Pierre Perrot

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The offices of the printing and publishing business in the Royal Square, founded by Pierre Perrot

A man who was to become Constable of St Helier, a Jurat and founder of Les Chroniques de Jersey at the age of 25, had earlier spent six years as a French prisoner of war.

Prize master

Born in St Helier on 23 January 1789, the son of Francois Perrot, Pierre Perrot went to sea at an early age and by the time he was 16 was prize master on the privateer Hope , with the responsibility of sailing any captured vessels back to Jersey.

But the Hope was wrecked soon after he joined her and the crew were captured by the French. Pierre was taken to Valenciennes.

Being bilingual, he was chosen as the commandant’s interpreter and used the freedom this gave him to escape in 1811. He reached the coast, put to see in a small boat and was rescued by an English Frigate.

Perrot became the founder of the Chronique de Jersey in 1814 and in 1833 was elected Constable of St Helier after a previous defeat by Francois Godfrey in 1830. On taking his seat in the States he handed over La Chronique to Philippe Huelin. Perrot was said to be one of the most influential members of the States. He had five children one of whom, George Perrot, who became a Centenier and editor of La Chronique as well as a writer.

Pierre Perrot (1789-1843) was the founder of the newspaper La Chronique de Jersey and remained editor for 25 years. Under his editorship La Chronique championed many causes and grew to be regarded by the people of Jersey as a protector of their rights and privileges. The painting which is in the Town Hall collection shows an edition spread on the desk.

Biography

From A biographical dictionary of Jersey by George Balleine

Founder of the Chronique. Jurat. Third son of Francois Perrot, and brother of Clement and Francois, both independent Ministers.

Unlike his brothers he went to sea. Here he must have shown unusual capacity, for in 1805, though only 16, be was prize-master on the Jersey privateer, the Hope, on which Jean Syvret was second in command. His job was to take captured ships to Jersey.

In that year the Hope was wrecked near the mouth of the Loire, and the crew made prisoners. Perrot was taken to Valenciennes, where his knowledge of French and English got him the job of interpreter to the commandant of the depot for English prisoners. "This allowed him", wrote Syvret, "to leave the barracks when he liked"; and he used his stay to improve his education. In 1811 he managed to escape, made his way to the coast, put out in an open boat, and after great privations was picked up by an English frigate and returned to Jersey.

Newspaper

In 1814 with a friend, Pierre Chevalier, also only 25, he founded the Chronique newspaper. In 1818 his partner died, and he was left in sole control. He edited the paper for the next 25 years. The three local newssheets, Stead's Gazette, Mourant's Gazette, and the Gazette de Cesaree, were produced on the paste and scissors principle. The proprietors subscribed to a number of French and English newspapers, cut out paragraphs they thought interesting, pasted them together, and handed them to the printer to reprint. They added no comment and little local news.

Perrot had been accustomed in France to papers which led public opinion, and he aimed at providing one of this type in Jersey. But he took some time to get into his stride. The opening numbers were extremely dull, and the circulation stuck at about 300. Then he grasped the fact that the way to attract notice was to start a crusade.

He launched a series of campaigns, first a much-needed one against the Jersey paper money, for in those days almost anyone could call himself a banker, and print an unlimited number of his own banknotes. He followed this with an attack on the Militia Drill-Sergeants, then one on the method of appointing officers in the Militia, then one on the permits which had to be bought before anyone could buy coal. In this way he made everyone buy his paper.

Many rival sheets were started, the Constitutionnel, the Impartial, the Jersiais, the Miroir, but none was able to oust the Chronique from its leading place. You might buy one of the others as an extra, but you had to subscribe to the Chronique to see what Perrot was saying.

Libel suits

But this fighting policy kept him constantly in a hornets' nest. Life became one long libel suit after another. The Drill-Sergeants sued him for libel; so did the Denonciateur; so did the road-contractors ; so did Dean Dupre. Nor was this the worst penalty. Many who were annoyed at his leading articles preferred a horse-whip to a lawsuit.

He was a little man rival papers called him ”le petit pierrot”, and "our pocket O'Connell" and the Chronique often reported that he had been waylaid and assaulted in the street. But he seems to have accepted this philosophically as one of the risks of his trade. The Chronique supported the Rose Party (it always headed its local news with a spray of roses), and in 1830 this party chose him as its candidate for the Constableship of St Helier. At his first attempt he was beaten by Francois Godfray in a fiercely fought election, in which a record number of votes was polled; but in 1833 he defeated Godfray by 45 votes.

In 1837 he was re-elected unanimously. Before becoming Constable he had been for 17 years Constable's Officer, and as an active member of the Parish Assembly had secured the paving of many streets and the removal of the slaughterhouses from the centre of the town to the quay.

As Constable his first problem was finance. His predecessor had left the parish burdened with debt. Perrot succeeded in paying off a large part of this, and built the Arsenal and carried out many street improvements.

Influential States Member

When a vacancy occurred on the bench of Jurats in 1839, he was unanimously elected. On becoming a Judge he entirely withdrew from party politics, and handed over the Chronique to Philippe Huelin. In the States he became one of the most influential members. Twice he was chosen to represent them before the Privy Council, and the New Harbour was largely due to his energetic advocacy.

As one paper said at his death, 'The plans for the Harbour would probably still be slumbering peacefully in the Greffe, had it not been for the perseverence of Judge Perrot’.

He died on 3 January 1843 at the age of only 54 and after a long illness, during which States committees met in his bedroom, so that they might still have his advice. At the time of his death a public subscription had just raised £200 to present him with a service of silver plate in recognition of his services; but he did not live to receive it.

He had married Catherine Waters, and left five children all under age. Of these George Frebout Perrot became later a Centenier and editor of the Chronique and a writer in the dialect under the pseudonym Hibou. Pierre Perrot's portrait was published in the Chronique on 14 January 1914.

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