I was delighted to read theJersey Evening Post‘s generous review of Jersey: Secrets of the Seathis month. The JEP remains (in the words of its venerable slogan) “at the heart of Island life” and, in its original incarnation as the Evening Post, it has been a fixture of the Island since Victorian days. In fact the newspaper has been an important primary reference source in my research; notably when I wrote Summer of theMumming Birds – about the August of 1912 when Charlie Chaplin visited the Island and the first aeroplane landed in St Aubin’s Bay.
An extract from the JEP’s review of JERSEY: SECRETS OF THE SEA is below:
“Jersey is shaped by the sea in every sense…. This warmly welcomed follow-up to his Jersey: The Hidden Histories once again takes a selection of characters from history and legend and retells their story in lightly fictionalised style and with cinematic vividness.
As well as being a fine writer, Mr Darroch is a natural storyteller and a sensitive historian. It is a rare combination of talent which, this new volume now confirms, has earned him a special niche in the currently blossoming worlds of Jersey arts and heritage. In short, he has the ability to bring history to life“...
“The story that builds is that of Jersey itself and in a brilliant scene-setting device, Mr Darroch opens with the catastrophic wreck of King Henry I’s White Ship off Normandy in 1120, without the dynastic ramifications of which this tiny bailiwick may never have enjoyed its fruitful constitutional peculiarity.
This salty landfall of merchants, smugglers, fisherfolk, privateers and explorers owes a debt of gratitude to Paul Darroch for so entertainingly recounting how Jersey became what it is”. – JERSEY EVENING POST review of Jersey: Secrets of the Sea – October 16th, 2019
I was naturally honoured and delighted by the review. Meanwhile, it’s a busy month ahead on the writing front… In November 2019, my articles will feature in Our Island and Jersey Life magazines. In addition,Jersey: The Hidden Histories is being reprinted again so another 1,000 copies will be hitting the shelves locally. I understand the price is also going up – so it could be worth purchasing one of the copies from the current print run before they are all gone! Both my books are ideal Christmas presents for anyone who loves Jersey and its history.
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I am looking forward to returning to Jersey Arts Centre this year for the 2018 Jersey Festival of Words. It’s a splendid programme, and as ever Pippa and team have assembled a fine montage of authors, writers and artists.
This year I am giving an exclusive preview of my forthcoming book on Jersey’s rich maritime history. I will be reading a segment on RMS Titanic, telling the stories of two survivors: the Jersey millionairess who slept in first-class luxury, and the Quartermaster from St Ouen who saw the blue iceberg with his own eyes. The colour is not poetic licence: “It was not white, as I expected to see an iceberg. It was a kind of a dark-blue. It was not white”, he would later report to the US Senate Inquiry.
Here is the publicity blurb for the talk, which is at 2.30pm on Saturday 29th September at Jersey Arts Centre. You can buy tickets here for the princely sum of £5 each. I will also be discussing the talk on BBC Radio Jersey later this week.
WHITE STAR, BLUE ICEBERG: JERSEY SEA STORIES
The story of Jersey is shaped by its encircling sea. Paul Darroch, author of Jersey: The Hidden Histories, will be bringing our compelling maritime history to life in an exclusive reading from his forthcoming book.
He tells of the turbulent waters that swept away the doomed manor of La Brecquette, and drowned the flower of English royalty in the White Ship. He also recounts the astonishing story of Miss Louisa Journeaux, whose Sunday night rowing escapade in St Helier’s harbour ended far across the ocean in Canada.
Jersey mariners occupied a ring-side seat at some of the defining events of maritime history; captaining the Cutty Sark, commanding the clash of arms at Jutland; and entering the bridge of RMS Titanic at the fatal moment of impact with the blue iceberg on April 14, 1912.
This isthe story of an Island forged by the seas, set at the crossroads of maritime history, and told through the stories of the Jersey seafarers who made it.
“We are as near to Heaven by sea as by land” – Sir Humfrey Gilbert (last words, 1583)
The sickening tremor of a giant Atlantic wave explodes onto our little ship and sends us reeling and lurching like drunkards across the deck. As we pitch headlong, a black wall of water the size of a house rears up ahead, thundering and bellowing high above us like a wounded beast. The prow takes the full brunt of the impact, but our battle-hardened vessel holds firm. I scream an order from the deck and my crew scramble to check the halyards and the jibs. We mutter prayers and oaths. We plough on.
The first fingers of light are staining the eastern horizon and the storm front is now close to its tail end, smothering itself out like the dripping wick of a candle. It has been a savage night. My Jersey woollen smock is deeply stained with congealed layers of vomit and I am drenched in the bone chilling spray of the northern seas. Below deck, it is far worse; exhausted men are slumped on filthy lice-infested pallets; a foul pigsty reeking of sweat and dirt, with space for barely half of us to hunker down at once. Our little world spins one last time like a child’s wooden toy and regains an even keel as we finally burst through the growling weather front and stay on our restless course for the Newlands.
We are still a week away from landfall. Thousands of miles of desolate ocean lie behind us with hundreds still ahead, with unfathomable deeps falling away below, and the stars burning above us in a cold heaven.
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.