CHANNEL ISLANDS RALLY (JERSEY AND SARK PLUS GUERNSEY)
"Seyiz les beinv'nus à Jèrri" is the traditional, if somewhat idiosyncratic, greeting to visitors to the charming, beautiful and, for the most of our stay there, sun-drenched island of Jersey. And certainly a great welcome in all sorts of ways was extended to our thirty-two Club cars, ranging from the Niblett's seventy-nine years young 20hp to the Hazell's three days old Bentley Flying Spur, plus one Bristol (substituting for a non-running Bentley), transporting sixty-six Rally participants, plus at least one notable Teddy Bear.
Three Island members of our Section, Eddie Deffains and John and Marilyn Wetherall kindly waited two and a half hours for our delayed Condor ferry (of which more later) in order to guide us, in three batches, through the confusing streets of St Helier and up the rather dark and narrow A9 north to our hotel, the Best Western Highfield Country Hotel, where David Lord and his staff had waited up until midnight to ply the weary travellers with much-needed refreshment and settle us in our comfortable and well-appointed rooms, each decked out with a lovely vase of flowers, courtesy of our Committee, and equipped with suitably monogrammed cakes of soap, courtesy of our two BW's. (Little did we know that this introduction to the Highfield was but a prelude both to the culinary delights awaiting us at every meal in the hotel to come, and to the unfailing attention given to us by David Lord and his family (and Rufus) at all times of day and night and in every possible way.
There were to be many further instances during the week of the welcome given to us by the Bailiwick of Jersey. Club members John and Sue Boothman invited us to their home, appropriately named 'Brooklands', for drinks and a delicious lunchtime buffet. Jane Ponter (soon to be PA to the Bailiff of Jersey) arranged for us to visit the Eric Young Orchid Foundation, one of the finest collections of these exotic and extraordinary flowers in the world. The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust gave us free entry to their Zoo and provided expert guides for our two-hour tour of this fascinating and very worthwhile project. Jersey radio, Channel TV and the Jersey Evening Post all took an active interest in our doings on the Island. Jersey Tourism supplied colourful folders for our vital, and beautifully produced Rally packs (plus engraved pens), and also gave us generous financial sponsorship for the Rally. Local RREC members came to see us, with their cars, at every event when our cars were on display and to name but a few, we were delighted to see Dr Simon Slaffer with his newly restored 20hp, Barry de la Mare with his ex- John Oldham 20/25, Deputy Geoffrey Grime and his pretty 20hp drophead coupț, and Tim Scott in his London to Edinburgh Silver Ghost by Holmes, chassis No 1948, registration No J1, a most impressive motor car in every way. Last but not least, what could be better typifying the welcome received everywhere in Jersey than the local resident who went out of his way to lead your scribe, who was showing your Editor and the lovely Donna Anna, back to the hotel after I had got us hopelessly lost in a maze of ever-narrowing lanes on the one and a half mile journey from the Zoo. (This write-up is the Editor's revenge!).
Needless to say, all this kindness prompted responses from us - John and Marilyn Wetherall and Geraldine Lord were our guests at the black tie Gala Dinner on our last night. The Rally account made a £400.00 donation to 'Jersey Zoo' and Jean Taylor, in her own inimitable way that must be worth another kiss - sold £633.00 of raffle tickets for an amazing array of prizes, donated by Rally participants, the proceeds on Gala night going to the Jersey Cheshire Home, at the request of David Lord, who also provided a star prize of a voucher for a return visit to the Highfield Country hotel.
At this point I think I should attempt a thank you to the BW's responsible for this wonderful Rally. The event could hardly have been better prepared, as evidenced by the Rally Pack, and this contributed so much to the enjoyment of everything arranged for us, not forgetting the thoughtful provision of plenty of free time for exploring the Island, or indulging in some retail therapy in St Helier, or simply relaxing in or around the hotel pools. Otherwise, during the week Doug Groves, our octogenarian BW1, rushed around like an octo-year-old often assisted by Ron Tuck, making sure that all ran smoothly, and Ted Meachem, as BW2, acted as an absolutely reliable sheep dog, shepherding us to the right places at the right times and generally over-seeing all our activities with his own brand of solicitude (cheers for the Pimms!). A huge vote of thanks to them both.
It did, of course, take our BW's sense of humour to arrange for a large group of Rolls-Royce aficionados to visit a car-less island for a day. But Sark - or to be consistent Serque - provided both a dramatic contrast to Jersey and also its own particular welcome to us, in the form of the most pleasant weather in which to experience this unique island society, either on foot or by horse and cart.
But, as space is limited, I will move on from Sark to record a few special memories of the Rally of my own: the look of wonder on the faces of the other visitors to the Jersey Pottery when they saw our motor cars drawn up on display in the sunshine; 'Jersey Bean Jar', a delicious and very filling local dish on offer at our 'Themed Dinner' at the Highfield; George, the Gibbon's spectacular aerobatic display at the Zoo; the gracefully swooping hawk at the Living Legend; at the same venue a medieval banquet of no less than nine courses, to the accompaniment of a Court Jester (no not Doug or Ted) who may or may not have aided the digestion, according to taste; our esteemed Secretary - he of the Cavalry Sword and wine bottle trick - showing us how to manipulate a Pikestaff; the redefinition of 'Light Lunch' to mean 'enough food for a week', as exemplified by our visit to Samarès Manor; Doug's speech in response to Tony Leach's vote of thanks to the BW's at the last dinner; and, after that, my dance with Kate to the strains of 'I will survive'.
Even the most memorable and well-organised of rallies must endure the odd glitch. One motor car 'failed to proceed', but was quickly restored to good health by Claydon Motors of St Brelades. Another motor car mysteriously suffered a ding in the hotel car park. Inexplicably, despite the presence of Her Grace, Daphne, Duchess of Fishbourne, no Seigneur of Sark appeared to welcome us with a tray or two of sherry. And roads on our planned routes were occasionally closed with little or no notice, which brings me to the journey home, but the least said the better. However, for those who appreciate symmetry, the outward-bound ferry docked in St Helier at 10.45pm, and the homeward-bound ferry docked in Poole also at 10.45pm but seven and a half hours late. In both cases the ship was inaptly named 'Vitesse', and the Captain has been summoned to appear in chains before the Court of the Justices of the Pieces for Tierra del Fuego.
Nonetheless, it was all more than worthwhile for the experience of a really superb rally, which, I feel sure, all lucky participants hope will be repeated. Or, as they say in Jersey "À Betôt et à la préchaine".
Martin Coomber - Section Member
|View from Sark.||St Peter Port, Guernsey.|
|Samarès Manor.||Seignurie Gardens.||Transport on Sark.|
|An afternoon with Jersey residents.|
|Coffee time at Samarès.||Bus ride.|
|Jersey orchids.||Gorillas at Jersey Zoo.||Tim Scott's Silver Ghost.||Ted with his bird.|
|Photos: Kanchu McAllister and Andrew Honour|