175th Anniversary of the
Royal Jersey Agricultural & Horticultural Society
26th August 2008
Speech of the President, Stephen Le Feuvre
Sir Philip, Lady Bailhache, the Dean and Mrs Key, distinguished guests, members of the Society; I am delighted and
honoured to welcome so many of you here this evening to mark and to celebrate the 175th "birthday" of the Royal
Jersey Agricultural & Horticultural Society.
175 years of tremendous change in our world and for Jersey,
175 years during which our Society has been at the heart of Island life,
175 years where I believe this Society and its members have made a positive difference to how Jersey has evolved.
The Society was ‘born’ at a meeting held on this day in 1833 chaired by the then Lieutenant Governor, Major
General William Thornton.
An earlier attempt in 1790 to form an agricultural society in Jersey had failed after several years, but this
time it was more successful. The first formal meeting of the new society was held on the 7th September 1833. The
aim of the new society was recorded as follows: “to create a spirit of industry and emulation, to offer premiums
for the improvement of agriculture, breeding of cattle, improved domestic economy, cleanliness and comfort in
cottages, and also for the encouragement of industry and good behaviour among servants and labourers in the employment
of members or subscribers of the Society”.
I suggest that whilst we live in a very different world today the spirit of
the Society remains true to its founding aims, although perhaps in today’s language we might use words such as ‘quality,
best practice & community’.
In December of 1833 King William IV granted His Patronage to the new society, an honour continued by the Monarch to this day.
I should like to thank our Vice Patrons; The Lieutenant Governor, His Excellency, Lieutenant General Ridgway,
who is unable to be with us today, the Bailiff of Jersey, Sir Philip Bailhache together with the Dean of Jersey,
the Very Reverend Canon Robert Key and record the appreciation of the members for the interest that they show in
the Society’s activities. I am delighted to welcome you Sir Philip and Lady Bailhache, the Dean and Mrs Key here
What has happened in the Society since 1833? In many ways the history of the RJA&HS is closely intertwined with
the history of Jersey as to make it inseparable. Many members of the Society went on to become Members of the
States of Jersey, and at one time the Council of the Society almost acted as an induction process to political
office. Indeed this diversion was such that in 1884 the Rules of the Society stated “all political discussion
shall be strictly prohibited, and offenders be fined one pound for the first offence, and expelled from the Society
for the second.” These days I am pleased to say that the thoughts and energies of those members elected to serve
the Society are far more productively applied to the furtherance of agriculture, horticulture and to promote the
Island’s rural culture, to enhance the farmed countryside and encourage the production of local produce.
How can we summarise the history of an organisation such as this and do it justice? Without dwelling on any detail
some of the extraordinary achievements must include:
The development of the Jersey breed, including the formation of the Jersey Herd Book in 1866, and the exportation
of our beloved Jersey cow to every part of the world taking the name of our Island wherever it goes. Now the second
most numerous breed of dairy cow globally, and, the only one to be increasing in numbers as more and more farmers
around the world recognise the qualities that make her the most efficient converter of feed into dairy products.
This export trade was an important part of the Island’s commerce and its success was recognised by the award this
year to the Society of the title ‘Ambassador of the Year’ at the Jersey Enterprise Awards. This success belongs
to the generations of breeders of Jersey cattle together with this Society that provided the guidance and support
for improvement. We have received many messages of congratulations from Jersey breed societies around the world,
and members can view those on the board in front of the building.
Another achievement is the development of the Jersey Royal Potato, a variety unique to this island that has,
for many years, formed the backbone of agricultural exports together with the tomato, bulb and flower industries.
Indeed this enormous range of activity led to the formation of the Jersey Farmers’ Union out of this Society, and
is an organisation with which we share much of common interest and whose Council we welcome here this evening.
The Horticultural Department, or Floricultural Department as it was originally known, has been instrumental in
furthering the knowledge and practice of plantsmanship in the Island and many members became famous horticulturalists
on the world stage. For example some varieties of wheat bred by Colonel John Le Couteur were grown this year on the
showground by the Horticultural Department.
The Society has also provided a ‘home’ for much of Island life. The Springfield showground was developed for
over a century from 1885 and hosted a wide range of events, other than the Society shows, from the first Battle of
Flowers to the Beatles ‘in concert’. The move to this new showground in 2001, opened by our Patron HM The Queen,
marked a resurgence in this aspect of the Society and today some 50,000 people attend events here every year.
The Society has never been afraid of a challenge and in recent years the Agricultural Department has actively
developed a portfolio of professional services provided to the dairy industry and the Horticultural Department has
been active with young people through their schools programme, and also in developing and expanding their shows.
The Society was originally formed as one organisation with two departments; however in 1864 the two departments
separated as a result of the Horticultural Committee being deemed to have been guilty of the “mischievous practice
of awarding extra prizes”. I am pleased to say that in 2005, after a period of 140 years, the two departments
reunited in common membership and the Society is much stronger and healthier for it. It goes to show the
importance of a ‘cooling off period’!!
Looking forward, the Society will be very active continuing its work of 175 years;
There is much potential for the Agricultural Department to improve the Jersey herd in its native Island through
the importation of Jersey bull semen, an initiative, I believe, consistent with our original aims. We have done a
good job, but we should not ‘rest on our laurels’; we must continue to raise the standard and improve the breed by
focusing on productivity, efficiency, vitality and longevity. The ‘eyes of the world’ will be on us in this task
and I am confident that we will rise to that challenge. The further development of the breed forms part of a plan
to secure the future for the dairy industry in this Island. We support the efforts of the Jersey Milk Marketing
Board in this regard and welcome the Members of the Board and Directors of Jersey Dairy here this evening. We
look forward to the construction of the new dairy close to us in the coming months. In doing so, we recognise
that profitability is the foundation of a sustainable industry and by that measure sustainability has yet to be
achieved. I urge our politicians to be supportive in helping the industry achieve this goal, and for that very
political comment you may fine me £1.00!!
The Horticultural Department led by it’s dynamic Council, has very exciting plans to expand its work in the
schools and also in encouraging the growing of local produce, and making this produce more available to a larger
proportion of Jersey’s population. They will be playing a key role in a programme to encourage new members and
bring the Society’s benefits to more people.
The Society will be active in leading the Rural Alliance, a group of organisations concerned at protecting
the Island’s countryside as pressure grows to allow more development. This desire to protect is not born out of
selfish nostalgia, but out of a deep understanding that the Island’s countryside is an important resource for the
More immediately, may I remind members that the anniversary dinner is being held on Saturday 4th October and
there will be a tree planting ceremony by the Constables of the 12 parishes during our Autumn Show on the 11th &
This year has certainly been a momentous one. The hosting of the World Jersey Cattle Bureau’s 18th International
Conference, the launch of the World Jersey Cheese Awards, the States’ debate on semen importation, and the healthy
eating competitions aimed at the schools, give an indication as to volume of work by members and particularly the
staff. I thank you all, your efforts are making history, another exciting chapter in the extraordinary story that
is the RJA&HS
I also thank all the supporters and sponsors of the Society, many of whom are here this evening. As a non-profit
making organisation, any contribution no matter how small, whether it be financial or in voluntary time, does make
a difference and allows us to carry out the wide range of activities on offer to our members and the public at
Members will recall at the AGM this year it was agreed that the following message of loyalty be sent to our
Patron, HM The Queen. The message read as follows:
“The President and Members of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society assembled at it’s Annual
General Meeting on Wednesday, 19th March 2008, respectfully beg to tender this expression of their loyalty and
affection to Your Majesty’s Crown and Person, and humbly beg to record, on this the One Hundred and Seventy Fifth
Anniversary of the Society’s Foundation, that under the Gracious Patronage of Your Majesty and Your Majesty’s
Predecessors, the efforts of the Society over the period of One Hundred and Seventy Five Years, and more recently
with the success of the Royal Jersey Showground, graciously opened by Your Majesty in the year 2001, have conduced
to the welfare and happiness of Your Majesty’s subjects on this Island of Jersey.”
I am delighted and truly honoured to read the following reply:
“Please convey my warm thanks to the Members of the Royal Jersey Agricultural & Horticultural Society for their
message of loyal greetings, sent on the occasion of their Annual General Meeting which was held on 19th March, 2008.
As your Patron, I was pleased to learn that this year marks the One Hundred and Seventy Fifth Anniversary of the
Society’s Foundation and send my best wishes to all concerned.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone assembled here in front of our wonderful headquarters for taking the time
to join us for this very special celebration, and I would now like to invite our Vice Patron, the Bailiff, to say a
Thank you …………
(and at the end of the ceremony)
We remember all those who have played such an important part in our history, and commend those of the present and
the future to uphold the traditions and standards of this Society.
Members & friends, please raise your glasses in celebration of 175 glorious years of our Society.