Jersey Local History Fayre 2016

I am looking forward to speaking at the Jersey Local History Fayre at St Helier Town Library on Saturday 23 January at 10.30am. I will be reading an extract from Jersey: The Hidden Histories, focusing on the visit of Charlie Chaplin to the Island in 1912. Then I will share some insights into the creative process and the significance of Jersey’s rich and immersive history.

Jersey proved to be a crucial turning point in Chaplin’s life. It marks the moment when he was captured on film for the very first time. As I write in Jersey: The Hidden Histories:

The Battle of Flowers changed everything. Chaplin looked at once for a chance to break into the intoxicating and fledgling world of celluloid film. First, the vistas of an American vaudeville tour beckoned. Within eighteen months of wowing the crowd at the Jersey Opera House, the cloudburst of fame broke open. The West Coast producer Mack Sennett watched the acclaimed Mumming Birds show, smelt raw talent, and immediately signed Chaplin up to Keystone Pictures. Soon the horizons of California unfurled in an endless paradise of orange groves and ocean blue and shimmering sunshine…

Jersey Opera H



The Beauty’s Story – Lillie Langtry

Jersey: The Hidden Histories is an ideal Christmas present for anyone who loves the history of this beautiful Island. I was delighted that the story of Lillie Langtry was reprinted in this month’s Our Island magazine, which reaches nearly 16,000 homes in Jersey across several parishes. The drama and energy of the Victorian age has passed into deep history, but the legend of its greatest beauty will not fade.

Lillie Langtry by Millais (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Lillie Langtry by Millais (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

“She rose like Venus from the foam, a rare jewel of grace chipped from the rough granite of her homeland. She was born Emilie le Breton, they say, a Dean’s daughter from the Channel Island of Jersey, best known for its lowing cows and sturdy potatoes. From this unpromising turf, and after a marriage into minor money, she burst like a hurricane upon the London season.

Her alabaster shoulders; her divine chin, her strikingly short hair; she was an angle clad in a simple black dress. Men were stupefied and their wives could merely seethe and cringe. Before long great artists were scrambling to idolise her, her photographs were hawked on every street corner; men would scramble onto chairs or queue for hours merely to catch a passing glimpse of perfection”.

From Jersey: The Hidden Histories by Paul Darroch (c) 2015




Jersey The Hidden Histories – News from the book launch


I am pleased my talk at the inaugural Jersey Festival of Words was so well received. I also enjoyed my interview on BBC Radio Jersey today with Sarah Bailey discussing Jersey: The Hidden Histories. This Saturday 17 October 2015, a book signing will be taking place from 11am to 2pm at Waterstone’s on Queen Street, St Helier. This venue is particularly evocative as this is just a short walk from Royal Square, where the Battle of Jersey unfolded in 1781. The cover of Jersey: The Hidden Histories is of course a detail from Copley’s masterful and compelling painting of this event.

Jersey - The Hidden Histories

Let me set the scene as de Rullecourt’s armies make silent landfall in that bitter winter of 1781…

“Midnight has come and St Helier lies dumbstruck under the heart-stopping spell of a freezing January night. The foul breath of the Jersey winter congeals on the lintels of a hundred homes, its raw bite insinuating itself deep into the wood, the harbinger of a cold and bitter morning. The embers of their dying fires throw a smoky orange pall over the deserted streets where the good townsfolk of St Helier simper fitfully in their flea-ridden beds. The skies high above them blaze fiercely with the icy blue stars of winter…”

(From Jersey: The Hidden Histories (c) Paul Darroch 2015. Available at Amazon UK and booksellers in Jersey, Channel Islands)