Tag Archives: Fishing on Alderney

In WW1 Victor returns injured to Riduna (Alderney) ~ the island of his birth

In Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home I have tried to tell less well known tales of the Great War. Having said that, each of the Newton family from Woolston, Southampton played plausible roles in WW1 taking them as far as Turkey and even India. Here Victor, an injured soldier, returns to Riduna (Alderney) the island of his birth, to play his part in the ‘home guard.’ In order to support his family he also went fishing ~ for solace as well as sustenance – although it did not always achieve the peace he longed for: 

When Victor first returned to Riduna (Alderney) he could often be seen fishing on the rocky shoreline to the right of Fort Raz on Longy Bay, a lone silhouette of a figure standing statuesque off an outcrop not far from the sweeping sandy bay. In fact, at first glance he almost looked like a dark rock himself, protruding upright from the shore: a reflection of the Hanging Rock nearby.

Unfortunately, this familiar place where he had always loved to fish with his father and grandfather before him gave him no peace. The coast of France was clearly visible to him. Even with the sound of the sea, it was impossible to block out the echo of distant gunfire, fetching the true reality of the war right to the shoreline. There was no real way of escaping the horrors and the memories.

Instead he began to join the many young lads, fishing for mackerel and mullet off the Breakwater. He stood cheek by jowl, with just enough room to cast the twine into the sea from his long heavy pole. His younger brother William stood on the ledge behind him, attaching the bait and retrieving the captured mackerel, which Victor flicked expertly, as near to William as he could. Their catch was certainly adequate to fulfil the bodily needs of his family, although he still yearned to fish in solitude.

One afternoon he could bear it no more and so, instead of heading for the Breakwater, he began to clamber over the rocks by Fort Doyle. With his brother William holding the rod and bait, skipping lithely from rock to rock, Victor was embarrassed as he struggled and slid over the wet rocks, using both hands to steady himself as he coped with his painful shoulder and injured leg. Many times William looked back and wanted to give Victor support but in the end looked onwards, knowing full well that his older brother would be too proud to accept help. Finally they reached a ledge of rocks which jutted right out into the swirling waters and Victor settled there to gain his breath. William prepared the line for him, untangled the twine from the quill and cork float and attached some mackerel flesh to the hook as bait, carefully squeezing it between his thumb and forefinger. He handed the rod to his brother, knowing instinctively that Victor wanted to fish alone and then went to look for shrimps in the rock pools nearby.

                Before Victor cast the line he sat and looked around him. His eyes spanned between Fort Groznez to his right, standing with pride to defend the harbour and breakwater, to the imposing sight of Fort Tourgis to his left, and the long barracks sweeping down from the horizon towards the stony shores of Clonque Bay. Just across the sea from Fort Tourgis lay the deserted island of Burhou, with dangerous waters swirling around outcrops of rocks as far as the eye could see. As Victor’s eyes swept along the bay and out towards the open sea, he sighed with a rare moment of contentment. He cast his line and as he watched the float bob in the waters in front of him he began to relax. He breathed in the salty air, filling his lungs and clearing his mind. His thoughts drifted in and out of a pleasant emptiness.”

Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home is Diana Jackson’s second novel, set between 1910 and 1920 telling the stories of members of the Newton family as they embark on their own role on The Great War.

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Filed under Alderney, Ancasta, Channel Islands, History of Alderney, The Great War, WW1

Gone Fishing on Alderney!

This blog will talk about my

first fishing lesson on Alderney

Fishing in the name of research

WW1 on the island of Alderney

The Alderney Fishing Festival


Continuing my series of blogs to thank various places and people who not only helped me with my research but made the experience so pleasurable, I return to the beautiful island of Alderney. You see, I wanted my chapters ion Alderney in my novel Ancasta, about life on the island during WW1 to be as authentic as possible.

Alongside reading about the effect on the island of a whole generation of young men going to war and being in such close proximity to the French coast I soon realised that an important aspect of the islanders’ bid for survival would have been fishing. The everyday islanders would have thought twice before venturing off the coast of France in fishing boats because of possible submarines, but would certainly have fished off the rocks and the breakwater, in fact there is fishing tackle from that era in the Alderney museum and photos of men standing in line on the breakwater fishing for mackerel. One of them had this massive rod and as they caught a fish they’d flip it up to their brother or son who was standing waiting on the next level platform.

I knew nothing about fishing myself, but I was pleased to be in touch with a man on twitter whose family has lived on Alderney since the nineteenth century. First tweets about fishing shot backwards and forwards between us and then DM’s (direct messages to those who are not familiar with Twitter!) In the end the maximum 40 characters defeated us and we exchanged emails and have since become good friends. Vic certainly gave me a flavour of the favourite places his grandfather and father took him fishing, what they caught and the different methods they used. He explained spring tides and neaps until I think I understood, and gave colourful accounts of his fishing exploits and fond memories of his childhood on Alderney.

How do you describe someone fishing when you know nothing about it?

What were the sights, smells and sounds associated?

How did it feel to scramble out to and stand precarious on a rock for a couple of hours, while the sea swirled below?

Many questions filled my mind and needed to be resolved before I attempted the chapter.

I was planning my next trip to the island that October and so I got in touch with Mark who owns the fishing tackle, outdoor sports shop at the top of Victoria Street and and gives fishing lessons. I explained my quest to him and asked whether he would mind taking out a novice such a myself. He was delighted to do so!

On the day of the lesson we met Mark down by Crabby Bay, shared the tackle between us before scrambling out to the rocks beside Fort Doyle. With the Swinge restlessly swirling around the island of Burou to our left and Fort  Doyle to our right I watched Mark as he prepared the rod, line and bait. We discussed the sort of bait my character might use and that they would probably have used feathers in those days, all the time I was alert to vocabulary which described the action, scene and senses. I jotted down notes, but most of all I captured the ambiance of the experience to aid my memory.

As we waited patiently for a bite I noted my thoughts, the panoramic scene around us, the changing nature of the sea and sky, Mark’s actions, his stance, the feelings of anticipation and yet timelessness. It was quite an experience. I asked the occasional question as they came to mind and gradually I was lulled into a sense of peace in the moment.

The excitement of our first bite brought me out of my reverie and I was thrilled when mark landed our first mullet, handling it with almost reverence as he explained how quickly the glistening colours fade when the fish dies. I was quite in awe of the experience. More in tune with the cycle of life and enjoying the opportunity to paint the sea scape in words I settled back on my rock but did not have long to wait before we landed our second mullet of the day, then nearly lost it. Slippery things fish!

On our next visit to the island it happened to coincide with Alderney’s annual fishing festival, a time when men compete to find the best outcrop of rocks, the vantage point where they might catch the biggest fish of the week. Trophies are fought over (metaphorically) and in the evenings groups of men sit in the various cosy and welcoming hostelries, including The Divers Arms, discussing their successes and the giants who got away.

This year it is the week commencing 13th October, so if you love to fish, I cannot think of a better place to do it than the beautiful island of Alderney. If you do, say hello to Mark. I’m sure you’ll meet him as the week progresses.

The Alderney Fishing Festival 2012



Filed under Alderney, Ancasta, History of Alderney, Research