This is my final post on our family history, showing how Alderney has been indelibly imprinted upon my soul.
Since I have no children I am the end of the line on this part of our family tree, which is one reason why, even though married, I chose to write under my maiden name Jackson.
Born in 1958, my memories of family holidays growing up are delightful, either going west to Devon or Cornwall or over to the Channel Islands, first to Guernsey (once too early in my life to remember) then to Sark when I was ten and then three wonderful breaks on Alderney, three weeks at a time over Alderney Week when I was in my teens.
And so, here’s my life in photos, focussing mainly, but not exclusively, on trips to Alderney:
We did return to Alderney in the autumn of 2022, hopefully one of many visits to come. I feel emotionally drawn to the island; I have a connection through time and family for nearly 200 years and the Alderney will always remain in my heart.
My parents were seriously researching our family history at the same time as I was researching for my first novel RIDUNA, inspired by the story Dad shared with me of my Great Grandmother Harriet (Hopkins/Jackson). We were holidaying on the island of Alderney; a fitting place to tell us her story as he knew it:
Harriet sparked my imagination; an orphan living on the island of Alderney at eight years old, being brought up by her Grandmother (Elizabeth Renier) and Step Grandfather (John Taylor) until the age of fifteen years, when she became too much to handle. Sounds familiar? Anyway, she was shipped off to her aunt’s on the island of Guernsey.
Now we know more about the plight of Harriet’s parents, her actual story would make a good book too.
Over the next few weeks I will share how Mum and Dad carried out a painstaking search of our family history, which began its journey on the island of Alderney when Dad, Mum and I poured over acetate after acetate of records held at The Alderney Museum, guided by the later curator of the museum, Peter Arnold, the island potter back in about 2005.
As I wrote my first draft, my imaginary story of Harriet and her true story became intertwined; veering from truth to fiction and back again. You see, at the time of planning the novel, I did not know the end of the real story!
Next post ‘Harriet’ and her family history as we know it.
This is my penultimate post on my series of islands of inspiration this year; a quick hop from one to the other to explain what these beautiful islands mean to me and my writing.
In order to travel on from Alderney to France it isn’t impossible to take a ferry direct, which would make sense since it is the nearest Channel Island to the Normandy, but it is certainly not easy. The only alternative is to fly. On the day we were leaving Alderney there were no ferries direct from Guernsey to St Malo, our chosen destination, either, and the ones from Guernsey to Alderney had been cancelled due to rough weather.
Thus, we hopped over to Guernsey (about 15 minutes) and had several hours on the island before hopping over to Jersey. What could we do? We knew there were buses to the Fermaine Bay Hotel where we knew we could get a light lunch on their patio overlooking the sea to Herm and Sark through a canopy of trees. We had lunched there several years ago, but I also stayed there on a family when I was a child. At the time we still had relations alive on the island with whom my parents were still in touch. I was very young, five or six maybe, but the island made a lasting impression on me; the birth place of my Great Grandfather. I made a memorable trip on my own years later whilst carrying out research. Here’s a link the the blog post. What I had not remembered, however, was the very steep hill to the hotel, fine walking down, but one hell of a trek back up with all our luggage!
How the island helped me in Mind, Body and Spirit
As we sat eating lunch memories flooded back of my parents, holidays on Guernsey, family; a sense of shared history. My roots! It is on the Channel Islands, especially on Alderney and Guernsey, that I understand fully the concept of a family tree. Of feeling rooted to your past. I wanted to move a small Erica which had found itself hidden by other dominant plants in my garden yesterday. The roots were deep; seeking water from the blue spoot which flows under our garden I believe, but there was one root I had to sever and it was long and tougher than the rest. My links with Alderney and Guernsey are like that. I have a long root forever searching for my past; unseen but real; deep within me. It may be severed but it’s still there.
How I was inspired by the islands of Guernsey and Jersey
Later that day we travelled on, the 15 minutes flight to Jersey. Yet again it was frustrating that we could not take a ferry at that time. A storm was brewing. The sky was black. Lightning flashed across the sky. I gripped the arms of my seat as the little plane rose, fell and jerked akin to the Space Mountain ride at Disney! The thoughts flitted by, ‘Was this the end of my life’s journey?’ ‘I still have so much to accomplish.’
Thankfully we landed safely.
We spent a day and a night on Jersey around St Helier. (I apologize to Heidi and also to other writing friends who might be reading this and live on Jersey, that I did not contact you, but it was only one day)
Jersey was my inspiration for MURDER, Now and Then;a Jersey lass in the QMAAC (Queen Mary Army Auxiliary Corps) who was murdered in Haynes Bedfordshire in 1919. I had a wonderful holiday on this beautiful island researching for the book back in 2012, as well as many visits as a child.
Guernsey is almost as important in the story of Harriet, in Riduna, as Alderney is to me. It was where Harriet was shipped when she became too much for her grandparents to handle at 15 years old, exiled from her island home. It was also where Harriet (and my Great Grandmother Harriet) met and married her husband.
Yes, these islands have played a huge part in my writing life and I am thankful!