A Parson's Log

28th December 2023

New Year in the Channel Islands. From the Star, 17 January 1930.

The Reverend George Jackson contributes a most readable article to a recent issue of The Methodist Recorder, which opens with a quotation from 'A Winter's Tale - Haworth Parsonage', written by Charlotte Bronte more than 100 years ago. In it children choose to what island they will go, the last, a little girl, exclaiming 'And mine shall be Guernsey'.

After introducing his subject, Mr Jackson goes on to speak of this little known archipelago, and what he calls the leisurely way of the people, instancing that one Christmas Eve he spent in Guernsey, his letters were delivered until 10.30 p.m. He refers to the rough Channel crossings, and the evil report of the Casquets. Continuing, he remarks, 'Fancy being in a community within a few hours' journey of London, where, by a rigidly enforced law, no carriage may be used on Sunday save for church-going; where, beneath a veil of modern English life, the Norman feudal system still lingers.'

Mr Jackson speaks of the Martello towers to be found all over the coast, and refers to their connection with the threatened invasion of the island by the French in the days of Napoleon I.  Certainly, he says, they form an interesting chapter in the history of the island, for anyone who consults a map will see that, geographically speaking, the Channel Islands belong to France, from which they are, at some points, distant by only a few miles. Mr Jackson, after referring to the fact that the islands once formed part of the Duchy of Normandy, speaks of their unshaken loyalty to the British Crown. The author also refers to the obelisk on Delancey Park, erected to the memory of that gallant British Admiral, Sir James Saumarez.

The island, he says, enjoys self-government, for the islanders are not represented in Parliament. But he does not venture to speak of the government of the islands - Jersey as well as Guernsey.  'The ice is too thin,' he says, 'to write about them. The very terms Bailiwick, States of Guernsey, States Elective, may well scare the ignorant intruder.' In olden days Jersey for the most part sided with Charles, but Guernsey elected to be on the side of Parliament. But in the end the redoubtable Blake secured the submission of all the islands to the Parliamentary power. In fact they still bear witness to 

old unhappy far-off things,

And battles of long ago.

Mr Jackson speaks of the Brock Memorial in the Town Church, and of Mr Compton Mackenzie, who has taken up his residence in Jethou. Nor does he forget to mention Victor Hugo, who, when an exile from France, lived for many years on Guernsey, where he wrote several of his most important works. Mr Jackson concludes his excellent article with the following peroration:

But perhaps, after all, the most abiding memories which a visitor will carry away with him will not be a history of these islands, or of the famous who have dwelt in them, but of the magnificent scenery of their rock-bound coasts. The Channel Islands have no mountains, no hills even, but the beauty and terror of some of their bays and headlands are unsurpassed by anything that can be seen on our English shores. Let anyone stand, for example, on one of the many lofty promontories on the west coast of Guernsey, and watch the wrinkled sea beneath him crawl, or, from some lower vantage ground, let him watch the great rollers driven by a fierce southwester, as they swell and heave and break against the splintered rocks; or again, on some day when summer has quieted the sea, let him make the circuit of Sark and see for himself at close quarters the secret loveliness of its torn and rugged coast; and after this, especially if it shall have been given him to find his way into the warm and generous hearts of the island folk themselves, he will need no further urging to come to these 'lovely gardens of the seas.'