Limpet gathering

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Limpet gathering


The tale of a party of young people who went on a limpet-gathering expedition in 1841 was told nearly 60 years later in the Almanach de La Chronique de Jersey for 1898. This is an abridged version of a translation which appeared in Grouville, the History of a Country Parish, published by the Parish of Grouville in 2000.

Four young men and four young ladies

Up till now I have maintained silence upon an incident which occurred to me in 1841. Today, however, I feel disposed to tell the story as simply as possible. In May 1841, when I was a young man, full of vim and vigour, I organised, in company with three of my male friends, equally young and vigorous, a limpet-gathering expedition to La Rocque. Each of us decided to bring a lady friend so that we were altogether eight of us in the party.
The bottom of my cart was filled with hay in order that the young women could sit comfortably and not be jolted about too much. My pals were responsible for the eatables, while each of the young women had brought a basketful of goodies. Everything went well until we got into a track which leads to a spot called The Cube. Then the sea water entered my cart, at which the young ladies began to shriek and clung like grim death to our necks, all the while tucking up their skirts.
When we arrived at a spot called La Haule ├Ęs Hytres I unharnessed the horse and fastened it to the shafts of the cart. We coupled together and gegan gathering limpets. For about a quarter of an hour we kept more or less together, but gradually each couple, no doubt desirous of getting larger limpets than the others, separated from the group, so that soon Miss du Vallon and myself found ourselves all on our own.

Surrounded by the tide

Those of you who read this may, perhaps at one time or another, have gone limpet-gathering with a charming young lady. You will remember how time flies, particularly if there be two of you on a rock far from the shore and from peering eyes. We completely overlooked both time and tide; then, all of a sudden, Miss du Vallon uttered a cry that made me notice that the incoming tide had reached her feet. My first instinct was to kiss her in order to console her, then I climbed to the top of the rock to see where our comrades were. Not one of them was to be seen and on the spot where there should have been a horse and cart was floating a heap of hay.
We shouted a while, but I soon saw that it was hardly worth doing. The tide had reached its ebb a long time since. Everybody had gone and we were isolated on a precipitous rock some three miles from land. Miss du Vallon clasped my neck with her beautiful arms (it was later I knew how beautiful they were) and sobbed silently on my shoulder. I remembered having read of a device used by the natives of the Ionian Islands and I decided, as a last raesort, to try it. I said to her:'Take off all the clothes you possible can, don't worry about your modesty, rely on me! I will take off the greater part of my clothes. I am getting into the water so you don't have to blush'

The start of a long swim

Trembling with fright and cold, Miss du vallon obeyed me and I embraced her foro a long time to give her confidence. I then tied her feet securely so that she could make no movement whatsoever. Then passing one end of a piece of rope around her shoulders under her armpits and placing the other end between my teeth, I plunged into the sea and swam. I think I swam for two hours but I noticed that I was making no progress against the tide. On the contrary, I was drifting away from land. I stopped and, having assured myself that Miss du Vallon was still breathing, I turned upon my back to rest. Seeing that it was useless for me to try to land in the vicinity of La Rocque I allowed myself to be carried by the current.
I noticed coming towards us one of those small sailing vessels which ran a coasting trade between St Helier and France. As the boat approached I shouted with all the strength I then had. Fortunately a small skiff was being towed by the sailing vessel and passed within reach of me. I made a supreme effort and grabbed it just at the moment when it got within arm's length. We were saved. I hoisted myself on board the welcome skiff, always holding between my teeth that rope which had so well served us up till then. After a few attempts I succeeded in 'shipping' my companion, who could not help very much as she was 'strung up'.

Landing on the beach

The idea came to me that it would be most annoying for Miss du Vallon to have the story broadcasted, also for her to be found on the deck of a sailing vessel, and eventually appear on the harbour of St Helier in the scantiest of clothes. When we were revived I unfastened the rope which linked us to the sailing vessel. I rowed in the direction of land where I could see lights. At break of day I landed on the beach at La Grande Charriere.
'Saved, my dear lady, we are saved', I cried, but receiving no reply, I bent down and observed that she had fainted. I boldly lifted the precious burden on my shoulders and made my way as quickly as I could towards the coast road. Miss du Vallon lived at Maufant. It would have been a sight for sore eyes had I been observed, wearing only my pants, carrying a young woman, drenched to the skin and scantily clad. We did not meet a soul and as the parish clock of St Saviour struck three, I arrived at the threshold of her abode, dead beat. Quietly, very quietly I opened the door of her house and deposited her very ceremoniously upon a settee and covered her with a table cloth. Finally giving her a kiss upon her cold lips - I had really earned it - I fled.

The storyteller, a sailor, rejoined his ship and sailed to Brazil that day, not returning to Jersey until he published his tale. Miss du Vallon married a St Martin farmer.

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