Not many guests on the BBC’s long-running interview strand, Desert Island Discs, can claim to actually live on an island roughly as large as the programme envisages. That makes Dame Sibyl Hathaway, ruler of Sark something of a stand-out guest.
The difference, of course, was that she didn’t live alone on Sark. Nonetheless, she said that she didn’t believe she would have trouble with the solitude of being stranded on a small patch of land in the middle of the ocean.
She appeared on the show on 25 October 1971 alongside host Roy Plomley. The Dame talked listeners through her life story. She discussed what it was like to live under German occupation and, of course, which eight records and one book she would take with her to the desert island.
Dame Sibyl’s favourite records
Her selection was perhaps not surprising in that it was almost entirely composed of classical pieces. Noel Coward’s Matelot was the only exception. Aside from him, she settled on Gershwin, Dvorak, Debussy and Mendelssohn among others.
The one record she would have saved if they were all at risk of being washed away was Symphony Number 5 in C Sharp Minor by Gustav Mahler. Why? Because, she believed, “all of one’s emotions” were tied up in it, making it the most satisfying of the lot.
Her book of choice was the History of England by Sir Keith Feiling. This would certainly have kept her occupied until rescue arrived: published in December 1950, it runs to 1264 pages.
For her luxury, she would take “lots” of canvas and tapestry tools. She would use them to weave her own Bayeux-style tapestry of the history of Sark or, if not that, the history of her own life.
The episode is still available on the BBC website. It was archived without the music, leaving just 17 minutes of interview and introduction.