Guernsey Press

Obituary: Jurat Mike Tanguy

MIKE TANGUY pursued two distinct careers in his life but shared one attribute in both – he was well-liked and hugely well respected.


The first part of his working life was spent following the family business and heritage in horticulture. It even took him away from the island for a few years.

Soon after his return, he became involved with Les Cotils Christian Centre and helped to turn around the venue and the concept. He went on to become heavily involved with charitable causes, which eventually secured him an MBE, and was elected to the jurats bench of the Royal Court.

‘A man for whom age, eminent office, and honours from the Queen, did not stop him rolling his sleeves up and helping out at every level,’ said Deputy Bailiff Jessica Roland in paying tribute to Mr Tanguy at the Royal Court.

‘Tributes to him make it clear he was greatly respected and liked by those who worked with him, and will be sorely missed.’

Michael John Tanguy was born on 14 July 1935 in the Vale where his father owned a vinery. Occupation by German forces threatened so his mother and young Michael evacuated to St Helens in Lancashire, with his father following on a later boat.

Reunited, the family settled in Cleveleys, a seaside town near Blackpool, where Emile Tanguy joined Guernsey friends in helping run a large vinery.

Shortly after the liberation the family returned to Guernsey where Michael resumed his education at Ker-Maria School. He soon won a scholarship to Les Vauxbelets College, run by the de la Salle Brothers, where he studied until the age of 15. Mike maintained his affection for the college for the rest of his life, serving for many years as chairman of the Vauxbelets Old Boys Association.

Leaving college, Michael joined his father’s business in tomato growing and here began his great interest and expertise in horticulture.

In 1963 he was elected to the Guernsey Tomato Marketing Board, then a major industry, and in 1972 became its chairman at the age of 37.

During his tenure on the board he was invited to become a member of the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers, which has a history going back to 1416. He was the first Guernseyman to receive that honour and with it came the distinction of becoming a Freeman of the City of London. He was later elected Master of the Livery.

Mike was a Fellow of the Institute of Horticulture and later the chairman of its education and training committee.

In 1984 the demise of the tomato industry in Guernsey prompted an invitation from Scotland to develop a business in the Clyde Valley. Large premises were built to package and market salads to be distributed countrywide. This project completed, he moved to Chichester to become managing director of a large nursery supplying pot plants to the country’s supermarkets.

Mike returned to Guernsey and in 1996 he was invited to be manager of Les Cotils Christian Centre. Very soon he was building a large extension to the house, increasing and improving the visitor accommodation and conference facilities. This was soon followed by 12 fine apartments for elderly residents.

The Millennium Cross was erected in the grounds and later he helped to plant the beautiful Peace Garden. Mike was a trustee and then a director of Les Cotils right until his death.

He always kept the Christian ethos of the house uppermost in his mind and today Les Cotils is a thriving ecumenical and social centre, doing untold good work in the community.

‘Mike was always involved in strategic decision-making and yet ever ready to help with the practical tasks,’ said its manager Fiona Naftel.

In 2005 Lady Cater invited Mike to chair the Guernsey branch of the Alzheimer’s Society. In 2009, they together founded the independent Guernsey Alzheimer’s Association which now, under the management of Julie Thompson, is a valuable resource in the care of people with dementia.

‘Mike continued to support the ongoing work of our charity,’ she said. ‘He will be greatly missed and we are thankful that we had the privilege of knowing him.’

It was in 2006 that Mike, now chairman of Les Bourgs Hospice, persuaded Jo Boyd to join them as director of nursing. The rebuilding of the hospice began at that time and in 2012 it was opened by the Prince of Wales with the prince agreeing to become patron.

‘Working with Mike was always a joy, his innate faith in people and ability to encourage them to do what was needed was extraordinary,’ Jo said.

His next task was about to begin when he was invited to join the trustees of Le Platon Residential Home, the oldest care home in the island, founded in 1914.

The home needed to expand to accommodate more residents and improve the accommodation. Mike, by now its chairman, began the task of building a large extension. Today, with a new chapel, lounge and kitchens it is ready to welcome 25 additional residents, making 50 in all.

Sadly Mike did not live to see the completion of his vision.

In 2001 Mike was elected a Jurat of the Royal Court and eight years later the Bailiff Sir Geoffrey Rowland appointed him a Lt-Bailiff.

In a generous tribute in the Royal Court, Jessica Rowland, the Deputy Bailiff, said: ‘Jurat Tanguy’s contribution to public and voluntary services led him to be awarded the MBE by Her late Majesty the Queen in 2013. Ever modest, when he received his honour, he dedicated it to the generous nature of the residents of Guernsey and their support for the charities in which he was involved.’

His work for the Christian community and the Roman Catholic Church in Guernsey was recognised by Pope John-Paul ll with the award of the Bene Merenti medal in 2003.

Jurat Tanguy died in April, leaving Elizabeth, his wife of 66 years, together with their four children, eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.