A GIANT crown above King Street, a triumphal arch bearing the inscription ‘Long Live Their Majesties’ and so much bunting and so many flags that the streets were barely recognisable behind festive decorations – that is how St Helier celebrated the Coronation of King George VI on 12 May 1937.
Film of the Island during those celebrations can be seen in cine footage digitised by Simon Harrison from the collections of his grandfather Arthur Guiton Harrison.
The material, available on a YouTube channel, constitutes around 5% of the collection that Mr Harrison gleaned from his grandfather’s extensive archives. In all, the former editor of the Evening Post left 289 individual reels of cine film – some 101,000 feet of material that runs for 78½ hours. While some of it chronicles the extensive travels of Mr Harrison’s grandparents abroad, other reels capture aspects of Island life long since gone.
‘Obviously through his involvement in the JEP he was very interested in recording the events of the day from the 1930s onwards to the 1970s,’ Mr Harrison explained, adding that the available material includes royal visits and the celebrated pre-war film of the production of the Evening Post.
Two years before the 1937 Coronation, Arthur Guiton Harrison captured the visit of Edward VIII to Jersey when he was Prince of Wales, the unfolding events of the following two years surely unimaginable for most Islanders.
But it is the footage of his brother’s Coronation which captures the attention ahead of the investiture of George VI’s grandson, with thoroughfares like Colomberie, King Street, and York Street festooned for the occasion in a way which makes 21st century celebrations seem drab by comparison.
What also strikes the viewer is the quality of many of the images shot at 16 frames per second, although the footage has been expertly enhanced in some sections of the digital transfer to add frames up to 25 per second.
‘I might try using AI to try to sharpen up the focus in future, but that’s another project for the future,’ Mr Harrison said.
Arthur Guiton Harrison’s films are available to view on the AGH Productions YouTube channel.