Through the death of Durell Lerrier, Jurat and Lieut-Bailiff, and first president of La Société Jersiaise, the country  has lost one of its most distinguished citizens, and our society, a most devoted founder member.
Mr Durell Lerrier was born in St Helier on 25 December 1814. He was the second son of Josue Lerrier and Elizabeth Gautier, and grandson of Philippe Lerrier and Marie Mollet, of Guernsey. One of his uncles, Philippe Lerrier, was a doctor and owned a house in Royal Square, where Baron de Rullecourt died after the Battle of Jersey on 6 January 1781. Another of his uncles, Thomas-Louis Lerrier, was Deputy Viscount at the end of the last century.
Durell Lerrier had three brothers, all dying before him. Pierre Lerrier, the eldest, was a Constable’s Officer for the Parish of St Helier. He died young.
The two other brothers died some years before Durell.
Mr Lerrier devoted himself from his youth to serious studies. He was placed in the care of the Rev Edouard Durell, Jersey historian, who was then Rector of St Saviour. The profound knowledge of Mr Lerrier of the history of his country probably had its source in the teaching of his knowledgeable master.
Mr Lerrier made his debut in political life at the age of 26. He was elected, in 1840, Constable’s Officer for the Parish of Grouville, the parish where he lived and the ancestral home of his mother. He held this post until 1843 when he was elected Procureur du Bien Public in the same parish.
In 1846 Mr Lerrier was elected Constable of Grouville. He served in this important post for three successive terms. His abilities as an administrator, his zeal for the well-being of the public, and perhaps even more his conciliatory mind, brought him the respect and esteem of his parishioners.
Election as Jurat
In 1853 Mr Lerrier was elected by the electors of the whole island Jurat of the Royal Court, replacing the late Philippe Le Maistre. The high qualities which had already distinguished him had for some time indicated that he was worthy of filling this honourable position.
Having become magistrate, Mr Lerrier devoted himself more and more to a study of the law. He was recognised on the judicial bench for his impartiality and the correctness of his judgments.
In 1865 Bailiff Hammond chose Mr Lerrier as his Lieut-Bailff, together with Edouard Leonard Bisson, who had already occupied this position for some years. Every time he presided over the Court he did it with firmness and examplary dignity.
The name of Durell Lerrier will be seen by posterity with those Jurats who are the most honoured of our Royal Court for their character and talents.
As Constable and later Jurat, Mr Lerrier was for a long time a member of the States Assembly. He was no orator, but when he spoke, he did so with clarity, sometimes with passion, and always with patriotism.
Mr Lerrier was co-operated powerfully in the formation of La Société Jersiaise. He was one of its first members. Elected president of the Société at its first annual general meeting, he occupied this position until his death.
At the last annual general meeting, although prevented by illness from carrying out his functions, the Société believed it to be its duty to re-elect Mr Lerrier, in recognition of his services.
Mr Lerrier owned valuable manuscripts concerning the history of the island. He had generously offered to put them at the disposal of the Société Jersiaise, as shown by the following extract from a letter:
- “The Société appears to want to print a manuscript in my possession, and you have asked me if I have any objection. The aim of the Société is to collect manuscripts relating to the history of the island and which throw light on its past. It becomes the duty of those who have the advantage of possessing documents which could illuminate our history (above all those who are members of the Société, not to keep them hidden and thus render them useless for the country, but they should rather give the opportunity by the means of printing, for the historical facts they contain to be made known.
- “If the Société believes that the public will gain some advantage from the publishing of this manuscript, have I the need to tell you that I do so willingly?”
Mr Lerrier demonstrated to the end the lively interest he took in everything to do with La Société Jersiaise. By the legacy of ten quarters of annual wheat rent (close to 4,000 francs) to the library of the Société, his name will be associated for ever with the work which was close to his heart – the study of history and the conservation of the country’s antiquities.
A modest and affable man, one could almost say timid, Mr Lerrier was approachable by everybody. His parishioners will long remember his always hospitable welcome.
One can sum up the character of this good man in the lines which follow, written during the lifetime of Mr Lerrier by one of his friends, Francois Guillaume Collas, who could appreciate his high qualities:
- ”The Lerrier family is now represented by Durell Lerrier, one of the most distinguished Magistrates of the Royal Court of Jersey, of whose deep and varied knowledge, his integrity and his impartiality in the administration of Justice, render him, with his private virtues, well worthy of the respect and confidence he inspires in his fellow citizens.”
The renown of Mr Lerrier was not confined to the island. One read in the Journal des Debats of Wednesday 21 June:
- ”The death of the Lieut-Bailiff of Jersey, Mr Durell Lerrier, is announced. He was a learned legal expert and a distinguished historian. He leaves a collection of antiquities belonging to Jersey.
Notes and references
- ↑ It was common in the 19th century for islanders to refer to Jersey as the 'country'