education

Celebrating a Riot!

Today in Jersey is a Public Holiday!

But it's not one we usually celebrate, this is a 'one off' bank holiday in Jersey- for just this year!

The Jersey Corn Riots festivalThis weekend we've been celebrating the 250th anniversary of the Jersey Corn Riots, which led to major legislative reforms and a fairer society!

We've had a four day festival where there have been lots of public events not just so we can have a great time and a day off work, but also so we may learn more about why the past matters and have an opportunity to cherish our heritage and thank our forefathers, and mothers, for the change they made happen which allows US to live in a fair community.

So ... what were the Jersey Corn Riots all about?

I've been doing some research and I learn that back in the 18th century, power in Jersey was concentrated in just a few hands, and particularly in the hands of one family ... specifically the Lemprière family. In the mid 18th century, the two 'top jobs' in the island were held by Lemprières. In 1750, Charles Lemprière  was appointed Lieutenant-Bailiff while his brother Philippe was named Receiver-General. Political as well as economic power lay with just a few influential individuals.

There were those in the island who resented and opposed the concentration of power in just one family and one man in particular, Captain Nicholas Fiott, a businessman and sea merchant who had a long standing feud with Charles Lemprière, was determined to bring them to account. Fiott wanted to take the Lieutenant-Bailiff to court but so powerful was Charles that no lawyers would represent the sea merchant. Eventually Fiott DID take his claims to litigation but instead ended up being prosecuted by Lemprière for insulting members of the Court. Fiott received a fine and was ordered to get down on his knees to pray for the forgiveness of God, the King and the Court (a sentence called ‘amende honorable’) which was just humiliating. Fiotte refused, was sent to prison and then left the island in disgrace. 

Jersey in those days (and some would say has been down the centuries and still is to some extent) an island of 'haves' and 'have nots' - rich and influential people holding power and not really bothered about those further down the chain who effectively were just there to 'serve'.

During the mid to late 1700s, across the world there was a spirit of 'revolution'. Think the American Revolution which included the United States Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. And in Europe there were the seeds of revolution ... just across the water from Jersey in France, the French Revolution (1789 - 1799). People everywhere were beginning to realise that life was just too unfair and they didn't like it! They wanted change, not just to law and privilege and equal rights, but to ensure everyone could enjoy the simple things like a decent wage and a roof over their heads and the ability to put food on the table. The rising cost of living and costs of housing and food was causing great dissent and while some lived in the lap of luxury and lauded it over others, many lived in poverty and for them there appeared to be no justice in law or life.

In 1767 here in Jersey, anger was simmering and people began protesting about the export of grain from the Island. Anonymous threats were made against shipowners and just a year later, a law was passed to keep corn in Jersey. However, in August 1769 the States of Jersey - the Government of Jersey which was populated by rich and influential men -  repealed this law, claiming that crops in the Island were plentiful. Rich merchants were missing out on the export of the crop. Vested interest reigned supreme in the Jersey government and the courts!

But the feeling in the general population was growing that actually this was all a plot to raise the price of wheat. And this, of course, would only benefit the rich, many of whom had ‘rentes’ owed to them on properties that were payable in wheat. As major landowners, the Lemprière family stood to profit hugely from the change in law.

There were food shortages, rising prices and an unfair taxation system and in that summer of 1769, the defiance began. A ship loaded with corn for export was raided by a group of women who demanded that the sailors unload their cargo and sell it in the Island,   

On Thursday 28th September 1769, a group of very unhappy islanders from the parishes of Trinity, St Martin, St John, St Lawrence and St Saviour marched towards the main town of St Helier ... they were joined in great numbers by residents of the town and they descended on the main government buildings. It's reckoned that around 500 islanders stormed the Royal Court - the seat of power - on that day!

A Court called the 'Assize d’Héritage' was in session at the time, hearing cases relating to property disputes. The Lieutenant-Bailiff, Charles Lemprière, was sitting as Head of the Court when the crowds gathered outside. The Corn Rioters were ordered to disperse but instead they stormed the building and forced their way into the Court Room armed with clubs and sticks. Inside, they ordered that their demands be written down in the Court book.  What they wanted went to the heart of fairness and equality for the 'ordinary' people of Jersey ...

• The lowering of the price of wheat to a set price

• Foreigners to be be ejected from the Island.

• That the King's tithes be reduced 

• That the value of currency be set 

• A limit on the sales tax.

• Seigneurs (those rich and influential men who ruled the 12 parishes) to stop enjoying the practice of 'champart' (the right to every twelfth sheaf of corn or bundle of flax).

• That seigneurs end the right of ‘Jouir des Successions’ (the right to enjoy anyone’s estate for a year and a day if they die without heirs).

• That branchage fines could no longer be imposed - this is the fine which, even today, is imposed if your hedge or trees are blocking a pathway or road 

• That Rectors (the Anglican parish priests ) no longer be allowed to charge tithes except on apples.

• That the Customs’ House officers be ejected.

As we see, this really all relates to the condition of the people, many of whom were living in poverty and enjoyed no 'rights' at all in law and who were subject to taxes at the drop of a hat, with no recourse for fair negotiation.

But in addition, the Corn Rioters also wanted charges dropped against Captain Nicholas Fiott - that  islander who had taken the Lemprières to court and who had had to leave the island as a result. The rioters wanted him to be be able to come home without any  repercussions.

The riots were undoubtedly intimidating for the court and those used to having things their own way. After the events of September 28th, the rioters' demands were published in the Market and announced on the Sunday following in all 12 parishes. By the Sunday evening, the Lieutenant-Bailiff and the Jurats (court officials/judges) claiming to feel unsafe, fled for safety to Elizabeth Castle - that's a castle fortress on a small island in the bay just off the coast of St Helier.

On October 6th, a meeting of the States of Jersey was held at the Castle when it was agreed that Charles Lemprière, together with two Jurats, and Philippe Lemprière, would travel to London  to present the issues facing them and the island of Jersey to the Privy Council, which advises the Crown  and which is still Jersey's main connection with the Monarch.

At first, hearing about the Jersey troubles by those with vested interests, the Privy Council was outraged and commanded that the demands of the rioters be erased from the Court records. On November 1st, a Royal Pardon and a reward of £100 was offered to any rioters who named the ringleaders.

However, once the Privy Council, representing the British monarch, became aware of the full situation - both sides of the argument in Jersey - the protestors were eventually pardoned.

After the Corn Riots, a Dutch heritage military commander called Colonel Rudolph Bentinck was sent to Jersey with five companies of soldiers to bring peace and to start an investigation into the riots and the circumstances surrounding the unrest.  What he discovered was that the situation was not as serious as had been reported but changes were still implemented. At the centre of the unrest was wheat so it was once again made illegal to export crops and a committee was set up to examine the distribution of grain. In 1770 Bentinck was named Lieutenant-Governor of Jersey, the Monarch's representative, which gave him even more authority.

Until this time, little in the way of law and order had been written down in Jersey - much was just 'common law' which, of course, invariably benefited those old families who ruled the roost. In September 1770, Lt-Gov Bentinck declared that a set of rules and regulations be written down to make the Law as fair as possible. 

Jersey flagSo it was that in 1771 'Bentinck’s Code' was introduced which clearly laid down the Laws of the Bailiwick of Jersey. Among other things, the code divided the power to make the laws and enforce them between the States of Jersey and the Royal Court. Although Charles Lemprière remained as Lieutenant Bailiff, he had lost his monopoly on power.

This meant that the general population could not, or should not, be held to ransom by the rich and powerful. As Bentinck's Code said ...The aim was that everyone ‘…be no more obliged to live in a continual dread of becoming liable to punishments, for disobeying Laws it was morally impossible for them to have the least knowledge of.’

As I said before, the Corn Riots started Jersey on the road to reform and a fairer society but we still live in an unequal society ... but for different reasons. 

Unfortunately, Jersey is still in my opinion an island of 'haves' and have nots' ... those who have money and influence and those who do not or feel they do not. Although we have a solid government system, there is a still a feeling that the rich and powerful - including the influential finance industry - pull the strings of power. In recent decades, with the very high cost of housing (synonymous actually with London prices) and a higher cost of daily living than many other places in the British Isles and other places on the planet,  many people now cannot afford to own property, which is now in the hands of fewer and fewer people. There's resentment in some quarters of rich immigrants who come to Jersey and appear to be allowed to buy up big houses and swathes of land, including land on our coastline, and although many do bring with them wealth via the high value taxation regime, many locals believe it's not worth the payoff. 

These days many people do work two or three jobs just to pay the (high cost of) rent and many do believe the government is not acting, by and large, in their interests. They feel that they have no 'power' to effect change, are disgruntled with local politics and feel disenfranchised. Historically people have always left Jersey to seek their fortunes elsewhere but now people are leaving our island because they feel they have no future here!

Some things never change!

I would argue that this weekend, as we have marked the 250th anniversary of events which did bring about change for our forefathers and mothers, has been not just interesting from an historic perspective, but also serves as a reminder that, in fact, Jersey does have a democracy to be proud of. 

We can learn from our history and heritage. And if the Corn Riots of September 1789 teach us one thing it's this - Jersey is, or at least should be, about it's people - first and foremost. Those who live and work and have their being here in our lovely island. And it's a chance to acknowledge that when the people get to the end of their tether and decide to speak out and act ... it is possible that things may happen.

Change can come! Maybe we just need to be brave!

 

 

 


The Story of Brave Men

This week has been an exciting one in Jersey.

Among other things, we had a Royal Visit.

HRH The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) did a whistle-stop tour of our lovely island. And although we've had a very damp week, actually on Thursday we were blessed with glorious sunshine, so that was brilliant especially for all the islanders, including hundreds of children, who came out to greet her.

The Princess Royal opened our newest school (the fabulous Les Quennevais School) and a new sports training facility, and visited the Jersey Zoo ... she's the patron of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Waterloo memorial St Saviour's Church JerseyBut for me, her most important duty during the day took her to St Saviour's Church where she unveiled a very special memorial plaque in the church.

In St Saviour's Churchyard in Jersey there are many interesting stories. In 2018 I spent many months wandering around the graveyard with the then Rector of St Saviour, the Rev Peter Dyson, who was investigating the people laid to rest there.

This resulted in a series of 26 episodes broadcast by BBC Radio Jersey and it was fascinating. I learned so much.

As a result of his research, Peter found many dozens of men who are connected to the Napoleonic era... the Napoleonic and Peninsula Wars, including the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Men were found who fought on the British side and even one who fought under the French emperor. It's thought St Saviour's is the resting place of more Napoleonic and Peninsula Wars veterans than anywhere else in the world. It's astonishing that so many veterans of these campaigns eventually found their way to Jersey.

In 2020 a book was published which outlines their stories - 'Napoleonic War Veterans Buried at St. Saviour’s Church, Jersey' edited by one of the world's leading experts in the period, William Mahon.

Napoleonic & Peninsula Wars memorial Oct 2020In Autumn 2020, a memorial was placed in the north Lady Chapel of the Church but the unveiling of the plaque was a year delayed because of the COVID19 pandemic. Finally, this past Thursday, June 24th 2021, that memorial was unveiled by The Princess Royal ... there was a special church service and colourful celebrations including lots of children and members of the Jersey community.

In October 2020, just before Rev Peter Dyson retired as Rector of the parish, I returned to the churchyard at St Saviour's Church to talk to him about the memorial, some of the stories it told and the importance of the research.

This was played in two parts on the BBC Radio Jersey Sunday Morning Breakfast show on October 4 2020.

Here is the complete story. 


*images from St Saviour's Church Jersey Facebook Page

 

 


Musical Memories

I'm not a classical music buff, and not particularly knowledgeable either. 

I like a bit of Beethoven and Mozart and a few other random composers but I have a lot to learn about that musical genre that we now call 'classical'.

But there is a piece of music that I love and which has specific memories for me.

In the Hall of the Mountain King - GriegIt's a piece of orchestral music called 'In the Hall of the Mountain King' by a Norwegian composer called Edvard Greig, who was actually born on this day - June 15th - in 1843.

It's from a wider composition or Opus called 'Peer Gynt' which was written for a five act play created in verse by another famous Norwegian - the playwright and  dramatist Henrik Ibsen.

'Peer Gynt' is thought to be based on a Norwegian fairy tale, and it's about a boy called Peer Gynt who was a rascal. He stole things, played tricks and never helped his mother. He was disliked by all who met him.

One day he went to a wedding and met a beautiful girl called Solveig. He fell in love and was determined to marry her, but Solveig's parents knew Peer's reputation and sent him on his way. Heartbroken, he left his village because he couldn't bear the thought of seeing Solveig knowing she could never be his. He ran into the mountains where he could be alone and that's where his adventures began. 

Peer arrived at the castle of the Mountain King, where disgustingly ugly trolls caught him and took him to the king, who was furious that someone had entered his domain.

But he liked the look of the young man and when Peer persuaded the king that we wanted to stay, the monarch was happy for him to remain in the mountain kingdom so long as the young man marry his daughter. Although she was beautiful, she was not a patch on Solveig, and anyway in order to marry her, Peer was told he would have to be transformed into a troll - one of those mythical Norwegian/Scandinavian creatures that is generally unfriendly and even thought in some cases to be evil.

Peer decided he did not want to be a troll and he made plans to sneak off when it was dark. Before his escape he stole jewels from the king, filled his pockets and ran. However, the troll guards heard him, and he was chased and surrounded. The stolen gold and jewels were discovered and he was dragged back to the castle where he was kept in prison until he agreed to marry the king's daughter, Anitra.

That's just part of the story but it's one that sticks in my mind.

And that's because I learnt about it in school.

I clearly remember my teacher, Mrs Jones, playing us the music that Grieg composed in 1867 for Ibsen's play, and telling us the story of Peer Gynt. Then we all had to draw pictures from the different scenes in the story and I remember drawing one - very badly because I am and never was an artist - of Peer in the Hall of the Mountain King and being chased by the trolls.

That must have been fifty years ago or thereabouts but still I remember that lesson or series of lessons. The story of Peer Gynt fascinated me then and it still does now. I didn't realise at the time what an iconic piece of music 'Peer Gynt' is ... listen to it below and you may recognise it.

But on this day as I think about that piece of music, and the man who composed it, I also remember Mrs Jones.  And thank her, all these years later, for opening another door into the world for me.

There are a few teachers I remember from my school years but not all!

Some teachers just have a knack of bringing subjects to life. They are often not appreciated by their students or even the wider world, and some rarely receive the recognition they deserve.

So today I say thank you not just to Mrs Jones, but to all the wonderful engaging teachers past, present and future. You may not think you're making any impact at all but there again you may be creating memories that last a lifetime for your students.

Meanwhile, here's that piece of music that inspires me ...

I give you Edvard Greig's 'In the Hall of the Mountain King'....

Enjoy!

 

 

 


The Angel of Prisons

Are you someone who makes lists of 'Things to Do'?

And do you ever actually ever tick off all the points on the list before more are added?

No - me neither!

No sooner have you got through all the things you need to do in a particular timescale then something else crops up and you're back to Square One with MORE needing to be done.

I came across a quote which I've been saving for a relevant day to share with you. 

And today is THE day!

Elizabeth fry may 21 quote 2

It's a wise thought from a very wise woman - Elizabeth Fry.

You may have guessed that she's was a Christian person because this quote is actually a prayer

'Oh Lord, may I be directed what to do and what to leave undone'.

I think it's a good mantra to live by, because sometimes we just have to accept that we will NEVER get everything done in the time we set ourselves.

But we do need to prioritise what we do. Sometimes when we make our list we may (even subconsciously) put at the top the things we know will be easy to achieve. So if we start from the top of our list and work downwards, we MAY get some challenges completed, but some of the BIG issues we need to address may never be achieved.

So perhaps a little guidance, even if not from Almighty God, might be helpful. 

I don't know the context of this quote but I do know a bit about the author and I'm guessing not just from this prayer, but also because of what she's famous for, she was a woman with a rather long daily 'To Do List'.

Elizabeth Fry is best known for being a social and prison reformer - and she was born on this day (May 21st) in the year 1780 in the city of Norwich in the county of Norfolk in East Anglia in England.

She was a Christian philanthropist and a Quaker, a member of the Religious Society of Friends - sometimes also known simply as 'Friends' - who among other things believe that there is something of God in everybody and that each human being is of unique worth.

Valuing all people equally and opposing anything that may harm or threaten them is part of the Quaker 'theology' and from the beginnings of the Quaker movement in the mid 17th century, 'Friends' got involved in many social movements and philanthropy.  Quakers were among some of the first settlers in the USA where they got involved, among other things, in the abolition of slavery. Across the world they were involved in social justice projects, including prison reform.

In addition, as many started as craftspeople and artisans, they also grew businesses which not only made profit but improved the lot of the workers and their families. This was particularly significant because as the movement matured it coincided with the Industrial Revolution, which saw huge growth in manufacturing and industry, not all of which was beneficial to those who made it possible and put in the hard graft.

Some of the well known business and brands we know today have Quaker roots -  banks and financial institutions like  BarclaysLloyds, and Friends Provident and chocolate and confectionery brands like CadburyRowntree and Fry.

Which brings me back to Elizabeth Fry. The Fry family was a big Quaker clan whose influence was felt far and wide and not just in busines..

Looking into her life I discover that she was from a leading Norwich family. Her father, John Gurney, was a partner in Gurney's Bank, which would one day merge with Barclays. Elizabeth's mother, Catherine, was a member of the Barclay family who were among the founders of Barclays Bank.

Aged 20, Elizabeth married Joseph Fry, who was also in the banking business, and they moved to London. Within a year of marriage the first child arrived - between 1801 and 1822 she produced eleven (yes you heard right) children but Elizabeth was not just a 'stay at home Mom'. 

She was a recorded as a minister of the Religious Society of Friends in 1811 - remember this was at a time when women preachers were VERY VERY rare and the concept of women in Christian ministry was radical. Just two years later she was invited to visit Newgate Prison where she encountered deplorable conditions. Particularly horrifying for Elizabeth were the conditions in the women's section of the jail, which was was overcrowded with women and children.

Long story short, she set her mind and heart to reforming the prison system in Great Britain and as a result has earned the reputation as the "angel of prisons". From setting up a school for prisoners' children to campaigning for the rights of those transported to far off lands like Australia, sometimes for what we would now call quite petty crimes, Elizabeth was a woman on a mission. Her work helped to start a movement for the abolition of transportation.

Elizabeth Fry promoted the idea of rehabilitation instead of harsh punishment and encouraged the learning of skills while people, especially women, were incarcerated so that they could support themselves and their families when they were released. She was a major force behind new legislation to make the treatment of prisoners more humane, and she received support from the highest authority in the land, being granted meetings with and support from a young Queen Victoria

Her humanitarian work extended to helping homeless people and even after her death in 1845 her reputation inspired many social reformers. From 2001 to 2016, Elizabeth Fry was depicted on the reverse of £5 notes issued by the Bank of England, where she was shown reading to prisoners at Newgate Prison. 

So although we may not know much about her and her life, many of us will have carried her in our purses and pockets for years.

And today, as we remember Elizabeth Fry and all the things she managed to do in her relatively short life, I for one am pleased she prioritised what she did. There may have been times when, with her many family commitments, visiting prisoners and challenging some of the conventions of the day might not have been on the top of her 'to do' list, but thank goodness she somehow received the inspiration she needed to achieve all that she had to do. For without that, the world could have a very different place especially for those without a voice at a time when the world was changing so rapidly.


A person's a person, no matter how small!

Here are some lines you might recognise if you, like me, have been a reader since you were very little.

"The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play, so we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day. I sat there with Sally. We sat here we two and we said 'How we wish we had something to do.'"

Or how about this? 

Do you like green eggs and ham?
I do not like them,
Sam-I-am.
I do not like
green eggs and ham.”

The cat in the hat bookcoverYes, opening lines from two children's classics - 'The Cat in the Hat' and 'Green Eggs and Ham'

By 'Dr Seuss'.

Admittedly, if you're my age, you're more likely to know the name and the books if you were brought up in the United States of America, but nowadays Dr Seuss is globally popular not just for the books (he wrote and illustrated more than 60 books under that pen name), but also because of the cartoons and films that have brought the author's incredible imagination and creatures and thoughts to life over the decades since he first put pen to paper.Green eggs and ham book cover

'Dr Seuss' was actually a chap called Theodor Seuss 'Ted' Giesel, who was born on this day - Mach 2nd  - in 1904.

He wasn't just an award-winning world renowned children's author and poet, but also an illustrator, animator, filmmaker and political cartoonist. And by the time of his death in September 1991, his many children's books had sold over 600 million copies and been translated into more than 20 languages.

Horton hears a who book cover

'Horton Hears a Who' (published in 1955) is one of my favourites - the story in rhyme of Horton the Elephant and how he saves Whoville, a tiny planet based on a small speck of dust, from the evil animals who mocked him. 

The most popular line from that book is "A person's a person, no matter how small" - it's just so profound! Dr Seuss isn't just about fun, there's usually a moral in there somewhere too.

And how about 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas!' ? That one was published in 1957.

All written by Dr Seuss! NOW do you know who I'm talking about?

As was/is the case with many successful authors Ted Giesel's first efforts as a children's writer - a book called 'And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street' - was rejected by many dozens of publishers. But just a few years later, by the time of the outbreak of the Second World War, he was beginning to become quite successful. During the war he supported the US war effort and made a name for himself as a filmmaker. One of his war documentaries inspired a film called 'Design for Death' (1947), a study of Japanese culture - and that picked up an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. A couple of years later in 1950, a film called 'Gerald McBoing-Boing', which was based on an original story by Seuss, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

Such a brilliantly talented person!

Dr Seuss was also at the forefront of the movement to get children reading. In 1954, a report was published in Life magazine highlighting illiteracy among school children in the USA. It concluded that kids were not learning to read because their books were boring. The director of the education division of publishers Houghton Mifflin, William Ellsworth Spaulding, compiled a list of 348 words that he believed were important for young readers - first-graders - to recognize. Spaulding asked Ted Geisel to cut the list to 250 words and to write a book using only those words.

The result was 'The Cat in the Hat', which uses 236 of the listed words.

Astonishing!

Seuss' books, his words, have certainly got children reading down the years. Just as JK Rowling got a generation at the end of the 20th century picking up a Harry Potter book, Dr Seuss' creations have inspired millions of young readers. 

Down the years Dr Seuss picked up many an award, and even a special Pulitzer Prize in 1984, for his "contribution over nearly half a century to the education and enjoyment of America's children and their parents".  He even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and although he passed away in 1991 he remains one of the highest paid celebrities and authors. 

But I think it's his ability to engage children with words and to encourage them to read, opening up their imaginations to a world of possibilities and to laugh out loud, shed a tear or two and empathise with others, that is his greatest legacy.

So, with that in mind, I'll leave you with a brilliant quote from the amazing man called Dr Seuss.

Cat in the hat reading

 


Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant Hapus!

Today is St David's Day!

And if you're from the country of Wales, if you're Welsh, or part-Welsh (as I am) this is an important day.

On March 1st every year the people of Wales, and those of Welsh heritage wherever they are in the world, celebrate their patron saint. 

My Mum is Welsh so in our family we've always known about St David's Day. But it was when I spent my final two years of schooling in Wales that I realised how passionate people are about their saint, their history, their culture and their language. 

DaffodilOn this day, people wear the traditional symbols of Wales - daffodils or leeks - and enjoy traditional Welsh food ... my favourites are Welsh cakes which are like little griddle pancakes. Yum!

But who was St David?

Well in the 6th century, he was a Bishop of a place called 'Mynyw', which is the modern day St Davids, a city in the county of Pembrokeshire  in the southwest of the country.

David (Dewi) was born in Wales, although there's no clear evidence as to the year that happened. It is known that he was a celebrated teacher and preacher and that he founded monasteries and churches in Wales - St David's Cathedral is situated on the site of a monastery he founded in the Glyn Rhosyn valley of Pembrokeshire - in 'Dumnonia' (a kingdom in the southwest of England) and even Brittany in France. David is even believed to have visited the ancient religious site of Glastonbury

David established his own Monastic Rule, a system of religious and daily living for monks, and one of David's main rules was that when his followers were tilling the soil, THEY had to pull the plough themselves, rather than animals. Monks living by the Monastic Rule of David drank only water and ate only bread with salt and herbs - no meat, and certainly no beer. They were allowed no personal possessions and while David's monks worked in the day, they spent the evenings reading, writing and praying. 

So, why is David's feast day March 1st? 

That's the day when it's thought he died. As with his birth, there's a question mark over what year that was. Some say 601AD, others 589AD. 

David was buried in St David's Cathedral and his shrine was a popular place of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages. Invading Vikings removed the shrine during the 10th and 11th centuries but in 1275 a new shrine was constructed, the ruined base of which remains to this day.  

Although St David had been a popular saint in Wales since the 12th century, his religious feast day didn't become a national festival until the 18th century. And it's on March 1st every year that Welsh heritage people celebrate the man who now is their patron saint. Children especially are encouraged to celebrate as they learn about their history, and they often head to school for the day dressed as coal miners or in the traditional Welsh woman costume, with the girls often wearing a leek in their lapel. I remember at school one girl wearing such a BIG leek, a huge green vegetable, that it covered her whole chest and ... boy did it smell (like onion).

But why daffodils, and why leeks ? 

Well the leek became a symbol of the Welsh spirit because one legend says that St David advised his people to wear leeks in a battle against the Saxons. It was the days of hand-to-hand combat and wearing the leek meant that they would be recognised as Welsh by their compatriots in the heat of the battle - so no chance of someone killing a fellow Welshman! That's just one of the stories, but leeks were a popular food for many centuries and were also used for medicinal purposes, and the link with St David's Day is thought to be especially through the Tudors, who had strong Welsh roots and heritage.

And the daffodil?

This lovely yellow blooms appears in early Spring, around the time of St David's Day and it's just a joyful flower, isn't it?

But the floral link with Wales is fairly recent really and is thought to have been adopted as an alternative to the leek in the early 20th century, by which time the wearing of vegetables on your coat on March 1st had become a bit of a joke. Welsh politician and elder statesman David Lloyd George, who was British Prime Minister from 1916 to 1922, was said to be an advocate of the daffodil being used as a symbol of his Homeland.

The Welsh are a proud people and on St David's Day that pride is more obvious than ever.

If you're not aware, the country (now called the Principality) has its own ancient language. Welsh is a Celtic language - with links to the ancient Celtic Britons - and although for centuries Welsh was the common language of the people, it did fall into decline in the early 20th century as English became dominant. However in the 1990's the value of the native language was formerly recognised for its importance to the Welsh culture, heritage and future, with The Welsh Language Act 1993 and the Government of Wales Act 1998  regulating that the Welsh and English languages should be treated equally in the public sector, where sensible and possible.

These days there's Welsh speaking media, the language is taught in schools, as well as there being educational establishments where Welsh is the predominant language for conversation and teaching. I read recently that as of September 2020, it was reckoned that about a third of the population of Wales could speak the language and more than 15% spoke Welsh every day. It's been a real success story for the reinvigoration of a mother language that could easily have died out. And if you visit Wales, you'll see signs everywhere in Welsh and English.  

I know just a few words of Welsh ... passed down through my Welsh heritage ... but I'm no expert.

So, finally, today I could say 'Happy St. David’s Day!

But I instead will sign off by wishing you ...  'Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant Hapus!'

 


Bouônjour!

Today is International Mother Language Day.

So let me tell you about a language you may never have heard of.

It's called Jèrriais and it's the mother language of the island which I call home - Jersey in the Channel Islands.

So if you don't know where that is or what it is ... Jersey is an island within the British Isles (not the United Kingdom) and it's a self governing Crown Dependency.

Most importantly from the perspective of today's thought, Jersey is closer to France than England. Actually it lies just 12miles (19km) off the Normandy coast and around 100miles (160km) from the south coast of England. Most days, but especially on a good day, you can see the coast of France clearly from Jersey's East Coast!

Jerriais 2So, with France so close, it may be no surprise to hear that Jersey's mother tongue is a version of French. Jèrriais is an ancient form of the Norman Language. It's often called "Jersey French" or "Jersey Norman French" but this gives an impression that it's a dialect of French, a 'patois' - but it's not. It's a language in its own right. As is it's closest 'sister' - the native language of nearby island Guernsey - Guernésiais - and the other Norman languages including those across the water in France. And the language of SarkSercquiais, is descended from  the Jèrriais brought by the Jersey colonists who settled Sark in the 16th century. There's a commonality between Jèrriais and those Norman languages and there's a growing relationship between the speakers of these languages, all of which are in danger of dying out, but they are all different languages.

Over the last few years working at BBC Radio Jersey, the local station for the island, I've connected with the Jèrriais-speaking community. Every week, at the moment, I work with native speakers who record a weekly 'letter' - La Lettre Jèrriaise - which is broadcast just before 7am on a Saturday morning and is also posted online on a special languages podcast called 'Voices'. You can also get it via the Learn Jèrriais website,

In 2019 I made a radio series to coincide with the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages, when I worked with the Jèrriais teachers at the L'Office du Jèrriais. I learnt 20 phrases in Jersey's mother tongue.

It was a challenge, but it was fun, and more importantly it helped me to reconnect with my own family history, and my own Dad who was native Jèrriais speaker. Although he didn't teach us the language - my mum was not a Jèrriais speaker - I remember hearing him speak the language with his family - my aunts and uncles.

That was common in the mid 20th century, when the language had fallen into decline.

What I've learned is until the 19th century, Jèrriais was used as an everyday language by the majority of people living in Jersey and even up to the beginning of the Second World War more than half of the population could speak the language. In fact, it was often used during the Occupation of Jersey 1940-1945 when the German enemy occupied Jersey and the other Channel Islands - it was not understood by French or German speakers!

But Jèrriais was consistently falling out of favour, with English becoming the dominant language. It was no longer used in schools, or business. French and English was used in the law, but not Jèrriais. Eventually it's decline was such that it is now officially listed as one of the world's endangered languages!

However, in recent years Jèrriais has had a resurgence. There's been investment in education, and it's now taught in local schools, and adult classes and conversation groups are also held. The teachers and the L'Office du Jèrriais are central to that, and there's also now a Jèrriais promotion officer for Jersey Heritage.

In 2019 the States of Jersey (the Government of Jersey) voted to put Jèrriais on signs when they next need to be replaced, with English translations underneath. It's also now an official language in the States Assembly alongside English and French.

This is all really down to the persistence of native language speakers. Down the years, stalwarts of the language made great efforts to keep it alive. in 1912, thJersey Eisteddfod introduced a Jèrriais section - that still exists today. The L'Assembliée d'Jèrriais was founded in 1951 and they launched a quarterly magazine a year later. The Le Don Balleine Trust  was established in accordance with the will of Arthur E. Balleine (1864–1943), in which he left funds for the promotion of the language.

Jèrriais dictionaries go back to the 19th century but in 1966 the Dictionnaire Jersiais–Français was published to mark the 900th anniversary of the Norman Conquest of England, based on meticulous research by Frank Le Maistre, who's family are still champions of the Jèrriais speaking community. This was followed by a Jèrriais–English dictionary, Dictionnaithe Jèrriais-Angliais.

Another individual who did a huge amount to promote the language was a certain George d'la Forge. 

Jerrias book coverGeorge was born in Jersey but after the First World War moved to the USA and became a successful businessman. But he had been raised speaking Jèrriais, and never forgot it. After he took early retirement in 1946 he returned to Jersey for a holiday, and later spent months every year in the island. He was a prolific writer in the Jèrriais language, and took the pen name 'George d'la Forge' based on the home he lived in as a youngster. He wrote around 900 articles for the Jersey Evening Post and also contributed to many other native language publications.

George's surname was Le Feuvre - and he was a distant cousin of my father. As a young child, I remember visiting 'La Forge' when 'Uncle George' was spending a summer in Jersey, and living as he always did in his very basic small family cottage. Later, when we were living in Kenya in East Africa Uncle George visited us. I remember then my Dad and him chatting away in this strange language, which I sort of recognised as French, but not. Jerriais 1

Uncle George d'la Forge was a great man and in recent years, at a book sale, I managed to get hold of a bound copy of some of his articles.

One day, when I've learned a bit more of the language,  I'll read it in Jersey's language, the mother tongue of my father and my family down the centuries.

Meanwhile, I'll make do with the few phrases I know and which I learned during the 20 in 2019 challenge. If you fancy learning a bit start by going to Learn Jèrriais (learnjerriais.org.je)

The title of this piece is 'Bouônjour'  which, if you know any French at all, you'll recognise as being similar to 'bonjour'... hello!

But I'll end with this sign-off ...

À bétôt  - Goodbye

À la préchaine - Till the next time!