Francis John Bois

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Solicitor and States Deputy, leading member of the States during the First World War

Francis John Bois

Family

Francis John Bois was the son of Francois Jean Bois and Marie-Francoise Bois. Francois was the son of Francois Bois, who moved from Normandy to Jersey during the early part of the 19th century and became a successful farmer. Marie-Francoise was from the same family, but born in France. She arrived in Jersey later.

When her husband died young she had to bring up her three children with the support of her father-in-law. All three were well educated and Charles Albert, the youngest, born in 1870, went on to become a successful doctor in Jersey.

Francis married Beatrice Marie Le Blancq (1876- ) and they had four children, Avice Marguerite Bois (1903- ), Beatrice Elaine Bois (1906- ), Leslie Mary Bois (1907- ) and Francis de Lisle Bois. The latter was also destined to have a distinguished career in law in Jersey.

Legal career

Francis John Bois had intended entering the Indian Civil Service but was discouraged from taking the Colonial Service examination by solicitor and Constable of St Helier Philippe Baudains, and together with his brother George, he qualified as a solicitor and they went into practice in Hill Street, founding one of Jersey's oldest legal practices, Bois and Bois.

(Note: Jerripedia editor Mike Bisson has strong family connections with this practice because it was joined by his uncle Basil Le Cras Bisson and eventually by his brother John Bisson. The practice still exists today, but a number of mergers between island law firms in the late 20th century means that the family connection no longer exists.)

Francis became secretary and then president of the Jersey Chamber of Commerce and entered politics as Deputy for St Saviour in 1901. He was to serve in the States until 1922, two years before he died on the ss Lorina en route to Jersey.

Francis Bois is among this group of St Saviour officials on a Visite du Branchage around the turn of the 19th century

Political career

His highly successful political career saw him join the Education, Defence and Finance Committees, the three most important of the time, and become rapporteur for the Finance Committee, effectively the island's 'Chancellor of the Exchequer'.

At the outbreak of the First World War he was appointed controller of essential supplies and regularly travelled to England to negotiate the supply of essential commodities. He performed so well in this role that the island escaped rationing of everything but sugar during the conflict. He also negotiated a contract for the supply of Jersey potatoes to the Army. This was controversial at first, but was eventually accepted to have enhanced the price of the island's main export.

He was instrumental in the passing of the Compulsory Overseas Military Service Act, which avoided Jerseymen being called up directly by the UK Government but still allowed them to volunteer and serve with distinction. Had it not been for his critical role in Jersey Bois might well have fought himself, because he attained rhe rank of captain in the Jersey Militia.

He was also active in labour relations, introducing the island's first employment legislation and acting as arbitrator between employers and employees.

Health

His health deterioriated, however, and he sought in vain to retire from the States in 1919 and was re-elected unchallenged, although he refused to serve a further term and retired in 1922.

There was considerable unrest at the failure of the island authorities to secure him a Knighthood in recognition of his services and he declined the offer of an OBE. A public subscription raised enough money for him to be presented with an engraved silver salver, four candlesticks and a cheque for £1,000, which was a considerable sum in those days.

His unexpected death at sea in 1924, accompanied by his son Francis and daughter Elaine, led to further tributes and a large attendance at his funeral and burial at St Saviour's Church.

Sources

  • A Biographical Dictionary of Jersey - Vol 2, edited by Francis Corbet
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