Local rivalry has been a feature of human communities ever since we came down from the trees, and nowhere is this more keenly felt than in places that have almost everything in common with their immediate neighbour. National rivals like France and Germany can define themselves through clear differences in culture, philosophy or religious thought, whereas smaller places are more likely to engage in drunken brawls over who invented a type of biscuit. Jersey and Guernsey definitely fall into the latter category, stoking a historic if largely good-natured feud that is more north and south Yorkshire than north and south Korea. To celebrate yet another spanking handed out during the NatWest Island Games, we’ve created this brief guide to the highlights of our warm mutual relationship – from an 100% unbiased Jersey perspective.
16,000 BC: neither landmass is yet an island, but the inhabitants of the hills that would become Jersey and Guernsey have already developed a rivalry over who has the biggest dolmens and was first to steal fire from the gods
2000 BC: the first derogatory references to donkeys are etched into clay pots. Future archaeologists are impressed that primitive Jersey man had the stamina to canoe to the next island, form a negative impression of its inhabitants, canoe back and tell everybody about it
500 BC: rival pagan cults are established on both islands, each worshipping the One True Cow
60 BC: Roman conquest of Gaul. The Romans are interested in Jersey’s western region as a source of thick-skulled potential gladiators, but never bother having as much as an orgy in Guernsey. This allows Guernsey historians to pretend their island was like the village from Asterix.
535AD: The ascetic (and future saint) Helier brings news of Christianity to Jersey. Impressed by his message of peace and love, and awed by the power of his God, Jersey people try and convince the hermit that Guernsey is a sinful Gomorrah deserving of Old Testament-style obliteration. Excommunicated for millennia, Guernsey eventually outlaws polygamy and accepts Jesus in the 1820s.
1565: despite being practically within spitting distance, the people of Guernsey have historically shied from colonising Sark as they believe it is inhabited by flying demons. In 1565 the island is seized by colonists from Jersey, and the flying demons are revealed just to be very aggressive puffins.
1670: tensions are inflamed when Jersey’s loyalty during the English Civil War is rewarded by the naming of the province of New Jersey. This is a bone of contention in Guernsey for hundreds of years, until the airing of Jersey Shore and the realisation that New Jersey is popularly known as “the armpit of America” (see also: 2002).
1874: Jersey is visited by Karl Marx, author of the communist manifesto. His firsthand observation of Jersey landlords is the catalyst for the eventual destruction of this class during Russia’s bolshevik revolution. He believes that the existence of Guernsey is a lie made up by the capitalist hegemony in order to placate the masses of St Clement.
1902: Guernsey spies in St Helier report rumours of an imminent ‘battle of flowers’. Believing this is an attempt to seize their island by unorthodox means, an emergency commando raid is launched on St John’s Village. Three civilians are beaten unconscious with daffodils before the aggressors are captured by the honorary police.
1905: First competition for the Muratti vase, taking the form of a no-holds-barred forty man mud wrestling match. The losers are barbecued and their children exiled to the Minquiers.
1941: The occupying German forces cunningly play the islands off against each other by telling their respective inhabitants that people on the next island over didn’t co-operate enough and were sent to bed without any dinner. By 1944 this threat is upgraded to “sent to the Russian front”
1960: The changing tides of global finance see both Islands shift away from traditional agricultural/tourism economic models. Jersey tempts international banks by letting them build whichever eyesores they want in St Helier, as long as they provide jobs. Guernsey does the same by raising its speed limit by 15 MPH and printing its money on paper instead of shiny pebbles.
1981: The BBC launches Jersey-centric police show Bergerac, starring future parish fete VIP John Nettles. Retaliatory attempts by Guernsey’s States to bankroll a competing ITV hospital drama (“Seaside Emergency Ward” – starring Ian McShane, Su Pollard and Jimmy Nail) never quite get off the ground.
1986: the redevelopment of the Fort Regent Leisure Centre represents a dramatic escalation in the tourism arms race between the two islands. Although Jersey officials insist that the resemblance of the rotunda to the Death Star is entirely a coincidence, Guernsey moots a top secret-plan to rebuild the Beau Sejour centre to resemble Castle Grayskull.
1990s: There is jubilation in the streets of St Helier when multinational chain McDonald’s opens its first Channel Island location. To this day, Guernsey residents remain jealous that their town centre lacks the cosmopolitan quality supplied by piles of discarded milkshake cups.
2002: (see also 1670) Guernsey wins a minor victory in the struggle for recognition with the accidental help of Google, who spend the next decade making it impossible for people to search for anything related to ‘Jersey’ without being directed to the American state. It proves to be of limited benefit to Guernsey when it turns out the majority of people searching for ‘Guernsey’ are inhabitants of Sark, dreaming of a better life.
2004: the Jersey Live Festival establishes the island as a boutique stop-off for UK bands slogging it out on the summer festival circuit. Jersey fans thwart the chance of the neighbouring island having a similar festival of its own by convincing Liam Gallagher that Guernsey has a special tax on snorkel parkas and monobrows.
2012: as Jersey eagerly awaits the release of “Fantasy Island” (the first of a multi-million dollar trilogy set to rival Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter) the island’s filmic fortunes are lifted by the news that local lad Henry Cavill has been cast as Superman. Guernsey hits back by announcing that the next Avengers film will be shot and set entirely in the parish of St Sampson, starring a cast of local extras, in a secret deal arranged with the CEO of Marvel/Disney. Celebrations are short-lived when it turns out that the CEO is just Fantasy Island man wearing a fake moustache, and that he has made off with six months’ tax revenue