Calm down, calm down! Stop pushing at the back there. It’s not what you think – Jersey tourism’s hospitality didn’t extend to improprieties of that nature. Really! I’m surprised at you….
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes – leaving the bloggy Alan and myself still en route to lunch (oh – the hardship) I shall digress, but only slightly.
‘Naked Ladies’ is one of the common names of…
…these beauties, amaryllis belladonna otherwise known as Jersey lilies. You see the connection now?
The name naked ladies originates from South Africa where the plant is indigenous, and refers to the fact that, like cyclamens, these flowers are hysteranthous, or in other words the flowers appear before the leaves. To see a mass of these tall and striking blooms on their native Cape without the strappy leaves must be amazing.
Confusingly, here both the leaves and flowers were present…
The connection with South Africa is apt since apparently the Jersey accent is like a South African one. To me it sounded more Australian, but it certainly isn’t anything like a west country burr which for some reason is what I was imagining on the flight over.
So why is amaryllis belladonna known, in the UK at least, as Jersey lily? And is there a connection to that other Jersey Lily, Lillie Langtry?
Millais’ portrait of Jersey Lily – holding a Guernsey Lily. Apparently no Jersey lilies were available. Knowing what I do now about the rivalry between Jersey and Guernsey I assume that this must have rankled. Millais, although born in Southampton, was from a Jersey family. He was probably ostracised.
There is a connection, but it’s that Lillie was nicknamed the Jersey Lily after the flower – so the flowers have been known as Jersey lilies for quite some time. Why the flowers are called Jersey Lilies when they originate in South Africa is a question to which I can’t find an answer. Perhaps because they are naturalised here and so British holiday makers associated these striking flowers with the island?
On several occasions we passed places or buildings with Lillie Langtry associations and whilst Arthur was recounting the relevant tales I would be wondering, ‘Who was Lillie Langtry?” I didn’t have the heart to confess my ignorance – it seemed clear that as far a Arthur was concerned some basic familiarity at least must be common knowledge. I had a vague idea that she might have something to do with the Wild West, but that seemed unlikely now that I knew she was a Jersey girl. It emerged that she had been one of Edward VII lovers when he was Prince of Wales, and an actress. Now that I’ve had a chance to read a little more, I find that she led a very eventful life and eventually became an American citizen. I understood too why I made a connection to the American West – because of the Paul Newman film ‘The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean’ in which Lillie Langtry is played by Ava Gardner.
Sadly, my ignorance of Lillie Langtry is merely the tip of the iceberg. I even contemplated a post entitled ‘Things I Didn’t Know About the Channel Isles’, but life’s too short. Even an infinite troop of monkeys and their typewriters would never finish that list.
It’s much easier to say what I did know before I went: potatoes, cream, tax haven, Matt Le Tissier, Graeme Le Saux, German occupation during WW2…..err, did I mention potatoes?
It was a great pleasure, during my short stay on Jersey, to learn a great deal more, chiefly thanks to Arthur’s encyclopaedic knowledge – and I hope to return and fill in a few more gaps before too long.