Monday, June 18, 2012

remembering every Tom, Charles, Francois or Emille...?

Remember, remember the Jersey heroes
of 28 September…..

Once again the memorial plaques are being erected in Jersey to heroes of war and once again they remember people who are not natives of Jersey.

In principle I have no problem with recording in stone or some other durable material those people who were notable players in Jersey’s past and as an “outsider” I am not against memorials to my fellow outsiders. But I do regret that Charles de Gaulle should be commemorated just because he dropped in to re-fuel his aircraft and stomach, en-route to England, at the outbreak of the Second World War.

If the memorial was in recognition of some specific act undertaken on behalf of Jersey people or some other precise activity, it would be better, although it is appreciated that he went on to do memorable things, of world-wide importance, both in wartime and peace.

That he became a celebrity is a rather flimsy pretext alone and I don’t really mind about that but if Jersey had a Hollywood style pavement it might seem more appropriate to remember him, along with his fellow “stars” who happened to pop-into Jersey, there.

Of course, Francois Scornet deserves recognition for giving his life but so did millions of others during the Second World War and most of these have no particular memorial where they fell.
As I have previously blogged on this site, if Francois warrants recognition then so do many others. Or put another way, if they don’t have a memorial then why should Francois?

Again, I don’t object to Francois being remembered (in fact he already has two or more small memorials in Jersey I believe) but I am also concerned, once again with the glorification of war and of those “heroes” who suffered injury or died in recent or distant conflicts.

Why do we want to promote the concept of “glorious death in war” at all? It certainly does not seem to remind us that war is evil and something to be avoided at all costs and in recent weeks we have been swamped with memorial days arising from various wars. What is their purpose?

There is a strong lobby in Jersey to commission a statue to Francis Pierson, the Yorkshire soldier killed in the
Royal square
in January 1781 and this dubious military action has been discussed in several previous blogs.  Why is there such a strong establishment lobby now in favour of yet another memorial to this man and the gruesome activity that took his young life away?
Why is it the Yorkshire-man who deserves a statue now rather than the several Jersey-men who died on the same day?

Followers of this blog will know that it is devoted to the Jersey heroes who demonstrated in the same
on 28 September 1769.

Whether they were exclusively Jersey born is very unlikely but several hundred people marched into St Helier on that day to protest against the corrupt government dominated by Crown Officers and the rotten

The protest was peaceful. Nobody was hurt. But the result was the origin of separated powers in Jersey and the transfer of legislative powers from the Court to the States.
It was really the birth of democracy in Jersey and the protestors were led by such as Thomas Gruchy, after whom this blog is named.

Yet, this most important day in Jersey history is not remembered by any memorial. The names of the several hundred brave people who risked their lives in the “seditious activity” are virtually unknown. Nothing is taught about them in schools.
Such recognition of this activity does not suit the establishment now anymore than it did in 1769 and it is not at all surprising that there are current moves to claw back the democratic powers so hard fought for by the people over several centuries.

Followers of this blog will also know that we commissioned a bronze portrait of Emille Collins shortly before he died, at the age of 98, two years ago.
He was a St Helier-born man who had been involved in political and pro-trades union activities throughout his life and had even been involved with the formative and outlawed Jersey Democratic group during the Occupation. If caught then he too would have faced execution. He was an active campaigner until just a few months before his death.

His bronze portrait sits in the Committee Room at the Town Hall. But in spite of several tenuous promises, there has still been no official offer to purchase it for the Island in recognition of this Jersey Hero’s life.

I wonder therefore, why this Island chooses to remember with a memorial, those such as Charles de Gaulle who visited the Island for only a few hours whereas there is so little interest in or appreciation of the heroes of 1769 or the likes of Emille Collins, who only ever left the Island for a few hours during his very long life?


  1. Good post.

    I was talking with a few friends in a pub the other day about this sort of thing (though we didn't know about the De Gaulle plaque at the time).

    I made the point that Karl Marx, one of the most important and influential economists and political philosophers of all time, used to visit Jersey regularly, yet he isn't honoured with any recognition for this.

    A friend also pointed out that we have a bust of "ja ja" Coutanche outside of the States Chamber, yet we don't have anything for Norman Le Brocq, the man who led Jerseys resistance to the Nazis.

    I suppose it doesn't take a genius to figure out that Jersey doesn't really want to portray leftists as heroic and noble for fear that people could be endeared to them and their ideology. Despite the fact that they are far more deserving of our endearment than the likes of De Gaulle and Coutanche.

  2. An interesting comment - coming from a Welshman...