November 1791: Foul deeds at the Fallas'

14 November—Daniel Falla, his wife, and daughter are dragged out of their beds, beaten up and robbed by two soldiers from the garrison.

Gazette de l’Isle de Guernesey, 19 November 1791

From our family records, we suggest that the Daniel Falla in question here was the grandson of Jean Falla of the Rocques Barrées, Vale. He was born in 1751 to Michel and Marie Falla, and died in 1792, the year after this attack, at the age of only 41. He married Suzanne Le Pelley, who died also at the relatively young age in of 44 in 1796. He was cousin of Jean Falla du Tertre (1757-1794). His daughter Suzanne was born in 1776, and so was only 15 in 1791. She went on to marry James le Marchant, the brother of J. Gaspard, and have several children; James, who was a ne'er-do-well, bought Le Tertre from Jean Falla, but sold it soon afterwards. Her brother Daniel, who was born in 1778 and so would have been 12 or so at this time, died unmarried in 1851; her younger brother Thomas, only 10 here, was orphaned at 15, went straight into the army, and died at 18 in 1799 in the siege of Seringapatam. Their memorial in St Sampson's Church1 tells us that their house was at the Maisons aux Comtes.

Victor Collas' article in the Transactions of the Société Guernesiaise XVII (1),(1960) p. 60, discusses the Falla family 'du Tertre' among others. The Library has the original partage of the rents belonging to Daniel after his death amongst his two sons and James Le Marchant.

For the original French see below.

Between midnight and one o’clock of the evening of the 14th of this month, two soldiers of the 8th Regiment went to Mr Daniel Falla’s house, and broke the laundry window. From there they gained entrance to the kitchen and opened the doors; they then entered Miss Falla’s bedroom, where she was asleep; she was woken by the two villains who asked her where her mother and father were to be found; the terrified girl cried out twice for her mother, who got out of bed upon hearing her daughter’s screams, and went to the bedroom door, which the two villains were holding shut; the mother, who had heard no sound from her daughter since, rammed the door so hard that it opened.

The brave mother, wanting to protect her daughter, pushed the two villains who hit her twice on the head with a bayonet, and then hit her a third time on the left arm and told her, 'Your money or your life;' Mme Falla, athough dangerously wounded, told them that she would give them the money she had on her; at the same time one of the two villains went in to Mr Falla’s bedroom (he has been ill for some time) and hit him hard on the head with his bayonet and held the point against his body and told him that if he uttered a word he would kill him.

While this was going on, Mme Falla was in the middle of giving the other the money she had (which consisted of 44 livres tournois and 2 quarters of wheat’s worth of rent); the wretch told Mme Falla that this was not all the money she had in the house, and that she would have to find more, or she would die; Madame Falla, dragging herself as best she could towards her husband, told him: 'What I’ve given them isn’t enough.' Mr Falla told her to give them everything, and that his life was dearer to him than any amount of money; Mme went into another room, followed by the villains, and opened a desk with a purse in it, which was snatched from her hands by one of the ruffians.

Meanwhile Miss Falla seized the opportunity to escape from the house (barefooted and in her nightdress), intending to go to Mr André Le Poitevin’s house to get help; one of the murderers, noticing her escape, came out and grabbed hold of her a short way from the house, ordering her to get back in and not make a sound, and forced her to return to the house. Soon after they left, warning them all not to say anything, or they would come back within the week and slit their throats.

As soon as Mr and Mme Falla thought their attackers were far enough away, they sent for Monsieurs Eléazar Le Marchant and Jean Falla of the Tertre, who went straight to the house and found Mr and Mme Falla covered in blood. They thought it would be a good idea to send for a doctor, so M Bertier was called up, and arrived there quickly. Meanwhile Monsieurs Le Marchant and Falla of the Tertre were chasing the murderers, and arrived at the citadel [Fort George], having checked three military posts; but as it was barely 3 or 4 in the morning, they were unable to get in and took the road back to Mr Falla’s house, where they found Dr Bertier ready to mount his horse; after a short conversation it was decided that M Bertier would go to the Comptrolleur, who gave an order to his brother Monsieur de Saumarez, captain of a company at Fort George, to arrest the murderers; despite it being pitch black and the possibility of meeting the villains on the way, M Bertier, alone at the Fort, the gates not yet having been opened, had the idea of hiding in a furze field until the cannon was fired (which was the signal for the doors to be opened, and what the villains were waiting for in order to get back in); he went up to the gate and asked to speak to M de Saumarez; he was taken to his room, where he presented his evidence. Monsieur de Saumarez arrested two soldiers who had not answered to their name at roll-call the previous evening; they were made to undress, and their shirts were covered in blood. M de Saumarez had them put in prison and the next day they were taken to court; on Thurday they were brought face to face with Mr and Mme Falla, their son and daughter, all of whom recognised them, and they were sent to Castle Cornet.

1 In this church in the same tomb lie the bodies of Daniel Falla, Ecuyer, of the Maisons au Comte, 41 years, 9 months, 20 days of age, gone to our Lord on the 28th February, 1792, and of Mrs Susanne Le Pelley, his wife, daughter of Jean Le Pelley, Ecuyer, of Les Pelleys, aged 44 years, nine months, 20 days of age, gone to our Lord on 30 September, 1796. This monument is erected to their memory and to that of their younger son, Thomas Falla, Lieutenant in the 12th Foot, who died at the Siege of Seringapatam on the 6 April 1799, aged 18 years, six months, and 25 days, following a wound from a heavy 26-pound cannon-ball, which lodged between the bones of his thigh; the wound being considerably inflamed, the surgeon from the regiment, although he examined the injured spot, did not realise that a cannon-ball was inside and it was only after his death, which took place six hours after the event, that it was extracted, to the amazement of the whole army. [We have a colour photograph of Thomas' medal from Seringapatam; for eye-witness accounts of his death see Edith Carey's copy of Auger's St Sampson's Church: Archaeological and historical notes, pp. 14-15, in the Library.] Thomas' brother Daniel died in 1851 a Colonel, having been Town mayor of Gibraltar; he was the last person to be buried inside St Sampson's Church.

[Original French:] Dans cette église et dans le même tombeau reposent les corps de DANIEL FALLA, ECUYER, des Maisons au Comte, âgé de quarante et un ans, neuf mois, vingt jours, décédé au seigneur le vingt-huit février, 1792, et de dame SUSANNE LE PELLEY, son épouse, fille de JEAN LE PELLEY, ECUYER, des pelley, âgée de quarante-quatre ans, neuf mois, vingt jours, décédée au seigneur le 30 Septembre, 1796. Ce monument est érigé à leur mémoire, et à celle de leur fils cadet, THOMAS FALLA, lieutant au 12ème régiment d'infanterie, mort au siège de Seringapatam, le 6 avril 1799, âgé de 18 ans, 6 mois, 25 jours, des suites d'une blessure d'un boulet de canon solide pesant 26 livres, qui s'était logé entre les deux os d'une de ses cuisses, la dite blessure s'étant enflammée considérablement, le chirurgien du régiment, quoiqu'ayant examiné la plaie, ignorait qu'un boulet y fut renfermé et ce ne fut qu'après sa mort, qui eut lieu six heures après l'événement, qu'il fut extrait, à la surprise de toute l'armée.

Original French text: La nuit du 14 au 15 du courant, entre minuit et 1 h. deux soldats du 8em régiment, se portèrent à la maison de Mr Daniel Falla, & cassèrent la fenêtre de la laverie, de là ils entrèrent dans la cuisine & ouvrirent les portes, ensuite ils furent dans la chambre de Mademoiselle Falla, laquelle étoit endormie; elle fut éveillée par les deux scélerats qui lui demandèrent où étoit son père et mère, la demoiselle épouvantée s’écria par deux fois en appellant sa mère laquelle se leva au cris de sa fille, & s’en fut à la porte de la chambre que les deux scélerats tenoient fortement; jusqu’ici, la mère n’entendant plus la voix de sa fille, donna une si forte secousse à la porte qu’elle s’ouvrit. La mère courageuse et voulant garantir sa fille, poussa les deux scélerats lesquels la frappèrent de deux coups de bayonette sur la tête, elle en reçu un troisième au bras gauche & il lui demanda, la bourse, ou la vie; Me Falla quoique dangereusement bléssée leur dit qu’elle alloit donner de l’argent qu’elle avoit, dans le moment où un des deux scelérats s’introduit dans la chambre de Mr Falla (qui depuis quelque-temps était indisposé) & et lui porta un violent coup de bayonette sur la tête & lui tenant la pointe au corps, lui dit, que s’il parloit il lui oteroit la vie.

Dans ce moment Mme Falla étoit à donner l’argent qu’il y avoit à l’autre (lequel constitoit en un somme de 44 l. tournois & la rente de deux quartiers de froment: la malheureux dit a Me Falla que ce n’étoit pas la tout ce qu’il y avoit dans la maison, qu’il fallut en trouver d’autre, ou qu’elle subiroit la mort; la dame Falla se trainant comme elle put auprès de son mari, dit, ils ne sont pas content de la somme que je viens de leur donner. Mr Falla dit a Madame de leur donner le tout, que l’argent ne lui étoit rien au prix de la vie: Madame fut dans un autre appartement (suivie des scélerats) & ouvrit un bureau ou étoit une bourse; laquelle lui fut arrachée des mains par un des scélerats:

Dans cette intervalle la Demoiselle Falla saisi l’instant de sortir la maison (pieds nus et en chemise,) dans l’intention d’aller chez Mr André Le Poitevin pour avoir du secour, un des assassins s’appercevant de la fuite, sort et se saisi d’elle à une petite distance de la maison, en lui disant de retourner et qu’elle n’eusse pas a dire un mot, & la fit rentrer.

Quelques moments après ils sortirent en les prevenans tous de ne rien dire, qu’a moins de ce là ils leurs prometoient de venir les égorger sous huit jours.Au moment que M. & Madame Falla crurent que leurs assassins étoient loin, ils envoyèrent chercher MM Eléazar le Marchant & Jean Falla du Tertre lesquels se transportèrent à la maison & trouvèrent M & Madame Falla baignés dans leur sang.

Ils crurent qu’il étoit de leur prudence d’envoyer chercher un docteur, ce qu’ils firent, & Mr Bertier fut appellé, lequel se rendit sous peu de temps. Dans cet intervalle, MM le Marchant et Falla du Tertre, furent à la poursuite des assassins, & après avoir visité trois postes de soldats furent à la citadelle; mais comme il n’étoit guère que 3 ou 4 heures du matin, ils ne purent entrer & reprirent le chemin de la maison de Mr Falla, où ils trouvèrent Mr le docteur Bertier prêt de monter à cheval; après quelques moments de conversation il fut décidé, que M Bertier iroit chez M le controlle, qui donna un ordre pour Mr de Saumarez, son frère et cap. de compagnie à la citadelle, pour faire arrêter les assassins; malgré l’obscurité de la nuit et la danger d’être rencontré par les deux scélerats, Mr Bertier fut seul à la citadelle, les portes n’étant pas encore ouvertes, eût l’idee de se cacher dans un Jaonière en attendant le coup de canon, (signal pour ouvrir les portes, & moment que les deux scélerats desiroient pour r’entrer) il se présente à la porte & demande à parler à M de Saumarez: on le conduit à sa chambre, il fait sa déposition, M de Saumarez fait arrêter deux soldats qui n’avoient pas repondu à leur nom le soir, on les fit désabiller, leur chemises étoient ensanglantées. M de Saumarez les fit conduire en prison, & dans la journée ils furent conduit à la cour, jeudi confrontés devant M & Madame Falla, ses fils & sa fille qui tous les reconnurent, & furent envoyés au château.