23 October 1660: Lightning destroys the Moulin des Monts
From the notebook of Pierre Le Roy, as printed in The Guernsey Magazine of 1874. With notes from the Library MS Peter Mollet's Notebook; and an eyewitness account from the Reverend Thomas Le Marchant. The illustration is from an engraving by Baillie based on a watercolour by Joshua Gosselin of five companies of the 83rd Royal Glasgow Volunteers encamped on the Moulin des Monts. Gosselin also painted another view of the Moulin des Monts, which is in the Guernsey Museum collection.
Pierre Le Roy1
On Friday, the 23rd November, 1660, an accident happened to the Moulin des Monts at St Sampson’s, from a thunderbolt accompanied by a storm of wind, lightning and hail. Ezechiel Le Mierry, miller of the said mill, was killed, as well as another young man of the Vale parish who was with him, named Sampson Collas. A woman who was sitting in the mill knitting, had the work burnt in her hands, and her breast and side down to the hip scorched by lightning. A horse or mare was struck stark dead; it was tied up to the mill with four others that escaped without injury, and belonged to Jonathan Gibbs.2 The same storm shattered a wall at Castle Cornet, and carried away several corner stones which have not been seen since. The said woman was currently reported to have died four days after this event; but there was no truth in the report, for she was still alive on the 14th of December in that year.
Thomas Le Marchant3
The mill at Delancey in the parish of St Sampson's, struck by storm, thunder, lightning and thunderbolts, on the 23rd October 1660.
It was a day of storm, thunder, and lightning, heavy thunderbolts striking against the south side of the mill at Delancey. It brought down the south wall and went through the head of the miller, Ezekiel Le Mierre the elder, and struck him in the chest and thighs. It blasted Samson Collas, who was standing at the mill door, all down his side, and both men fell dead on the spot. Six people were still inside the mill; the lightning entered it and injured three of them; the other three were untouched. Unfortunately the lightning set fire to the mill in three places, but did not reach the roof.
I, Thomas Le Marchant, having got myself over to the scene of the disaster, examined the dead and wounded and then climbed up to the top of the mill, where no-one had ventured since the accident, as they were all dazed, and I got the fire which was still burning put out so as to avoid any further damage. The following morning, the 24th October, Collas was buried, and on the 25th, which was a Sunday, Mierre was interred, as was Jean Gobtel.
Signed THOMAS LE MARCHANT.
Many, doubtless of our readers have noticed the old ruin of a mill which crowns Delancey Hill, forming a conspicuous landmark for vessels approaching the island, and for our fishermen taking the bearings for the spots where to lay their lines or crab-pots, or to avoid the innumerable sunken rocks with which our shores are crowded; and which ruin it has been lately decided, is to be replaced by a monument to a distinguished islander, Admiral Lord de Saumarez, whose memory is held in high esteem by his countrymen as much for his private character as a Christian gentleman, as for his valiant deeds in the service of his country. Whether or nor the ruin of the mill dates from the accident which Pierre Le Roy has recorded, we have no means of ascertaining; it is by no means improbable that such may be the case.4 [From The Guernsey Magazine, September, 1874, p. 225.]
¹ See Lee, G. E., Note-book of Pierre le Roy, schoolmaster of S. Martin's Parish in the island of Guernsey 1600-1665, edited from the original French manuscript, with parallel English translation, introduction and notes by G.E. Lee. Guernsey Historical & Antiquarian Society publications, no.1, Guernsey: Guille-Alles Library, 1893; and Le Roy, Pierre, 1600-1665, Mémoires de Pierre Le Roy, handwritten notebook in French, available upon request.
² A search of the Church registers at the Library alas failed to identify these people. Although the Vale parish records date from 1577, when the Colloque (island Synod) directed all the island's churches to keep accurate registers, some parts of the early volumes are missing. From 1650-1660, only the burials from the very end of 1660 are extant. A Marie Collas, widow of Giret Perrin, died in April 1661 (Collas is a Vale surname), but Sampson Collas is not there. The St Sampson's registers no longer exist for this period. Jonathan Gibbs is mentioned in Report and transactions of the Soc. Guernesiaise, XIV (1948) pp. 275 ff., 'Addendum to a Guernsey homestead in the mid-l7th century,' by V.J. Collas and E.B. Moullin.
³ Staunch Presbyterian and Rector of St Samson's and the Vale, he lived at the Grand'Maisons. Previously Rector of St Martin's. He rebelled against the Act of Uniformity in 1662 and was shut up first in Castle Cornet in 1663, and in 1665 in the Tower of London, until September, 1667, when he was liberated 'on £1000 bail on condition he never dare set foot in Guernsey again without special permission from the King, and that he behaves in future like a respectful and loyal subject.' Also imprisoned was Jean Roland, the Rector of St-Pierre-du-Bois; Thomas' wife was Olympe Roland. This is our translation of a document in French reproduced in the Monthly Illustrated Journal [otherwise known as the Guernsey Magazine], of March, 1889, p. 129. It was a copy of the original, and according to 'RTR of St Martin's' was found 'at St Martin's amongst some old manuscripts between seventy and one hundred years old.'
4 According to Peter Mollet's Notebook, in 1714 Henry de Saumarez sold 'the mill known as the Moulin des Monts' to Pierre Mollet, on condition that he rebuilt it and restored it to working order, for 6 quarters of wheat rent @ 7 livres tournois the quarter, two capons for the Queen, and the duty payable to the Seigneur. 'Monsieur Henry de Saumarez fils du feu le Rev'd Doctor John de Saumarez, et agissant pour dame Rachel Briard sa mère, baille à rente à Pierre Mollet fils Pierre de St André, le moullin communement appellé le Moulin des Monts, situé à St Samson, pour six quartiers de rente payable sur le pieds de sept livres tournois le quartier, et deux chapons de rente deub a sa Majesté, & le chef rente du Seigneur. Bien entendu que le preneur fera retablir, redifier et bâtir le dit Moullin pour le rendre moulant de ce qui est necessaire pour servir le public, à ses propre temps et dans tel temps.'
Peter Mollet adds that in 1772,
This mill was the property of a descendant named John, at whose death it was obliged to be sold before Justice, Sieur Thomas Le Patourel Curateur aux biens du Sieur Jean Mollet fils aîné sold it to James Langlois fils Jean for 82 livres tournois de Rente, 2 quartiers de froment & 2 chapons de Rente et 520 livres tournois, une fois payer.
Mr Thomas Le Patourel, conservator of Mr Jean Mollet, eldest son, sold it to James Langlois son of James for 82 livres tournois rent, 2 quarters of wheat rent, two capons of rent, and a one-time payment of 520 livres tournois.
Notebook of Peter Mollet, MS in the Library.