This was the triumphant announcement heard on 29 April 1979 in Brighton Marina. The English translation which followed might not have been much more enlightening:
“Ladies and gentlemen we are FOILBORNE”
The announcement was made on the first voyage of the Seajet hydrofoil service between Brighton and Dieppe. This was an exciting new adventure setting out from an exciting new marina. The high-speed vessel, the Normandy Princess, was underway.
A landmark in the sporting history of Brighton was recorded in a French newspaper and can now be revealed for the first time in 65 years. On 5 December 1955, the regional weekly La Bourgogne Républicaine carried the news of what was probably a sporting world “first”.
France is so near Brighton. Hundreds of Brightonians take the short hop across the channel in order to walk or cycle, usually in the French countryside. Sometimes in towns. However, at the turn of the 21st century, three Brightonians left a record of their visits in book form. Each one is fascinating in its own way. In order of publication:
On the 18 March 1895, this strange tale appeared in more than a dozen French newspapers.
[Jack Brown or the living parcel
An elderly man, whose strong English accent left no doubts as to his nationality, appeared last evening at the post office in the rue de Choiseul. He asked for hospitality overnight, saying that he was penniless and reduced to vagrancy.
When he was taken to the police station in rue Marsollier yesterday morning, he gave more or less this account, in a mishmash of English and French:
“Name of Jack Brown. 64 years old, retired non-commissioned officer in the English army, two stints in the dragoons of Her Gracious Majesty …”
At this point he saluted respectfully and continued:
“Live in Brighton, three shillings pension a day. Two nights ago, in Brighton with friends, drank more than usual. My friends – played a joke, très common in the England – sent me to Paris as a parcel; sewed label on my back: ‘Jack Brown en route for Paris’; Brighton – Paris ticket stuck in my buttonhole. Me completely drunk …”
“It’s disgraceful, getting that drunk on gin …” exclaimed the police inspector.
As far as is known, no Jemima ever went from Brighton to the Paris Exhibition of 1867, but if she had, these might have been her letters to her friend Emily.
* * *
At last! Father has said we can go to the French Exhibition in Paris in September. First, he says we must all improve our French. Father is a little distrustful of the Parisians, so he says we must at least know what they are saying. Mother and I will go to Mlle Witter in Holland Road (such a nice safe area of Hove, Father says) but Father has chosen to go to Mons. Lamette in East-street. Continue reading →
On Friday 23 August 1816, Captain Cheeseman, master of the Neptune packet boat, returned to Brighton. He brough disturbing news for all his fellow mariners, for their passengers and for trade with France. During the night of 19-20 August, Captain Thomas Partridge of the Nancy had been shot by French customs officers just outside the port of Dieppe.
In 1888, the 4th edition of Conty’s guide to London was rushed onto the streets of Paris so that any M. and Mme Dupont could venture safely across la Manche [the English Channel]. As part of their trip, Conty strongly recommends that they spend a day in Brighton.
Source: gallica.bnf.fr / BnF
[To leave London without having seen Brighton (pronounced Brahaictonne) and its splendid aquarium would, in our minds, make for an incomplete trip.
Let’s just note for the record that Brighton, the land of pretty English girls, is the Dieppe of England and that, on a sunny November day, it reminds us somewhat of our beautiful town of Nice.]
For most mariners, humanity and co-operation are far more important than old or even recent enmities. Despite the Napoleonic wars and the recent Battle of Waterloo, Captain Harry Blaber was the first to come to the rescue of a semi-armed French ship.
Journal des débats politiques 7 June 1831. Source: gallica.bnf.fr / BnF
[The steamers Eclipse and Talbot plying between Brighton and Dieppe belong to the General Steam Navigation Company. The company … not only asks for no fare but feeds the passengers during the crossing, and includes a bottle of Champagne.]
Too good to be true? Not if you were travelling in June 1831. The General Steam Navigation Company was anxious about serious competition from the Camilla and the Earl of Liverpool steamers, both based in Southampton. The author of the article predicted that l’une des deux entreprises ne peut tarder à crouler [it won’t be long until one of the companies goes under]. He then went on to warn: alors, les passagers futurs rebourseront les frais des galanteries faites aux passagers actuels [so future passengers will pay the cost of the perquisites afforded to today’s passengers].
BTW. Is any of the above true? Or is it a figment of the French imagination? An expression of French admiration / scorn of the English market economy? There is no trace of any such ‘bargain’ in the English newspapers of the time.
Frontispiece to ‘A Sporting Tour through Various Parts of France, in the Year 1802’ by Colonel Thomas Thornton
Colonel Thomas Thornton was a keen hunter. To France he would go, to hunt and kill wolves, foxes, wild boar and virtually anything with wings. To reach France for his hunting holiday, Colonel Thornton travelled from his home in Yorkshire to take ship at Brighton. He was not impressed by the town:Continue reading →