Jersey: Secrets of the Sea – Book Launch

JERSEY SECRETS OF THE SEA by Paul Darroch is published on August 2nd, 2019. It sells for £11.95 and will be widely available across Jersey and on Amazon UK.

Jersey: Secrets of the Sea is the panoramic story of an Island forged by the seas, set at the crossroads of maritime history, and told through the voices of the Jersey seafarers who made it.

The book launch is on Thursday August 1st, 2019 at 6pm at Jersey Library. This is a community event hosted by Jersey Library on behalf of Seaflower Books and is open to all.

The front cover – ‘SS Amazon’ on Fire in the Bay of Biscay (1852) by Philip John Ouless (1817-1855). Courtesy of the Jersey Heritage Collections.

Elinor Glyn – Jersey’s Hollywood Queen

Elinor Sutherland was born in Jersey, at No. 1 St Saviour’s Road. After a terrible childhood shipwreck, she dreamed of escape. She succeeded. As Elinor Glyn, her romantic novels would eventually sell by the million and make her an Edwardian household name. When she moved to California in 1920, she became friends with Charlie Chaplin and invented the concept of the “It Girl”. Her motion pictures struck gold at the box office, and at the brief pinnacle of her success, Elinor Glyn helped to define the legend of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

In the very beginning in California, there was only dust. Beverly Hills had the ambience of “an abandoned real estate development”, recalled Charlie Chaplin in his autobiography. “Sidewalks ran along and disappeared into open fields”. California was a “a paradise of sunshine, orange groves, vineyards and palm-trees, stretching along the Pacific coast for a thousand miles”. America’s great trek west, the Manifest Destiny that had guided the nation for decades, had at last reached its final frontier.

First men came west for God, then for gold. Now a new breed of technical pioneers colonised the Promised Land, in search of the aura of pure clear light. Farms became studios. The merciless Californian sun proved the ideal medium for the magicians to conjure up their ghostly moving pictures on magic lanterns. An obscure and ramshackle country roadhouse, the Hollywood Hotel, suddenly became deluged with celebrities.


The allure of the West Coast sucked in a swarm of writers and swindlers, moneymen and showgirls, tycoons on the make. This was a gold rush as fatal and alluring as the mad old days of 1849; the spell of California promising the bounty of untold wealth to the ferociously ambitious with nothing to lose but their souls. For a very few, the dream came true.

This was the world that Elinor Glyn would rule like a dowager empress.

“Her British dignity was devastating”, recalled Gloria Swanson.“Her hair was the colour of red ink, and she wore it wrapped around her head like an elaborate turban. She was something from another world”.

At Jersey Library on Saturday January 20th, Paul Darroch, author of Jersey: The Hidden Histories, will be telling her story.  


(c) Paul Darroch 2018

Lillie Langtry – The Beauty’s Story

“I would rather have discovered Mrs Langtry than have discovered America” – Oscar Wilde (attributed)

The American West, 1883

Last night I was dreaming again of home. The images were so incredibly vivid. I was larking again in our old rectory at St Saviour, waiting for my father the Dean to return from some urgent business in Town. The air was heavy with high summer. I was running wild and free around the great stone cider press in the courtyard, jostling with my brothers and smiling in the warmth of the gentle Jersey sun. O happy childhood days! The memories trickled back from this honeyed lost world, long before this cascade of fame and champagne and pearls swept me away for ever.

Lillie Langtry

(Source: Wikimedia Commons public domain)

Those were simpler, larrikin days. We would rampage in the streets and steal brass door-knockers. At night we would drape ourselves in white sheets and lurk in the graveyard, scaring the living daylights out of the local bumpkins stumbling back from the tavern. So in my mind’s eye I was laughing myself hoarse, japing and prancing in the sweet sunset of the Jersey summer, when I was jolted from my reverie by the sharp whistle of a steam engine. I smile as I wake.

How the world has changed. Our glorious steam folly, the Lalee, is rapidly gathering pace across the empty desert. The gossipmongers in the press speculate that this luxurious rail barge has cost half a million dollars, and to be fair I could trade it tomorrow for a neat little street in Knightsbridge. Yet that wouldn’t be half as much fun.

It has been a glorious adventure over here in the Promised Land. I dreaded that first tedious rat-infested voyage on the SS Arizona, but the frightful sixteen-day transit was soon forgotten just as soon as the bright lights of New York City winked into view off our starboard bow.

America is simply a revelation. Manhattan is a blazing whirlwind of energy and optimism. New York really is a great and growing adolescent of a city. We transferred to the decadent splendour of the Albermarle hotel, toured Central Park by carriage and dined at Delmonico’s, the most famous restaurant in the city. Dear Oscar joined us that evening to trade a few bon mots with the creme de la creme of New York society. Millionaires and courtesans, stuffy New England squires and Wall Street bucks raised their glasses in unison to toast my health. The champagne flowed as freely as rain.

Read more of Lillie Langtry’s imagined recollections in Jersey: The Hidden Histories. 

You  can read the Historical Novel Society review of the book here; in summary, “The book is well-written, expertly researched and interesting to read”



History is breaking in

Panoramic in scope, Jersey: The Hidden Histories is a spellbinding journey into the life and times of this entrancing Island. It is painted on a canvas that stretches from the primeval hunters crossing the tundra to the arrival of the first aeroplane in the magical summer of 1912, on the eve of the Great War.