Apart from the odd flurries around GST, school fees and teachers? pay, we?re a fairly placid lot. Or so we think. Dig a bit deeper and you?ll find Jersey?s had plenty of links with revolutionaries in the past, everyone from activist artists to assassin princes. Gallery met up with Blue Badge guide Tom Bunting to find out what lies beneath the island?s calm surface.
Hi Tom. One of your most popular walks is about the Occupation, and includes locations that were featured on Channel Four?s Time Team programme. Why was Hitler so interested in Jersey?
TB – Hitler was obsessed with the place.
I think he took it strategically for its position in the Channel, but also because it was a British island, and such a coup to occupy it. He thought the British would try and take it back again.
And have there been any revolutionaries in Jersey?
TB ? Maybe not too many at the moment, but we did have Karl Marx who visited Jersey at least three times, staying in the Trafalgar at St Aubin and the Hotel de l?Europe in St Helier (now Chambers) and wrote about his visits in letters back to Frederick Engels.
TB – Not much! He complained about the rising prices, the ?philistines? he was forced to share a carriage tour with, the weather and the monotonous lamb and mutton diet, which he said turned him into a ?reluctant vegetarian? and the respectability of the visitors which he claimed declined every year.
Plus ça change? Anyone else?
TB – Interestingly enough we are linked slightly to the Russian Revolution, the man behind the assassination of Rasputin, Prince Felix Youssoupoff, a flamboyant character who was gay and an occasional transvestite, came to visit Trinity Manor for four days in the early 1920s.
There?s a name to try and say with a straight face? What about revolutionary thinkers?
TB – Well Victor Hugo was exiled here for a while before he got kicked out and went to Guernsey, and then we had Claude Cahun of course, who was here during the Occupation ? an anti-German activist as well as a surrealist.
And any revolutionary ideas started in Jersey?
TB – The Jersey Royal potato was more of a discovery than a revolution, but around the same time a Jerseyman, Robert Le Rossignol developed a new method of making fertilizer that revolutionized agriculture and his process is still used today.
Weren?t we the first to get postboxes as well?
TB – I think the French had them before us but yes, we were the first in the British Isles. Apparently the Jersey people were moaning about having to walk all the way to the post office, so in 1852, they put four of them around St Helier to see what would happen.
And the rest is history as they say? How do you remember all the dates?
TB – Ah you were lucky on that 1852 one. I was sure about that. Normally I?m a bit vaguer and say mid-19th century so there?s plenty of margin for error!
Do you ever get any hecklers?
TB – Not really. People pay to go on the walks so they?re willing participants. Occasionally in town during the ?Murder, Muck and Mayhem? walks you get people staggering out of pubs who give you a bit of a barracking, but nothing really.
Ever lost anyone?
TB – A couple of years back, I took a group of six up to the dolmen at La Couperon. When I turned around, halfway up the path there were only five. We looked for the missing woman, and found her unconscious, lying halfway down a cliff! We got her up and when she came round, she told me she was epileptic and had probably blacked out.
That must have given you all quite a fright?
TB – Luckily we had a small group and it was immediately obvious someone was missing. But now I count people obsessively!
What period in history would you like to go back to?
TB – I think I?m happy in the present, we?re certainly better off nowadays. Although, from time to time I?d like to go back to my younger days perhaps ? who wouldn?t!
Fancy learning more about Jersey?s history? Join Tom on one of his walking tours on Tuesdays through the summer…
?Living with the Enemy- the Time Team special!?
You?ll hear about life in the occupation, and go around the site excavated by the Time Team, before ending up at the Jersey War Tunnels. Every Tuesday from May 24th 10.30am Gunsite Café, £7. No need to book, just turn up.
?Murder Muck and Mayhem?
Learn about the murkier side of Jersey?s capital, St Helier and hear stories of bizarre and gruesome events. Every Tuesday from May 24th, Royal Square at 7:30pm, £7. No need to book, just turn up.
Tel: 482822 for more details.