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The current flag of Guernsey was first flown on 15 February 1985. It was designed by a committee (the Guernsey Flag Investigation Committee) chaired by the then Deputy Bailiff. It consists of the red on white cross of St George overlain by a gold cross pattée. The gold cross is said to have appeared on the Gonfalon (a banner) of William of Normandy at the battle of Hastings in 1066, and can be seen on the Bayeux tapestry.
Prior to this the plain St George's cross was used. As this could be confused with the same flag as used by England it was felt a distinguishing design should be used.
There is some evidence that there was an earlier design based on the White Ensign, but with the white background replaced by a blue and white chequered motif. This appeared in some contemporary engravings of the unveiling of the Albert statue in 1863, and on some commemorative china of the time. A report of the time referred to it as Mr Tupper's blue and white chequered flag - possibly Ferdinand Brock Tupper. This may have been an unofficial design that gained some recognition for a time.
An ensign also exists for Guernsey vessels. This consists of the Red Ensign with the gold cross of William in the fly.
Each year on Liberation Day a flag is raised on La Grosse Rocque about a mile off Cobo bay on Guernsey's west coast.
The flag can be seen (above that of Jersey) in the current logo of Donkipedia.
More information on (and images of) the various Guernsey flags can be found at the Flags of the World website here
See main article Guernsey lily.
The Guernsey Lily (Nerine sarniensis) is the National Flower of Guernsey. Indigenous to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa it is believed that it first arrived in Guernsey in the 17th Century. Probably aboard a returning Dutch vessel that either put in to Guernsey or was wrecked on the island. The earliest association with Guernsey is in John Evelyn's Gardener's Chronicle of 1664 where it is called "Narcissus Japonica or Guernsey Lily - that rare flower". Grown from a bulb it produces beautiful dark pink lily-like flowers.
The Guernsey Cow is fawn and white dairy cow that is particularly renowned for the rich quality of its milk, as well as its hardiness and docile disposition.
Guernseymen are known locally as Donkeys (fr:ânes), especially by Jerseymen, who are known as Toads (fr:crapauds). This has been attributed to their stubborn nature. Another theory is that these beasts of burden were essential carrying goods up the steep cobbled streets of St Peter Port (in contrast to St Helier).
The Golden Guernsey breed is distinguished by its golden skin and hair, they have a pleasant temperament and steady milk yield. Whilst the remains of goats dating back as far 2000 BC have been found in Guernsey, it was not until 1922 that registration of goats was started by the Guernsey Goat Society. The Golden Guernsey breed was first recognised in 1965, and a special section of the Herd Book was established.
The Ormer (Haliotis tuberculata - a mollusc of the abalone family) is a much prized delicacy in Guernsey. So highly prized that their population has declined rapidly since the 19th century when 20,000 could be gathered in a day. Gathering ormers is now strictly controlled by law and can only occur on an ormering tide between 1 January and 30 April each year. Only ormers larger than 80mm (3.15 inches) may be taken, and gatherers are not allowed to wear wet suits or even put their heads under water. The punishment is up to six months in prison, or a fine of £5,000. The rules led to the first underwater arrest in Britain when a diver was arrested for illegal ormer gathering by a police officer in scuba gear.
The ormer is soaked in fresh water, removed from it's shell, cleaned, and beaten with a steak hammer. It is then dusted with flour ,and fried. They can be eaten in a casserole, and when stocks were plentiful they were also pickled.
Ormer shells make attractive keepsakes as the inside of the shell is covered in mother of pearl.
A traditional Guernsey dish not dissimilar from the French cassoulet. It is a stew traditionally slowly cooked over the fire during the day while the men were out working. Main ingredients are haricot beans, pigs trotters and carrots/onions.
A Guernsey fruit loaf
Guernésiais, also known as Guernsey French, Dgèrnésiais or Patois is the form of the Norman language spoken in Guernsey. It is part of the langues d'oïl language family (so called from the word used for "yes"). Although sometimes regarded as a mutilated form of French, recent studies have shown it is very close to the ancient Norman tongue. The language has suffered a decline over recent years, partly as a result of social stigma, but particularly due to the evacuation of many children from the island during World War II.
French was the official language of the Courts and the States until 1929, and was also used extensively in St Peter Port. Guernésiais was mainly used in the country parishes. There were in fact three dialects of the language, that spoken in the Low Parishes , the version spoken in the Câtel and St Andrews, and the one spoken in the High Parishes.
A number of Guernésiais words also feature in Guernsey English, including bunchos (somersaults), and chancre (edible crab). The first dictionary in Guernésiais was written by George Metivier, and published in 1870. This also established the first orthography or spelling system. The most recent dictionary, Dictiounnaire Angllais-Guernésiais, was compiled by Marie de Garis OBE, and first published in 1967 - the latest revision was in 1982.
The 2001 census showed only 2% of islanders spoke the language fluently, with 70% of those being over 64. However attempts are being made to preserve and extend the language. BBC Radio Guernsey has occasional news in Guernésiais, and includes some lessons on it's website.
The term "Patois" for Guernésiais is now considered technically inaccurate, (as a patois is a form of another language, rather than a language in itself), and as potentially derogatory.
There have been a number of novels based in Guernsey. Among the leading examples are Toilers of the Sea (Travailleurs de la Mer) by Victor Hugo (published in 1866); The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by Gerald Basil Edwards (published in 1981) and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (published in 2008).
George Métivier, often considered the island's national poet, wrote in Guernésiais. Other important Guernésiais writers are Denys Corbet, Tam Lenfestey, Thomas Henry Mahy and Marjorie Ozanne.
Notable local artists include Paul Jacob Naftel and Peter Le Lievre. Pierre-Auguste Renoir visited the island in September 1883, and painted a number of works of the south coast, including Brouillard à Guernesey (see right).
The first French language newspaper, La Gazette de Guernesey, was first published regularly from 1791. The first English newspaper, The Guernsey Star, was first published in 1813. Today, the Guernsey Press (established 1897) publishes a daily newspaper. Further details of current and historical Guernsey newspapers can be found on the main Newspapers page.
TV and radio
Channel Television has been the ITV broadcaster for the Channel Islands since 1962. BBC Radio Guernsey has been broadcasting in the island since the early 1980s, and Island FM the island's only commercial radio station, launched in October 1992.
The Guernsey sweater is a traditional Guernsey knitwear item, originally worn by sailors and fishermen. The Guernsey is made from oiled wool and is tightly knit to a unique pattern.
The distinctive features of a Guernsey are: a rib at the top of the sleeve representing a sailing ship’s rope ladder; a raised shoulder seam representing a rope; and the garter stitch panel, representing waves breaking on the shore.
The Guernsey wool industry dates back to the early 16th century, when the islanders were granted permission to import wool from England. They knitted these into stockings, and exported them back to the United Kingdom. At its peak it represented one of the islands main sources of income. Mary Queen of Scots is reputed to have worn Guernsey stockings at her execution in 1587.
The main annual events in the Bailiwick include:
- Liberation Day (9 May) celebrating the end of the German Occupation in 1945
- Agricultural Shows - North Show, West Show and South Show
- Rocquaine Regatta
Since 1905, There has been an annual football tournament between the teams of Guernsey, Alderney and Jersey, where they compete for the Muratti Vase.
The Guernsey Football Association organises the Priaulx League.
In 2011, Guernsey FC was founded, with Matthew Le Tissier as Club President to give promising islanders the opportunity to compete in the English League. They compete in the Combined Counties Premier League in the south east of England, and their home ground is at Foote's Lane.
The Nat West Island Games were founded in the Isle of Man in 1985 and today include 25 member islands including Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, Majorca, Menorca, Cayman Islands, Aland and Gotland.
The Islands come together every two years to compete in friendly competition in a range of up to 14 sports chosen by the host Island from an approved list of 18. The most recent event was held in 2011 in the Isle of Wight, where Guernsey topped the medals table with 40 Gold medals, 42 Silver and 25 Bronze.
- Lukis, Eric Fellowes; An Outline of the Franco-Norman Dialect of Guernsey, Guernsey, 1985. ISBN 0 9507661 1 9