Guernsey Press

OPINION: Monarch memories and troubles ahead

Horace Camp looks back at his family’s brushes with royalty – and wonders what the future might hold for Guernsey

July 1921..The local Officer Training Corps (background) provide the Guard of Honour for the visit of King George V and Queen Mary. (30484972)

AS FAR as I know the first direct contact between the monarchy and my family occurred during the summer of 1921.

My mother, who was five at the time, was part of a small group of children whose fathers had died in the war without ever seeing them who were presented to the visiting King George V and Queen Mary.

Mother, who was a serial raconteur with her stories often inciting thoughts of ‘oh, not this one again’ in the listener’s mind, not dissimilar to the reactions I get in similar circumstances, was obviously deeply moved by the occasion and related the events of the day many, many times.

I know for instance that her mother refused to remove her father’s newly received medals, Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, from the frame where they had just been mounted. Instead she was allowed to wear her stepfather’s medals, even though he had one more. Mum could be relied upon to include every little piece of detail in her stories.

She never got to meet Edward VIII but she wasn’t sorry about that because he wasn’t a good king or even a very nice man. Least said the better.

In fact it wasn’t until the summer of 1945 that she came face to face with another king. This time it was King George VI, who visited shortly after the Liberation in a whistle-stop tour and, as luck would have it, Dad as a pre-war King’s Cup winner with his cow Evandale Flower II was squeezed into the itinerary.

Now here is where my memory gets a bit vague. The Royal visit was in June, only a month after Liberation. I know Mum, Dennis and Ann, who had evacuated in 1940, came home by plane soon after the war ended but I didn’t realise it was so soon after. But given her claim that, but for the unworthy Edward VIII, she had met every monarch since George V she must have been home by June.

She first met our present Queen, who was but a princess then, in the summer of 1949. Once again Dad’s cow, I forget which one but it could still have been Flower, had won the now Queen’s Cup and once again they made it on to the guest list and Prince Philip especially made a great impression on Dad.

The lovely thing about the internet is that I have seen film of Mum and Dad shot by Pathe News talking to the Princess and her Prince.

Now we get to 1957 and the now Queen Elizabeth’s visit. As fortune would have it, Dad was once again a Queen’s Cup winner, this time I think with a bull. Which may have been why Prince Philip told him a joke about a bull which Dad chose never to repeat.

One other event interesting enough for my mother to repeat ad nauseam over the years was my first direct contact with a monarch. It seems toddler Horace got caught short and chose the exact moment Her Majesty was inspecting the bull to drop his pants and widdle in front of The Queen. How many can make that claim?

If you are still awake after my rambling preamble – which in many ways has been inspired by Her Majesty having achieved her 70th year reigning over us, and because Mum had a passing resemblance to the Queen I can’t look at her without remembering Mother – then I will get on to my actual point.

Guernsey has changed an awful lot since 1921 and is just not the same place it was. And that is neither a good nor bad thing. The only constant is change and even though we like to think we can keep familiar things as they are today, that is just not in our hands. Our history tells us that industries come and go. Our history tells us that bust often follows boom and we are long overdue a bust.

But history also tells us that Guernsey people are very resilient and very invested in this island. With the Germans on the horizon, half of our population chose to stay here rather than seek refuge in the UK. And it wasn’t just the locals, as was proven by the large number of English nationals shipped to camps during the Occupation.

I doubt very much that an event as traumatic as the Occupation will hit us again in the next 50 years but it doesn’t take just war, pestilence and famine to lead to the type of mass emigration that would leave Guernsey reeling.

We are a very attractive place for the wealthy and high earners to live. Unfortunately, not all of us are wealthy or high earners and many who are do not have roots here and just as money brought them here it is likely that in an apocalyptic downturn it will be money, or the lack of it, that will take them away.

I read in this paper that families are moving in, especially in the open market, but I also hear anecdotally that local families who aren’t wealthy or high earners are finding this place too expensive to live. And it would seem despite their deep roots the situation is becoming so bad for them that leaving is the only option.

And what about our children who are not yet wealthy or high earning? Why would they return from further education to an island where the possibility of owning a home is nigh on impossible? We all know this is an expensive place and we also know that inflation is going to make it a lot worse.

The Covid ‘cure’ has hit the world hard. The global supply chain is in crisis and will take some years to fix. Energy prices are on the rise, which directly affects farm input costs which will increase the cost of food and the broken supply chain will make shipping even more costly than it is today.

Economically we are in an unknown scenario which has not been caused by natural market forces but by government intervention to manage Covid. Even after Covid fizzles out, to be reclassified from Great Plague to flu-like, we will be feeling its adverse impact for the rest of this decade.

We should be prepared for a slump. We should expect an exodus of the shallow-rooted as they scramble away, following the money, and we should accept that our future lies in the deep-rooted members of our community who will be prepared to work through hard times.

Why, then, are we encouraging the wealthy but making it harder for what Ross Le Brun would call the working man to hang on here?

It is already tough and yet the States wants to squeeze another £85m. out of us with GST.

It beggars belief, doesn’t it?

God Save the Queen.