My Saturday mornings invariably used to be spent at the track, usually coaching or at least mixing with the track crowd. I’ll get back to that at some stage I think, but in the meantime I’ve developed other little interests. One of these is local history and this Saturday I spent a couple of hours in the library reading Daff Noel’s historical novel ‘The Poor Shall Inherit.’ The subject is the Westaway family whose name is well known to this day due to the trusts named after them. In particular generations of Protestant schoolchildren of the working classes benefitted from vouchers entitling them to ‘Westaway Shoes’, though, due to their hard-wearing functionality, said children weren’t always grateful when being fitted out for them.
Anyway Ms Noel’s novel describes how Nathaniel Westaway came to Jersey in the early years of the 19th century, married and had five children, though one son died early. He was a master builder and lived in town in Don Street next to his builder’s yard. As he advanced in years he sold the business and moved his family to the outskirts of town. This home was one of six he had built in a crescent in the Le Coie area at the foot of St Saviour’s Hill. In the meantime he had gifted a house in Belmont Road to his eldest son John, who turned out, according to Ms Noel, to be the black sheep.
Not knowing either of these properties I went for a little walk en route to the match at Springfield. John’s house in Belmont Road, Surrey Lodge, is now a guest house that I must have walked past a hundred times. It’s nondescript from the outside and indistinguishable from many others. So onwards in search of St Saviour’s Crescent, Nathaniel’s second home. And there it is on the main St Saviour’s Road, a little set back. There used to be gardens in front but of course that is now parking. The Westaway home is no.1, detached and the one furthest from town. I stood and gawped like I’d never seen a rather neglected Victorian crescent before. But I’m fascinated now by these places which we mainly ignore as we pass by but which have such a place in our history.
The Westaways used to walk in a nearby meadow called the Spring Fields. Today at Springfield Jersey hosted Guernsey in the annual Muratti. (Each year Alderney host one or other of their rival islands in the semi-final but the only question is the margin of defeat.) I’ve not been to a local footy match for a few years and the quality has not improved in the meantime. Guernsey deservedly won 1-0 but only because of a brainstorm by the Jersey goalie who brought down the Guernsey striker after the ball had been played well away from danger. I was pleased that Jersey didn’t force extra time. By that stage I was well fed up with the aggressive posturing of the rival island youths, and the unpleasant ‘banter’ of many older blokes, from both islands, who ought to grow up. In fact some of the banter was passably witty and I might be less grumpy if every such exchange wasn’t spiced with f*ck, f*ckin’ and variations thereon. I’m not sure why I’m so girlie about this as I followed Birmingham City through most of the 60s and 70s, and those occasions weren’t Sunday School outings. Maybe it’s being involved in athletics where the competition is hard but done with respect has got me this way.