History bites the dust as unbroken line is broken
Saturday 12th January 2013, 10:00AM GMT.
IN FEWER than 200 words it was formally announced earlier this week that an unbroken line, which has been an integral part of Sark’s history for the last 338 years, is to be broken.
The dual role of Sark seneschal in presiding over the Seneschal’s Court and Chief Pleas – in precisely the same way as the bailiffs in the two largest Channel Islands preside over both the Royal Court and the States – will come to an end at midnight on 26 February.
The title of seneschal was instituted by letters patent in 1675 in the reign of Charles II when Pierre Gibault was appointed. Retired army officer Reg Guille, who was appointed in 2000, currently holds it.
Although that title will remain in existence, the function of the post holder will be judicial: as chief judge of the Seneschal’s Court and thus a judge in civil matters, a magistrate in criminal cases and the island’s coroner in relation to inquests.
That appointment will essentially take effect at midnight on 26 February and the island’s 27 conseillers (there is one vacancy) will meet on the 27th to fill the new appointment of president of Chief Pleas who, when necessary, will also be the returning officer for public elections and a trustee of Sark-owned property.
So, as I have remarked before and make no apology to anyone for repeating, hundreds of years of Sark history bites the dust. Not because there was a massive groundswell of support for splitting the functions, but because by the time it was clear that such an important appointment should no longer be within the gift of the island’s seigneur, change had essentially been forced on this small community.
That process of the imposition of edicts from elsewhere seems to have continued – most recently (as far as residents know, because we are by no means told everything) with the so-called ‘invitation’ to former Alderney president Sir Norman Browse to act as an observer at the December general election.
That matter was never debated by our elected representatives, at least not in public but, not for the first time I suspect, was discussed by round robin email – hardly a substitute for a supposedly democratic legislature. After that, I assume, the majority of conseillers bowed to the directive issued by Lord McNally – someone who, no one here needs reminding, doesn’t actually fight elections himself but relies instead on his position being within someone’s gift, in his case David Cameron. Now, where have I heard criticism of such patronage before?
Heather Baker died last week after a long battle with ill-health.
She was a kind lady and, given a lifetime of chronic ill-health, one of the most uncomplaining people I have met.
She was good company and did not suffer fools either gladly or easily. She also drove that invalid carriage of hers a mite too fast on occasions.
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