Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, 22 June 1897
From the Gazette de Guernesey, 26 July 1897. The islands celebrated this jubilee with gusto, the main carnival being at St Peter Port, which was decorated throughout with triumphal arches and lights. Each parish also had its own celebration, held on different days so that the country people could visit Town for the main event. Only Sark and Alderney held their parties on the same day, much to the silent chagrin of the children of Sark, who missed the magnificent fireworks!
By half past seven thousands of people were lined up between the South Esplanade and the Weighbridge, when the concerts began; the 1st [militia] Regiment on the Albert Pier, the 2nd at St Julian’s Pier; the public waited patiently while the celebration got going again, while in the harbour the boats started moving about.
The steamships Courier and Assistance played their part, taking plenty of passengers on short excursions out to sea.
At ten to nine, two rockets signalled the beginning of the light show, although some private householders had already started lighting their houses. Ten minutes later, like a trail of gunpowder, the garlands of lanterns were lit up; any that went out in the breeze were quickly relit, as the wind had suddenly dropped.
In the distance, looking like a red-hot iron bar, the Delancey monument stood out, and its sudden spectacular transformation excited general admiration.
Around 9.30, the line of lanterns from the breakwater to the Salerie was completed by two extensions, one as far as the White Rock, the other up to St Julian’s Avenue, including the abattoirs, whose lighting was faultless.
Further down, Valpied Bros. building stood out against the dark, with all the windows and doors surrounded by coloured glass, producing a very pretty effect. Rows of Venetian lanterns were strung across the road at the Plantation, then came the private illuminations, including the Victoria Hotel, the Sun offices, the Alliance and United Clubs and the Crown Hotel next door, the Sarnia Club and Mr Sheppard’s shop, amongst others.
On the Esplanade, the Royal Hotel featured an arch supported by the initials VR, lit by gaslight; then came the Channel Islands Hotel, whose frontage nearly disappeared beneath festoons and lanterns, to pleasing effect.
Looking towards the Piette, Mr Robilliard’s residence and carpenters’ workshops presented an ensemble not only bright, as one might expect, but artistic too; lamps had been placed in the shrubs and bushes, as well as in garlands. The Pollet was also lit up brightly, and from there, standing at the Grand Carrefour, whichever way you turned, you saw nothing but lights, on houses as well as in the streets; up Smith Street as far as the Royal Court the illuminations, though put up in haste, were very pretty, if unfinished.
From the bottom of High Street the view was exceptional; the residents and those responsible for the work cannot be congratulated enough. It would have been nigh on impossible to have done it any better. Unusual, or rather, quite remarkable, were the Commercial Arcades, with their avenues vaulted by single-coloured strings of lanterns, in the most artistic style.
Returning to the pier, we must mention the lights around the statue, where the Gas Company had erected a sort of arch with the dates 1837-1897 and the motto "God save the Queen", while incandescent lamps fixed around completed the remarkable effect; the design was entirely the work of M T Crossley, jun. The harbour was just like a lake, with all sorts of little rowing boats criss-crossing and weaving around the illuminated barges and other vessels lying at anchor. By the White Rock the steamboats Courier and Alert had lit up their rigging and these rows of lights were doubled in intensity by being reflected in the water.
It has to be admitted that the Yacht club had not gone to much expense, but all contributions are to be welcomed. After a few attempts the Guernsey Amateur Swimming Club’s barge was eventually lit, and was well worth the wait, the green glow of the lanterns on the water being most attractive. The little boats belonging to the Rowing Club were not numerous but made up in quality what they lacked in quantity. Two of these joined together brought to mind Venetian gondolas, especially since a choir—of girls, we think—sang love songs and ballads which though exquisite in themselves were made all the more so by the location and the moment.
A rocket salute! Then another! The music ended and the night belonged to the fireworks, destined to bring the celebrations to an end. We cannot hope to describe the variety of fireworks, whirligigs, comets, golden showers, serpents, and of representative pieces, such as the rose, thistle, shamrock, Star of India, and finally a wonderful portrait of Her Majesty, which, to everybody’s great pleasure, turned out very well, was unobscured by smoke, and remained clearly visible for several minutes. We must also of course mention the venerable Mrs Neve, who honoured the occasion with her presence; she came as far as the pier and witnessed some of the firework display, in which her own portrait played a major part, as The Old Lady of Rouge Huis had graciously consented to allow her portrait to be drawn in a trail of fire, with the dates 1792-1897. The committee and the public should be honoured and count this a great favour, as this lady is one of Queen Victoria’s oldest subjects. [From the French.]
Dieu sauve la Reine! The National Anthem in French, specially translated for this occasion.