Friday, July 20, 2012

Raw Major Peirson project Jersey 1781-2012

A hot contender for the proposed Jersey memorial to Major Francis Peirson can be found displayed amongst all the Olympix stuff in London right now.

Presumably after all the fun and games are over the scrap merchants will be let loose to return these former "green field sites" ( in Roman times at least) to nature - just like the Plemont headland, and this little beauty will be seeking a new home?

Where better than Jersey's very own Canary  Waterfront Wharf  or how about the roundabout  in front of Lime Grove Police Station aka Ozo's Folly?

Followers of Jersey history will remember that the gallant Yorkshire-man Peirson was killed in a skirmish in the Royal square on 6 January 1781 fighting a band of French merceneries who were in turn supporting the Rebel Americans in their War of Independnce against the old Colonial British bad - guys.

Overlooking the battle on that very day was the statue of King (alias Duke of Normandy) George II just as he is today watching over the battle for Jersey Independence - now of course led by Senator Sir Philip Bailhache and his crew.
Back in history Captain Philip Bailhache commanded a couple of "Jersey privateers" to make war - officially - against the French and her allies  - but was more likely a smuggler or  loyalist spy.
His known little craft were the "Greyhound", a 30 tons cutter armed with just 2 x two pounder cannons with six swivels in the hands of twenty men. (in 1781) and the "Resolution" lugger of about the same size (probably about 40 feet long) and  similar crew in 1782 - when the now famous "Battle of Jersey" was already becoming a mere memory.
Such little vessels would often lurk around Chausey or the reefs off Jersey waiting for some lucrative catch to sail near-by and would be comparable with the Somali pirates of today.
Of course, their crews were either foolhardy, brave or maybe just desperate to make a living in a harsh economic world and there were hundreds of such vessels operating out of the Channel Islands.
Extraordinarily, there is no public space memorial to any of their commanders or crewmen who were often feted as heroes in their own life-times. What a contrast with the Corsaire City of St Malo just across the water which is proud to remember their own men such as Captains Surcouf or Duguay Trouin!

According to some sources the golden statue of King George was in fact secondhand booty too - donated by a Jersey merchant at the time to settle a debt but Jersey purists insist that it was commissioned through a London scupltor of the time.

Readers will also know that this blog is not very keen on the glorification of war or  death in battle or the whole campaign to remember the Battle of Jersey, Copley's painting and yet another proposed memorial to Francis Peirson.
Already having bronze busts, portraits, poems and a pub named after him seems enough for this man especially since his death for a colonialist cause is hardly appropriate  to celebrate today.

On the other hand we had Prince Charles ashore this week recounting his "familiy" link with the Kings and Queens of Britain over the past 800 years or so. But of course he did not remind us that King Henry the Eighth is reckoned to have had 70,000 of his subjects - besides a few wives - cruelly and  personally ordered to be executed during his reign - nor that he ordered Channel Islanders to send representatives to sit in his Parliament for Jersey and Guernsey.
There are just so many aspects of history that are overlooked when it suits the hour....
Maybe we could offer to fund the Prince and his 21st century pursuits if he revived the Duke of Normandy tiltle especially for us now as part of the Independence drive? - Now there's a new name for some tree lined avenue or other...

On the other hand, this a-sexual, raw London statue might well serve Jersey  as a memorial to all the millions of  anonymous people who have given their lives for governmental lost causes and wars over the centuries. Perhaps we should put in a bid?

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