Longevity5th December 2016
Guernsey centenarians before Mrs Neve.
The Star, January 5 1865
A letter from Ferdinand Brock Tupper:
SIR. The Times of yesterday contains a long letter, headed LONGEVITY, and signed 'A PILGRIM,' in which the writer states his belief that no well authenticated record exists of any person having completed a hundred years of age, and he certainly gives many striking facts in support of that belief. Now, in the register of deaths and burials of St Peter Port is the following entry in French: 'Susan de Beauchamp, relict of Samuel Le Bair, buried 12th June 1835, aged 101 years.' Perhaps the rectors of the different parishes of this island, especially those in the country, in one of which the said Susan was probably born, will be kind enough to examine their registers of births of about the years 1734 and 1735, and if they can find an entry of her birth either to publish it in your columns, or to communicate it to me privately, so that 'A PILGRIM' may be informed of the result, should the said Susan have really completed or exceeded her hundredth year. Lady de Havilland died 15th January 1850, aged 98 years and 6 months, and a near female neighbour of hers, whose married name was, I think, Dumaresq, died about eighteen months later, a few days before completing her hundredth year, and was buried at her previous request on the day she would have completed it.
The Star, January 12 1865
A second contribution from the same author:
SIR. [Re my previous letter:] I have now to add that through the kindness of the Rev Frederick Carey, Rector of the Castel, I learn that she was baptized in that parish on the 16th December, 1733, so that at the time of her death she was 101 years and 6 months! This information is as authentic as any documentary evidence can be. I have further learnt from a relative of Mrs Dumaresq, named in my last letter, that she died only four days before completing her hundredth year. Mr E T Moullin, of Les Vallis, Castel parish, has moreover kindly sent me the following extract:
'Dame Catherine Cohu, veuve du Sieur Pierre Le Roy, du Friquet, morte le 17e Aout, 1819, âgée de 101 ans, 8 mois, et 4 jours. (See tombstone on the south side of Castel Church.)'
The Rev F Carey has ascertained for me that the said Catherine Cohu was not baptized at the Castel, and perhaps the rectors of the other parishes will have the goodness to search their registers for the place of her birth, although I have no doubt that the inscription on her tombstone is perfectly correct. Among these registers are probably other centenarians. The Hon Mrs Annesley, who had long resided in the island, though not a native, died here a few years ago at the reputed age of 102, but her baptismal certificate is not now obtainable. In the last Star is announed the decease of Miss Mary Saumarez, aged nearly 97, and she was the last of a family of ten children including Admiral Lord Saumarez, whose average age at the time of their death could not have been less than 86 or 87, three of the sisters having died at about or above 95, and one or two of the brothers at nearly 90. Lord de Saumarez himself died at 80. Among my own family I find, 1st, Mary Tupper, relict of John Bonamy, died in January 1747, aged fully 90. 2d, Peter Tupper died in January 1765, aged 97. 3d, John Tupper died in February 1781, aged 90. 4th, Peter Tupper died in February 1820, aged fully 90, and 5th, Emilia Tupper, relict of Sir Peter de Havilland, died in January, 1850, aged 98 years and 6 months. It is remarkable that the five nongenarians just named died in January and February, proving that cold is very trying for old age. Besides them I could name many near relatives who died between 80 and 90, and it is certain that the mild and equable climate of Guernsey is productive of longevity.
TWO CENTENARIANS OF THE SAME NAME.
The following paragraph appeared in The Comet, a newspaper published in Guernsey, on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 1870:—
A Centenarian.—In the course of the present week Mrs. Lenfestey, née Beaucamp, a native of the Castel parish, and at present residing near the district church of St. John's, completed the hundredth year of her age. Her mental faculties are good, and her eyesight is so unimpaired that she is able to read and sew without the aid of spectacles. She still moves about the house, and were it not for an injury to a leg sustained some time ago, is still hale and heartv enough to enjoy herself in visiting her acquaintances. Her crippled state, however, compels her to remain at home. A daughter, seventy years of age, resides with her. Their circumstances may he described as indigent. Judging from appearances, theold lady may live a few years longer. Her lifetime forms a link connecting the present with that period of history when Great Britain struggled, unsuccessfully, to reduce the American colonists to subjection to the mother country. She saw the light before the birth of Sir Walter Scott and Louis Philippe; was well in her * teens * before the Reign of Terror had horrified the civilised world, and has lived during some of the most momentous events recorded in modern history.
On the Wednesday following, December 4, the same newspaper contained this notice:—
"A Correction.—In The Comet of November 30th it was stated that Mrs. Lenfestey, née Beauchamp,* a native of the Castel parish, but residing in the district of St. John's, had that week completed her hundredth year, and we now learn, by a singular coincidence, that another person of the same maiden name, and a native of the same parish (Castel) — namely, Susan de Beauchamp, relict of Samuel le Bair, was baptised in the Castel parish, 29th December, 1733, and buried in St. Peter Port, 12th June, 1835, aged 101 years and fully six months. [* The name has never been written thus in Guernsey. In the Norman dialect, still spoken in the island, the French word champ invariably takes the form of camp.]
As the question of longevity is one which has attracted a good deal of attention, and has been very much discussed in 'N. & Q.,' I thought it would not be uninteresting to the readers of this useful periodical if I were to verify the facts; and in so doing I became more than ever convinced how easy it is, unless great care is used, to fall into error in matters of this nature, which require a cautious sifting of the evidence adduced. I will show that although the fact of the great age attained by these two individuals is substantially correct, the writers of the above notices are wrong in stating that they were natives of the Castel parish: and that this assumption has been the cause of Mrs. le Bair being credited with six months more age than she actually attained.
One of the venerable centenarians being still living, I began by visiting her. I found her wonderfully clear in her memory and intellects, very upright in person, and with eyesight and hearing apparently unimpaired. Our conversation was carried on in the old Norman dialect, still spoken in Guernsey, but the venerable dame speaks and reads both English and French. She told me that what had appeared in the newspaper was incorrect, inasmuch as she was not a native of the Castel parish, but of the parish of St. Peter-Port; that her family had come originally from the Castel, but that her father had inhabited the parish of St. Martin until he had come to reside in the town where she was born. She produced a copy of her baptismal register, which I have since verified by a personal examination of the parish-books of St. Peter-Port. It is as follows :—
Suzanne, fille de Daniel Beaucamp* et de Judith Bond, sa femme, nee le 29° de Novembre 177C, et batisee le 2» de Decembre suivant a en pour Parrain Hellier de Beaucamp et pour Marraines Suzanne de Beaucamp et Charlotte Mauger.
[* It is not unusual for persons in the lower ranks if life, especially in town, to drop the particle de. David's true name was de Beaucamp, but he was evidently bettor known as plain Beaucamp.]
[• The name has never been written thus in Guernsey. In the Norman dialect, still spoken in the island, the French word champ invariably takes the form of camp.]
I looked through the register of baptisms for thirteen years subsequent to this date, and could find no other Suzanne de Beaucamp. I asked her at what age she had married. She told me at the age of twenty-four. I sought for the record of her marriage, and found the following entry in the register of St. Peter-Port: —
James Lenfestey, fils de Pierre Lenfestey et Suzanne de Beaucamp, fille de Daniel de Beaucamp, tous les deux de cette paroisse, ont été mariés ensemble le 8e de Septembre 1794.
I inquired of her whether she had known Mrs. le Bair, whose maiden name was also Susanne de Beaucamp, and who had died about thirty years ago. She answered immediately that she had known her well, as she was her aunt and godmother. I asked her no more questions nt that time, but being desirous of testing the accuracy of the facts in respect of the age of Mrs. le Bair, I got permission to examine the registers of the Castel parish, and found the baptism of a Susanne de Beaucamp, daughter of Denys de Beaucamp and Esther Ahier, his wife, entered on December 10, 1733. This appeared to verify the statement made in the second paragraph which I have copied above from The Comet; but a few days after I called again on Mrs. Lenfestey, and in the course of conversation told her that I had discovered her aunt's baptismal register in the boobs of the Castel parish. She appeared astonished and begged to hear it read, which I proceeded to do, when she immediately stopped me, saying—
Oh! that was not my aunt; her father's name was Nicholas de Beaucamp, and her mother's Olympe Robert. I am their granddaughter; they lived at St. Martin's, where I believe my aunt was born, as I remember that on the day she attained her hundredth year many persons called to see ber, and among them the Rev. Richard Potenger, rector of that pariah, as be said that she was the oldest of his parishioners.
This information was very precise, and I saw nt once that the writer of the second paragraph hod confounded one Susanne de Beaucamp with another. A day or two afterwards I met the Rev. Charles Robinson, the present rector of St. Martin's, and requested him to search the register of his parish for the baptism of a Susanne de Beaucamp about the year 1734. The next day he sent me the following extract duly authenticated:—
1734, Juin 4. Suzanne, Fille de Nicolas de Beaucamp et d'Olympe Robert a été baptised. Daniel Tourtel, Parain, et Francoise Maugeur et Rachel de Beaucamp, Maraines.
In the note which accompanied this extract Mr. Robinson added :—
As I have examined the register for twenty subsequent years, I think this must be the person you are inquiring about.
The discovery of the error that had been committed by supposing Mrs. le Bair to have been a native of the Castel reduces her age at the time of her decease by six months. She must have but just completed her 101st year when she died, having been baptised on June 4, 1734, and buried on June 12, 1835, as the following extract from the register of burials in the parish of St. PeterPort will show:—
1835. Susanne de Beaucamp, veuve de Samuel le Bair a été enterrée le 12» de Juin, a l'age de 101 ans.
The de Beaucamp family is of very ancient date in Guernsey. By the Placita Coronas, A° 6 Edward III., it appears that Radulphus de Bello Campo was one of the jurats of the Royal Court at that time; and in the extent of the crown revenues in the island of the same date (1331) we find that he held lands in the parishes of St. Peter-Port and St. Andrew. At the same time Richard de Beaucamp's name appears as tenant in St. PeterPort, and John de Beaucamp's in St. Peter-Port and St. Martin. In the reign of Elizabeth we find them established in the Castel, where a considerable tract of land, formerly in their possession, bears the name of "Les Beaucamps." The family being looked upon in the island as belonging to this parish will account for the errors into which the writers in The Comet have fallen.
Instances of longevity are far from rare in Guernsey. In passing through the churchyard of the Castel I found two tombstones within a few feet of each other, from which I copied the following inscriptions :—
Ici repose le corps de Dame Catherine Cohu, femme do Sieur Pierre le Roy, du Friquet, dee&lee au Seigneur le 17"" Aoust, l'an 1819, agee de 101 Ans, 8 Moia et 4 Jours.
Elizabeth Robert, veuve d'Ele'azar Ingrouille, décédée le 11e Janvier, 1860, &gee de 99 Ans et 2 Mois.
Edgar Macculloch. Guernsey.
The Star, Tuesday August 2, 1814
Recently at Serk, an old Woman, aged 99 years, 4 months and 15 days.