History of the Jeux St George
An extract from an article in The Guernsey Magazine, July 1888, p. 60, giving a detailed history of the Jeux St George, which took place annually after Christmas at Vazon. It was the foundation of these games, which were instituted as an incentive for members of the militia to improve their marksmanship, which was at that time very poor, that eventually led to the expertise of Guernsey marksmen at Bisley and other competitions. The results of these games and other similar island shooting competitions that followed were always reported in great detail in the local newspapers.
Through the courtesy of George A. de Garis, Esq., High Constable, the treasurer of the jeux, we are enabled to present our readers with a short sketch of the history of the annual event, which bears the above title.
The games were established on the 27th December, 1825, with the following rules:
- The chief or president of the games shall furnish a blanc, or mark, and a musket, three bullets, and two glasses of liquor per man, and three prizes to the three best shots: the first half-a-crown, the second one shilling and sixpence, and the third a shilling. These prizes shall be in English money. Each prize-winner shall receive a card, on which shall be inscribed his name, and the details of the prize.
- Each man offering himself to shoot for the prizes shall provide himself with gunpowder, and shall pay fivepence on receiving his three bullets. As soon as he has fired, he shall go with a man sent by the chief to measure the balls which may have struck the mark (target). (The target was entirely blank, and the shots were judged according to their proximity to the centre.)
- The games shall be held every year on Vazon, the day of the Christmas fair at eight o’clock in the morning.
These curious rules are signed by Nicolas Le Beir, Chef.
The first competition came off on the 27th December, 1825, as above-said, when nineteen men came forward and fired. The muskets used were the old flintlocks, and the ‘mark’ was set at a range of a hundred yards. Of the nineteen marksmen (sic), nine missed the target altogether, nine hit it once, and one hit it twice, receiving the first prize for his remarkable skill! This was not bad considering all things. John Dorey was the name of the first-prize winner; Pierre Nicolle the second; and William Le Page the third.
The next year, 1826, there were thirty-two competitors, and the art of musket-shooting had progressed so far in the meantime that two men managed to strike the mark three times, six men hit it twice, and thirteen men once, eleven men wasting their shots.
The third year again thirty-two men came forward when there were three with three shots each, six with two shots, nine with one shot, and fourteen misses.
In 1828 a foot-race was added to the yearly ‘games’, with the following rules:
- The chief of the games shall furnish the stakes, and that which is necessary for the course, also a glass of liquor per man, and three prizes for the three best runners: the first one shilling, the second eightpence, and the third fivepence, and cards for the winners.
- Each man desiring to run, shall pay threepence to the fund.
The first foot-race came off on the 26th December, the same year, at Vazon. Eight men ran, Nicolas Brehaut winning the first prize, J. Andros Guille the second, and Nicolas Blondel the third.
The Jeux after 1858. For 1831-1858, please consult the original article. The Star of 4th May 1837 reports that the 2nd or North Regiment of Militia were inspected on Lancresse Common by their Colonel, Col. Ozanne, and then took part in a ball-firing competiton for a Silver Cup presented by their late commander, Colonel Tupper. The targets were fixed at 110 yards and each company was given 800 rounds each; Captain Brown's Company from St Sampson won, having 'compeletly riddled the bulls-eye.' See also the cuttings book, News cuttings, mainly militia and rifle club, in the Library strongroom; and P C Gray, 'A silver Churchwarden pipe,' Quarterly Rev. of the Guernsey Society XX (2), Summer 1964, p. 30. This was the second prize in the 1831 games, and was won by J. Rougier.