John Le Marquand
Senator John Le Marquand OBE (1912-2008) was one of the most prominent of Jersey politicians in the second half of the 20th Century.
John Le Marquand was born in 1912, a son of the late Jurat John Le Marquand. He was educated at Victoria College before entering the family business of Le Marquand Brothers, the West Park seed merchants, where he worked with his cousin, the late Senator Cyril Le Marquand. He married Dorothy Ward at the Town Church in 1936 and they had two sons, David and Jonathan.
Election to States
He was one of the 11 new Deputies, and took his seat alongside such legendary figures of post-war politics as his cousin, Cyril Le Marquand, Wilfred Krichefski, JJ Le Marquand, Ernie Gaudin and Clarence Farley — all of whom predeceased him.
In 1948 he stood as a member of the Progressive Party against the left-wing Jersey Democratic Movement but from the outset he was a reforming politician who believed that ability and hard work should count for more than status.
He was to go on to serve as president, successively, of the Education Committee, Public Works, Housing, and finally Public Health.
He topped the poll for Senator in the 1960 election and was re-elected in 1969, 1975 and 1981, and by the time of his retirement from the States in 1987 he had become a greatly respected Father of the House. But he will be remembered principally for his 21 years as a member of the Education Committee between 1948 and 1969, and notably for his highly effective presidency of that committee for 18 years from 1951.
It was under his leadership that ground-breaking changes were introduced, some of them in the face of strong opposition. After the German Occupation, the Island’s educational system was out of date, with secondary education to sixth-form level available only at Victoria College and what was then called the Ladies College. Only one new school had been built by the States between 1914 and 1952.
Against bitter opposition from many who believed that the colleges offered sufficient opportunities for children of ability, Senator Le Marquand pressed forward with a programme which included the building of Hautlieu (1952) and Rouge Bouillon (1954) as grammar schools for boys and girls.
Next came a major reorganisation of St Helier Girls School, the opening of the new St Helier Boys School in 1960 and then Les Quennevais School in 1965. Having established a coherent system of secondary education, he turned his attention to primary schools, many of which offered accommodation that was out of date. Existing buildings were extended and modernised, and new schools were built at St Mark’s (1958), Grands Vaux and La Pouquelaye (1967), Plat Douet and Le Squez (1968) and Mont Nicolle (1970).
As president of Public Works, Housing, and Public Health, John Le Marquand displayed the same energy for political life and a determination to fight for what he believed to be right as he had in the field of education. He remarked in 1981 that he could only ever be in one gear, and that was top, although he professed that he was delighted to have been blessed with so much energy.
Among major battles he fought in the course of his political career was one against the proposed expansion of the Airport in 1972. And one of his personal crusades was against high-rise developments, although he had to accept defeat in his battle to prevent the development of Le Marais’s skyscraper blocks. As Housing president, though, he influenced building design in an age when high-rise developments had become socially undesirable.
As Public Works president in 1976 he suffered three setbacks on major policy issues. The first was the rejection of a grandiose plan to cure the town’s traffic problems by building flyovers, new roads and giant roundabouts. The second was a failure to secure agreement to plans for renting private sector offices to accommodate States departments. The third setback — which brought down his committee — was its defeat over initial plans to flood Queen’s Valley.
Senator John, as he was universally known, always said that Jersey had ample fresh water thanks to what fell from the skies, but that it lacked enough places to store it. He resigned in the wake of defeat and exchanged committees with the then Senator John Averty, becoming president of Housing. Although no longer the political hot seat it had been in the 1950s and early 1970s, this was still a demanding presidency, and Senator Le Marquand ran it with distinction for five years. He took colleagues on tours of show estates in England in search of an alternative not only to tower blocks but also to the square boxes that characterised domestic building in much of the second half of 20th century.
After relinquishing the Housing presidency after the 1981 elections, he took on Public Health from the retiring president, Senator Gwyneth Huelin. It was a presidency he had always coveted, and although he was by now past his 70th birthday he brought to this new responsibility all the vigour and enthusiasm he had devoted to any earlier political task, seeing through two major projects — the completion of the Hospital redevelopment begun by his predecessor and a complete review of the finances of Public Health. In 1983 he was the victim of a sudden illness which snatched him away from his desk and heavy committee workload, and necessitated two operations. However, he made a full recovery, and continued in the States for a further four years before retiring.
- Descendants of Elie Le Marquand - 2, family tree