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Representatives from Guernsey Visit Queenston Heights

Welcoming Sir Geoffrey Rowland – Retired Bailiff of Guernsey & Mike O’Hara – Minister of Culture & Leisure for the State of Guernsey
by Ruth Nicholson UE

As part of the commemoration of the bicentenary of the death of General Sir Isaac Brock, Sir Geoffrey Rowland and Mike O’Hara traveled from Guernsey Island to Queenston Heights and then to Amherstburg, to the site of historic Christ Church. This was the garrison church of the 41st Regiment of Foot. Sir Geoffrey talked about the Island of Guernsey at the time that Isaac Brock lived there with his family. Mike O’Hara talked about the island of Guernsey today. It was very informative and interesting. I took notes and will attempt to give you some of the information that I gleaned.

Mike O’Hara and Sir Geoffrey Rowland of Guernsey Island

Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands, nine miles in length and only 20 miles from the coast of Normandy France. It is 80 miles SE of England and it is Crown dependent but separate from England. They elect their own parliament that has a prime minister, cabinet and 35 independent members – no political parties. Elections occur every four years. Until 1920 the legal language of Guernsey was French.

Isaac Brock was fluent in French and spent a lot of time in Quebec City and Montreal. The people of Lower Canada did not want a French Revolution with the resulting emperor that they had witnessed in France.

Guernsey built three ships for cod fishing off the Grand Banks in the 1590’s. Lots of people from Guernsey settled in P.E.I., the Gaspe, Newfoundland and Labrador. Lots of surnames from these areas are familiar to the people of Guernsey today.

Many French and Guernsey citizens were privateers. They seized American ships that were trying to break the British blockade in the 1810’s. John Brock, Isaac’s father, was a privateer and a very wealthy man. He had 14 children. The family grew up in extravagant times of elegant balls and high social activities. John Brock died quite young and his son William took over facilitating trade with England and investing in privateering. William’s brother, Isaac was sent a letter that he had an enormous amount of money due to pay off his creditors. Isaac became an ensign at the age of 15 and sometime after 1805 he was asked to go to Canada. This would have helped to pay his debts.

Isaac Brock had all the qualities that made for a great leader. He was conciliatory and charismatic. The victory at Detroit made him a true hero. He was recognized as such both in Canada, in England and in Guernsey. King George III gave him the peerage or title on October 10th due to the fine result at Detroit. Brock never received word of this honour as he died on October 13th.

During WWII Germany occupied Guernsey. Many of the children were placed in English homes for safety.

Before the war, Guernsey’s population was 46 000; afterward it fell to 23 000. The other nearby islands are: Herm, Sark and Alderney. Their populations range from 50 to 2 400. The weather is mild due to the Gulf Stream.

It is interesting to note that the Ontario government placed a plaque, in the main Guernsey church that the Brock family attended, commemorating the life of Sir Isaac Brock.

Guernsey and the other Channel Islands certainly sound like inviting places to visit

The following are other places where you can see or send for commemorations to General Sir Isaac Brock: St. Paul’s cathedral in London has a larger than life statue of the death of Brock, with an English soldier supporting him from behind and Native warriors beside him. St. Peter Port, Guernsey is Brock’s home area and he is recognized on street names and in the main church with plaques and signage. A commemorative coin has been designed by Oliver Brock, who is a seventh generation ancestor of Sir Isaac Brock. See it at www.isaacbrock.com The Canadian Mint launched a special edition quarter of General Brock on October 13 2012. See it at www.mint.ca/1812brock A portrait of General Brock, painted from life, has been loaned from Guernsey to Riverbrink Gallery, in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

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