Jersey swimmers set a round-Guernsey record

Six swimmers from Jersey set a record when they swam around Guernsey in eight hours and 56 minutes. Alison Horsfall, Michael Lucas, Ian Anderson, Steven Toic, John Searson and Gerry Leonard started at St Martin’s point and swam the 21.1 mile circuit in relay.

Unfortunately, Gerry Leonard could only swim once, as after his first turn in the water he developed sea sickness and had to return to dry land. The sea had been rough throughout their attempt, which had been pushed back by one day because it had been too choppy on the 30th. That was when they had originally intended to make their attempt.

All of the participants were members of the Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club, which has set several remarkable records in its time.

Solo swimmers

Alison Horsfall, a member of the relay team that completed the circuit around Guernsey, had previously swum the same loop solo, completing it in just nine hours and 39 mintues. She was the first person ever to have been recorded doing so.

She also became the first person to swim around all four of the largest Channel Islands. She circumnavigated Jersey (66km / 41 miles) in 10 hours and 20 minutes, Sark (12km / 7.5 miles) in four hours and 25 minutes, and Alderney (14km / 8.7 miles) in four hours and 33 minutes. She also looped Herm (not one of the big four at “just” 6km / 3.7 miles) in two hours and eight minutes.

In 1997, she swam from England to France (34km / 21 miles) in 17 hours and 24 minutes.

Other swimmers

In August 2011, 36-year-old Adrian Sarchet attempted to become the first Guernsey person to swim around Guernsey. He started at Castle Breakwater at 8am and headed north, but had to retire at 6.15pm after he’d completed around three-quarters of the circuit due to worsening sea conditions.

Jersey resident Neil Faudemer also got three-quarters of the way around Guernsey when he had to call off a charity fundraising attempt to circumnavigate the island in 2006. However, in 2015 he did become the first man to swim from Guernsey to Jersey, on his fifth attempt. The course had previously been completed by Ruth Oldham in 1962.

Philip de Saumarez was discharged as a Jurat

Philip de Saumarez was elected as a Jurat of the Royal Court following a successful career in the Navy. By 1879, though, aged 68, his hearing was going. This was perhaps through years spent bellowing commands at sea.

It was starting to cause problems, as it meant he couldn’t hear what was happening in meetings. So, he did the honourable thing, and applied to the queen – Victoria – for permission to be discharged.

The request for his discharge didn’t come from Philip himself, but the Lords of the Committee of Council for the Affairs of Guernsey and Jersey on his behalf. They explained that “in consequence of a growing infirmity the said Mr De Sausmarez’s [sic] faculty of hearing has become so impaired as to interfere seriously with the discharge of his official duties… on this ground Mr De Sausmarez [sic] addressed a letter to the Bailiff as President of the States requesting him to submit to the States his resignation.”

They said that although Philip would no longer be a serving Jurat he should be allowed to keep all of the privileges that the role brought with it.

The queen considered the request at her home on the Isle of Wight, Osborne House, on 14 May. It was granted 16 days later, on the 30th. An election was held on 10 September to choose his successor.

Philip de Saumarez’s career

Philip de Saumarez was one of several in his family to head to sea. He was also the second Philip to do so. The earlier Philip de Saumarez had been born on 17 November 1710 in St Peter Port and died in battle against the French in 1747. He was buried in Plymouth with honours.

This particular Philip de Saumarez entered the Navy in 1823 and served until 1866, when he retired with the rank of captain. His last commission was to command Dasher, a paddle-driven wooden packet ship operating from Portsmouth. Previously in his career he had served in Greece, Africa, Lisbon, China and the Mediterranean.

He died on 3 May 1895 at Oaktrees, his home in Guernsey. He was 84.

Winston Churchill visited Guernsey with his wife

Winston Churchill visited Guernsey when he was First Lord of the Admiralty. It was late August 1913, and he had come to inspect the Coastguard station.

He arrived in St Peter Port aboard the Enchantress, but his priority would appear to have been a game of golf. According to a report in The Star the following day, he drove to L’Ancresse for a game, and only when he’d finished did he call on the Lieutenant-Governor.

There was no evening reception. Instead, he returned to his boat and stayed there until the following morning when it sailed away to Jersey.

An extensive tour

Churchill’s travels were extensive, and packed several stops into just a few days. He had started his trip on the 25th, arriving in Deal on the Enchantress, where he and his wife visited the Royal Marine Depot at Walmer and toured three barracks and a hospital. He played a round of golf at Sandwich.

Although only a member of the cabinet at that time, not the great leader he was destined to become, Churchill was already something of a celebrity. A large crowd had turned out to see him and his wife as the reboarded their boat at Deal. A woman in the crowd, who shouted out “Votes for women”, was “hustled by the crowd”, according to contemporary reports.

The party sailed to Dover the following day to inspect the dockyard and breakwaters, then made their way to Portsmouth. They arrived there on their third day.

On that third afternoon, Churchill took a trip down the Solent in a torpedo boat and watched seaplane flights. Some sources say that Churchill took a flight in one and declared it an excellent trip. He’d enjoyed it so much that he apparently invited the pilot to dinner on the Enchantress. Other sources maintain that the plane only landed beside Churchill’s boat and the future prime minister spent some time asking the pilot questions about it.

That evening the Enchantress headed for the Channel Islands where it arrived at 7.30 the following morning.

The daylight hours of the 29th were spent in Guernsey and the following day, at 8.15, the Enchantress left for Jersey. Once the party had left the mainland, the British papers paid little attention to what it got up to beyond Churchill’s game of golf at L’Ancresse.

Winston Churchill

Guernsey’s Reform Law was enacted

The States of Guernsey runs in accordance with a series of rules laid out in the Reform (Guernsey) Law 1948. When enacted on 18 August, it formalised, codified and updated many procedures that had been common practice since Norman times.

Its scope was comprehensive, covering everything from the duties of the Gerffier to how a recount should be handled in the election of People’s Deputies and what to do about people phycially incapable of recording a vote.

It tidied up a few loose ends, too, abolishing Cantonal Douzaines and “any rule of law which provides that a person is subject to a legal incapacity to vote by reason of his of her mental state”.

The States of Deliberation

The Reform Law established that the States of Deliberation should comprise the Bailiff, Her Majesty’s Procrurer and Comptroller, 38 Deputies from Guernsey (which includes Herm and Jethou) and two Representatives from Alderney.

The Law set the number of Deputies for each parish, with St Peter Port having the most, at 13, Vale the second most at five, and St Sampson, four. Castel and St Martin each had three, with the remaining parishes having just one Deputy each. This was amended with effect from the 2004 General Election, which organised Guernsey into seven electoral districts. St Peter Port North, Vale and Castel each elected seven Deputies, while St Peter Port South, St Sampson, West and South-East each elected six.

The original Reform Law allowed for elections to be held in secret, naturally, and required everyone appointed to be in attendance at a polling station or the count to help maintain that secrecy. If they didn’t they would be “liable on conviction to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding six months”.

This latter point, concerning hard labour, was revoked in a 1979 amendment to the Criminal Justice Law.

In case of a dispute

Candidates could only demand a recount if the number of votes they received came within 2% of their rival. Any demand would have to be made within 24 hours if it was to be actioned. The exception was where two candidates received an idential number of votes and the addition of a single vote to one or other would have seen them elected. In that case, a second ballot would be held automatically, with only those two candidates included.

Naturally, the Reform Law has been amended many times since it was originally enacted and some of its provisions have been affected by other laws that overlap. However, it continues to form the basis of Guernsey’s legal and political structure several decades after it was first debated.

Oliver Reed was jailed in Guernsey

Oliver Reed moved to Guernsey in the late 1970s so he could avoid paying high taxes back on the mainland. He took up residence at the Duke of Normandie Hotel in St Peter Port.

He already had a reputation for drinking by then, and it was this habit that ultimately got him into trouble with the authorities.

Explaining what had happened to Channel Television, he related how a friend of his had visited Guernsey and Reed, not being used to what he was drinking, had got “fairly merry”. His friend was staying at the Duke of Normandie, where the 46-year-old Reed was also staying with his 20-year-old girlfriend Josephine Burge. In an attempt to talk to his friend, Reed put his hand through one of the hotel windows while wearing only his underwear.

Wrong window

Reed had been outside at the time and the window had not been open. To make matters worse, the window he’d broken wasn’t in the room his friend was staying in, but one of the staff bedrooms.

When the police arrived, they gave Reed several warnings to go inside and stay there. When he ignored them, they had taken him into custody to await a magistrates court appearance on charges of criminal damage and behaving in a disorderly manner while drunk.

The police kept him in custody for a couple of days. Upon his release, Reed said that he had been treated very well, although the food could have been better.

Life after the Duke of Normandie

Reed married Josephine Burge in 1985, and famously drank 106 pints of beer in the two days running up to the wedding. After a year at the Duke of Normandie, the two settled on Guernsey for the next 15 years. She was widowed in 1999 when he died of a heart attack while filming Gladiator in Malta. By then, he had left Guernsey and settled in Churchtown, Ireland.

Wesleyans celebrated 100 years on Guernsey

Methodism arrived in the Channel Islands in the late 1700s. Writing in A History of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, James Marr notes that the movement “first reached Guernsey in 1785 when islanders who had been involved in the Newfoundland cod fisheries returned home, bringing their newly acquired faith with them”.

They weren’t the first to practice the religion, though. Methodist soldiers had already been garrisoned on neighbouring Jersey for two years by that point. John Wesley sent Robert Carr Brackenbury to serve as their minister. Jersey convert Jean de Quetteville preached Methodism in Guernsey the following year and, by 1787, it had arrived on Alderney.

So it was that, on 26 August 1884 – around 100 years after the Methodist faith had found such fertile ground – the Wesleyan Church in Guernsey celebrated the centenary of the religion’s foundation there.

The Star described it as “a monster gathering of the Sunday School teachers and scholars of the various chapels in the islands”.

Along with their pupils, and with each school holding a banner identifying itself, they marched to Cambridge Park along roads lined by spectators. Once they arrived, they assembled on a stage that had been erected on the northern side of the park and sang to the accompaniment of a brass band for the assembled crowds.

Methodism in Guernsey

Guernsey’s first Methodist chapel opened in 1789 and, according to the Methodist Heritage website, was followed by several others. By the 20th century there were 32 Methodist chapels on the island and 7% of the population put Methodist as their religion on the 1911 census.

Wesley himself visited both Alderney and Guernsey in August 1787. He preached in St Peter Port at what is now the Guille-Alles Library and met local dignitaries.

The post-Occupation military government was disbanded

The Channel Islands’ political recovery from the Occupation of the Second World War was swift, even if the physical scars of the Germans’ extended visit remain. After 90 days of direct British military rule, the interim military governments of Guernsey and Jersey handed control back to the people. Civil service staff resumed the roles they had held before the start of the war.

Guernsey’s new Lieutenant-Governor, Major-General Philip Neame VC, arrived on the morning of the 25th August 1945 as the king’s representative on the island. He had travelled from the mainland on a destroyer, the Brocklesbye, and arrived at St Peter Port just before noon with his family.

The guns that the German forces had installed at Castle Cornet were fired in his honour, while, on Jersey, Sir Arthur Edward Grasett was sworn in as his equivalent on that island.

Their effective predecessor, Brigadier AE Snow, who had accepted the Germans’ surrender, had diligently continued in his role as head of government until the very last moment. Just the night before handing back control, he had got into diving gear so he could check the progress of repairs being made to St Peter Port harbour to fix the damage caused by the German invaders.

Financial woes

The civilian government had a difficult rebirth. One of its first tasks was to work out how it would repay its war debt to the mainland. This was set at £7m, including around £1.5m that would be needed to rebuild damaged and destroyed property on Guernsey. There would be no money to compensate anyone who had suffered financially or lost their homes as a result of the war.

At the time, this was an extraordinary sum of money, and the States had no choice but to introduce higher rates of income tax. Before the war, earnings had been taxed at just 10.5 pence in the pound which, with 240 pennies in an old pound, was a rate of just over 4%.

Jurat John Leale, president of the Finance Committee, said that islanders would just have to grit their teeth and bear it, as they had done through five years of occupation. Leale had previously headed Guernsey’s Controlling Committee through most of the war.

Queen Victoria visited Guernsey

Queen Victoria’s visit to Guernsey, the first by a reigning monarch in six centuries, was a far from organised affair. Her yacht and its accompanying steamers had been spotted off St Martin’s Point the night before, seemingly by chance. The Lieutenant Governor was dispatched to meet them by boat.

The piers around St Peter Port quickly filled up with people trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on. Several set out in boats of their own, toward the royal boat, which was somewhat predictably called the Victoria and Albert. When the Lieutenant Governor re-emerged, he announced that the queen intended to visit Guernsey at nine o’clock the following morning. She would tour for two hours before returning to her vessel.

Preparations for a royal visit

Officials were sent out to notify the island that the queen would be coming ashore. A special meeting of the Royal Court was set for 7.30am on the 24th. This gave the magistrates an opportunity to write an official welcome for the monarch.

As the Guernsey Star reported, “Every man, woman, and child who was able to move was afoot before daybreak – many of them much earlier. Some were occupied in collecting and arranging flowers and branches for garlands and festoons, others in preparing flags &c, and others getting ready to perform their military duty, or to secure places for witnessing the scene, in which all took so lively and heartfelt an interest”.

The boats in the harbour were moved out of the way and the streets that the queen would use were covered in sand to quieten the noise of the traffic. The causeway by which she would land was carpeted.

Despite so much effort, Victoria’s tour was far from comprehensive. She looked at Fort George and St Martin’s church but was back at the harbour by 10.20, to be rowed back to her yacht by barge. By 11am, the royal party had left for Portsmouth.

Nonetheless, the event had been so remarkable that plans were put in place to commemorate it. A stone was laid where she had stepped ashore and work began on Victoria Tower, which now overlooks Town.

Trident VI ran aground on its return from Herm

At 10.55pm, one of the ferries that connect Guernsey and Herm ran into rocks in Percee Passage, a channel between Herm and Jethou. She had 179 passengers and three crew on board and was badly damaged in the collision. Three sections of the hull were pierced and started letting in water but, fortunately, nobody was hurt.

It was a late crossing, bringing back diners from a night out on Herm. They had boarded at Rosiere Steps, and the captain was attempting to manoeuvre around Jethou at the point of collision. Visibility was reduced both by the darkness and the thick fog that surrounded the boat.

Trident V, which was used for daylight trips to Herm, was immediately dispatched from St Peter Port to collect the passengers, accompanied by the lifeboat. One of the passengers used their mobile phone to call the police and tell them what had happened.

When Trident V arrived, she pulled alongside her grounded sister vessel and the passengers stepped across. Once they were safely off, the crew attached a rope to the lifeboat, which pulled Trident VI free of the rocks a couple of hours later. She returned to St Peter Port under her own power. The lifeboat accompanied her the whole way and stood watch while she was beached in the harbour.

A report on the accident attributed several causes to the crash. These included reduced visibility, over-reliance on a single navigational aid, travelling at unsafe speed in fog and the vessel’s poor handling characteristics. It noted, “Trident VI had a history of poor and unpredictable steering qualities, which could take the less than very experienced skipper by surprise.”

The Trident VI

Trident VI was 12 years old at the time of the collision. A 22.25m-long catamaran built in Gravesend in 1991, she had a maximum speed of 10 knots.

This was not the first time she had been damaged. The Trident VI had previously been hit by another vessel while at moorings, requiring a rebuild at St Sampson. That collision had happened in June 1994. Almost exactly a year later she hit a rock in Corbette Passage and was holed in two places. Again, she required repair at St Sampson. Corbette Passage is on a direct line from Percee Pass, heading towards Guernsey.

St Sampson pensioner was buried in a landslide

St Sampson residents had a nasty shock on 22 August 1919. Going about their business on what they took to be a regular Friday night, they were startled by what sounded like an earthquake. It was so loud that it could be heard across most of Guernsey. People ran out of their homes to see what had happened.

Neighbours discovered that the noise had been caused by 10,000 tons of granite and rubble sliding down the western slope of the 45m (150ft) deep Longue Hougue Quarry. At that time, the quarry belonged to Messers Menuelle and Co.

A fatality

It wasn’t only granite that had fallen, though. The landslip had taken a garden and washhouse from Church Road with it, and buried 83-year-old Mrs Martin, who had been waiting in her garden for her husband to arrive home.

The Scotsman reported,

Eye-witnesses state that they saw Mrs Martin in the garden when a rumbling noise was heard. They shouted to the old lady to get clear, and she endeavoured to do so, but in vain, and disappeared screaming.

Although a search party immediately started to dig through the rubble, Mrs Martin was not found.

The Western Times reported,

There seems to be no possibility of reaching her body, as some of the slabs of granite weigh hundreds of tons.

Whether the landslip had loosened other rocks itself, or they were all destined to fall sooner or later, isn’t clear. Either way, that wasn’t the only landslide the quarry saw that day. A second slip happened around midnight.

It was estimated that the quarry would take two years to recover from the landslide, which covered an area of 90m (300ft) by 20m (70ft).

The quarry has since been flooded and now forms the Longue Houge Reservoir at St Sampson.

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The Author

The Sarnian series is written by Nik Rawlinson, who was born in Guernsey and, although he doesn't currently live there, returns regularly. He is a journalist, author and broadcaster working for a wide range of lifestyle titles in the UK and beyond. Find out more at

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The name The Sarnian has two distinct meanings. It's up to the reader to decide which they prefer:

  1. It's the name of the newspaper for which Ollie works
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