Tracing the history of local newspapers

14th October 2020

By Victor Coysh

During the past century and a half, about 60 periodicals in Guernsey and ALderney have been published. This takes no account of Jersey publications, which were equally numerous. Of the 60 or so, the only daily to survive is the Guernsey Evening Press.

Tomorrow sees the birth of another local journal: the Island Sun, the first Sunday newspaper to be published in these islands.

Four pages

Howver, it will not be the first bearing such a name, for in 1890 the Sun was published in Guernsey as a small weekly journal. It was small, comprising but four pages, and it is 'set' on Christmas Day, 1897.

La Gazette de Guernesey was the first journal to be published in the island. It was in French, and at one time was widely read, particularly in the country parishes. It lasted until 1936 and, in a sense, it is not yet dead, for to this day official announcements appear in the Press under the heading 'La Gazette Officielle.'

In 1806 Le Mercure de Guernesey was published, first by Hamilton and Le Lacheur and later by H Brouard, both of the Bordage. Again, this was printed in French and was a weekly publication. It continued until 1832.

Another paper, rather similarly named, came out in 1812 and lasted four years. It was Le Mercure ou Publiciste and it was printed by T Greenslade in the Pollet. Thomas de la Rue was its editor at one time, but he suddenly left to found Le Miroir Politique.

De La Rue founded Le Miroir Politique in 1813 and this weekly was issued both from Pollet and Bordage addresses. As Col. Marshall-Fraser wrote: 'Ended when de la Rue left the island to find fame and fortune in London.' This was in 1816.

Meanwhile, the Star was founded and its life was an extraordinarily long one: from 1813 to 1965. It was first published by Hamilton and Brouard in the Bordage and bore the subtitle 'Guernsey Weekly Advertiser.' It was the first newspaper to be published in English in the island. It began as a weekly and became a daily in 1913, on its centenary.

Two changes

For over a century it remained in the hands of the Brouard family and there were only two changes during the last 50 years, the most recent one being from 2 January, 1950, when the interest was taken up by the Guernsey Herald Ltd. Since then it was acquired by the Guernsey Press Co. Ltd, who ran it alongside the Press until 1965.

A newspaper which enjoyed a fairly long life (by Guernsey standards) was L'Ind├ępendance, which circulated from 1817 to 1835. Dumaresq and Mauger were its printers. This was another French paper because, in those days (and for years afterwards), French was so commonly spoken in these islands. Indeed, the Star was really before its time in coming out in the English language in 1813.

Serious rival

Some of our papers had very brief lives. The Constitutional lasted for seven years (1821-1828), but the Globe lasted for only a short time during 1823. Likewise the Guernsey Telegraph came to an end in 1828, after only two years in cirulation.

On the other  hand, the Comet was much longer established. It was first published in 1828 and only ended in 1897. It was a serious rival to the Star and might have continued such, had not the advent of the Press put an end to its career.

It must never be forgotten that in the last century, English newspapers arrived here a day or two late (sometimes later than this in exceptionally bad weather) and there was some inducement to bring out local journals. Nevertheless the practice wsas certainly overdone.

Particularly reliable was Clarke's Guernsey News, (177-1908), a weekly with a large circulation, especially in Alderney. It was printed in the States Arcade by Frederick Clarke. Another worthy periodical was Le Bailliage, a French paper with Guernsey-French articles. It lasted from 1882-1902.

Fine 1d. paper

The Guernsey Mail and Telegraph (1860-1899) was yet another reliable newspaper and another rival to the Star, published on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and, wrote Colonel Marshall-Fraser, 'the finest 1d. paper in the island.' It was owned by Mackenzie and Le Patourel and was printed in Lefebvre Street. 

Guernsey has produced a Sun, a Star, a Comet and a Moon. This last 'rose' in 1894 and 'set' three years later. It was published in Mill Street by Mr T Toms, who also ran his own newspaper, the Guernsey Independent, from 1889 to 1891. This was a weekly.

It was in 1897 that the Guernsey Evening Press first saw the light of day. It was first printed in the Pollet before it moved to Smith Street. The Press survivid all opposition, including that from the old-established Star, and today it enjoys an enviable circulation. Its weekly edition started in 1902.

The Library has a large collection of local newspapers. For more information on the history of Guernsey newspapers see Bennett, Amanda, A history of the French newspapers and nineteenth century English newspapers of Guernsey, 1995.