Guernsey Press

French exchanges remembered by La Mare staff and students

A look back into La Mare De Carteret’s history of French exchanges is one of fond memories for both teachers and students.

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Ann Battye, right, was a teacher at La Mare De Carteret and organised French exchange trips to Martigne-Ferchaud for many years. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 33407689)

Alex Blanchard, a teacher from France who brought his students to the island on an exchange with La Mare annually, returned this week to reunite with La Mare French teacher Ann Battye and former students.

The exchange between La Mare and a school in Martigne-Ferchaud, near Rennes, began in 1976 and continued for 25 years.

The beginning of the French exchange started with a story about a Guernsey family’s car breaking down in a small town in France, pen pals and letters.

In 1965, a couple from Guernsey and their three children had their car break down in the town where Mr Blanchard’s wife Marie-Noelle grew up. Her parents ran a hotel and the Guernsey family stayed there for three weeks while waiting for the parts to fix their car to arrive from Portugal.

Mrs Blanchard became pen friends with the family, and visited the island the following year.

A decade and a marriage later in 1975, Mr Blanchard wrote to the family his wife had contact with about a possible exchange with a school.

The letter ended up on the desk of La Mare’s French teacher Ann Battye.

‘I contacted Alex, and in those days it was by letter or telephone, so it took a while for my response to get to France,’ she said.

‘He wrote the letter in 1975 and La Mare had been open for less than a year.

‘The first exchange was in the Easter holidays in 1976 and that carried on for about 25 years.’

During the French pupils’ visits to Guernsey, they would visit places such as Le Friquet Flower Centre, the folk museum, the Aquarium, the bathing pools and Hauteville House.

‘I visited most of those places 25 or more times,’ said Mr Blanchard.

‘With 25 years of French exchange we definitely have loads of stories and memories, and fond memories include going over to Herm camping for two or three days.’

In France, the local students stayed in a rural area, with many living with families on farms.

‘One year, some of my pupils were camping by La Mare De Carteret school because there were so many students wanting to come but not enough families to host them in Guernsey,’ said Mr Blanchard.

During the Blanchards’ latest visit to the island, they also reunited with Debbie Freestone-Roberts, who went on the French exchange as a La Mare student in 1980.

She brought along a scrapbook she had made at the time, which included a cutting of the Guernsey Press from when the school parents went on exchange.

More than 30 parents of the French pupils visited Guernsey and stayed at the Wayside Cheer, and then local parents went to France for a weekend.

Mr Blanchard and Mrs Battye have kept in contact ever since the first letter exchange in 1965.

‘We became good friends and we still see each other in our own little exchange.

‘Last year we visited Alex and Marie-Noelle, and this year they came to Guernsey, but they don’t do it with pupils anymore,’ said Mrs Battye.