23rd December 1958

William Hedley Cliff buys Jethou

Tiny Jethou, with its single granite house and 45 acres of land, was sold for £10,000 on 23 December 1958. Its owner, Herman Stockey, had contracted agents Knight, Frank and Rutley to handle the advertising and sale of the property in the previous May. The new owner, who took possession just in time for Christmas, was Group Captain William Hedley Cliff DSO.

Sir Compton Mackenzie, author of Whisky Galore and one of the co-founders of the Scottish National Party, had previously been a long-time resident of Jethou. Through 14 years of owning the island, while simultaneously being the tenant of Herm, he had found that it provided the solitude he he needed to write fifteen books. He also added a library to the only house on the island, as would befit someone of his profession.

Mackenzie was still alive when Hedley Cliff became Jethou’s 19th tenant and is reported in the Daily Herald of Christmas eve 1958 to have called the £10,000 that Cliff had paid “a fair price”. It would equate to around quarter of a million pounds today. However, he wasn’t buying it outright; just the remainder of the lease, which still had 37 years to run. Throughout this time, the Group Captain would be required to pay the Crown a rent of £100 per annum (around £2500 annually today).

Jethou as a tourist attraction

Although there is a requirement for the tenant of neighbouring Herm to keep the island open for public visits, no such requirement is incumbent upon the leaseholder on Jethou. Nonetheless, William Hedley Cliff did open his island home as a resort for the duration of his tenure. He established a bar and gift shop and even printed the island’s own stamps. He welcomed more than 5000 visitors a year to the tiny dominion when the holiday season was at its peak. He also took advantage of its position, and the fact that the Channel Islands have a longer growing season than the mainland, to grow and export daffodils.

A little over five years after completing the sale, though, Hedley Smith put Jethou back on the market, perhaps with mixed emotions. Despite the success he had evidently had in running the island as a viable business, one incident will have marred his time there. In 1962 he had set out on a punt to visit Herm with his friend, and been rescued the following day after spending the night clinging on to his upturned craft. His unfortunate friend drowned.


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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