The Seigneur de Domecq

A story of St Martin's, from the Star, October 28 1916. Nicolas de Taulès bought the noble title and estate of Domecq de Précillon in November, 1750, and was admitted as a member of the States of Béarn in the same year.

St Martin's Parish has a long and much indented coastline, extending from the centre of Fermain Bay to the stream of Petit Bot beach. Many are the stories that could be told of this coastline and the writer has just investigated an interesting, if somewhat gruesome, episode.

Certain Acts of the Royal Court establish the authenticity of the following story, though some details are left to conjecture.

On or about the 28th May, 1774, four men, Nicolas, James, Samuel and Nicolas¹ (we will suppress their surnames) were probably turning stones looking for ormers, under the Sauchet, which is by Telegraph Bay, not very far from the Jerbourg Barracks.

They came across the body of a man, either in the water or on the shore, and they soon ascertained that the clothing was superior, and that the pockets contained a watch, some money and other desirable trifles.

Sad to relate the misguided quartet, instead of reporting the find and thus allowing the authorities to establish the identity of the drowned person, shared the money and garments and watch among themselves, and, probably at dead of night, brought the body up the cliff and buried it in a field proche la mer, likely enough close to where the cable hut stands now.

For 18 months the secret was kept, then somehow the authorities heard about it. On November 14th, 1775, the Royal Court investigated the case and the four men were marched off to the Château (Castle Cornet) until each had paid a fine of 300 livres tournois.

It was found that the body was that of Messire Jean François de Taulès, Seigneur of Domecq in Béarn, an old province of France, close to the Pyrenees. A representative of the deceased's family came over and under date of the 20th April, 1776, an Act of the Royal Court gave permission to Monsieur Pierre Frédéric to have the body exhumed.

Our four piratical parishioners were ordered to lead the way to the spot where they had buried this French Lord of a Manor, and to dig up his body, and, on the 25th April, the stranger's body was transfered 'et enterré dans le cimitière de St Martin en terre sainte.'

This is the story mentioned by Edith Carey in the Appendix to Guernsey Folk Lore, pp. 581-9, which she compares with the famous legend of the murder of John Andrew Gordier; at the time of the book's publication (1903) she cannot have known that it was based on an actual incident.

¹ Edith Carey had no such scruples in her MS notes: the miscreants were Nicholas Thoume Senior, James Thoume, Samuel Martin, and Jean Thoume. She adds (note that Nicolas David appears here instead of Nicolas Thoume Senior):

From old Tom Langlois' papers. His grandfather had been churchwarden at St Martin's, and this paper was lent me by his eldest son. EFC, July 18 1916.

Le corps de feu Messire Jean François de Taules, Seigneur de Domecq a été inhumé et enterré en ma présence dans le cimitière de St Martin en terre sainte, le 29e d'Avril 1776, conformément à la permission de Mr Pierre Frédérick procureur dûment fondé de Messire Pierre de Taules, Seigneur de Damecq en Béarn au Royaume de France avoit obtenu de ce faire suivant acte de la Cour Royalle de ceste Islle en date du 20e d'Avril courant, le dit corps ayant été préalablement exhume en ma présence du lieu où Nicolas David, Nicolas Thoume, James Thoume et Samuel Martin qui le trouvèrent mort au rivage de la mer le 28e mai l'avaient enterre.' Unsigned.