Maurice François Dubras was born ‘over the shop’ the year before the Occupation, the youngest of four sons of Léon Louis Lucien Dubras and Binda Blampied.
Léon was a businessman and ran the family perfumery enterprise. He began wholesale trading in the UK and with France and, on behalf of the States Essential Commodities Committee, brought toiletries to the Island during the Occupation.
Léon’s father was Charles Edmund Dubras. Born in Varennes sur Seine, France, in 1869, he arrived in Jersey in the 1890s. In 1896 he married Léontine Louise Le Mâitre (of Norman origins) and they had eight children. Léon, the eldest, was born in 1898. Charles kept his trading links with France during the 20s and early 30s. He moved to Guernsey in the mid 30s, coming out of retirement and opening another salon.
Charles was a hairdresser and established a business of gentlemen’s and ladies’ salons that operated from various premises in St Helier and St Peter Port. The advertisements for the business in Jersey almanacs stated that it was established in 1881, when he was still in France. He was also an accomplished wig-maker with a workshop set aside for this venture. Birth records show his father Eugene (1844 – 1887) also was a perruquier. Family legend tells that Charles may have made a wig for Princess Alexandra.
His business, Charles Dubras Limited, also encompassed a perfumery side and ran under the name of La Grande Parfumerie. Many Islanders will remember the shop at 57 King Street, which extended through to 14 Broad Street. The ladies’ hairdressing business ceased to function in Jersey and Guernsey as continental and UK stylists evacuated with the advent of war.
When Léon retired, the retail perfumery side was acquired by Michel Dubras; it ran until 1989. However, the wholesale element, acquired by elder brother Bernard Dubras, only ceased to trade in 2007.
Business acumen was not limited to the paternal side of Maurice’s family. Maurice’s maternal grandfather was Walter Henry Blampied. His family were from Jersey and his father, Philippe Blampied, was a businessman and was listed as a commercial traveller in the census. In 1864 he married Elizabeth Gaudin and then left the Island. Philippe ran two commissaries for Charles Robin & Company in Cape Breton. First Laura (1865) and then Walter Henry were born in Arichat in 1866 and soon afterwards the Blampieds returned home by company sailing ship, the Patruus.
Walter Henry grew up in trade, serving his apprenticeship as a shop boy and a grocer’s assistant before eventually becoming manager of Le Riches, based at 1, 2 and 3 Beresford Street, in January 1906.
Walter Henry was married to Lilian Ada Venner in 1898; they had three children of whom Binda was the eldest, born in 1899. Lilian’s father was Valentine Vigo Venner and her mother was Elizabeth Tilly Harris.
Valentine was born in Shooters Hill in Kent on Valentine’s Day in 1813. He enlisted with the Royal Artillery at Woolwich in 1832, aged 19. He was to serve in the army for another 36 years before retiring in 1868.
During that time he served in Ireland and then China for three years in the 1840s and he is also believed to have fought in the Crimean War in the 1850s. He was later posted to Jersey and became a master gunner at Elizabeth Castle and Fort Regent.
In 1844 Valentine married Mary Steadman of Limerick in Woolwich. They had 11 children together before Mary died in Jersey in 1863. Valentine then married Elizabeth Tilly Harris the year after; they were neighbours in married quarters. Valentine was 51 at the time and Elizabeth was 20. They went on to have ten children together.
One of the children, Valentine junior, followed his father into the army at the age of just 14. He is registered on his attestation form as just being 4 foot 9 and three quarter inches when he joined up. He went on to serve his country from 1891 until after the First World War, finally being discharged in 1919. He later became Maurice’s godfather.
After Valentine Vigo retired from the army he opened a druggist’s shop at Beaumont where he made and sold his own eau de cologne, but there is no indication as to what in his life inspired him to take up this career. So both sides of Maurice’s family were involved in the perfume trade.
However, that was not the end of Valentine senior’s story. On 6 November 1883, after he had returned to Jersey following a spell in England, he went to Mulcaster Street, where his wife was staying at an eating-house run by Samuel Charles Wright. After a confrontation Valentine shot Wright, who died five days later.
The reasons for Valentine’s actions were discussed at length in the court case. There was a suggestion that Wright and Mrs Valentine had an inappropriate relationship and there was also an implication that Valentine and his wife had an extremely volatile marriage. What is known was that Valentine was eventually acquitted of the crime and was discharged from the court. He died four years later at the age of 74.