Jersey: Secrets of the Sea – Kindle Edition Launched

At last, the Kindle edition of Jersey: Secrets of the Sea is here. It is priced at just £2.99 on Amazon UK and is available here. In these strange times of lockdown, when Jersey itself is largely isolated, e-Books are enjoying something of a renaissance and enable me to continue reaching my local and off-Island readership even while the bookshops are closed.

I’ve been delighted with the generous critical reception this book has received. You can read the Historical Novel Society’s recent review here.

‘Darroch alternates historical background information with realistic first-person narrative, conveying with skill both the tension of the situations and the moods of the key players…

You don’t need to have a special relationship with Jersey to truly appreciate these remarkable cameos of Jersey folk from various epochs, who left a mark on history. But if St. Ouen’s Bay, Mont Orgueil Castle and the Howard Davis Park mean anything to you, this book is even more inspiring’ – Historical Novel Society, 2020

Here’s the Author’s Preface to Jersey: Secrets of the Sea by way of an introduction…

I started to discover Jersey’s secrets of the sea on a dark October evening, as blustery weather rolled in from the west. Since the publication of Jersey: The Hidden Histories, I had been searching for a compelling theme to bind together my second book. Then I chanced upon the story of the lost manor of La Brecquette, and it abruptly gripped my imagination. Somewhere in the bay beyond, the tide was rising.

On a night such as this, long ago, the sea cleaved the land bridge that tethered us to the continent, and this Island was born. In the ages to come, it would be peopled, settled and invaded, and it would be given a new name. From the very beginning, Jersey’s story has been sculpted by the sea.

I imagined Jersey’s maritime history unfolding in four distinct seasons.  In Jersey’s medieval springtime, as it emerged from the fog of myth, the ocean was feared as a primal, destructive force. Local legends tell not only of the waves that drowned La Brecquette, but of the sea wreaking violent retribution on wrongdoers.

As summer dawned, and the Renaissance gave way to the Enlightenment, the old world’s horizons tumbled, and adventure called.  In this great age of discovery, the mariners of Jersey, from Governor Sir Walter Raleigh to the fisher king Charles Robin, set out to claim the world.

Jersey sailed on into its golden autumn of plenty, the heyday of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Its restless children would cross the oceans to pursue missionary calling in China, find fame in early Hollywood and build a fortune in Africa.

Jersey seafarers were afforded a ringside seat at some of the defining moments of maritime history. In these pages, we will step onto the bridge of RMS Titanic with the Quartermaster from St Ouen, as a Jersey millionairess slumbers in her first-class suite below, and the blue iceberg glints ahead of them in the darkness.

Finally, winter fell hard upon Jersey; an age of suffering and war; of troop-ships leaving for the Western Front, and of a lone boatman escaping the shadow of the Occupation. The cycle of the seasons had come full circle.

All those tales are yet to come. Our story begins on an icy medieval night, aboard a ship of princes. They say it is the most exquisite vessel in the world, and it carries the heir to the throne. Before the hourglass empties, it will lie beneath the waves.

Paul Darroch,

Jersey 2019

Buy the Kindle Edition of Jersey: Secrets of the Sea on Amazon UK.

(c) Paul Darroch 2020

Jersey: Secrets of the Sea – JEP Review

I was delighted to read the Jersey Evening Post‘s generous review of Jersey: Secrets of the Sea this 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 the Mumming 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“...

(c) Jersey Evening Post 2019

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.

Please follow @HistoryIslands on Twitter and Facebook.

Jersey: Secrets of the Sea – The Waterstones Event

Looking forward to the Jersey: Secrets of the Sea book signing at Waterstones on Friday 23rd August 2019 at 5.30pm. I am going to be introducing the book and sharing a reading from the first episode – The White Ship: The Butcher’s Story. Refreshments will be available and there is no obligation to buy a copy. If you love Jersey and its maritime history, this is the event for you! It’s happening at Waterstones, 16 Queen Street, St Helier, Jersey.

Paul Darroch at the launch of Jersey: Secrets of the Sea – August 1st, 2019 at Jersey Library. (c) Paul Darroch 2019

The White Ship: The Butcher’s Story

A ship is gliding home in the winter night. It is bleached as white as bones, and tonight it bears the sons of a King. This is no ordinary vessel. The White Ship dances over the waves, drawn by some unearthly power.

I have never beheld a ship so fair. Each deck is draped in rich gold and plumped with purple cushions. Even the benches are inlaid with jewels. The Blanche-Nef, the sailors reverently call it, seemingly speaking of a living thing. The ship is exquisitely sculpted as if from delicate ice, as sleek a craft as ever graced the seas. The elegance that surrounds us is astonishing. Even up here on the chilly main deck, where I am required to loiter as a common tradesman, I can see the slender timbers of the poop curving like the gleaming ribs of a prize ox.

I truly know of what I speak, for I am Berold of Rouen, master butcher by trade….

(c) Paul Darroch 2019

Jersey: Secrets of the Sea by Paul Darroch is available at Waterstones and WH Smith in Jersey, Maison de la Mare on King St, St Helier and Amazon UK. It can also be ordered direct from Seaflower Books in Wiltshire, England.

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.

White Star, Blue Iceberg: Jersey Sea Stories

Would you like to hear an exclusive extract from my next Jersey book, which is being published by Seaflower in 2019? I am speaking at Jersey Library’s Local History Fayre on Saturday January 26th at 10.30am, where I will be reprising my talk from the Festival of Words. The talk is free to attend and details are below.


White Star, Blue Iceberg – Jersey Sea Stories by Paul Darroch

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.

Jersey mariners have 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 on April 14, 1912. In this talk, Paul will recount the experiences of two Jersey survivors of the Titanic disaster – the wealthy Lady travelling in first-class luxury, and the Quartermaster from St Ouen who saw the blue iceberg with his own eyes.

This is a dramatic episode in the 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.

White Star, Blue Iceberg – Jersey Sea Stories

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 is the 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.

(c) Paul Darroch 2018

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

Jersey’s Atlantis – The Lost Manor of La Brecquette

The Lost Manor of La Brecquette is perhaps the Island’s most compelling medieval legend.  In this December’s edition of Our Island magazine, I told its story.

Today, La Brecquette is a bleak shelf of rock, battered by the Atlantic. The waves roll in from the vast and cold ocean, the void that stretches to Newfoundland thousands of miles west.  The Chemin de la Brecquette runs straight towards the sea, then plunges down into it. Only at low tide is the pockmarked and jagged terrain of an ancient landscape revealed.

Yet in medieval times the chronicles record that a great manor house once stood here. It was nestled in a rich and fertile valley of cider orchards, nourished by the gentle brook in the sea-meadow of La Haussière.  Then on one fateful night this world was drowned beneath the waves, lost in a sudden cataclysm.

This is the moment when everything changed:

“That was when I saw the great black line on the horizon, unfurling like a scroll, erasing all the stars. A towering ocean wave, the king of tides, was sweeping in at speed towards Jersey. The dreadful wall of black water was five times the height of the tallest man. For an instant, it hung poised, hanging like a curtain over the doomed manor of La Brecquette.

A scurry of lanterns; a frantic welter of men saddling up horses, of servants darting like insects in the courtyard. And then that world suddenly drowned, as violently as a burning brazier ducked into a pond. The water smashed over the tourelle and all the candles went black…

I speak not of the gold, buried long ago like the fruit of those drowned orchards. The treasure still lies deep beneath the earth, waiting to be remembered, waiting to be found”.

In December 2017, the second print run of JERSEY: THE HIDDEN HISTORIES was published by Seaflower Books. It is available widely throughout Jersey, and subject to stock can be found in Waterstones on Queen St., WH Smith on King St, LoveBird Shop at Jersey War Tunnels, the National Trust Bookshop at 16 New Street and at a variety of other Island retailers.

It is also available at Amazon UK in both printed and Kindle varieties.

This month, Seaflower Books also published the latest addition to their Jersey range, CHEERS! by Alasdair Crosby, who also publishes Rural Jersey Country Life magazine. He hosted a very enjoyable launch party for his book on December 7th at Jersey Library!

(c) Paul Darroch 2017