Scraps of Jersey history: Jerseymen versus Guernseymen or Les Crapauds et Les Anes

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Now that we know where the true Jerseyman comes from, let’s have a look at his relationship with the inhabitants of Guernsey, the second largest of the Channel Islands.
It seems that the natural rivalry between the two islands has always been there and expresses itself in funny nicknames that both communities have for each other: should you ask a Jerseyman about the Guernsey people, he will tell you they are stubborn Donkeys (Les Anes) – designation that doesn’t really require any further explanation…

A Guernseyman, on the other hand, has similar contempt for Jersey people who in his eyes deserve to be called Toads (Les Crapauds). Whereas ‘donkey’ seems quite obvious, the history of ‘toads’  has its roots in time past, when meeting saints amongst ordinary people was an everyday event.

One legend has it that once upon a time in the Parish of Castle (Guernsey) , St. George bumped into St. Patrick. Both of them had come over from Jersey where they had felt unwanted and found Guernsey much more hospitable place and both of them decided to call Guernsey their own. Therefore to avoid an unsaintly argument as to who actually had first claim to Guernsey, the two saints decided that neither of them would keep the island, but they agreed that, before they left, they should give Guernsey something back for its hospitality. As they were standing by a stream, St. George immediately blessed its waters so that they keep forever the power of healing. More than that, whomsoever owned the land through which the stream ran, so long as he kept the water from being defiled in any way, would never go hungry, nor would his children. The stream was thereafter known as St. George’s Well and was believed to have an extraordinary healing power. It became so popular that in 1408 an Act was passed prohibiting the use of the path except for those who genuinely wished to be healed or had to go that way to church.

St. Patrick, willing to keep up with his fellow saint, decided to pay back to both islands at the same time. He filled his wallet with the nastiest Guernsey creatures, such as snakes and toads, then he went back to Jersey and emptied them all out so that Guernsey would be free of everything noxious but Jersey would have a double share – especially of toads.

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Le Crapaud in Charing Cross, Jersey

Another legend says that St. Sampson, Guernsey’s Patron Saint, banished moles, snakes and toads from his island and sent them all to Jersey, so that the Sarnians would better despise the Jerriais.

No matter which version we accept as more probable, the outcome remains the same: for ages Jersey suffered from the large quantity of toads which is testified to by the XVIIth century Poingdestre:

“This Island is noe lesse annoyed by several sorts of vermine, creeping and crawling things, than damnifyed by the wind and ye water. It is scarce credible what quantity we have of Toades, snakes, slowe wormes, rats and mice, with their Enemyes the States.”

Believe it or not, a Jerseyman managed to put his ugly nickname to profitable use! When a monthly magazine was first published in April 1835 it proudly bore the title The Crapaud and had a toad on its front cover.

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Le Crapaud by Justyna Niedospial, Le Rocquier School

Today, however, a Jerseyman thinks of himself less as a toad than a … Bean! It is thought that this nickname came about because of the much-loved bean crock being the Island’s special dish. The boost was given to the name in the early 1970’s when a soft toy was produced called the Jersey Bean.

The traditional rivalry between Jersey and Guernsey has not just been a matter of exchanging nicknames: their coats of arms are different and on two important occasions the islands have taken opposite sides, in the XVIth century, when due to disagreement the religious and diplomatic relations between Jersey and Guernsey had been broken for eight years and later in the XVIIth century, during the Civil War, when Guernsey had mainly Parliamentary sympathies, while Jersey remained loyal to King Charles.

One of the most amusing stories showing that Jerseyman is capable of absolutely anything to prove his superiority, says that three stalwart sailors came once to Guernsey from Jersey to sell some farm produce. As they did extremely well, they decided to celebrate their success with some Guernsey cider, and as they drank an idea occurred to them to carry off Guernsey and join it on to St. Ouen. So the captain ordered to make the hawser fast to one of the sharp tips of rock on St.Martin’s point, the sails were hoisted and the men burst out singing:

Hale, Pierre! Hale, Jean!
Guernsi ‘sénvient.

As the boat gave Guernsey its first tug to float it off to St.Ouen. Needless to say that the hawser snapped in two, throwing the three much bruised and shaken men to the bottom of the boat, after which they decided to leave Guernsey where it was.

Today this everlasting rivalry between the islands is limited to such taunts as Guernseyman’s short legs and the Guernsy’s proverb: Qui epouse Jerriais ou Jerriaise, jamais vivra a son aise ( or its English version: If you want a quiet life, never take a Jersey wife! Or husband!).

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If you would like to visit Jersey and Guernsey in one go, you can call us on 01534 496600. Our friendly and professional Reservations team can arrange a multi-centre holiday for you, including Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and even Herm! Why don’t you discover the truth about Les Crapauds et Les Anes?!

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