History bites the dust as unbroken line is broken

IN FEWER than 200 words it was formally announced earlier this week that an unbroken line, which has been an integral part of Sark’s history for the last 338 years, is to be broken.

Reg Guille.

IN FEWER than 200 words it was formally announced earlier this week that an unbroken line, which has been an integral part of Sark’s history for the last 338 years, is to be broken.

The dual role of Sark seneschal in presiding over the Seneschal’s Court and Chief Pleas – in precisely the same way as the bailiffs in the two largest Channel Islands preside over both the Royal Court and the States – will come to an end at midnight on 26 February.

The title of seneschal was instituted by letters patent in 1675 in the reign of Charles II when Pierre Gibault was appointed. Retired army officer Reg Guille, who was appointed in 2000, currently holds it.

Although that title will remain in existence, the function of the post holder will be judicial: as chief judge of the Seneschal’s Court and thus a judge in civil matters, a magistrate in criminal cases and the island’s coroner in relation to inquests.

That appointment will essentially take effect at midnight on 26 February and the island’s 27 conseillers (there is one vacancy) will meet on the 27th to fill the new appointment of president of Chief Pleas who, when necessary, will also be the returning officer for public elections and a trustee of Sark-owned property.

So, as I have remarked before and make no apology to anyone for repeating, hundreds of years of Sark history bites the dust. Not because there was a massive groundswell of support for splitting the functions, but because by the time it was clear that such an important appointment should no longer be within the gift of the island’s seigneur, change had essentially been forced on this small community.

That process of the imposition of edicts from elsewhere seems to have continued – most recently (as far as residents know, because we are by no means told everything) with the so-called ‘invitation’ to former Alderney president Sir Norman Browse to act as an observer at the December general election.

That matter was never debated by our elected representatives, at least not in public but, not for the first time I suspect, was discussed by round robin email – hardly a substitute for a supposedly democratic legislature. After that, I assume, the majority of conseillers bowed to the directive issued by Lord McNally – someone who, no one here needs reminding, doesn’t actually fight elections himself but relies instead on his position being within someone’s gift, in his case David Cameron. Now, where have I heard criticism of such patronage before?


Heather Baker died last week after a long battle with ill-health.

She was a kind lady and, given a lifetime of chronic ill-health, one of the most uncomplaining people I have met.

She was good company and did not suffer fools either gladly or easily. She also drove that invalid carriage of hers a mite too fast on occasions.

* The email address for comment is fallesark@sark.net.

Comments for: "History bites the dust as unbroken line is broken"

Dave Jones

I think Phil Falla makes some good points, the irony of a British Lord pushing for change in Sark when he enjoys his position by the same kind of patronage of the UK Prime Minister, is not lost on the rest of us.

It is this kind of blatant double standards that infuriates people in these islands. Also The House of Lords is made up of lots of hereditary peers who have a seat in that celebrated chamber simply because they were born into the right families who were major landowners across the realm, not dissimilar to the parliament Helier de Carteret set up when Sark was first populated and which continued to exist until recent times.

Chief Pleas should have sent a strong message back to Lord Mc Nally telling him that they will change their system when the UK government alters theirs.

As for Delaney and the SNL, I am astonished that he refers to this rag as the “free Press” as if it is some sort of credible news sheet. It is of course nothing of the kind, as it is merely a vehicle for the ranting's of a group of people who can’t get their own way.

Money and power is worthless in a community where its people could care less for either, a lesson that some of the new inhabitants have sadly failed to learn.

One day he and his ilk will be no more and Sark can return to the peaceful tranquil place we all remember. We will continue to visit the island and meet old friends, we will come for the sheep racing and for the Sark carnival and one day the global economy will pick itself up and I have no doubt Guernsey and Sark will have lots of visitors again.

I wish Reg Guille all the best for the future and I am sure he will continue to take a keen interest in Sark life whatever his role in the community.

guern abroad

Well said Dave.


Have we discovered the real identity of pbfalla?

pb falla

Theres only one PB FALLA


Can someone please petition the feeble McNally and his fellow "Buggins' Turners" of the MoJ to split the multiple roles of Kevin Delaney?

The onerous nature of executing the roles of MD of Sark entire economy, and editor of the SEM and guardian of Sark's "Free Press" - AND the underminer of confidence in Sark by his weekly whining to a list of world leaders - is surely beyond the scope of one man?

The only "freedom" that the SNL provides is freedom from any responsibility - such declining to publish criticism of his own endlessly intemperate outbursts. No doubt Sir Norman Browse will be targeted as an agent of fascism in the next issue.

Ian D

One on the many ironies of the latest SNL is that KD habitually refers to the Seigneur as the “autocratic feudal Lord and his followers!”

Er... that's how elections work: leaders and followers. And history show that the more autocratic the leadership, the better – more things get done with less time wasted on endless mealy-mouthed newspeak wibble or claiming expenses. The UK is desperate for strong government while a coalition of disgraced journeyperson professional politicians just “fiddle”.

Although Michael Beaumont has not been formally elected, only the most rabidly determined of those willing to accept SNL propaganda at face value could fail to see the relevance of his and Reg’s perspective and experience being carried forward with Sark's evolving government process.

Sensibly, the electors continue to avoid anyone the SNL has tried the endorse. The SNL's moral authority on the matter of democracy is consequently less than nothing, and the only reason for its continued war of attrition (apart from the fees enjoyed by various “advisors”) would seem to be the hope that it will grind down the democracy of Sark through sheer exhaustion - so that the SEM can prevail without opposition. How DARE the SNL claim to be the guardian of the free press?

As for a tirade against Sir Norman Browse and claims that the electors did not know what the candidates stand for, all anyone wants to know is that they stand for anything but the SNL’s poisonous efforts to divide the community. Sir Norman is the latest observer who has not been as easily conned as KD had hoped.

Overall, the relentless effort to pretend that an island community of 600 should be forced by an outside commercial interest – apparently against the will of its inhabitants – to operate like an EU bureaucracy, is beyond absurd.

The Sarkee Times


Phil Falle complains in today’s Guernsey Press that

an unbroken line, which has been an integral part of Sark’s history for the last 338 years, is to be broken. … The title of seneschal was instituted by letters patent in 1675 in the reign of Charles II … hundreds of years of Sark history bites the dust

A refresher of Sark’s history in order. The first Sark Court was established on 27 October 1579 by the people of Sark, without Royal sanction. It consisted of an elected Bailiff and 12 elected Jurats. The Court acted by holding Chief Pleas which all inhabitants were entitled to attend. Minutes of the 27 October 1579 meeting record that the Court was established for the purpose of observance of the laws, customs and usages of Jersey.

[TIG Admin note - please click the link above to read the full article]

While in the view of this author (as well as the unappealed and final judgment of the British Court of Appeal), the splitting of the Seneschal's dual role was necessary, the question remains whether this will solve all the problems created by the 2008 reform law. This author, at least, is sceptical.


Splitting the dual role of the Seneschal will mostly give the SNL an opportunity to rant at one more public figure, and provide more scope for driving mischievous wedges in the community.

As regards the lessons of history, what is there about the democratic EU of 2013 with its multiple £trillion deficits, and the use of CS gas and water canons for population control that Sark should be seeking to achieve by its supine acceptance of any old nonsense the MoJ or SEM imposes?

The Sarkee Times

There is a lot of criticism of the MoJ in the article, is there not (note the admin (understandably) edited out the body of the article, presumably for reasons of length, but the link to the full article remains in the text)? As you will see from the article and what I have written elsewhere, I am in agreement with you re. MoJ impositions.

There is nothing in this article about the EU, the £trillion deficits, the CS gas, the water canons, population control, etc. since it is not directly related to the current story, but I, of course, wholeheartedly agree with your (implied) view of the EU, as I hope is crystal clear from both articles published on the Sarkee Times web site as well as what I have written elsewhere.

Sark's Saga


A talk by David Lowenthal (Emeritus Professor David Lowenthal has studied small islands for sixty years)

Emeritus Professor of Geography at University College London

at the Island Hall Sark on the 11th of January 2013

120 people attended