Barbarie Falla and Barbarie Rillie
We asked the question—who or what were they?
J'tremblle, en traversant la porquère,
Où j'volais l'barbari-muscat¹: George Métivier, in his poem L'Temps qui n'est plus.
They are Guernsey cider apples. Peter Girard, in his 1979 article 'Cider making in the Channel Islands,'² lists these two and others: Doux Masurier, Pommes de Romeril, Pommes de Normandie, Gros Doux de France, Pommes à sucre, Rouge Amerel and Blanc Amerel, Petit Doux, Sûr avoique, and the Loumet. T. F. Priaulx³ gives Amrey de Jersey, Blanc Amrey, Gros Doux de France, Loumet, Messuriers, Petits Doux, Pommes de Normandie, Pommes à sucre (also called the Sugar Apple), Romry or Romeril, Rouge Amrey, and Sûr Avoigne; and Quayle gives as 'natives of Jersey' the sweet-tasting Romeril, also 'esteemed for baking,' the Lammé, the sweet Noir-Toit, the bitter Gros-Amer, the Pain-saucé, Rognueux, and Fréchen, or Fréquen, (of esteemed quality, but bad bearers) and the Amerét aux Gentils-hommes, which 'ripens late.' See What's on the Menu in Guernsey in 1681?, note 3. A pomme 'sûr' is sour. The Romeril was a Jersey4 apple named after the family that first popularized it, as must Barbarie Falla have been in Guernsey. As for the Rillié, René Lepelley tells us of a type of apple known as reilé, 'striped,' derived from a patois noun réle, itself derived from Old French reille, 'a stripe or bar.' In Guernsey French the word for a stripe is rîle, or rille. 'There were two varieties of 'semi-tender' cider apples called rélês: la petite and la grosse, which is also called the rélé jumelé, 'twin,' because the apples are sometimes found stuck together in twos on the branch.' A very popular apple there and in the rest of Normandy was apparently the Marie-Onfray, whose name underwent many variations: perhaps this is the origin of the Rouge Amrey, unless it is a variation on the Jersey surname Emerey. It is still possible to buy a Barbarie tree; the modern variety at least is bittersweet and also known as 'Monte-en-l'air,' ripening in November.
À flleur de Mars—ni pouque ni sac; à ffleur d'Avril—pouque et baril; à flleur de Mai—barrique et toune.
'Blossom in March needs no bag or sack; blossom in April fills barrel and bag; blossom in May fills hogshead and tun.' A saying referring to the cider apple crop, from A. T. Henley's Ichìn nou pâle le patouais, 1949, p. 27.
In 1836, Arnaud de Montor wrote that 'some experts sing the praises of Guernsey cider and rate it most highly of all, but although it may be very clear, it is extremely strong.' ['quelques amateurs vantent le cidre de Guernesey et n'hésitent pas à le placer au-dessus de tous les autres cidres; mais s'il offre une liqueur très limpide, il est aussi éminemment énivrant.']5
Cider had become the staple drink of Normandy in the 16th century. A French and English Dictionary, by Randle Cotgrave, first published in 1611, defines the Pomme de Barbarie, or Barbary Apple, as 'a kind of fair, sappy, and well-tasted apple;' more to the cider-maker's taste might be the Barbarie de Biscay, 'the name of a great bitter-sweet apple.' Cider, sider, or cyder, is in this dictionary known in French as cidre, sidre, or pommé. (A copy of this important dictionary in the Priaulx Library collection may be viewed on request.)
George Métivier included the apple in his Dictionnaire:
(Le) Barbari. Apple, thus called on account of its having originated in Barbary. The barbarie or barberie of Biscay was very large and semi-sweet, according to Randell Cotgrave, 1611; but he preferred the barberiot because of its delicious juice, despite its small size. [He quotes the poem above.] This confirms the tradition that Norman sailors introduced cider apple orchards to France in the 14th century, influenced by the Spanish Basques, who themselves learned it from the Moors.
John Philips in his Cyder (1708) spoke of the muscat, calling it 'the musk:' 'But how with equal Numbers shall we match/The Musk's surpassing Worth! that earliest gives/ sure hopes of racy Wine, and in its Youth,/ Its tender Nonage, loads the spreading Boughs/ With large and juicy Off-spring, that defied/ The Vernal Nippings, and cold Syderal Blasts!'
(It is interesting that Philips then goes on to say that the Red-Streak is in fact to be preferred to the Musk. Is this our Rillié?) For David Ansted, in 1864, p. 488, 'the coccagee carries off the palm for cider.'
'Barbary' or 'Barberie' apples (in modern terminology, 'Berberie') might even take their name from the old Abbey of Barberie, in Calvados, (f. c. 1181) which itself seems to have been named after the area in which it was founded, rather than from the Crusaders' Barbary.
In 1866 T. Brehaut,6 a member of the Royal Horticultural Society, asked growers to help him record the island's cider apples. He wrote in a letter in the Star of April 21:
May I suggest to growers that an exhibition composed chiefly of Guernsey and Jersey cider apples, so that the names peculiar to each island might be compared and rectified, would be a real benefit. I have been asked by a committee in London to obtain some information so as to compare the cider apples of both islands, with those of France and of England, and so to classify them. Having attempted this before for Professor Ansted's work, it was found then to be impracticable, owing to the extreme confusion of nomenclature employed. But by means of an exhibition this difficulty might be overcome, and, possibly, a new market opened for those kinds proved to be the best. As it is, the best cider apples in Jersey are not those thought so here, and both again considerably differ from those of Herefordshire, Normandy, and Brittany. Unless specimens were, therefore, first compared and proved in these islands, it would be premature to test them with those of other places. A special conference was lately held at Rouen for this purpose; those of Engand are already ascertained; it therefore remains for the Channel Islands to do their part. Excuse this long letter on a favourite subject. Richmond-House, April 19.
¹ BARBARIE-MUSCAT s. f. (bar-ba-rî-muska). Hortic. A variety of apple (one of those used in making '5-apple' cider). L'une des variétés de pommes (qui entrent dans la fabrication du cidre dit des cinq pommes). Larousse Encyclopedia, 1867.
² The Quarterly Review of the Guernsey Society, 35 (2) p. 34. There is a great deal of information in Quayle's General View of the Agriculture and Present State of the Islands on the Coast of Normandy, published in London in 1815, pp. 127 ff.. A similar list is given by Marie de Garis in 'Old-Time St Pierre du Bois', Quarterly Review of the Guernsey Society, VI (3), Autumn 1950:
A cider tax at so much per barrel made, formed part of the 'small' tithe, along with bean sheaves, piglets, and calves. [....] Part of every orchard was devoted to cider apples. And what charming names these had—Romry, Normandie, Messurier, Barbarie Falla, Barbarie Rillie, Sur Avoigne, Pommer de Sucre, Rouge Amrey, Amrey de Jersey, Gros Doux, Petit Doux and the bitter Loumet. The Guernsey cider made strong muscles. [p. 9]
³ Cider-Making, an old-time Guernsey industry, published by La Société Guernesiaise, Guille-Allès Library, Guernsey, with photography by Carel Toms. It includes a useful glossary of Guernsey French cider-making terms.
4 Lepelley, René, 'Le vocabulaire des pommes dans le parler normand du Val de Saire (Manche),' in Langue française 18 (1973) pp. 42-64 (copy in the Library). This article contains a great deal of information about cider apples and the methods employed in that area, very close in every respect to the Channel Islands. Jersey has created an official 'national' collection of old cider apples, including the Romeril. There is a comparatively large amount of literature on cider-making in Jersey, as virtually the whole island was turned over to it at one time, and it is reviewed by Speer, J.G., in 'Pommage,' Bulletin of the Société Jersiaise, 1970, XX (2), pp. 164 ff.. The author also included lists and descriptions of cider apples known to have been used in Jersey, suggesting that those apples still grown to make cider in England which have the word 'Norman' or 'Jersey' in their names are versions of these original Channel Island apples. The Library has in its collection the Aperçu sur la culture des pommiers, et la manipulation du cidre, ouvrage théorique et pratique, a l'usage des habitants de l'Isle de Jersey, published in 1806 by P. Mourant and written by the Reverend Francis Le Couteur, rector of Grouville; it is a beautifully written book with several illustrations of presses and other machinery used on the island.
Jean Poingdestre in his Caesarea of 1682 explains that in the previous century the drink of Jersey was mead,
of two sorts: the one called Vitto, so strong, that it made men drunk as cider doth now; from whence there is still a proverb used among the People: 'Vous estes Envittoe', for one who knows not what he doth; the other sort was called Boschet;' a great deal of 'a more excellent sort of honey, than is seen ordinarily' was then produced, but now only apples are grown. 'Likewise in lieu of Vitto and boshet the ancient drink Cydar is at present altogether in use: we have likewise made use of perry heretofore, before Cydar was so plentiful as it is now; but at present it is so little regarded that labourers and servants will hardly drink of it; for Cydar is grown so plentiful that it serves not only for common use even to excess, but much of it might be spared for transportation. [Bulletin Annuel de la Société Jersiaise, 1889, pp. 3 ff.]
The French Cider Institute has produced a list of varieties of French cider apple still in use today, including the Barbarie, Gros Doux, and Normandie Blanc, which they are testing for their usefulness to the modern cider maker; another list of historic French varieties.
5 See Notes on Cidermaking, 1823, for the particular method used in Guernsey for producing strong and clear superior cider.
6 Thomas Collings Brehaut of Mount Row, author of fruit-growing treatises, Prison Chaplain, and friend of Victor Hugo.
See also 'Guernsey still makes cider in 1951.'