January 1881: Storms and snow

From the newspapers, including severe storms and gales in Guernsey.

Snow and giant snowballs; Mme Dubreuil; George Playle and the loss of the schooner King; Soup KitchenDeath of John Gale from culpable negligence; Albert Domaille; Adèle Girard; Hennessey, Hewlett, De Mouilpied.

Saturday night a heavy fall of snow, 12 degrees of frost, has continued with unabated severity for a week. Snow fell heavily on Wednesday, heaviest on Thursday night, until Friday, ground covered 18 inches, several feet in by drifting, rendering the roads in various directions quite impassable.

'Communication with the country has been carried on with exceptional difficulty, many asserting that they have never seen in Guernsey the like before, and twenty years ago is quoted as a period of parallel severity by some, while others declare it is forty-eight years last Thursday since we had such a visitation. So bad was it yesterday that he meeting of the States had to be postponed, many of the country members being unable to reach town. The wind has been blowing with uncommon keenness during the whole time, principally from the eastward, with slight variations to the North and South.' Trams unable to move, roads partially cleared by gangs of men under the direction of the Road Surveyors.

'Much annoyance and unpleasantness has been occasioned by snow-balling in the streets, which has been carried on in the principal thoroughfares with impunity, by a parcel of lazy roughs, who have been cowardly enough to attack even women and children. Some of these fellows made a monster ball on Thursday evening, and rolled it down Smith Street, blocking up the roadway at the top of the Carrefour. It was about nine feet high and of proportionate dimensions.' (See below for the culprits!)

'The appearance of the Town today (Market Day) has been most remarkable. Few country people were able to put in an appearance, and consequently butter and other products were both scarce and dear. The streets are in a most disgraceful state, and the authorities appear to be perfectly paralysed. Surely instead of encouraging men in idleness by giving them temporary doles, would it not be better to employ those who will work in any number, and have the obstruction thrown in to the Harbour where it will do no harm. It would be a saving to the ratepayers and the States in the long run, and give honest, starved men, the opportunity of earning what they so much need, rather than be humbled to beg for it. From a sanitary point of view, this ought to be looked after; or the parish will be called upon to pay cent per cent for their culpable negligence.'

[Here is an explanation for the giant snowball, in a letter published in the Quarterly Review of the Guernsey Society XXI (4), Winter 1965: 'Snowball in Smith Street. Dear Editor, When I was a child I was fascinated by a tale which my grandfather (then Rector of the Vale) used to tell. It must have referred to the period around 1880, when he was at Elizabeth College. In the story, my grandfather and his friends, one exceptionally hard winter, made a huge snowball which they rolled from Elizabeth College through the streets. As they did so, it gathered snow, so that eventually it stuck completely in the narrow streets at the top of Smith Street. Probably this was an exaggeration to amuse a small child, but I often wonder whether there was any foundation for it. I have often meant to look up the weather records for the winters around 1880, but have never achieved this. I wonder if the same tale appears in any other reader's family repertoire of stories? AUDREY LE LIEVRE.']

The Star, January 25, 1881


To the Editor of the Star.

SIR, I am sure all must have rejoiced to see the efforts made to get rid of the incubus of snow now in our midst. The employment of men, even at a low wage, is preferable to letting them remain idle. It is to be hoped that these measures will be continued till the heaps in our principal thoroughfares are reduced in bulk to a reasonable extent. It would have been well if an earlier effort had been made, as there was a great amount of idleness, leading to a corresponding amount of snowballing during Friday and Saturday. It was a perfect saturnalia for the roughs, neither age nor sex being exempt from their troublesome attentions. It would be well to make an example of some of them if caught pelting a defenceless woman or an aged man. I think also the Constables should give orders that every person is to clear the snow from the footpath in front of his house, under penalty of a fine. If this had been done, locomotion on Friday and Saturday would have been easier. This snow-storm ought to teach us a lesson.

I am , Sir, Yours &c., UNPAID INSPECTOR.

The Star, January 1, 1881

A BAREFACED ROBBERY. Yesterday afternoon a drunken French woman who has given much trouble to the Police, called at the Constables' Office, but as her complaint was frivolous she was ordered away; apparently she went, and nothing more was heard of her until about 5 o'clock, when Assistant Constable Robert, who resides on the premises having returned to his tea, having occasion to go upstairs, found one of the rooms in great disorder. Suspecting somthing wrong he made enquiries, and his daughter remembered seeing the old French woman pass with a bundle on her back. Robert at once started in search and quickly caught the woman in a shop at the top of Cornet-street offering some articles for sale, he thereupon took her into custody and had her and her bundle removed to gaol, where on searching, the following amongst other articles were found, twelve bathing dresses, two blankets, a number of towels, some hand-looking glasses, the bathing Constable's staff, and several other articles belonging to the Bathing Committee deposited for safety at the Constable's office, in addition to a quantity of old china belonging to Robert's mother-in-law. The thief must have been very expeditious and careful over the business as the office was occupied at the time.

The Star, January 6th 1881


(Before J. Le Mottee, Esq., Lieutenant-Bailiff, A. S. Collings, J. L. Mansell, and J. R. Tardif, Esqrs., Jurats)


A Frenchwoman named Dubreuil was produced on a charge of having stolen from the Constables' Office, 4 bathing-dresses, 8 towels, 8 looking-glasses, 1 table-cover, 2 blankets, 14 cups and saucers, 5 pairs of bathing-shoes, 2 boxes and a Constables' staff, the property of the Special Constable of the Bathing-Places. The theft occurred on Friday afternoon last, and the articles were taken from a room above PC Robert's kitchen and adjoining the douzaine room. A woman employed on the premises helped to put the bundle on Mrs Dubreuil's back, thinking her to be a person who had come to fetch her property after a term of imprisonment.

The Court condemned the accused, who did not quite appear to have lost her talking powers, to one month's imprisonment, 4 days in each week to solitary confinement on bread and water, at the expiration of that time to find bail in the sum of £5 for her good conduct during one year, or leave the island.

The Star January 6, 1881


Report of George Playle, Mate of the schooner King, of and from Guernsey, 67 tons, December 8th, at 3 p.m. for London (115 tons stone). [....] Our course was inside the Goodwins. We did not see the Gull or any other light after passing the South Sand Head. After doing so the Captain ordered the mainsail to be lowered and reefed, and deponent and the two other hands were so employed from that time until we struck the gound as stated below. We were a long time about it, as the mainsail was to windward of the topper lift, and the wind very high.

On the 29th, at 9.30 p.m., tide setting to E., weather thick with rain, wind S.S.W., a gale, with a very high sea, the vessel struck heavily on the ground on the Goodwin Sands, and struck three times afterwards in quick succession. We bore up and ran N. and by W. for ten minutes and sighted a barque's anchor light under our lee bow. We endeavoured to cross her bow, but as we had no mainsail our vessel would not luff, and our mainrigging caught the barque's jibboom and broke it, which fell on our deck, and dragged deponent and another hand overboard. He could not tell who the other hand was. Deponent caught the barque's jib guy and climbed on board. The other hand tried to do the same and hung on for half an hour, deponent throwing a rope three times to him, but he must have been too frightened to let go his hold so as to catch the rope. At last he was washed away. We tried to catch him with a boathook, but could not. Nothing could be seen of our vessel from the time deponent got on board the barque. He thinks she went down with the rest of the hands. He now knows that our bearing when we struck was North Foreland N. by W. The barque referrd to was the Sottir, a Greek, bound for Constantinople, from which vessel he was taken ashore at 11 a.m. today by the Ramsgate Harbour tug. Ramsgate, Dec 30. [Abridged from newspaper report.]

The Star January 22nd, 1881

On Tuesday last there were 1955 pints of soup given out from the St Peter-Port Kitchen, and 1745 pints yesterday. From the above it will be seen how much good has been done for the poor by this Charity this last inclement week.


Intelligence was received in town this morning of the finding if the dead body of John Gale, a meat carrier, formerly market scavenger, at Mont Saint, Castel. The deceased was employed by Mr. Hillier, Army Butcher, and left yesterday afternoon at 2 o'clock with meat for the outlying forts of Houmet and Richmond. He was probably returning home from the latter place when he met with his death. [This case caused a scandal and was ajudged to have occurred as a result of culpable negligence; it transpired Gale was left to die of exposure. John Guille and Thomas Le Cheminant, who lived nearby, had raised the alarm having tried to pick him up and move him, but the snow was too deep. Mr. Allaire, parish constable of St Saviour's, refused to get out of bed and raise help for him as Gale was lying in the road in the Castel; "It is not in my parish, I have nothing to do with it, you will have to go and fetch Mr Smidley." He asked,"Can you carry him to your house?" Allaire said that since they could not take him on their backs or drag him there, as they had already attempted to do, they should put him in shelter at the foot of a hedge and leave him. They told him several times that the man was nearly dead. It was frightful weather, etc. etc.]


Before E. MacCulloch, Esq., Lieut.-Bailiff and J. Collings, De Vic Tupper and H. M. Carre, Esqrs, Jurats.


Albert Domaille, 14 years of age, was charged with having stolen from Mrs Langlois at the Petite Fontaine, two sovereigns and two half sovereigns, and three silver pieces. [....] The accused when placed in prison, acknowledged having committed the theft, and most of the money was afterwards found. Mr Ozanne, baker, stated that on Monday morning the accused changed a half-sovereign at his shop.

A letter from the lad's master was handed to the Procureur which stated that he had never had cause to doubt the honesty of his apprentice. The Procureur said that this was a case which required consideration as to whether the new law touching Certified Reformatory Schools should be put into force, but under the present circumstances, this being the first offence and the lad having had a good character from his master, he simply asked 4 days' imprisonment and 20 stripes with the rod. The mother declared that her son was subject to fits, and Dr. Foster had stated that bodily chastisement might be very dangerous to him. The Court, in presence of this declaration, sentenced the accused to one week's solitary confinement.


Mr. A. H. Collings, one of the Constables for St Peter Port, applied to the Court for the removal from the island of Adèle Girard, widow Picard, under the following circumstances. In May last by an Act of Court, she being deranged and chargeable to the parish, her removal to France, her native country, had been ordered. Since that time she had returned to Guernsey, and might again become chargeable to the parish. Victor Auguste Marr, the brother-in-law of this woman, now declared himself ready to stand surety in case she should have another attack of mental aberration; and that she would not become chargeable to the parish. The Court therefore authorised her once again to reside in Guernsey.


William John Henessey and John Hewlett were accused of having, especially on the night of 15th and 16th January, committed several acts of destruction to property in the parishes of St Andrew's and the Castel. The Court, having heard several witnesses in private, remanded the two prisoners in order to receive more information, putting John Hewlett on oath to appear at Court on Saturday next at noon; Hennessey was removed to prison. [A third accused, Edward De Mouilpied, did not present himself at Court, but the same afternoon he was arrested on board the Renown which had left St Sampson's harbour for London, and which was forced to put back from stress of weather.]