Unlockthepast 5th Genealogy Cruise- British Isles, 2014-Day 9, St Peter Port, Guernsey

Sunday, 27th July 2014

St Peter Port is the capital of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, which are an archipelago of British Crown Dependencies, off the French coast of Normandy. They are considered to be remnants of the Duchy of Normandy and are not part of the United Kingdom.

Guernsey has been administered as an ancient Bailiwick since the late 13th Century,  with its own independent laws, elections, flag and currency. Although we found English money was accepted here, we learned that you couldn’t use Guernsey money in England.

As a child who grew up in country New South Wales, I had heard about the Channel Islands. We had a beautiful creamy-orange and white ‘house-cow’ named Petunia. We were told she was a type of dairy cow called a ‘Guernsey’ who had originally come from Guernsey, in the English Channel. There were other differently coloured cows who had originated on the islands of Jersey and Alderney, too.

The Marco Polo arrived off the port as the sun was rising, and the town’s white buildings glistened in the morning light.

The ship’s tenders were again used to ferry those passengers who wished to go ashore.

There was quite a sea-swell and the tenders rose high, then dipped low, alongside the ship’s loading platform, and those standing on the stairs and platform waiting their turn to board the boat, felt they were swaying in rhythm with the sea,and it needed discipline to carefully listen to the assisting crew’s instructions, when to ‘wait’ and when to ‘go’, to step into the boat. When we were seated, the sea slapped noisily on the craft and then there were the ‘Ohhs’ and ‘Ahhs’ from the passengers, when we got under way, as the boat rolled this way then that, until we were closer to the sheltered marina.

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We had not booked a tour in St Port Peter, but had decided to walk around the bay to the Castle Cornet, which rose darkly on the rocky foreshore. There was much to see as we strolled along, including beautiful garden plots and baskets spilling over with brightly coloured flowers in full boom.

The huge tidal differences between high and low tide was very evident in the marina, and we were amused how people went about the task of boarding their fishing vessels and yachts, which at the time were moored in the marina, but many metres below wharf level.

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Castle Cornet was built in the old Norman style with huge towers and iron gate. The castle complex itself is now a museum, which gave us some idea how these garrisoned castles worked in the past. It also housed five modern museums of the 201 Squadron (RAF), Maritime, Royal Guernsey Militia and the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry. These were housed in old stone buildings with modern purpose built interiors. Absolutely wonderful to wander through at your own pace and read the history.

We were also there for the Noonday- Gun ceremony and were told to cover our ears as it was very loud. It was interesting to watch the 18th Century red-coated gunner march to his post by the huge cannon. The big disappointment was that the gun failed to fire. They did not try the second time, and we were told it was the second time this year the gun had failed to fire.

We returned along the marina foreshore to the floating pontoon, where the ship’s tender was waiting. The sea-swell had abated, somewhat to our relief, so the journey back to the ship was not as rough.

I had arranged to meet Lisa Cooke in the Research Help Zone to purchase some of her e-books. It made sense for her to download them onto my usb flash-drive, rather than waiting to download from the Internet, when I got home.

Then I dashed off to hear Helen Smith’s promised ‘Time-line’ repeat lecture.

The Unlockthepast evening lectures were the choice between Eileen O’Duill with ‘Dublin, 30 June 1922: did everything blow up?’, and Marie Dougan, on ‘Scottish Wills and testaments’.

As I’ve said before, my focus is Ireland so I went to Eileen’s presentation. I have been researching in Ireland for many years and am aware that not all Irish records were lost in the 1922 bombing and fires, but there were records lost, that would have been very useful in researching my Protestant families.

The Irish government is initiating programs that are digitizing many surviving records and making them available on-line.

What really gave me an insight into the whole Dublin situation in 1922 were the ‘movie clips’ Eileen used in her presentation. I wondered how my paternal grandfather, who had immigrated to Australia in 1891, felt when he read in the newspapers about all the troubles in Dublin. Although his parents had died by this time, he had several siblings living near or in Dublin, whose safety he must have been concerned for.

In the last presentation for the evening, the Unlockthepast team outlined all the up and coming planned conference cruises for the next couple of years. Some really great ones close to home, but also in the Baltic and Europe.All the details can be found on their website at http://www.unlockthepastcruises.com/cruises/.

As we sat on the deck after dinner, and discussed the possibilities of the future cruises, we could see the white cliffs of the French coast in the distance. Tomorrow we would be in Honfleur.

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