13th December 1934

Author Mary Ann Shaffer is born

Mary Ann Shaffer’s name has become inextricably linked with Guernsey, even though she spent just a few days on the island and saw very little of it. She was a librarian, bookseller and editor who visited Guernsey and became stranded at the airport when the weather closed in. It was two decades later that, fulfilling a lifelong ambition to write a novel of her own, she used this experience as her starting point, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was born.

Her book, set just after the war but recounting the experiences of a group of fictional Guernsey residents during the occupation, won rave reviews from its first appearance, but Shaffer, who died on 16 February 2008, sadly didn’t get to read any of them: it was published posthumously after her niece Annie Barrows finished it while Shaffer was fighting cancer.

The novel topped the New York Times Best Seller List in 2009. The Potato Peel Pie in its title was entirely made-up, but variations have been invented up to fit its name.

From page to screen

The book’s publication was just the start of the Potato Peel phenomena, though, with merchandise and tours now available on Guernsey, and the story being turned into a feature film, which released in 2018.

Although it promotes the island, very little of the film was actually shot in Guernsey because it was too logistically difficult. Some footage was inserted for the sake of realism, but otherwise filming took place on the mainland. Devon and Cornwall stood in for Guernsey in most scenes. Bideford was used for St Peter Port. Morwenstow, Cornwall, was used for coastal scenes. Clovelly, Devon, was used for the harbour. Filming began in March 2017 under the direction of Mike Newell.  The film was financed and distributed by StudioCanal

It had been several years in the planning, with Kenneth Brannagh at one point appointed to direct it. Kate Winslet, Emily Blunt and Anne Hathaway were at various times named as potential lead actors.

 

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Other events that occured in December

French fishing boats prepare to invade 1st
Two cargo ships collide on their way to Guernsey 2nd
Guernseyman Herbert Le Patourel wrongly thought killed 3rd
A Guernsey funeral takes place in Cornwall 4th
Guernsey steamship SS Rossgull is wrecked 5th
The Guernsey Tapestry is completed 6th
Air UK Fokker overshoots Guernsey runway 7th
Naftel’s paintings go on display 8th
Guernsey and Jersey newspapers agree to merge 9th
Sark holds its first election 10th
Beau Sejour opens for business 11th
Victor Hugo flees France and Napoleon 12th
Explorer Edmund Kennedy is speared to death 13th
Author Mary Ann Shaffer is born
Herm bribery case comes to court 14th
Alderney’s evacuees return to their island 15th
Guillaume de Beauvoir appointed dean of English Church in Geneva 16th
Castle Cornet surrenders to Guernsey 17th
Telex, phones and telegram cables go quiet 18th
Guernsey shipwreck results in starvation 19th
Channel Islands Securities Exchange founded 20th
G-COBO has a bumpy flight 21st
Guernsey struck by an earthquake 22nd
William Hedley Cliff buys Jethou 23rd
Wombles author Liza Beresford dies 24th
Asterix is discovered in St Peter Port harbour 25th
Guille and Alles lease the Assembly Rooms 26th
The Red Cross saves Guernsey from starvation 27th
Operation Hardtack targets the Channel Islands 28th
Ebenezer Le Page author GB Edwards dies 29th
Castle Cornet is struck by lightning 30th
Guernsey Police makes the world’s first underwater arrest 31st