Last night I met a native of Sark in a bar in San Jose, a plumber who doubles up as the island’s sole law enforcer, a voluntary policeman. Alan told me some intriguing details about the shadowy Barclay brothers, their sinister henchmen and their bullying ways with Sark’s inhabitants. As he talked, I recalled another story of bullying and injustice – that of the channel islands’ most curious resident, Alphonse le Gastelois.
I first heard about Alphonse in 1997 when I interviewed Feng Shui expert, Derek Walters, for the Independent. A hermit, Alphonse lived on the beach in the Ecrehous archipelago six miles off the coast of Jersey, subsisting entirely on lobsters and seaweed. In 1961 Alphonse had been falsely accused of being the infamous ‘Beast of Jersey’ – a sex attacker who seized children from their beds and assaulted them. Apparently the only reason he was the prime suspect was that he was ‘peculiar’ and wore an old raincoat tied up with string.
Despite there being no evidence against him, public opinion against Alphonse was so venemous that he decided to exile himself to the Ecrehous where he lived for many years. In the course of his exile the real culprit was identified and sentenced to a long prison sentence but Alphonse refused to return to Jersey. He declared himself ‘King of the Ecrehous’ in 1971, claiming Squatters’ Rights after ten years continuous habitation and wrote to the Queen asking for her recognition. The sovereign declined.
I, in turn, mentioned Alphonse’s strange story to a student film maker, Saskia Wilson, in 1998 and within weeks she decided to make him the subject of a documentary. A link to the film, ‘The King of the Ecrehous’ – on which I am credited as researcher – can be found below.
This morning I googled Alphonse and discovered that he died in June this year, 2012, aged 97. The local paper describes his funeral as having been ‘well attended’ – an irony he probably would have enjoyed.
Here is the link – you have to scroll down the article until you come to the film, ‘The King of the Ecrehous’: