visitor slowly ascends the winding alley leading to Noirmont, through the paths of the cliff, he rests on rocks carpeted with ivy; beneath his feet the rippling waves gently break among the pebbles of the creeks, and from the luxuriant canopy of verdure over his head, comes the air cool and light, and hidden birds pour forth the melody of their songs. Everything will appear to him charming and beautiful,-everything will reveal to his heart the exquisite wisdom of their Creator.

To describe this old Noirmont point, with its lonely and mysterious recesses, its green and flowery cliffs festooned with ivy, its rocks carpeted with moss, braving the waves to the level of the tides,-those line sandy coves,-that immense horizon, would be a vain attempt. Who that loves the pleasures of memory, dearer even than those of hope, would not dwell on the hours passed here, till the tears fill his eyes, and the scene rises again before him, even by his own fire-side, by his own sullen shore, when the winds howl, and sea and sky and all is desolate ! 

Next comes St. Brelade's-bay, which opens wide and majestic to the long waves that roll over the sands. Oh you who love Nature in its wild beauty ; you pious souls who seek solitude to muse on godly things; poets who ask for inspiration and ecstasy ; painters who love the backgrounds that wane, fading away grey and dim,-the cliffs with those rosy tints that dawn casts on them,-and trees warm with the autumnal shades they borrow from the setting sun ;-come all to St. Brelade, where you will find the object of your researches,-the solution of your doubts,-the sparkle of your genius !

In St. Brelade's-bay arose the first feeling of adoration and dependency on a holier power. The walls of the first Christian temple constructed in the island, were hid in this wilderness. How picturesque and venerable is that old church, sitting amidst the remains of so many generations! 

It is impressive to think that seven centuries have passed over its walls, bearing in their simplicity so strong a proof of their high antiquity. Built on the shore, the waves beat the old wall that surrounds the enclosure, and on holy days, the distant and hollow sound of the ocean over the sandy beach, joins its deep melody to the sacred chants that arise from the temple. 

With what delight I loved to wander over this solitude ; climbing the rugged rocks piled upon the hills around, and from thence overlooking the scene, viewing with one glance all the magnificence spread beneath me, and yielding all my faculties to the delight which such a contemplation created in my mind. Then that old guardian of the mausoleums, a living ruin among so many dead ones, who smiled to every tomb as to a friend, and who was ever seen sitting on the graves, silently grazing a few sheep, and turning her spindle with the undisturbed gravity of one of the Fates. How naturally she used to show visitors about her domains !

For this field of the last rest, that old church, whose date, 1111, she pointed out with her bony hand with so much pride, and the chapel es pecheurs, still older, on the wall of which she explained some remnants of rough paintings representing Herod's massacre, were all her own. 

One could have said, on seeing her so crippled, so much bent under the burden of years, that she was a contemporary of all those ruins. But, alas! Where is she at present? the traveller will in vain look for her on the favourite tomb-stone where she was wont to sit: the long grass of the churchyard has long since covered the seat she so much loved : moss, no longer disturbed, has laid its green velvet over the inscription : she is no more ! The old guardian has at last taken her resting-place among the dead over whom she watched so long.

The village of St. Brelade is composed of a few cottages only, with the vicarage, and a hotel has been lately built for the accommodation of the numerous parties that come to visit it. Everywhere the same aspect of solitude and retirement. The steep hills forming the bottom of the bay abruptly rise in their wild and rugged barrenness ; on their slope granite pierces through the thin stratum of vegetable earth that covers them, and sandy hills, no doubt formed by the tempest, crown their lofty brows.

At a short distance from St. Brelade is St. Ouen's bay : if such a denomination can be given to the immense beach that extends from north to south, and forms almost the whole western extremity of the island. This bay offers nothing remarkable but its desolate aspect ; the banks are formed by sandy hillocks, covered with a hard grass of a silvery hue.

Enormous blocks of stone, scattered about by the storms, lie Pêle-Mêle on the beach ; and in the middle of these crags, rises a small square tower having the name of a fort, which it ill deserves.

In the distance are discovered the lofty cliffs of the island of Sark, and still further the isle of Guernsey. On the right, shines the white tower of St. Ouen's church; and on the left, an immense rock issues from the waves as a throne for the god of storms and shipwrecks: it is the Corbière, an awful rock that no one can see without shuddering. Around its base the 'sea knows no calms, and furious currents urge on their rapid course with a thundering noise. How many storms have raged over its blackened sides ! And then, how many victims lashed with wild waves, have been crushed and torn on its sharp edges !

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Making no Allowance for Putting Children First

This was the proposition which was rejected:

This amendment has been lodged alongside our amendments to Stamp Duty, the FirstTime Buyer Loan Scheme, and the Food Cost Bonus, to improve the cost of living within Jersey. By increasing the child allowance for the first time since 2011 (and childcare allowance for the first time since 2017), we will provide help to families dealing with the rising cost of living. 

It is in line with the Government’s strategic priority to “Put Children First”. 

Households with a child under the age of 16 can currently claim a marginal rate exemption increase of £3,000. The additional child allowance available to single parents is £4,500. We propose to increase these amounts to £3,100 and £4,650 respectively. The childcare allowances are available to all parents. Households with children aged between 4–12 can claim “Child Care Tax Relief” up to £6,150. We propose to increase this to £6,350. Parents with children under the age of 4 can claim “Enhanced Child Care Tax Relief” up to £16,000. We propose to increase this to £16,500. Our proposed increases use the same figure of 3.1% that has been applied to increase the personal tax exemption thresholds in the Government Plan.

Voted down!

So much for "putting children first"! Not when the need for an economic squeeze becomes more important.

All that talk about children first is fine when it comes to things like "Children's Day" but when it comes down to real concrete measures, it is just so much hot air.

The Council of Ministers was solid in its opposition to the measure, including the Minister for Children, Sam Mezec who was now putting children second. Only one Assistant Minister broke ranks and showed that he was not a "nodding dog".

A curiosity: the promoter of breastfeeding, Louise Doublet, and the "breastfeeding fad", John Le Bailly, were both against the proposition.

It is interesting to note that Reform voted "en bloc" against the proposal! Meanwhile, the Constables were split, with 6 in favour and 5 against  (one ill) - Gary Burgess take note!!

In favour were independents, not Reform.

Steve Ahier  For (Pour)
Connétable  Simon Crowcroft  For (Pour)
Deputy  Inna Gardiner  For (Pour)
Connétable  Mike Jackson  For (Pour)
Connétable  Sadie Le Sueur-Rennard  For (Pour)
Deputy  Jeremy Maçon  For (Pour)
Connétable  Deidre Mezbourian  For (Pour)
Senator  Kristina Moore  For (Pour)
Deputy  Kirsten Morel  For (Pour)
Senator  Steve Pallett  For (Pour)
Deputy  Kevin Pamplin  For (Pour)
Deputy  Jess Perchard  For (Pour)
Connétable  Karen Shenton-Stone  For (Pour)

Saturday, 23 November 2019

The Cold Lands

The Cold Lands
Frost on the window pane
The chill winding is blowing
Fallen leaves in the lane
The bonfire is glowing

Dog walkers on bare sands
Sea weed’s black covering
These are the cold lands
Old forest uncovering

The woods barren and bare
A small vole is hibernating
There’s a chill in the air
And winter is waiting

By the fireside, I read a book
Outside the window flew a rook

Friday, 22 November 2019

Jersey As It Is - Part 6

This Friday is a blog in which I have transcribed a translation of an essay called "Jersey as It Is", published in 1844, as the result of a winning entry by F. Robious de La Trehonnais which won first prize in the competition of the Jersey Emulation Society.

Born on 9 Feb 1819, he was baptised at St Brelade's Church on 25 Jul 1819.

This passage looks at some of the author's views on religion, the way in which churches had been stripped to a bare plain look under the influence of Calvinism in Jersey, and the difficulties Roman Catholicism has in coming to Jersey. The Dean who made a speech against them would almost certainly have been François Jeune who served as Dean of Jersey (1838–1844) Master of Pembroke College, Oxford (1844–1864) and Bishop of Peterborough (1864–1868).

The different churches and religions are also listed. A few oddities there:

Brianites are members of a Methodist body formerly called Bible Christians founded in England by William O'Bryan in 1815, splitting off from the Wesleyans. The Bryanite sect merged with the United Methodists in 1907

The New Church (or Swedenborgianism) is the name for several historically related Christian denominations that developed as a new religious group, influenced by the writings of scientist and Swedish Lutheran theologian Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772).

I have been unable to find out who the "Truly Pious" sect were.

At the western extremity of the Royal Square lies the parish church of St. Helier’s. As to its architecture, it brings us back to the infancy of the art; four walls of greyish stone, half eaten away by old age, covered with an irregular roof, the whole commanded by a square tower, having a dial on its front like the eye of a Cyclops :-so much for its exterior. 

The interior would not be more remarkable, were it not that the funeral inscription of Pierson has found in the old temple a stone to place on it his memory, and the remembrance of his death. After all, this church, though evidently very old, is well kept : some say it was founded in 1341. In any other part of the island it would look very interesting; its grave appearance, that grey tint, which five centuries have laid on its granite, would suit well a rural spot, and would add much to the picturesque of the scenery, but in the middle of a city this building is quite out of place.

Whilst gazing on that old temple one cannot refrain from meditating on the destiny which hangs over the works of men, ordains their vicissitudes, determines their duration, and extends or destroys their prosperity. Wherever an aggregation of men has taken place, a religious building has come to demonstrate that instinct of dependence and weakness that belong to the human mind. The want of referring to a first cause all the natural mysteries that surround man,-life which animates him, death which puts an end to his career, the great uncertainty, in which all beyond the grave is involved, have always wrought on his heart a feeling of awe which causes him to bend his knee before the Author of those inexplicable wonders. 

This first want being satisfied, this first craving of conscience being appeased by that act of religious submission, the material interests resume their habitual course. Around the temple, houses are grouped, streets are formed, squares are opened, edifices are built; then population increases, wants are multiplied, taste changes and improves ; time at length touches the generations with his wing and they disappear. 

The first buildings crumble, others are pulled down, larger and more comfortable structures spring from the ruins ; the ancient monument of God alone remains untouched, unimproved, amidst these progressive revolutions. The tombs themselves, those monuments erected over human ruins, crumble and mix their dust with the dust of the bones they cover; but the shadow of the temple sweeps unchanged over these ruins, like the great principle which has caused it to be built.

Why have not Jerseymen extended to their churches that spirit of progress and embellishment which animates them --Is it negligence ?--Is it respect ? Through almost all Europe the new era of architecture, even in times comparatively barbarous, has done away with all those rough structures which might have been sufficient for newly-converted barbarians, but not for civilized Christians. The immense cathedrals which adorn our cities of the middle ages demonstrate, at this hour, the old-time potency of religious enthusiasm among Christian nations.

The architects of those days sought not to exhaust their inspirations with the Parthenon of Athens, or the temples of Rome. The religion of Christ, such as they understood it, supplied them with sublime ideas, with more daring conceptions. Can modern science, which has circumscribed everything within an horizon of rules and principles, tell you the secret of those aerial vaults, those vast piles, those sculptured portals, those solemn naves, where God seems to enthrone Himself in all His awful majesty ? 

Oh! No ; the secret is dead with the faith which disclosed it. Men have bent the old Christian religion to all their interests, to all their passions; enthusiasm is extinct, and the religious sentiment of which we speak can now produce nothing but miserable parodies of churches, well whitewashed and plastered, wherein every sect fashions forth a worship for itself, where each community works out for itself a theory. 

In Jersey, as everywhere else, the principle of union in religious matters, which has created so many marvels, exists no more. Numerous chapels have been lately built by Methodists, Baptists, Independents, etc., and even the Jews talk of erecting a synagogue.

 The Jesuits also, ever actuated by their hatred to Protestantism, and their love of making proselytes through their cunning and sly means, have applied lately to the states for permission to establish on the island a college of their own, which, under the deadly and barren influence of their system, would have proved a wasp's nest for the community, and a source of discord and enmity which could not have failed to venom forever the discord and enmity already extant; but the States, enlightened by a vehement speech of the Dean, showing in glaring and eloquent words what awful results were likely to proceed from the labours of such men, whose actions are directed by such atrocious rules and anti-Christian morality, were unanimous in rejecting their request; and the worthy Father, who had come over himself to try the ground, had the mortification of seeing his hopes blasted under that anathema which has been fulminated against his society from every throne in Europe.

To give an idea of this religious diversity, and of the great number of systems springing from a liberty of which Luther was the first advocate, I have thought that the following table, showing the different religious congregations of St. Helier’s, the number of people composing them, or at least who may find place in the temples where they meet, would not be without interest:

Parish church about 1000
St. James's chapel 1200
St. Paul 800
All Saints 700
English Wesleyans 1100
French ditto 850
Primitive Methodists 400
Bryanites 200
Independents (Halkett Place) 650
Congregationists (Union-street).. 600
Grove-place chapel 200
Baptists 300
Bethel 100

Irish Catholics 700
French ditto 400
St. Mark's chapel will contain ... 1500
The Synagogue 100

Total: 10800
There are, besides, rooms where Quakers, Truly Pious, Swedenborgians, etc., meet in the proportion of 20 to 100.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

The Death of Venice

As Venice faces the catastrophic effect of climate change, a poem looking at its history, and the sadness of today. There's a hidden easter egg or two referring to (1) a movie (2) a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. I visited Venice twice when around 11 and 12, and I once had a glass horse ornament, blown by the glassmakers (of which Venice was famous). It was a fascinating city.

The Death of Venice 

Don’t look now, it is under water
St Mark’s Square flooded out
Buildings taken to the slaughter
Tourists and locals flee in rout

Where Marco Polo was in prison
A Doge of Venice made so bold
Venice triumphant, has arisen
Commerce on the spice road

Galileo’s telescope made here
Stars above the lagoon inspires
Gondoliers glide and so endear
Take a pair of sparkling eyes

Climate change, no place to hide
As Venice sinks under rising tide


There's a clip of an 11 year old me in Venice here. It's old 8mm cine footage and somewhat degraded, but you can still me and the pigeons in St Mark's Square.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Jersey As It Is - Part 5

This Friday is a blog in which I have transcribed a translation of an essay called "Jersey as It Is", published in 1844, as the result of a winning entry by F. Robious de La Trehonnais which won first prize in the competition of the Jersey Emulation Society.

Having dealt with the history, now we have his "tourist guide" to Jersey as it is in 1844, which is fascinating. No lighthouse on Corbière. A windmill in St Aubin's bay! And while most of it is described in glowing terms, the statue of George II in that ridiculous Roman outfit gets a lashing! It must be remembered that it was not until 2016 that his name and regnal dates – 1727 to 1760 was added to the plinth, so it must have seemed bizarre.

Jersey As It Is - Part 5
The traveller, who arrives from France, enjoys a sight which he cannot forget; scarcely has he passed the Minquiers, those awful rocks, the witness and cause of so many shipwrecks, when before him rises an aerial apparition, a long greyish vapour, which seems to hang over the waves like a transparent mist. 

Every minute of his rapid course adds to the distinctness of this cloud. A bright spot soon appears on the right, some villa, no doubt, shining in the sun. The shade of the promontories invests itself with a deeper tint, and the bays and creeks recede into the land. 

On the left, the Corbière erects its rugged and terrible crest, concealing its base under the misty clouds which rise from the sea that rages around. On the right, Mont-Orgueil castle is seen, dark and frowning, at the extremity of its peninsula. Next appears the fort, with its signal-staff and stern ramparts. 

Noirmont point stretches at the other extremity, and these two characteristic spots are joined by a beach curved like a bow, which soon appears gemmed with verdant clusters of trees, thickly dotted with villas and cottages. The steeples peep from the bosom of the valleys, the sails of numerous vessels whiten the wave, the golden sand of the beach extends all round like an immense girdle, and this fairy-like scenery offers at last to the dazzled eye, the magnificent St. Aubin’s-bay. 

In this immense amphitheatre, which displays itself so gorgeously, the gaze is sometimes on the Hermitage rock and the Elizabeth castle, which interpose their grey mass upon the landscape : sometimes on Noirmont, covered with its shadowy trees :-St. Aubin, reflecting itself in its solitary harbour, and mustering its villas half bid with the trees on the sides of its bills : then that windmill, rising on the sandy shore, so white, so graceful and distinct, on the rich dark green of the hill behind, whose indolent wings, scarcely moved by the sea breeze, leisurely ascend and descend, alternately brightening in the sun.

At last comes St. Helier’s, sending forth to the sky its spires of smoke, which alone give an estimate of its extent ; the harbour, thickly filled with masts, and resembling a long avenue of leafless trees; all this ensemble, this panorama of waves and shores, of life and solitude, of motion and tranquillity; those striking contrasts of forts, cottages, streets, and villages ; all this mixture of objects so heterogeneous, but so harmoniously intermixed, presents one of the most beautiful sights that can greet a mortal eye. 

To the stranger the aspect is certainly English; the language that sounds in his ears, the interior of the hotel where he has taken up his quarters, the peculiar appearance of the inhabitants, everything he meets bears a stamp of English fashion not easily mistaken or overlooked.

To those who have known St. Helier’s these last twenty years, this kind of naturalization to the British isles has taken, since that time, a character of similarity in manners, the difference of which fades away more and more. 

The suburbs, which in a few years have extended themselves around the city, and rise on all sides in rows, crescents, terraces, and parades, are most decidedly English ; those little flower-gardens, so neatly divided by gravelled paths, and defended by slender iron railings, so gracefully fronting the houses. The extreme cleanliness, so bright and comfortable to the eye, contrasts charmingly with the dirty and gloomy aspect of St. Malo and Granville. 

Villas, capriciously constructed, peep through the foliage of luxuriant trees, whose dark green adds to their spotless whiteness. Everywhere plots of grass of velvet smoothness, intersected by white gravelled walks, fragrant shrubs and flowers,-cool and mysterious groves, rose-trees softly waved by transient breezes, send forth in the air the sweet perfumes of their blossoms ; everything contributes to the fairy aspect of those beautiful suburbs. Seldom have Nature and the industry of man joined their skill in so happy a manner. 

The roads which wind around those villas are wide, and kept in good order, with a broad path for pedestrians almost everywhere overshadowed by trees banging over the walls and railings ; and crossing this rural scenery numerous and brilliant equipages give it an air of life and motion.

Besides its suburbs, St. Helier’s boasts of several other remarkable parts. The famous Halkett-place, both a walk and a market, offers rather a singular aspect; on one side a row of symmetrical houses, the ground-floors of which are generally taken up with elegant shops, some of them really attractive, though inferior to those which are to be seen in King street. On the other side is the market, which, viewed on a Saturday, presents a dense crowd, coming in and going out. 

The Royal Square comes next, with its weekly meetings, where political coteries agitate, in open air, their most important questions. In the middle rises a statue that resembles nobody, that has not been placed upon its pedestal by any motive of reminiscence, respect, or glory ; a dull monument without a name or a date, which has not even the merit of execution. Stupid and vain parody which has usurped the place where Peirson fell, bravely defending his flag, and which rises more insignificant than a rough stone, where the statue of the hero ought to stand proud and alone !

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Double Standards in Jersey Conservation?

When Le Masurier planned to regenerate a neglected area of Bath Street by building a 122-bedroom Premier Inn hotel and 145 flats in what could be one of the biggest single developments the town has ever seen.

Save Jersey’s Heritage published alternative proposals in the hope of saving the 1830s Regency-era listed building that could be demolished under the original scheme. Marcus Binney, a founding member of the heritage group, said that tweaking the application could save the building and also allow the development to take place.

Objections to Le Masurier's plans were also made by the National Trust, Marcus Binney on his own, and Save Jersey’s Heritage.

Jersey Heritage in its comments on the listing status of the building noted that:

“It was acknowledged that part of the ground floor and the original entrance wing had been lost. It was also noted that the 20th century extensions and other later external additions to the front (east) and side (north) of the 1830s house were not of interest and were excluded from the listing. Consequently, the listing was restricted to the main circa 1830s house as shown on the plan attached to the Listing Schedule.”

“No.90 Bath Street was previously assessed for inclusion on the former Historic Buildings Register under an earlier protection regime in 2007. The advice from Jersey Heritage and the Ministerial Registration and Listing Advisory Group at that time was that No.90 had group value with No.92 and that this group value and its importance as one half of a pair of houses should be recognised in any future development of the site. It was, however, concluded that as the original exterior character of the building had been damaged by the addition of a side extension (probably incorporating the original entrance wing), the reconfiguration of the roof from its original hipped form, and the loss of external historic features such as timber windows and doors, that No.90 failed to meet the criteria for registration in its own right.”

Ville à l’Evêque Cottage in Trinity was also slated to be demolished to allow the construction of three houses. Fortunately it has beensaved from demolition following a successful appeal.

Advocate Fred Benest noted that “‘The cottage was built in 1735 and was only one of three traditional buildings in the Ville à l’Evêque settlement that has survived.”

During the planning committee meeting, it was suggested that, as the cottage had undergone substantial modification and was not listed, it was not worth saving. Fred disagreed: “There cannot be any reasonable doubt that the profile and the footprint of the cottage is original. It is only on the south side that a dormer has been put into its roof.”

Clearly despite the town houses having been reconstructed considerably, because they had been counted as “listed”, the alterations – really also substantial modification - were deemed of no significance by the heritage lobby. But when it came to the cottage – where the dormer is invisible from the road facing side – it was not listed, and could go!

All the National Trust could say was “This cottage appeared on the Godfrey map and has been traced back to 1803 by Marie -Louse Backhurst who found it was owned by Corbel and Binet. The Trust hopes therefore that before the cottage is demolished its historical features are recorded.

Clearly they hadn’t done as much historical research as Fred Benest who traced the history back to 1735!

Save Jersey’s Heritage, Marcus Binnet, and the rest of the usual bandwagon of heritage objectors were nowhere to be seen. This was not a listed building, and not seen of importance!

It should be noted that the town development objections gave rise to this reply from Le Masurier

“The report highlights that the exterior, interior and setting of 92 Bath Street has been significantly damaged and, indeed, the Listing does not extend to the pair of buildings (i.e. 90 Bath Street). The schedule limits internal interest to features including a mahogany staircase, some panelled doors and matching joinery, windows with panelled lining and bedroom fireplaces. Le Masurier is sympathetic to any listed structure and we have offered to carefully remove and salvage these listed features, where possible, so they can be re-appropriated by heritage groups.”

Doesn’t this fit with the idea proposed for the Trinity Cottage by the National Trust that before it is “demolished its historical features are recorded.”? 

I leave you with two pictures. Of course a picture is not the whole story, but it is surely part of it, and quite honestly I find it appalling that the heritage groups seem to have double standards when it comes to their own particular brand of heritage. 

Described as: A fine example of an 1830s house [that] illustrates the development of the town and architectural fashion in St. Helier in the early 19th century that must be preserved. 

Described as: A cottage that is not listed and has had “substantial modifications” and can be demolished.

I'd also like to observe that the heritage lobby seems to have done nothing to argue for improving and restoring the facade of those buildings until demolition came along.

I'd also observe that the nearby Odeon, another listed building, has had massive and substantial modifications internally. From a classic cinema with circle and stalls, it was radically restructured into a multiplex before closing, removing the original seating and much of the internal fabric.

I'm sure this will annoy some people, but I am not against preserving heritage, I just think that those who lobby for preservation often seem to have significant blind spots, and a philosophy of conservation that at times appears inconsistent. 

Another example I could cite can be seen here:

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Armistice 1919

London on November 11th 1919 – a two minute silence at 11 o’clock to observe the first anniversary of the end great war. This photograph by an unknown artist conveys the collective grief of a people. To stand in that crowd in the stillness and silence for two minutes – the individual weight of personal loss and mourning magnified beyond imagination.

The closest Saturday (my poetry day) to Remembrance Sunday, and a suitable poem. It is 100 years since the first Armistice day.

Armistice 1919

On year after, crowds gather, silence begins
We weep at the lost youth of a nation
And the guns stopped, war’s cessation
We won, they say, but no one really wins

The folly of human kind, the old, old sins
Arrogance leading onwards to damnation
On year after, crowds gather, silence begins
We weep at the lost youth of a nation

Remembering the dead, and not who wins
Piece together fragments without causation
Honour those lost in commemoration
And no more the triggers on the firing pins
On year after, crowds gather, silence begins

Friday, 8 November 2019

An Historical Sketch of the Jersey Baptist Church – Part 2: the Twentieth Century

Taking a couple of weeks break from "Jersey As It Is", here's the second of two parts of the history of the Jersey Baptist Church.

An Historical Sketch of the Jersey Baptist Church – Part 2


On 1st January 1903 Mr. Alfred Benest passed away. It was in his house that the Church had been formed in 1864 and he had served it faithfully ever since.


In August 1914 the membership of the Rev. W.D. Reynolds, B.A., B.D., was transferred from Beckenham so that he could serve as a special representative of the Jersey Baptist Church at Matadi in the Belgian Congo (now Zaire) where he was the Principal of a training college for African preachers and pastors. The Jubilee of the Church was held in the autumn of the same year but rather quietly due to the tragic outbreak of the First World War.


The Grove Street premises were sold to the Oddfellows Friendly Society in 1920 for £600 and two years later a manse was purchased at a cost of £1,000, the Baptist Building Fund lending £500 free of interest.

The Revd. S.J. Smurthwaite was appointed in 1930 and served the Church faithfully for nineteen years until his retirement in 1949.

Mr. Smurthwaite's ministry included the five years of German occupation (1940-1945) which followed the fall of France in the Second World War. During the occupation, when the Channel Islands were completely cut off from the mainland of Great Britain, the Jersey Baptists, in common with other islanders, suffered many privations but nevertheless continued to meet regularly for worship and fellowship, and continued to save money for the Baptist Missionary Society. Because of the difficulty of 'blacking-out' and heating the main Church building many of the services were held in the school hall.


Following the liberation of the Island in 1945 it was decided to allocate £50 of the Thank offering to the Baptist Union's Fund for the re-building of bombed churches in the United Kingdom. The money reserved for the B.M.S. was also sent to England.


The old Manse in St. Mark's Road-was sold in 1949 and the present Manse at Millais Park was purchased for the sum of £3,600.


The Baptist work and witness suffered some losses during and after the German Occupation and from 1960 the Church was helped by the Baptist Union Home Work Fund but happily became self-supporting again in 1968.

The Rev. Clifford Measday, A.R.I.B.A. commenced his ministry in 1963 and under his guidance the first alterations and internal decorations to the main church building since 1927 were carried out. The building was re-opened for worship in 1964, the Centenary Year of the Church and in the following year the fellowship gratefully accepted the anonymous gift of a new electronic organ.

The active membership gradually more and, looking to the Risen Lord for help and wisdom, took fresh heart.


A valedictory service was held on 2nd September 1967 for Miss-Marion Furzer, a Church member who had been called to serve as a nurse with The Leprosy Mission at Purulia in India.

In 1965 the Church had become aware of the poor nature of their Church Halls and through a gift from a group of interested ladies in the Baptist Churches in New Jersey, in the United States of America, decided to commence a re-building fund.


The Church invited the Minister, a registered architect, to design new halls and these were opened on the 5th September 1970 by his wife, Mrs. Doreen Measday. The rebuilding marked a significant step in the work of the Baptist Church in Jersey.

Through the earnest prayers of the fellowship the giving was remarkable, the sum of £14,000 being raised in the short space of six years. Many friends in Jersey, on the mainland and overseas gave generously and the Church was also grateful to the Southern Baptist Association Assembly for being recommended as the Chapel Case for 1971, the sum of £688 being received.


At a Church meeting in May 1973 it was decided that the Church would 'twin' with a French Baptist Church at Vitry-sur-Seine on the outskirts of Paris. For several years this small fellowship had met and worshipped in a house in which also its Pastor, the Rev. Georges Bonneau and his wife lived, but they were now engaged in the erection of a large modern church building. The friends and members of the Jersey fellowship not only upheld the new venture in their prayers but gave practical help with the building work and financial support by means of the Thank-offering and other gifts.


Rev. Measday was invited to speak at the official opening of the new building in May 1974, several friends and members of the Jersey Church were also present for the occasion.

On the 3rd June 1973 a valedictory service was held for Church member Miss Anne Agnes, prior to her departure for Africa where she was to serve for eighteen months as a missionary nurse in the Southern Sudan. On the 15th September 1974 another was held for two more members, the Rev. Robin Agnes, brother of Anne, and his wife Eileen who had been called to serve with the Belgian Evangelical Mission.

The Jersey Church undertook to provide full financial support for Anne whilst she was serving in Africa and now contributes to the support of Robin who is the Pastor of a small evangelical fellowship at Grivegnee, near Liege, in Belgium.

At the Southern Baptist Association Assembly in May 1974 Mr. Measday formally invited the Association to hold its 151st Annual Assembly in the Channel Islands in 1975. As a result of this invitation the Jersey and Guernsey Baptist Churches will this year be acting as hosts to 150 Officers, Ministers, Delegates and Personal Members of the S.B.A. It will be the first occasion in the history of the S.B.A. that an assembly has been held in the Islands.

In 1889 when the Rev. C.A. Fellowes wrote a 25-year-old history of the Church, he chose the text from 1 Samuel 7: 12 as being the essence of their convictions at that time, 'Hitherto the Lord hath helped us'. We too can think of no better Scripture to close this brief historical note.

May 1975

Ministers of the Jersey Baptist Church
1865-1867 Revd..F.F. Metcalf
1867 Revd. George Sheppard
1868 Revd. H.B. Bardwell
1868-1869 Revd. B.J. Holland
1870-1874 Revd. George Hider
1874-1875 Revd. Joseph Hawkes
1875-1878 Revd. George Weatherley
1879-1880 Revd. F. Johnson
1880-1885 Revd. Henry Wallace
1886-1895 Revd. C.A. Fellowes
1896-1901 Revd. William Boneer
1901-1905 Revd. Gwynne Thomas
1905-1911 Revd. Dr. J.A. Monk
1911-1921 Revd. Wilson Haffenden
1921-1929 Revd. Grimshaw Binns
1930-1949 Revd. S.J. Smurthwaite
1949-1954 Revd. B.H. Carpenter
1955-1958 Revd. W.G. Davis
1958-1962 Revd. W.G. Leggasick
1963-. Revd. Clifford M. Measday