Buying an apple

In 1935 my character Tess in A Jersey Midsummer Tale bought an apple at Newman’s Cash Stores while considering what to do about Robin, a young man who waited outside for her.


Credit Jerripedia

85 years later she might be surprised to see the present shop on the site at Red Houses is rather bigger, but I guess she could still buy an apple there.

Waitrose Red Houses

Micro History

In Jersey we have our big historical set pieces; Mont Orgueil, Elizabeth Castle, the amazing Neolithic structure which is La Hougue Bie. Scattered around are the few dolmens that remain more or less intact. We have the world-renowned Paleolithic cave structure of La Cotte.

But within our 9 x 5 island there is so much more of historical and social interest everywhere, all around. Often you might not see or notice these bits and pieces. To be honest, they may not be of huge interest to everyone.

But here are a few example I’ve collected in the last couple of days with easy walking distance of where I live.

I’ve been past this hundreds of times without noticing it. It reads ‘St.C 1’, meaning it’s in the parish of St Clement and it’s one mile from the Royal Square in St Helier. See how the later wall is carefully shaped around it. As you can see, there it is, marked on an 1849 map, to the right of the map.


Green Road 1849

Disused railway platform
Moving on to the FB Fields, on land gifted to Jersey by Florence Boot née Rowe, a Jersey girl who married Jesse Boot, the founder of the chemist chain. Here is the back edge of the platform of the former Grève d’Azette railway station that ran alongside the fields until it ceased operations in 1929.


Changing rooms
And, just a little further along, what is grandly referred to as a ‘Pavilion’ on the 1935 map. Changing rooms serving the further reaches of the FB Fields. Let me tell you that cramming a team of cricketers and their gear into one of the small changing rooms within is mission impossible.


Concrete square
This is a curiosity that people walk by without a second glance. It looks suspiciously German, possible a gun mount, but I can’t find any reference to it. It’s a handy resting place anyway. [Edit: it’s a water tank previously used to water the fields.]


Main Pavilion
A lovely building, probably built in the 1920s. It’s given great service to generations of sportsmen and women.


Cricket nets
And finally (for now) our lovely cricket nets which I remember being opened by (I believe) Derek Randall and now in rack and ruin through lack of maintenance.


Witches Rock, Jersey

Long ago in Jersey, Hubert was engaged to be married to Madeleine. Hubert liked to go for long walks and one night his walk took him to Rocqueberg Point, where he fell asleep next to the great rock there. When he awoke the rock had gone. He was in a magic wood surrounded by beautiful girls dancing among the trees. Hubert danced with them, and promised to return the following night. Hubert told Madeleine his story and she warned him not to return there, but Hubert decided to go.


Madeleine hurried to the priest and he advised her to take a crucifix and follow Hubert. She did so, to find him dancing gaily with some ugly old witches. When Madeleine held the crucifix up the witches vanished, shrieking. Hubert was saved.

Witches Rock

1959, credit Jerripedia

And to this day you can still see the Devil’s cloven hoofmark on the rock.

Buffalo Bill’s Jersey connection

Hardly matching the Irish diaspora, but you’ll find Jersey surnames all over the world, principally on the Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec, a reminder of the flourishing cod fishing days there.

But a more unusual link is that created by Philippe L’Escaudé of St Ouen, the parish situated in the far north-west of Jersey. It turns out that he’s the great-great-great grandfather of William Cody, or Buffalo Bill. Philippe was born in Jersey in 1668 into an old established Jersey family. At some stage Philippe emigrated, quite possibly to Canada. Along the line the surname was corrupted or amended, but the acute accent over the final ‘e’ of the surname would certainly explain how that came to be.

William’s (that is Buffalo Bill’s) father Isaac was born in 1811 in modern Ontario and his mother in Trenton, New Jersey (which itself is highly significant in Jersey’s history). William was born in Iowa in 1846. He became a hunter, soldier and Indian fighter, but his reputation was artificially enhanced by a writer, Ned Buntline, who made money out of his mostly fictional Buffalo Bill adventures.

Buffalo Bill

William later became famous for his touring Wild West show, a pastiche of what life was supposedly like in those pioneering days. He died in Denver in 1917.

Today Philippe’s former Jersey homestead in St Ouen is marked by a plaque, fittingly in Jersey’s own wild west.


Lavoirs and Abreuvoirs in Jersey

Not unique to Jersey but there are a lot of them around. They’ve become so much part of the landscape that they rarely attract a glance or comment from islanders. Some remain in fine order, others more neglected.

Lavoirs were communal clothes washing facilities. They were constructed over, or beside, running water. There would have been an agreement which families could use them, perhaps for a small fee. In this way the cost of construction might have been recovered. Here’s one of my favourites at Ruette Mathurin, Grouville. Note the stream running through the meadow into the lavoir.

Lavoir, Ruette Mathurin

Another, off Princes Tower Road, St Saviour, now in the care of the National Trust for Jersey.

Lavoir Princes Tower Road

Finally, here’s one at Mont Mado, St John in use in 1909 – credit Jerripedia. There are many others.

Mont Mado wiki

The abreuvoir is the lavoir’s big brother – it was designed to provide drinking water for animals. Possibly our best example is at Le Marais a la Cocque, Grouville. Here the abreuvoir is accompanied by a public water pump, its steps in latter times providing amusement for big children.

Grouville old Société

Credit Société Jersiaise

Grouville new

Mont Orgueil, Jersey

Easily the most photographed location in Jersey, Gorey Castle (later to be named Mont Orgueil) owes its origins to those pesky French. While King John of England was also Duke of Normandy, our French island (which shortly afterwards became British) was a peaceful backwater. When John lost his Norman possessions and Jersey opted to stay loyal to John, trouble was in the offing. In 1212 there is first mention of a defensive castle here at Gorey, 14 miles from the Normandy coast.

Though the French were a constant nuisance in the centuries to follow, Mont Orgueil was never taken by force. But in the 1500s the castle became vulnerable to cannon fire from higher ground and was superseded by Elizabeth Castle. Only thanks to Sir Walter Raleigh, Governor of Jersey 1600 – 1603, was it saved from demolition.

Mont Orgueil Kev

Credit Kevin Lloyd

Gorey and its little harbour were transformed in the early 19th century by a lively oyster fishing trade and, later, a shipbuilding industry along its shores. The 20th century saw mass tourism and this was a hugely popular spot.

These days Gorey is quieter, but in easy reach for a walk around the harbour area or a visit to its bars and restaurants. Of course Mont Orgueil is normally open to visitors and it’s my pleasure to be one of the volunteer tour guides there.

Portelet Bay, a Forgotten Tragedy

The Great War 1914-18 didn’t touch the Channel Islands directly. True, many Jerseymen joined up to fight, and many never returned. And a POW camp popped up on the sand dunes with hundreds of Germans enjoying a little holiday there. But generally speaking, life in our quiet island continued as normal.

On the site of the present day Highlands College was a Jesuit school, Notre Dame de Bon Secours. On 6th July 1915 a group of students set off for their annual picnic with a school master. Their destination was Portelet Bay on Jersey’s south-west coast.

The weather was poor – cloudy and windy. Nonetheless the boys, seeing the tide receding, decided to bathe. Few were able to swim, but ventured into the shallower waters off the western edge of the causeway leading over to Janvrin’s tomb.

front cover-page-0

It appears that a large wave swept the boys over the causeway to the deeper waters on the other side.

Eight boys were drowned.

Bat Out Of Cork

It was December 2009 when I left Ireland to return to Jersey after two years. The financial crisis had done me in. Here’s my final blog from Ireland, and my final run in the city of Cork.

Back On The Rock

The present lousy weather isn’t, of course, confined to Cork. However yesterday (Saturday) in the city centre was one of the gloomiest, wettest and windiest days it is possible to have. Happily the city has places like the excellent English Market and the Crawford Art Gallery to dry out in whilst hoping that the River Lee remains where it is on the spring tide. The recent flooding was most unwelcome with the Mardyke, including the first class UCC sports complex, being particularly badly damaged.

Today (Sunday) was a distinct improvement with only a couple of drenchings as I made my way from Togher up Spur Hill and into the countryside beyond. At three miles I hit a nice rhythm and, with a little right and left, found myself on a proper country lane – the type with grass growing down the middle. It is not so easy to find these…

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Jersey’s German Dead

During their five years uninvited stay with us, it was inevitable that a number of Nazi Germany’s forces passed away. Natural causes accounted for many. There were drownings, accidents and the odd suicide and execution. In the latter months particularly, growing numbers died at the General Hospital after sustaining battle wounds in France or in the seas around the Channel Islands. Shortage of anaesthetic at that stage meant that many died badly.

The bodies were added to those who were prisoners of war here during WW1 but who passed away during their stay.

Most were interred at St Brelade’s churchyard. Below are then-and-now shots of the Rectory grounds. The first (thank you Peter Knight) was taken in 1947 and shows a number of marked graves. The wooden crosses replaced the original iron crosses. These graves were eventually moved across the road into the main churchyard. The second image is from much the same spot, taken today.

War graves St Brelade 1947DSCN0964

This is the main German cemetery in 1945, presumably after the Occupation (credit Jerripedia).


In 1961 the bodies were exhumed and re-interred at the military cemetery at Mont de Huisnes, St Malo, France.



The Acid Test – Heaven or Hell

Here’s a golden oldie. Why not ponder your impending doom and calculate whether you’ll make it into Heaven or whether you’ll have the Devil prodding you with his fork for eternity. Let me know your score.

Back On The Rock

Following on from yesterday’s post I reckon St Peter must have a marking guide when people apply for admission at the Pearly Gates. It makes for consistency, especially if he’s having a bad day and he’s tempted to give every blighter the thumbs-down.

And presumably the Ten Commandments are still the acknowledged source of compliance with God’s standards. No one told me otherwise so it’s as good a way as any to measure myself up against. Not that age 60 means I’ll be applying shortly (life expectancy in Jersey is 79) but it’s good to be prepared.

So, marks out of 10 – 1 = irredeemably awful, 10 = top marks.

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. I’m off to a flyer here. But wait. What if Peter were to question me about Rory Gallagher, Stevie Nicks or Trevor Francis? Gods in my eyes. Best own up…

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