23rd May 1803

John Doyle was appointed Lieutenant-Governor

The name Doyle is synonymous with Guernsey. Just think of the Doyle Monument, Fort Doyle, and Doyle Road, among others. Despite being credited with a massive series of civil and military improvements made to the island during his tenure, John Doyle himself was actually born in Dublin.

Guernsey should think itself lucky that he was appointed its Lieutenant-Governor on 23 May 1803. His elevation to the post was announced in the press upon the resignation of his predecessor, Sir Hew Dalrymple.

A soldier in situ

Doyle was a fighter. He had been at the American War of Independence, and fought in the Netherlands and Egypt. He had then taken a commission to command troops in Guernsey, so was already on the island at the time of his appointment.

Britain and France went to war and, thanks to his military background, he immediately understood the potential of a French invasion. Thus, he set about fortifying the island.

With a budget of £30,000, he built Route Militaire, 60 gun batteries and several forts around the coast (including Fort Grey). He drained the Braye du Valle so as to join the northern and southern parts of the island. Until then, Guernsey had been split along a line running from St Sampson to Grande Havre. By his reckoning, any French landing on the northern part would otherwise have been difficult to repel.

The land that was reclaimed in this operation was sold off, and the proceeds used to fund the laying of roads from St Peter Port to L’Eree and Vazon.

Opposition and acceptance

Doyle’s plans had been radical, and not without opposition at times. He had also instituted a state of emergency across the island in 1804, which remained in force until Napoleon’s death in 1815.

Yet, when the time came for him to leave there were protests from locals. They saw the value of what he had done and petitioned for him to stay. He was succeeded by Henry Bayly.

Doyle died in August 1834, aged either 77 or 78. Nobody knows for sure as his exact date of birth has been lost.


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Other events that occured in May

Priaulx Library opens for the first time 1st
Horse racing returns to L’Ancresse race course 2nd
Guernsey deportee, nurse Gladys Skillett was born
“Twink” goes missing on its way to Guernsey 3rd
Role of Chief Minister of Guernsey abolished 4th
Guernsey Airport opened for business 5th
Alderney debated in the House of Commons 6th
Songs of Praise comes from Guernsey 7th
Final issue of Deutsche Guernsey-Zeitung was published 8th
Guernsey was liberated from German occupation 9th
A Guernsey retiree’s £1m offer attracts 57,000 requests 10th
A liberation celebration ended in disaster 11th
Guernsey plays Tottenham Hotspur 12th
Guernsey’s telephone wars broke out 13th
British papers reported Dame of Sark’s deportation 14th
The States of Guernsey bought Aurigny 15th
Alderney was liberated at the end of the second world war 16th
Herm goes back on the market 17th
A mainland murder with a Guernsey connection 18th
Guernsey declared a State of Emergency 19th
Wartime diplomat Wilfred Gallienne born in Guernsey 20th
Hauteville House is bequeathed to the City of Paris 21st
Guernsey poet and painter Denys Corbet was born 22nd
John Doyle was appointed Lieutenant-Governor 23rd
The Imperial Hotel opened for the first time 24th
Elizabeth College is founded in St Peter Port 25th
Game of Thrones actor Roy Dotrice was born 26th
Head of Guernsey CID is shot in St Peter Port 27th
Work started on the Victoria Tower
Guernsey’s first paid constables were hired 28th
Guernsey woman advised to leave for her safety 29th
Occupation stories occupy the mainland papers 30th
“Overdose” verdict in Guernsey farmer’s death inquiry 31st