29th January 1790
Guernsey poet George Métivier is born
Considered by many to be Guernsey’s “national” poet, George Métivier was born in Rue de la Fontaine, St Peter Port, on 29 January 1790. He died, aged 91, on 23 March 1881, and left behind a considerable body of work.
Métivier primarily wrote in Guernesiais, and as well as producing poems in the language for both newspaper and book publication, he wrote the first Guernesiais dictionary – his Dictionnaire Franco-Normand of 1870 – and translated the Gospel of St Matthew into the local language.
He hadn’t always been destined to be a poet. Métivier studied medicine in Edinburgh, but gave up on the course and returned to Guernsey to write. He arrived back in 1830 and within a year had already produced his first volume of poetry, Rimes Guernesiais.
Although Rimes Guernesiais contained a small selection of equivalent words in both English and Guernsey French, aiding those who didn’t speak patois in reading the work, it would be another 40 years before he fleshed them out into a fully-fledged bilingual dictionary.
Despite being born in Town, Métivier used the pen name Un Câtelain in honour of his connection with Castel, the western parish where his grandfather had settled upon first arriving on the island.
Regardless of the considerable age difference between them, Métivier became a friend of the poet and painter Denys Corbet, who also wrote in Gernesiais.