Matilda - St Peter Port's Donkey!
In 2011 the Guernsey Adult Literacy Project (GALP) had been in existence for five years but was struggling to raise funds and was in danger of having to close down. That would have been disastrous for all the islanders who relied on the charity for help with their literacy skills.
Fortunately, the team at GALP came up with the idea of organising the Guernsey Donkey Parade followed in 2012 by the Cow Parade, both of which were hugely popular with islanders and visitors alike. As well as being hugely enjoyable community art events, they also raised considerable funding for the charity.
Many visitors asked, “Why donkeys?”. Guernsey people are known as ‘Guernsey Donkeys”. The traditional explanation for the donkey (âne in French and Guernésiais) is the steepness of St Peter Port streets that necessitated beasts of burden for transport (in contrast to the flat terrain of the rival capital of Saint Helier in Jersey), although it is also used in reference to Guernsey inhabitants’ stubbornness who boast that they are “stubborn as a mule, with a kick like a horse!”. Another explanation is that Jersey residents called Guernseymen ‘donkeys’. In return, Guernsey people call Jerseymen
Whatever the reason, Guernsey folk are proud to be known as ‘donkeys’ - tough, resilient and determined. In fact, during the early part of the 20th century the Royal Guernsey Militia’s mascot was a donkey named Joey. His photograph can be seen in Castle Cornet. The enormous popularity of the donkeys encouraged GALP to think about creating a permanent donkey statue which can be enjoyed by the entire community for many years to come. Following discussions with the land owners and various States Departments, GALP embarked upon the task of installing a bronze statue in Market Square in St Peter Port.
Local artist Mark Cook created the model of the statue which depicts a life-size donkey with her foal lying at her feet. On completion, the clay model was sent to a foundry in the UK for casting. Mark used a local donkey, named Matilda, who lives in St Peter’s, as his ‘model’ for the statue, so it can confidently be said that the statue depicts a genuine Guernsey Donkey! The statue was unveiled in November 2015 by the Bailiff of Guernsey, Sir Richard Collas.
You can see the statue in Market square, just by Specsavers shop. Limited edition, bronze and cold cast versions of the statue are available from Catherine Best Jewellers, the principal sponsor for the project. They are also available from the Candie Museum shop and the Information Centre in St Peter Port. All profits from the sale of these unique souvenir models go to continue the work of the Guernsey Adult Literacy Project.