Guarded by stone fortresses, networked with time-worn lanes and supplied by ancient harbours, the island of Jersey has an abundance of history from the dusty relics of neanderthal man to priceless buried treasure there are few places where so many eras are layered atop each other. Yet amidst history there is also (*spooky TV voice*) … mystery.
Look carefully around you and you might perceive the faint signs of other civilisations, of vanished peoples, scribbled into the margins of the Island’s historical record. These are the lost tribes of Jersey, and their disappearance is one of our great secrets. I have dedicated my career to uncovering their strange stories, but I am old and fear that the knowledge will die with me, just as the secrets of the dinosaurs expired with Tamba Park and with the Living Legend was buried the ancient technology that created a hologram of John Nettles. I will soon take my last journey on life’s petit train – to the Fantastic Tropical Gardens in the sky. If you are reading this, and possess an open and inquiring mind, maybe you can take up from me the golden torch – to shine a light on what remains hidden. At the very least you might stop the secret recipe for Mary-Ann Lager (bringer of eternal life) from falling into the wrong hands.
Wanderers from a place that time forgot: the bucket and spade brigade
The complex patchwork of European myth has many tales of tribes who vanished almost without trace, yet are rumoured to hide amongst modern peoples. The druids, the picts, the people of Atlantis – these have their local equivalent in the local legends of the family holidaymakers. Folklore says that they sailed here in great boats, famed for the lost technology of navigating fog and arriving on schedule. Their cultural artefacts are thought to include Factor 6 Hawaiian Tropic and inflatable crocodiles, but argument rages as to whether they conversed in Full Yorkshire or High Geordie. Frustratingly, few records survive – either though Lambrini-related memory loss or the danger of putting your finger over the lens on the Kodak. Another theory is that TV broadcasts and newspapers from the era are quarantined as a result of the presence of long-cancelled light entertainment personalities. Once deprived of their beloved prawn cocktails and “variety shows” the holidaymakers simply removed the knotted handkerchief from their heads and dispersed into a mist that smelled like Old Spice. Legend has it that they live on, and some nights the haunting sound of “Agadoo” can still be heard, drifting on a moonlit breeze.
Life is but a stage: the Bergerac extras
Throughout the 1980s Jersey families saw friends and loved ones disappear under unexplained circumstances, as if spirited away by elves or fairies. A newly unearthed cache of Betamax tapes has been enhanced with computers to reveal these vanished residents – hidden beneath layers of stage makeup and clouds of hairspray. In truth they had been tempted by the bright lights and ran away with the circus of the BBC Drama Department. After just a single afternoon playing “woman murdered at Bonaparte’s” or “Russian gem dealer” they vowed never to rejoin their mundane everyday lives. Instead they eked out a shadowy life in pantomimes and pretending to be mannequins at the Jersey Museum, faithfully awaiting the return of their god-detective from the purgatory region known only as “Midsomer.” Operating from a bird hide outside the Old Courthouse, I have found too many discarded shoulder pads for it to be coincidence. I believe that many extras are still out there, like those WWII Japanese soldiers who held out on remote pacific Islands until the 1960s. We will only make them show themselves if we can get Charlie Hungerford to surrender in person.
Ebeneezer Goode: the raving ravers
Like most of Britain, Jersey has an agreed mass amnesia for that brief period when the moral panic of the 1980s gave way to a cultural moment in which you could turn on daytime radio to hear records with names like “Vitamin E (It’s Good For You)” and “I Wish It Could Be Spliffmas Everyday.” A new tribe emerged, of boys in curtain haircuts and bandanas, and girls who had burned their Benetton jumpers to pledge allegiance to the whistle posse. As the influence of this new tribe spread, the Inn on the Park became a new temple and even children were decorating their school books with pictures of the Prodigy and Mr C from The Shaman. Then, just as soon as a second summer of love had come around, culture shifted again and it was no longer acceptable to wear a T Shirt that said “Rush Puppies.” As if we were going into a long, dark tunnel the tribes of ravers disappeared, even those who as of 6PM on Sunday still had not gone to bed. Nonetheless, we must remind ourselves of their dread prophesy – that Hardcore Will Never Die. Will the ravers return, for just one more tune?
Two races of mighty warriors: the mods and rockers
The oral histories of the British mainland tell of two ancient warlike tribes, who battled along the piers and beaches of England before dying out in a tragic series of plagues – motorbike accidents, baldness and middle-aged spread. Although long-gone today their influence can be seen in the popularity of desert boots and Fred Perry shirts, and legends say that their greatest warrior (Paul Weller) is kept alive by a terrible mystic power. Rumours abound that they also colonised the Channel Islands, but despite what my father told me about his scooter there is just no evidence that anybody in 60s Jersey looked remotely sharp. Some have claimed that today’s owners of Harley Davidson motorbikes are the descendants of the fearsome rockers, but they are less Sons of Anarchy and more Dads with Angina – I have reluctantly concluded that the original warrior gangs simply rode their chariots onto the ferry and never came back. If we want to learn what happened to them must broaden our search – starting at Gorey Pier but probably no further than the pub car parks of Guernsey and St Malo.
The flower children: pagans of the seaside
Mainstream historians tell us that the druids who built Stonehenge are long-dead, but an alternative theory is that these great builders were drawn instead to Jersey and the chaos magick embodied in our arcane legal system. Believers say that they dug La Hougue Bie, carved the pinnacle rock, and forever cursed the underpass for trespassing upon an ancient burial site. Some locals even claim direct descent from these primordial wizards – though the heights of their spritual powers are crystal healing and the ability to dodge getting arrested for living in Le Port car park. I had long assumed that the pagan elders are extinct, killed off by dangerous levels of gluten in Jersey wonders, but only now as I near my own twilight do I dare to dream that perhaps they have merely vanished from this astral plane. If any readers can put me in touch with the friendly spirits of the universe I beseech you to reach out, and help this old man ascend peacefully to another realm. I am more than willing to meditate, burn joss sticks or get naked and dance around a dolmen of your choice. If the spirits won’t take me to another place, I’m sure the police will.