Guernsey has introduced urgent measures to protect its 1,000-year-old native Guernésiais language before it dies out altogether. The Channel island acted after research revealed that fewer than 1,300 islanders - or 2 per cent - can still speak it fluently, and most of those are aged more than 65. The States of Guernsey government also sees it as imperative that written Guernésiais is archived before it becomes extinct, and has appointed a development officer to ensure the language's survival.
THE widely held belief that Guernsey French, or d’Guernesiais, is a poor relation of standard French is flawed in many ways, but it can be proved only by looking back through history and at its origin. We often call it ‘Guernsey patois’, but philologists will probably argue that is a derogatory term for a language – a patois is more of a dialect. The word is likely to have come from the old French, patoier, ‘to handle clumsily’, and is often steeped in class issues and reserved for the vernacular of commoners and the uncouth. So to anyone speaking d’Guernesiais, ‘patois’ may be a touch on the rude side.
Guernsey enjoys the privilege of being a free port, and to that circumstance its remarkable prosperity must in great measure be attributed. This advantage was not duly appreciated by all the inhabitants, for, in 1820, a petition was presented to Sir Peter De Havilland, bailiff, requiring the states to impose a tax on all French vessels arriving in the harbour, equal in amount to the tax paid by English vessels in France.
Prominent among the agricultural residents of Geurnsey country is Squire David Linn, who is recognized over the country as a most progressive and capable farmer, one who has chosen to ennoble his chosen occupation, and who not only secures larger yields and greater profits than the majority of his neighbors, but who also obtains from his vocation a larger amount of contentment than the average man receives in life, and who has done much to aid in the development of his community.
During the summer months, the weather is not only sunny, with average daytime temperatures of anywhere between 20°C / 68°F and 25°C / 77°F, but also extremely dry. April, May and June tend to be the driest months on Guernsey, when precipitation levels rarely top 120 mm / 4.7 inches for this entire period.
The Guernsey climate is amongst the mildest and sunniest in the whole of the British Isles, being warmed by the adjacent Gulf Stream. Every year, the island of Guernsey enjoys up to 2,000 hours of sunny weather, with the hottest months being from May to October.
Guernsey was an important trading point between France and England. A large amount of pottery from the Saintonge region of France has been found, suggesting that the ship was carrying a consignment of earthenware.
Guernsey has a strong association with the sea with a history of fishing, shipbuilding, privateering, as well as it being an important location for merchants. The Maritime Museum within Castle Cornet tells this story. The Shipwreck Museum at Fort Grey tells the story of the many ships which have foundered on rocks on Guernsey’s west coast. The past 1000 years of our history is told on ten embroidered panels of the Guernsey Tapestry, which is open to the public in Guernsey’s capital, Saint Peter Port.
All around Guernsey are traces of neolithic man, including defensive earth works, menhirs and dolmens. These are burial chambers built above the ground and several survive in remarkably good condition. The largest in Guernsey, La Varde Dolmen is near the 17th green of L'Ancresse golf course and measures 11 metres long by four metres wide and has a capping stone pile of five metres long and one metre thick.
Guernsey became associated with England when William II of Normandy defeated King Harold in 1066, and the Duchy of Normandy and England became one. The Channel Islands had been part of the Duchy since the mid tenth century. This heritage survives today locally in Norman Law, surnames and D’gernésiais, the local language. Guernsey sided with King John of England in 1204 when he lost Normandy to Phillippe Augustus of France. The building of Castle Cornet began around this time. The Castle was built to repel a French invasion and has had a colourful history. Today it houses some of the island’s best museums and hosts outdoor events.