Popular History of Jersey Chapter 61

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Police libel case

The year 1894 closed for Jersey, as has been seen, amidst record of sensational events, and in this respect the commencement of 1895 was not far behind. The Police Libel Case came on for trial at the Criminal Assizes on 3 January, and continued for some days; the charge preferred against the publisher of the Jersey Times and British Press newspaper being the insertion of articles headed "The Police as Housebreakers! Six bottles missing", "Another Hotel entered by the Police at Night" etc whilst the articles themselves contained what was alleged to be serious and unfounded charges against the entire force, the defence being that the allegations were true, and published in the interest of the public. The trial ended, as before mentioned, in the acquittal of the accused, and the general outcome of the whole was that two members of the Paid Police were dismissed, and a searching inquiry was made by the Police Committee into the working of the force, which resulted in that body being placed under stricter discipline, and on a somewhat better footing.

Murders and suicide

On 5 January one Ernest Leonard, a native of Cherbourg (who had been arrested on a minor count, though it was at the time an open secret that such was only the prelude to one of a much more serious character) was charged at the Police Court with the wilful and brutal murder of Francis, on Mont Pinel, St. Ouen, on 24 December; and, to add to the excitement prevalent amongst all classes of the community, it became known about the same time that a woman had been found dead in a cotil at Ville Abel, St Ouen, who turned out to be the prisoner's mother. Suspicions of foul play at once arose, and in public opinion the incident was for the time connected with the St Ouen's murder. At the inquest subsequently held, however, it was found that the woman's death had been due to natural causes, accelerated by drink, and a verdict to that effect was in accordance returned.

Then, closely following upon this, came, on the 14th of the month, the report of an attempted murder and suicide in Brighton Road, St Holier, the chief character in that tragedy being one Francis Renault, a well-to-do man, over 60 years of age, who was then residing at, of all other places, a house boasting of the peace-suggesting title of Tranquil, and who deliberately shot a charwoman named Marie Molier, with the effect that for some days her life was in imminent danger, whilst the perpetrator of the deed, having blown away part of his chin and a portion of his throat, succumbed to the effects of his suicidal deed on the evening of the following day.

In other matters, January 1895 brought forth a strenuous effort on the part of the Constable of St Helier for extending the hours during which the houses of those holding taverners' ordinary licences should be kept open; in other words, introducing into the States a Bill for closing all ordinary licensed houses at 11 pm instead of 10 pm, chiefly in view of the convenience that would accrue therefrom to visitors upon the Island. The matter, however, met with strenuous opposition from the public generally, the press, and the whole religious communities, and when the Bill was introduced into the States, on 21 January, it was rejected by a majority of 21 votes. During this same month, too, a thorough inspection of the water supply of St Helier was undertaken by the Sanitary Committee, and careful analyses taken, with the result that the waters procured from the various supplies were publicly pronounced to be exceptionally pure.

Then came, on 28 January, the greatest excitement of the time — the charging of Ernest Leonard, on a report, before the Police Court, for wilful murder, the amount of evidence collected concerning the case and the length of the report in question standing out as amongst the most remarkable of modern efforts in connection with criminal cases, the evidence of the Constable of St Ouen (H P D'Auvergne), on whose report the prisoner was charged, alone occupying the Court for the greater part of three whole days, whilst the examination before the Police Magistrate (P Vaudin) lasted until 13 February, on which day Leonard was ordered to be sent before the Royal Court, that body committing him, on 23 February 23rd, for trial at the Criminal Assizes.

Arctic weather

Meanwhile, another spell of arctic weather had set in, which lasted for several weeks, snow lying thickly upon the ground, and, in various parts of the country districts, drifting to the depth or height of six, seven, eight, and even ten feet; many country lanes were rendered impassable, and several incidents occurred of conveyances becoming embedded in the midst of congregated snow. Skating was indulged in to an extent perhaps never before experienced on the Island. Sledge-driving was resorted to and extensively practised, whilst tobogganing was introduced at several places, the "oldest town on the Island" (St Aubin) being the favourite resort for this Canadian amusement. The thermometer, it may be added, remained during the period at points ranging from 12 to 19 degrees (F) below freezing point, and at St Peter's it was ascertained that during the month of February the soil had been frozen hard to a depth of nearly half a yard.

Of the other events of February 1895 the following are the most prominent. On the 12th of the month the man Bardoul was sentenced to ten years' penal servitude for wilfully setting fire to the property of Mr Binet, draper, in Burrard Street) on 29 December previous. And — as marking a successful effort in local enterprise — on the 16th of the month the Evening Post, enlarged to 32 columns, appeared amongst the largest of halfpenny evening newspapers yet published.

An attack of influenza again prostrated numbers of the inhabitants of Jersey during the beginning of March, amongst others who felt its serious effect being some eight or nine of the employees engaged at the General Post Office, the work of which would have been sadly disorganised on the occasion but for the intelligent and praiseworthy efforts of its energetic Postmaster, Mr J Syvret.

Prison board

In the States the chief event of the time took place on 11 March in a projet introduced by the Lieut-Bailiff, Malet de Carteret, for the reconstruction of the Prison Board, a natural outcome of the celebrated Prison Board case, containing some radical changes. In brief the projet provided, in the first place, that neither the Lieut-Governor of the Island nor the Bailiff should be members of that body so far as the management thereof was concerned, but visiting members only, and further, that the Board should consist of six members, four of whom should be appointed by the States and the other two to consist of the Viscount and Her Majesty's Receiver General for Jersey, the Board being empowered to elect its own chairman, who should have a casting vote, whilst the Lieut-Governor and the Bailiff should at all times have the right to visit the gaol and put forth any recommendations they thought fit.

Perhaps so sweeping and judicious a reform, at the same time one so effective in the matter of finally settling an old dispute that had existed, in embryo if not de facto, since the year 1837, or a wiser one under the circumstances, could not have been promulgated. And at the same time it may be honestly added that no more opportune occasion could have been afforded than during the period when his Excellency Lieut-General E Markham held his patent of the Lieut-Governor's office and Sir George Bertram that of the office of Bailiff.

That this was the opinion of the States may be gathered from the fact that upon the Constable of St Helier (Philip Baudains) asking that the same day fortnight should be fixed for the discussion of the matter, he met with most warm and well-deserved approval as he pointed out the untiring zeal of the Bailiff for the wellbeing of the Island, and the conciliatory and judicious spirit shown by Lieut- General Markham as Lieut-Governor. Jurat Falle, too, on the same occasion, amidst every mark of appreciation, having most feelingly alluded to the Bailiff's praiseworthiness, befittingly gave voice to the opinion that the gratitude of the States was extensively due to Lieut-General Markham for the activity and wisdom he had shown, concluding with the telling remark that "he felt sure that future generations would couple Lieut-General Markham and Major-General Lothian Nicholson's names as being two amongst those of the warmest friends of the Island".

The projet, it must be stated, having passed through the preliminary stages, was subsequently unanimously adopted, and the Act to the same effect having been confirmed, became thenceforward the ruling principle of the Prison Board.

Dr Thorold, the Bishop of Winchester, paid his last visit to the Island during March 1895, instituting the Rev A J Balleine to the charge of St Andrew's Church; holding a Confirmation in St Helier Parish Church; preaching at St Simon's on the 14th, and holding a Confirmation at St Martin's on the 15th; whilst on the 22nd of that month the States caused to be lodged au greffe a Bill having for its object that of legalising marriage with the deceased wife's sister.

New Viscount

Coming to 1 April we find a letter submitted from the Privy Council to the States emanating from the newly-elected Viscount of the Island, Reginald Raoul Lempriere, praying to be allowed the distinctions and prerogatives pertaining to the office of Jurat, a position he held prior to his patent as Viscount, and which, amongst other things, would allow him certain privileges of freedom from taxation, etc, the chief effect of which at the time was the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the matter, the general opinion being that the privilege prayed for should not be granted, there being, it was held, no precedent to go upon and no occasion to create one.

Then, on 2 April, we come to the first election held in connection with the Compulsory Education Committee, which interesting event took place in St Helier's district, and resulted in a decisive victory for the Nonconformist party; it proving, as was afterwards shown, only a prelude to other victories gained by the same body in the majority of the different parishes throughout Jersey.

On 4 April 1895 the States most wisely and with evident interest in the Island's historical concerns, on the motion of Jurat Nicolle, voted a sum of £100 for the publication of a correct copy, with the abbreviations, of the Chevalier manuscript, dealing with the affairs of Jersey and the incidents that took place during the visit to it of King Charles II.

Lieut-Governor leaves

On the same date the States drew up an address to Lieut-General Markham on the occasion of his appointment as Director of Artillery, of which the following is a translation :—

"The States, having learnt that his Excellency Lieut-General Edwin Markham, is about to quit the office of Commander-in-Chief in this Island, an office to which he had been appointed by Her Majesty's Government less than three years ago, whilst congratulating Lieut-General Markham on his well-deserved promotion, which he owes to the confidence of his chiefs, the States, convinced that the Island suffers a serious loss by the separation which is going to take place between it and the Lieut-Governor, desire to publicly express their regret. His Excellency General Markham arrived in Jersey at a very critical and difficult hour for the Island, an hour when the rights and liberties of Jerseymen were attacked and seriously threatened.
"He has certainly contributed in a great measure to the favourable solution of important questions which had been suddenly raised, and which for a long time had threatened to wreck those fundamental institutions to which the Jersey people have always been intimately and justly attached. He has also, jointly with Mrs Markham, taken an active and useful interest in the working and development of all the charitable and philanthropic institutions. The States consider that they would not have done their duty if they did not offer to his Excellency this testimony of their gratitude; and they have unanimously decided that this Act shall be enrolled in order to form part of the records of the Legislative Assembly; that a copy shall be transcribed on parchment, and sealed with the official seal of the Island, and they have requested the Bailiff to transmit the said Act to his Excellency the Lieut-Governor."

3 May 1895, witnessed, amidst universal regret, the departure of Lieut-General Markham from Jersey, he sailing from the Island in the South-Western Railway Company's ss Lydia; and as a special mark of distinction and the favour in which he was held, a guard of honour was formed on the occasion by a company of the Princess of Wales' Own Regiment, then stationed on the Island, the officers of that regiment and of the Artillery being also present as a field staff. After this followed (on 6 May) the arrival of the 2nd Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment, to replace the Princess of Wales' Own, which latter body of soldiers left on the afternoon and evening of the same day, whilst another new era began for the Island on the 9th of the month in the arrival of Major-General E Hopton, its present and highly-valued Lieut-Governor, who was sworn-in on the following day.

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