Denys Corbet was many things: poet, painter, editor, clock smith, public servant. It’s perhaps for his paintings of cows that he’s best remembered, though.
Born in La Turquie, Vale, on 22 May 1826, he was a master of Guernesiais. Like Guernsey’s better-known poet, Métivier, he wrote much of his work in the language. He also used two pseudonyms: The Last Poet, when writing verse, and Chatterbox when writing prose in Le Baillage.
Meaning “The Bailiwick”, Le Baillage was the French-langauge newspaper he edited. The name Last Poet nods at the fact that he was the last of Guernsey’s poets to write using the island’s own language. He dedicated his first book of poems to Métivier.
A man of many talents
Having become a renowned writer in his own right, he spent some time as a teacher. After that, he spent two years as a parish constable, repaired clocks and valued land. He married Susan Elizabeth Wellington in 1852 and the couple had six children.
Among his best-known poems is The Tour of Guernsey, which describes the island’s ten parishes in significant detail. He is also known for another written work, The Leaves of The Forest, but is better remembered for his paintings. These largely concern themselves with aspects of rural life and, in particular, Guernsey cows.
Death and legacy
Corbet died in Forest, Guernsey, on 21 April 1909, and was buried in Forest churchyard. In 2009, to mark the centenary of his death, an attempt was made to erect a blue plaque in his honour at La Roberge farm. This was where he had lived out what remained of his life from 1877.
This attempt was unsuccessful, but a second attempt in 2011 did succeed and the plaque was unveiled at 3pm on 16 July that year.
It reads, “Denys Corbet, 1826 – 1909, Poet and Painter soulait d’meurair ichin”.