On this day in 1803…
John Doyle is appointed Lieutenant-Governor

The name Doyle is synonymous with Guernsey. Just think of the Doyle Monument, Fort Doyle, and Doyle Road, among others. Despite being credited with a massive series of civil and military improvements made to the island during his tenure, John Doyle himself was actually born in Dublin.

Guernsey should think itself lucky that he was appointed its Lieutenant-Governor on 23 May 1803. His elevation to the post was announced in the press upon the resignation of his predecessor, Sir Hew Dalrymple.

A soldier in situ

Doyle was a fighter. He had been at the American War of Independence, and fought in the Netherlands and Egypt. He had then taken a commission to command troops in Guernsey, so was already on the island at the time of his appointment.

Britain and France went to war and, thanks to his military background, he immediately understood the potential of a French invasion. Thus, he set about fortifying the island.

With a budget of £30,000, he built Route Militaire, 60 gun batteries and several forts around the coast (including Fort Grey). He drained the Braye du Valle so as to join the northern and southern parts of the island. Until then, Guernsey had been split along a line running from St Sampson to Grande Havre. By his reckoning, any French landing on the northern part would otherwise have been difficult to repel.

The land that was reclaimed in this operation was sold off, and the proceeds used to fund the laying of roads from St Peter Port to L’Eree and Vazon.

Opposition and acceptance

Doyle’s plans had been radical, and not without opposition at times. He had also instituted a state of emergency across the island in 1804, which remained in force until Napoleon’s death in 1815.

Yet, when the time came for him to leave there were protests from locals. They saw the value of what he had done and petitioned for him to stay. He was succeeded by Henry Bayly.

Doyle died in August 1834, aged either 77 or 78. Nobody knows for sure as his exact date of birth has been lost.

Category: Guernsey History | Other events tagged , , ,

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