heritage

Notre Reine, le Duc

October 14th - 1066!

It's a day which changed history.

Because it was on this day that the Norman-French army under William, the Duke of Normandy, took on an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson, at the Battle of Hastings.

Actually my little bit of research tells me that the 'battle' took place about 7 miles  (11 km) northwest of Hastings, close to the present-day town of Battle, in East Sussex, on the south coast of England.

I've read quite a lot about this part of history - I'm a bit intrigued by the Anglo-Saxon era - but I won't go into the details here about why a Norman duke (from the present day France) thought he had a right to the English throne and ended up claiming that right, changing England and the British Isles forever.

Suffice to say it was all a bit of a fiasco for the English ...  they were fighting among themselves, got into all sorts of confusion, ended up traipsing all over the countryside and ultimately, it was a decisive Norman victory.

We don't know how many people/men were actually part of that bloody battle but we do know that the English army was composed almost entirely of infantry topped up with a few archers. The Norman army was only about half infantry, and the rest of their fighting men were cavalry (on horses) and archers.

The battle lasted from about 9 am to dusk on that day and initially the English seemed to have the upper hand. The Normans, unable to break through their opponent's battle lines, pretended to flee in terror. The English chased after them and that's when the Normans turned on them Eventually, Harold was killed -  probably near the end of the battle  - and the English retreated. Although historians can't be sure of casualty figures. some reckon that 2,000 invaders died on that day... but the number of Englishmen who perished on that day was double that. 

The Normans had won the battle but they continued to face pockets of opposition as they marched north towards London. However, eventually, the Anglo-Saxons admitted defeat and The 'Duke of Normandy' ... William ...was crowned as king - King William 1 of England - on Christmas Day 1066.

Bayeux tapestryWithin a few years of the battle, the events leading up to Hastings and culminating in the conflict on this day back in 1066 was captured in embroidery ... I've never seen the Bayeux Tapestry but I really want to.

It tells the story from the point of view of the conquering Normans but experts now agree that it was made in England. It lives in the town of Bayeux - where else - in Normandy in northwest France.

The early part of 'William the Conqueror's' rule included the submission of the English nobles and ruling class, but despite this and social engineering to impose the Norman culture on the Anglo Saxons, resistance continued for several years. These were all dealt with by the new ruling class and monarch and so, despite the opposition, Hastings effectively marked the culmination of William's conquest of England. And the Normans - government, architecture, even spiritual life - would determine the future history of England and the British Isles.

However, here in Jersey, we already had experience of what the English would go through post 1066 because the Norman influence had been present for at least 100 years and more before the Battle of Hastings.

Jersey is just about 12 miles across the water from the French coast and Norman 'pirates' began invading from about the year 873, although they were around long before that apparently. Jersey was part of a region called 'Neustria' –  part of the Kingdom of the Franks in West-France. Jersey and the rest of the Channel Islands was originally part of the Kingdom of France, and not linked to the British Crown as it is today.

The Channel Islands actually remained politically linked to Brittany until the year 933, when William LongswordDuke of Normandy seized the Cotentin - the French peninsula which on a good day is visible from Jersey's east coast - along with the islands and added them to his domain. Jersey, along with the rest of Normandy, was not part of the French Crown,  which had only limited rights in the region.  It was at that time that any form of government and way of life in Jersey which pre-dated the Normans was replaced upon the Norman invasion, a good century before the Battle of Hastings.

During Norman rule, Jersey developed, including as an agricultural economy and links with 'France' were strong. There was a large Norman migration to the island and in fact, my own family - the Le Feuvre family - probably came over to Jersey at that time. My own family tree dates back to around 1560 but like many Jersey families, our name and heritage goes back much further. Today the Norman cultural influence is still evident in the island. Norman law is still the basis of Jersey law (although it now has large influence from English common law) and our local language - Jèrriais - is a form of the Norman language - Norman French !

Oh and one final thing which you may not know... Jersey is a Crown Dependency. We are a self-governing possession of The Crown, part of the British Isles but NOT part of the United Kingdom. We have our own government, our own laws, finance and currency (the Jersey pound is not legal tender in the UK) ... we are an independent county. But our Head of State is the English monarch..

And the Queen is STILL referred to here as the 'Duke of Normandy' - the loyal toast at formal dinners is to our Monarch ... Notre reine, le Duc. ... which refers back to the period before 1204 when the island was part of the Duchy of Normandy.

With the conquest of England by the Duke of Normandy William II, otherwise known as William the Conqueror -  King William I of England -  the Channel Islands remained part of the Duchy until 1204 when King John lost the majority of his French territories and the Channel Islands became possessions of the English Crown.


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!

 

 

 


Remembering Roy

Today I'm remembering a great man!

I was privileged to meet him just once ... as a young reporter in Jersey I interviewed him because he was the star of the annual summer parade - The Jersey Battle of Flowers.

Roy Castle was a HUGE personality, a star of stage, screen and TV -  musician, singer, comedian, actor, dancer and television presenter - he was a true legend.

Many will remember him because for years he became well known to British TV viewers as the presenter of the children's series Record Breakers

But before that he was well known for his roles on stage, television and film and because of his amazing musical talent - he was an accomplished jazz trumpet player but he could play many other musical instruments. He was also a person of great Christian faith and a family man - years after that meeting with Roy I actually got to know his wife Fiona ... what a lovely family!

I'm thinking about Roy today because it was on this day - September 2nd - in 1994, that he passed away aged just 62. I remember the shock of hearing about his death ... he had lung cancer but he had never smoked. He blamed his illness, which was diagnosed a couple of years earlier, on passive smoking during his years of playing the trumpet in smoky jazz clubs.

Roy was brave. Even in his final months and with his health declining he continued to work hard, including on the high-profile Tour of Hope to raise funds for the erection of the building that would become the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, the only British charity dedicated solely to defeating lung cancer.  Fiona continued to work with the charity after her husband's death, and campaigned for the British smoking ban which came into effect in Northern Ireland in 2004, Scotland in 2006 and England and Wales in 2007, banning smoking in virtually all enclosed public places.

What a legacy!

Sometimes when you meet your heroes, it's a disappointment because they turn out not to be the person you think they are.

But when Roy Castle came to Jersey in 1988 to be 'Mr Battle' at our island's annual floral parade, the highlight of the summer season, the Jersey Battle of Flowers - there was no disappointment.

He was JUST as lovely as I thought he would be. He was jolly and kind, and smiling. A consummate professional and actually a really nice chap. I  interviewed him for the local TV station - Channel TV (ITV) - and filmed him during the Afternoon and the evening Moonlight parades. I saw first hand how hard he worked and how brilliant he was with the public, and us media! There was no 'stardom' about him really - he was full of fun and laughed and chatted to anyone and everyone. People loved him!

That same year - 1988 - Roy presented a TV series for the ITV network which was also close to my heart.

Marching as to warIt was called 'Marching as to War' and it told the story of The Salvation Army, it's founders William and Catherine Booth, and explored all sorts of aspects of the work and music of the global church and charity Christian movement.

For me, as a young Salvationist and someone who was working in television at the time, it was exciting to see my church and it's history being shared with the world, and I was thrilled that Roy Castle - so empathetic and compassionate - presented that series of programmes and was able to bring something of his own personal Christian faith to the project. And I know, from talking to people who were in that series with him (some of whom I can still recognise on the films) that Roy was a pleasure and joy to work with!

A few years after the programmes went out I found myself living in Norwich where the series was made by Anglia TV. By the late 90's I was actually working in the network religious department at Anglia ITV. It felt like a circle was complete.

The whole 'Marching as to War' series is available on YouTube, thanks to my friend Rob Westwood-Payne, who also hails from Norwich and who is  now a Salvation Army officer, or minister.

Some of the footage is now rather dated. Times have changed ... among other things, the uniforms are different and some of us don't wear uniforms at all these days ... and of course the world has altered around us. 

But the message of Booth and his life-altering mission movement remains as strong today as back in 1988 when the series was made, and in 1865 when William Booth first set up his East London Christian Mission, which in 1878 would be renamed The Salvation Army.

So - if you have half an hour to spare - why not  sit back and enjoy this episode?

It's the one where Roy tells us all about 'Soup, Soap and Salvation' - one of the key message of the early Salvation Army ...

 




Breathe in The Extra Day

Today is a public holiday here in Jersey in the Channel Islands - a 'bank holiday'.

It's also an extra holiday day in England, Wales and Northern Ireland but not in Scotland. I'll tell you why in a few moments time.

But why do we have the 'August Bank Holiday' on the last Monday of the month?

Those of you who are old enough may remember when it wasn't always on that day... following a trial period which began in 1965, the last Monday of August was fixed as a public holiday in 1971. Not so long ago really.

In Scotland - here comes that fact I promised - today is NOT a bank holiday because they have their late summer holiday weekend earlier in the month. This year the Scottish had their bank holiday on Monday August 2nd because THEIRS always falls on the FIRST Monday of the month.

The chosen dates sort of also fit in well with the school year in the various nations. Scottish schools go back to class in August, whereas schools in the rest of the UK and in the British islands like Jersey don't return to school until early September. The long bank holiday weekend is supposed to be a way of helping us all enjoy the last moments of summer.

In fact, the August bank holiday was first introduced as a way to give us ALL a chance to make the most of the summer and ... interesting point here ... all four nations used to enjoy August bank holiday on the same date, actually on that first Monday of the month. However, in the early 1970s it was moved in most of the British nations, because apparently it clashed with the 'traditional' two week shut down that many companies went through in the summer... no point having an extra day off if people were already on holidays!

We need to go further back in history to discover where all this began. It was in 1871 that the Bank Holidays Act was passed by the British parliament and that formalised days like this. But if we wind the clock back even more, we discover that up until 1834 apparently there were 33 public holidays in the UK consisting of saint’s days and religious festivals. 

Now THAT'S nice!

Then some party pooper thought people were having too much time off and the public holidays were reduced to just four!

Actually the clue as to why these public holidays eventually became known as 'Bank' holidays is that the law was introduced into parliament and promoted by the Liberal Politician Sir John Lubbock, who was a banker as well as a parliamentarian. He was also apparently cricket-mad, and rumours abounded that Sir John actually chose his bank holiday dates to fit in with cricket matches in his home county!

It was his Bank Holidays Act of 1871 that made the four public holidays official. In fact, people were so grateful that for a while after that law was passed public holidays were called “St Lubbock's Days”.  That didn't stick, obviously! 

These days we in the British Isles and the UK have eight public or bank holidays in total - New Year, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May Day, late May bank holiday (originally to coincide with the Christian festival of Whitsun ... it's the Monday after Pentecost)  ... August Bank holiday, of course ... and then Christmas Day and Boxing Day!

These are days to enjoy and celebrate with the family, days to rest and relax during busy periods of the year, and in the case of today - the August Bank Holiday - a day hopefully to enjoy one final glorious day of summer before we all tuck ourselves back into the routine of life come September.

Bank Holiday mondayActually, some might say that we're a little hard done by because other countries do have more public holidays, Apparently India enjoys 21 public holidays and only Mexico has fewer than us here in the UK / Great Britain, with just seven.

I know, I know, lots of people especially those who employ others and run businesses feel a bit hard done by because they have to pay people for eight days they don't work on, as well as their statutory annual leave! And if people DO have to work the Bank Holiday they are entitled to a day off in lieu. But ... life is not all about profit ... is it?

Today ...  let's put all that aside and enjoy today. It's the last Bank Holiday here for months and months... next stop Christmas!

So ... time to just relax and give thanks.

Let's be grateful for those who have gone before,  who pioneered the extra days we now enjoy. Back in the day many people got NO holidays at all so those four original public holidays must have been very welcomed as a day to rest.

If we are in work, maybe it's time to give thanks for that employment - not everyone is gainfully employed and many can't find the work they would love to do. Let's give thanks for our employers and the work we do have.

And let's just take a deep breath, enjoy the space were are afforded, and....

Have a wonderful Monday!! 

 

Oh - by the way, if you want to find out more about all this stuff you could start, as I did, with this  website link - Nine things you might not know about bank holidays!


Delicious Writing

Today I'm remembering one of my heroines.

She was a fantastic writer, an artist and illustrator, a farmer, natural scientist and conservationist! And just an AMAZING person, a woman before her time!

Her stories have given hours and hours of pleasure to generations of children in the last century, with her incredible creatures - Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Mr Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddle-Duck and so many more.

I'm talking, of course, about Beatrix Potter!

What a woman! 

Born on this day - July 28 - in 1866 she grew up in a strict middle-class Victorian home, educated by governesses and isolated from other children. Apart from her brother, young Beatrix's main companions were her numerous pets and early on she started painting pictures of them and making up stories. Beatrix and her family took holidays in Scotland and in the north west of England, in the Lake District, and as she grew she learned to love and closely observe landscape, flora and fauna. 

Beatrix studied and made watercolours especially of fungi, and she first became well respected in the field of mycology. the study of fungi. 

By all accounts she was not just an exceptional talent, but also frustrated at home, feeling trapped. She didn't care to do what other girls of her time were expected to do ... get married to the 'right' man and produce lots of offspring. She wanted more. She wanted a career, to do something useful with her life. She bucked the trends of her day.

By the time she was in her thirties, she turned to writing and illustrating stories for children.

Peter_Rabbit_first_edition_1902Her first book, 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit', started out as a story for a little boy she knew, five-year-old Noel Moore who was the son of one of Beatrix's former governesses, Annie Carter Moore. Beatrix drew pictures and made up the story in 1893 and in 1901 she revised it and offered it to some publishers. When it was rejected, she decided to print copies herself but a year later it was picked up by the publishing house Frederick Warne & Co.

With its central character a naughty and mischievous little rabbit who gets into, and is chased around, the garden of  Mr. McGregor, the book was almost immediately a huge success, capturing the imagination not just of children but of their parents. It's a simple story - Peter escapes and returns home to his mother, who puts him to bed with a cup of chamomile tea - but the exquisite pictures have helped to make it one of the best-selling books in history. In the years after its publication it was reprinted multiple times and in the century since it was published it's sold more than 45million copies and has been translated  into 36 languages.

After Peter's success, Beatrix began writing and illustrating children's books full time and she let her imagination run wild, writing many stories based around what have become iconic animal characters ... some of whom I mentioned before. She wrote 30 books, 23 of which were her children's tales.

She was also a canny businesswoman. As early as 1903, Beatrix made and patented a Peter Rabbit doll and this was followed by other merchandise - painting books, board games, wall-paper, figurines, and even baby blankets and china tea-sets. Warne and Co licensed these and they and Beatrix reaped the financial benefits.  She became a very rich woman, and within a few years of that first book she was able to move out of home and the restrictive influence of her parents in London.

In 1905 she had been unofficially engaged to her publisher, Norman Warne, much against her controlling parents wishes. Sadly Norman died unexpectedly a month later and Beatrix was then even more determined to move out of the family home. That same year, with the proceeds from the stories and merchandising, and a legacy from an aunt, she bought Hill Top Farm in the village of Near Sawrey in the Lake District in Cumbria, near Lake Windermere. 

And this is where her story takes an unexpected twist. Living in the Lake District, Beatrix became aware that much of this beautiful land was under threat of being bought up for housing development for the ever expanding population of the northwest of England. 

Over a period of decades, she gradually bought more farms, and so preserved the unique hill country. Her busy writing was eventually replaced by her passion for land and conservation and farming. She became a prize-winning breeder of native Herdwick sheep and she was  a prosperous farmer. When she died  in December 1943 at the age of 77 Beatrix left almost all her property to the National Trust and this legacy means she is credited with preserving much of the land that now makes up the Lake District National Park.

And she didn't live her life without love. Beatrix eventually DID marry - in 1913 aged 47, she married William Heelis, a respected local solicitor from the town of  Hawkshead.

Beatrix Potter was a force of nature. She refused to be constrained by the 'rules' and expectations of her day. She walked her own road and allowed her creativity to thrive. She was determined to follow her own path, even if that scandalised her parents and other 'respectable' folk. She made a fantastic success of her life, and her legacy lives on not just in all those amazing stories, but also in the beautiful Lake District National Park.

As a writer I'm inspired by Beatrix Potter and am a little envious, truth be told, of her imagination and her determination. I need more of that!

She once said that she never really 'grew up' and that was the basis of her story-telling. She also apparently said she was pleased she didn't go to school because that might have robbed her of her originality.

But this is my favourite quote from Beatrix Potter. She obviously LOVED writing ... she was excited by the prospect of putting pen to paper. Bringing her animal friends to life was a joy, but she allowed them to tell their own story.

I love that.

Some writers report that sometimes characters in their stories DO almost manifest themselves through the writing and that's happened to me once in a while.

To do that, I must simply allow my imagination to go wild, just as Beatrix did.

Thanks Miss Potter - may your stories always not just entertain but also inspire!!!

Beatrix Potter

 


Anyone for Tennis?

Right now I'm spending a bit more time than usual watching sport on the TV.

No - I'm not talking about the football (or if you're reading this in the States, the 'soccer').

The Euro football tournament is  currently happening and of course, it's all over the British media, especially now because the English team will face up to Italy in the final at Wembley stadium on Sunday this weekend!

I put my hand up and admit that I'd actually rather watch paint dry than endure a football match on TV. I've been to 'live' matches and they are different. Great fun, much excitement.

But watching on TV, it's not just about the actual game. Hours upon hours are dedicated to all the pre-match conversations, then there's the so called 'expert' chat during half time and of course at the end of the match all those experts unpicking every minor detail of the 90 minutes of play - why what the 'experts' thought would happen didn't happen, and so on and so forth.  I find it all rather tedious. So I'm not talking about watching football.

No - I'm talking tennis.

Yes, I know many of you reading may think that watching a tennis match is also pretty boring. But not me.

You see, it all comes down to personal interest and personal choice.

I can't bear watching all the hype around football and all the machismo around the players and the game. But I love watching those tennis players with all the thought and tactics that are employed. I love experiencing the ups and downs of play, which can swing so quickly in favour of one player or the other. There's so much 'thinking' involved ... as well as the athleticism and dedication which we can all marvel at.

One of the tennis 'Grand Slam' tournaments, and the only grass court 'Major' competition  - is held in a town in southwest London which is world famous. 

Wimbledon.

In fact, the Wimbledon Championships is recognised as being the oldest tennis tournament in the world and is widely regarded as the most prestigious. 

Right now we're on the brink of the final weekend of Wimbledon 2021 ... it's the Ladies Singles Final tomorrow (Saturday) and the Gentleman's Singles Final on Sunday. And there will be the doubles finals as well. These days there are junior tournaments and the Wimbledon Wheelchair championship matches.

But on this day back in 1877 it was the start of the very first Wimbledon Championship. The tournament was held, as it still is today, at the  All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club (AEC & LTC) in Wimbledon, London.

The AEC & LTC had been founded in July 1868, as the All England Croquet Club. But as the interest in croquet was waning, in February 1875  lawn tennis was added to the interests at the club.

In June 1877 the club decided to organise a tennis tournament to pay for the repair of its pony roller, which they used to maintain the lawns, or the outdoor grass courts.

Although the game of 'tennis' can be traced back to 12th century France, in England it became what we now know as Real Tennis which was (and still is) played on an indoor court and became known as the 'Game of Kings'. There appear to have been various incarnations of the game in different countries.

It was the introduction of technology, namely the invention of the first lawn mower in Britain in 1830, which is thought to have led to the ability to prepare grass courts - or lawns laid to grass - which could be used as a fairly safe playing surface. This in turn enabled sports and leisure enthusiasts to create  pitches, greens, playing fields and ... tennis courts!

This development meant that the sports became more popular and people began to want standardised rules. It was in the mid 19th century that modern rules for many sports were first conceived, including ... lawn bowls, football, and lawn tennis.

The world's first 'tennis' club was actually founded in Leamington Spa in Warwickshire in England in 1872. In nearby Birmingham in the English Midlands, a few years earlier (between 1859 and 1865 actually) a chap called Harry Gem, a solicitor, and his friend Augurio Perera had developed a game that combined elements of another past time called 'racquets' (similar to squash) and the ball game pelota which hailed from the Basque region of Europe, on the French and Spanish border.
 
The duo first played the game on Perera's croquet lawn in Birmingham and a few years later the friends got together with two local doctors to  set up that first club on Avenue Road in Leamington Spa. It's here that the term "lawn tennis" was used as a name of an activity by a club for the first time. 
 
The game caught on and by May 1875 the Marylebone Cricket Club drew up the first standardised rules for tennis. 
 
Just two years later, the organisers of the first Wimbledon tournament had no precedent so, using those MCC regulations, they had to come up with a set of rules for a tournament.  
 
That first event only included a 'Gentlemen's Singles' competition, and 22 men played on the now famous grass courts, having each had to pay for the honour of taking part ... the entry fee was one guinea.
 
The tournament began on 9 July 1877, and the final – delayed for three days by rain – was played on 19 July in front of a crowd of about 200 people who each paid an entry fee of one shilling. Hopefully the club made the money they needed for that pony grass roller!
 
Until fairly recently, rain was an issue for Wimbledon and I've spent many an hour over the years watching re-runs of old matches on TV while 'rain stopped play'. However, in 2009 the All England Club put a retractable roof over the famous Centre Court, and in 2019 the other main show court, No. 1 Court, also got a roof.
 
Back on World Poetry Day on March 21, my 'One Day at a Time' blog featured one of my favourite poems - 'If' by Rudyard Kipling - but what I didn't point out at the time is that there's a line in the poem which is engraved over the entrance to Centre Court at Wimbledon.
 
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
 
Wimbledon Triumph and Disaster
These are words, of course, to inspire those players who are about to perform, hopefully at their best, on one of the world's most prestigious courts at the oldest tennis tournament in the world, with all the history that involves.
 
As today's competitors step under that inscription, I'm sure they are aware of the many many incredible sports men and women who have preceded them and all those who have also played on that hallowed turf. I hope so, anyway. Because although I'm sure they are thinking about their own game, the legacy of those who have gone before, including the early pioneers of the game, must be acknowledged.
 
But the words can also inspire us.
 
We might not be able to play world class tennis, or kick a ball at the highest level of football, or change the world, or do something spectacular.
 
But we all face 'triumphs' and successes, and 'disasters' and failures in our lives.
 
Life is like that. Ups and Downs.
 
And if we can face them both with equal measure - then our lives can surely achieve some sort of 'balance'.
 
More of that tomorrow!
 
 

A Dark Day in History

Today I'm turning back the hands of time 81 years to June 28th 1940. 

It's not a date that you may know as important in history but for the people of the Channel Islands, and for Jersey and Guernsey in particular, it's a significant day.

It was a Friday and since September 1939 Great Britain, including the British Crown Dependencies - the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, and the Isle of Man - were at war with Germany.

The first months of what is now known as the Second World War (1939-1945) is known as the 'Phoney War'. Relatively little happened in the way of conflict but it was in that time that Hitler began working seriously on his plans for world domination. Nazi influence grew in the homeland, and  troops began to flood across Europe, gradually encroaching on France. On May 10, 1940 the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium in a 'blitzkrieg' (German for “lightning war”) and then their sights were set on France.

Allied troops based in Europe were moved back by the advancing enemy and by the end of May 1940 many thousands of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and other Allied troops were cornered in or near a small coastal town in the top most northern point of France near to the border with Belgium. Between May 26th and June 4th 1940 during what has become known as the Battle of Dunkirk (Dunkerque) an estimated 338,000 Allied forces were evacuated from Dunkirk, across the English Channel to England, as German forces closed in on them. The massive operation, involving hundreds of naval and civilian vessels, became known as the “Miracle of Dunkirk”.

With the defences now virtually non-existent, on June 22nd 1940 France surrendered, or at least agreed to an Armistice with German forces which came into effect after midnight on June 25th. As far as Hitler was concerned, next it would be Great Britain.

If you know where the Channel Islands are and the history of the time, you'll know what comes next. 

The Channel Islands are actually VERY close to France. The islands sit in the Bay of St Malo, and Jersey is the nearest to the French mainland - just 14 miles (or 22 km) away. On a good day from Jersey's East Coast we can see not just the French coast, but even houses and wind turbines on the French side of the small channel which separates us. 

By the end of June 1940, after months of anticipation, it had become clear that occupation of the islands was inevitable. The Germans were just across the water!

In summer of 1940 Hitler seemed unstoppable as he raced through Europe and was now almost in waving distance of the British mainland from northern France and the Low Countries. For Hitler, taking the Channel Islands was a big deal. Invading and occupying Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark would be a PR coup and, he hoped, strike fear into the hearts of the British people and their government in London, headed up by Winston Churchill.  It's reckoned he thought invading the Channel Islands would be a signal that he was on his way! Soon he would be marching through London in victory!

It was on July 1st 1940 that the Germans DID invade the Channel Islands - actually the only place in the British Isles to be invaded and occupied by German Nazi forces - and so began five long years of Occupation.

In the final weeks of 'freedom' confusion reigned. Many people with means and/or family in the UK had already left but now many thousands decided to evacuate, not wanting to hang around for the Nazis. The British government had made the decision that, to save lives, it would be best not to engage in military conflict with the Germans when they eventually came. There had been some British forces based in the islands, but by June 20th, any remaining military personnel had been withdrawn, so leaving an 'open door' for the enemy to invade.

Unfortunately no one told the German High Command.

Viscount's Inquest BookOn June 28th, being unaware that the islands were undefended, there was a German bombing raid on Guernsey and Jersey in which 44 islanders were killed  - nine in Jersey and the remaining poor souls in Guernsey. There was a desperate scuffle to inform the enemy of the situation, including a belated message on the BBC that the islands had been declared "open towns". Later in the day the BBC reported the German bombing of the Channel Islands. on June 30th the deaths of the islanders killed in Jersey were reported at an inquest and recorded in the Viscount's (the senior law officer) Inquest Book, which is now part of the Jersey Archive.

The islands would be occupied until May 9th 1945 and it was in the run-up to the 75th anniversary of that Liberation (Liberation75), while working at BBC Radio Jersey. that I recorded a fascinating project which would run for a whole year right though to May 9th 2020 and beyond.

I worked in partnership with the Jersey Archive, part of Jersey Heritage, with the experts there selecting 50 objects from the collections in the Archives and the Jersey Museum through which we told the story of the Occupation and Liberation of Jersey. The series ran from May 2019 through to June 2020 and we produced 50 short features each one focussing on one object from the collections that tell us a specific story about that part of our history. 

The features ran every Friday morning just after 0830 on the BBC Radio Jersey Breakfast Show. We ran the first on Liberation Day (May 9th) in 2019 and then we picked up the series on June 21st and ran a feature every day until Libertion75 and beyond.

Object Number 3 in the series happened to land on Friday June 28th 2019 ... exactly 79 years on from the bombing raids on Guernsey and Jersey which heralded the start of Occupation.

And so it was on that morning we heard from Linda Romeril, the Head of Archives and Collections at Jersey Heritage,  who brought out the object which tells that story ... that Inquest Book.

And so, as I said, let's turn back the clock 81 years to June 28th 1940 ...

50 Objects - No.3 from Jersey Heritage Vimeo on Vimeo.

I loved doing this series and I learnt so much. Each of the features is on the BBC Radio Jersey website under 'Breakfast' or various presenters, but Jersey Heritage/Archive also placed each feature on Vimeo - the whole series is there!

If you want to listen to this on the BBC Radio Jersey website - click on the link below

James Hand - 50 OBJECTS - the story of Jersey's Occupation and Liberation 1940-1945 told through 50 objects held by Jersey Heritage - BBC Sounds - Object 3 - 28 June 2019.

 

 


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

 

 


Summer Prayer

About this time of the year in the northern hemisphere of our planet, it's the longest day of the year.

Between about June 20 and 22nd there is more daylight than darkness, more days of sunshine hopefully because it's the moment when the path of the sun is farthest north. For those of us north of equator, it's the beginning of what is called 'astronomical summer'! Otherwise known as 'Summer Solstice'.

And this year the beginning of that season ... midsummer ... is today -  June 21 - when give or take the UK will enjoy around 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight, with the sun rising before 5am and setting around 9.30pm.

Summer Solstice (and actually Winter Solstice which here falls on or around December 21st) has always had cultural,  spiritual and even religious significance for humankind. Many cultures assign importance to the elements and the seasons and so this is a time for celebration, holidays, festivals and rituals. In many countries and regions this is associated with religion and even fertility as the Summer Solstice marks the time when crops are growing, nature is thriving and people are enjoying the goodness of life and are optimistic for the future. 

At places like Stonehenge - the circle of prehistoric Standing Stones on Salisbury Plain in the county of Wiltshire in England - ceremonies to mark the rising of the sun on this day have been held for thousands of years, as people recognised the religious significance of the mysticism of creation.

The Summer Solstice was and still is a marker for the year and the rolling out of the seasons. Neolithic humans may initially have started to observe the summer solstice as a way to figure out when to plant and harvest crops. We know that in Ancient Egypt, the summer solstice corresponded with the rise of the Nile River so it helped people to predict the annual flooding, and that was obviously related to the viability of their crops along the banks of the river, and the potential harvests later in the year. If you fancy reading more about this time of year there is loads online, including a great website hosted by the History Channel.

But the significance of days like today transcends nature. Before humans understood how the earth interacts with our sun and why the days of light and darkness differ according to the seasons, this period of long days of daylight would have been connected with mysticism and powerful messages about the universe. The word Solstice is derived from the Latin words sol (Sun) and sistere (to stand still) ... this day it would have felt as if the sun was motionless in the heavens and so it would have had some spiritual significance and traditions and behaviours developed around the day.

According to pagan folklore, evil spirits would appear on the Summer Solstice so in order to ward these off, people would wear protective garlands of herbs and flowers. Some midsummer traditions involve dancing around the 'maypole'. Bonfires were lit, also to help banish those demons and evil spirits. Ancient 'magic' was thought to be strongest at this time of year and those bonfires were also thought to lead girls to their future husbands - again linked to that sign of fertility. 

The Summer Solstice is often associated with the ancient religions which pre-date Christianity and were closely aligned to nature and the seasons. And regardless of whether we are people of 'faith' or not, the Summer Solstice is a time when we can appreciate the warmth of the sun and the potential in our world, and be inspired for the future.

I could have given you all kinds of quotes about Summer Solstice today ... there are masses online ... but I found this prayer which, as a person of faith, says it all for me.

Enjoy this long day everyone!

And if you're in the southern hemisphere ... be assured that as you are now halfway through your 'winter', summer is on its way!

Summer Prayer

 

 

 

 


A June Wedding

Mid June is a popular time for weddings. The prospect of  fine weather always helps of course although in Great Britain and the UK one can never count on a good day, even in summer. But I guess there's more chance of sunshine in June than at other times and these days, of course, the photographs of the day will be the lasting memories for many couples so a bit of sun goes a long way to making a happy Wedding Day!

In the past year, a few of my friends have had to postpone or scale down their wedding day plans because of the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, and I know for some that has been rather traumatic. 

But I also know for many couples who've had to change their plans it has meant they have focussed more on the day and the commitment they are making rather than the 'party'. And that has to be a good thing, doesn't it? 

Why am I thinking about weddings? Well ... it's because it was on this day - June 16th - in 1855 that a couple called William Booth and Catherine Mumford were married in a very scaled down simple ceremony in London. 

Stand by for a blatant plug for the first book I wrote!

William and Catherine BoothWilliam and Catherine Booth were the founders of The Salvation Army, which is now a global Christian church and charity movement working in more than 130 countries, but on their wedding day they were still 'seeking' their future. William was a struggling Christian evangelist and his travels across England had kept him and his fiancée apart for many months.  

There are no photos of the day itself, although the couple did get photographs taken across the years so we know what they looked like when they were young.

Their marriage would be the start not just of a busy family life (eventually they produced eight children) but also of their shared Christian service which would take them around the country, working first in the Methodist Church and finally in their own evangelistic ministry which would lead them back to London a decade later. It was in 1865 that they would create The East London Christian Mission which in 1878 became The Salvation Army.

Since their first meeting in 1852 William Booth and Catherine Mumford had regularly written letters and notes to each other and that correspondence continued throughout their marriage, as they were often separated by work and circumstances. And it was those letters, which are held in the British Library in London, which inspired me to write my first book.

WIlliam and Catherine front cover Sept 2013 Monarch books

'William and Catherine, the love story of the founders of The Salvation Army told through their letters' was published by Monarch (Lion Hudson) books in 2013 and it draws not just on that personal correspondence but also on my imagination.

Included in the book are extracts from the letters, with kind permission of the Booth Family and the British Library. As I read their notes and letters I learned, I think, a little about Catherine and William's characters and so, in addition to extracts from many of the couple's letters and the historical narrative, my story also includes some 'imaginative' excerpts - my 'storytelling', my ideas on how they would have reacted to certain circumstances and events in their lives, some insignificant but others which are important in the history of The Salvation Army.

Which brings me to June 16 1855 and that quiet wedding in London. This excerpt, this little 'story', is in Chapter 7 of my book and is my imagining, based on what I know happened on the day and my understanding of the couple involved, of what transpired on that rather chilly day in mid June.

The sun emerged from behind the early summer clouds as Catherine and William stepped over the threshold of the Stockwell Green Congregational Church.
Catherine clutched her new husband’s hand, feeling small yet secure. William looked down at Catherine’s sweet face and smiled. He could feel her shaking ever so slightly and a rush of protectiveness towards this woman overwhelmed him. He could hardly believe that, after all this time and so many obstacles, they were at last man and wife.
It had been a short and solemn service and blessing. Perfect. Catherine had been pale and had spoken quietly, her voice quivering as she repeated her vows of love and obedience. In contrast, William had found that his voice, which he was accustomed to using to rather larger congregations, had rung loudly around the church. As his “I do!” echoed around the building it had provoked a little giggle from his beloved. Then, in the cavernous chapel, William and Catherine had knelt at the altar and pledged themselves to God and to each other.
Behind Catherine, William noticed that his father-in-law, John Mumford, and his sister Emma, the only witnesses to the solemn ceremony, were now exiting the building and squinting in the watery sunshine. For a moment he regretted the absence of the rest of his family. Of course, it was unlikely that Ann would attend, but he had hoped that his mother and her namesake, his sister Mary, all those miles away in Nottingham, might have been able to make it, even at such short notice. However, he and Catherine had been thrilled when Emma had sent word that they would be able to afford for her, at any rate, to attend. He knew Catherine’s day was also slightly saddened by the fact that her own mother had been disinclined to attend the ceremony, but, as he held Catherine’s little gloved hand in his, he felt a rush of love and appreciation for her commitment to him.
Catherine pulled her shawl closer around her neck and shoulders. She shivered again. Even with layers of petticoats under her skirts she still felt the chill of the day. Maybe she should, after all, have worn her coat. The few days of milder weather in May hadn’t lasted and it was still chilly, even for mid-June.
Catherine turned to the Revd David Thomas, who had so kindly agreed to preside over this most sacred of ceremonies.
“Mr Thomas, thank you!” she announced, grasping his hand and shaking it wholeheartedly. No simpering little handshake for this gentleman. She remembered their previous debates and discussions about the place of women in church and society, and she knew he would expect this forwardness from her, even on this day.
Father Mumford was calling from the street. The Stockwell New Chapel was tucked away from the main thoroughfare and he had a cab waiting. William, Catherine, and Emma took their leave of the minister and made their way to the horse drawn vehicle. It was but a short drive back home to Russell Street in Brixton, where, regardless of her unwillingness to attend the actual service, William was sure that Mrs Mumford would be waiting with some light refreshments. Whatever her views on the marriage, and he still wasn’t quite sure of her, she loved her daughter unconditionally and would, he was sure, come around.
William reached out his hand to Catherine. She grasped it and he helped her into the carriage. Whatever the future held now, they were one. The Lord would determine their way, and, whatever happened, they would face it together.

If you fancy reading more, my book is still available all over the place, including from the usual online sites as well as the Lion Hudson website. 

Thanks!

*image The Salvation Army Heritage Centre