Desmond Bagley at the Guille-Allès Library

Desmond Bagley talk and exhibition at the Guille-Allès Library as part of the Guernsey Literary Festival 2018 © Graham Jackson, © Guernsey Literary Festival, © Guille-Allès.

The venue for both my talk, ‘Desmond Bagley – The writer who continues to inspire’, and exhibition ‘The Life and Work of Desmond Bagley’, has been confirmed as the Guille-Allès Library, Market Street, St. Peter Port, Guernsey GY1 1HB.

Guille-Allès Library, St Peter Port, Guernsey © Google Images 2017.

Launching on the opening day of the sixth Guernsey Literary Festival, Thursday 10th May 2018, the hour-long talk will start at 16.00hrs, followed by the official opening of the exhibition.

I am honoured that this particular venue has been chosen for my talk and exhibition, not only because libraries were fundamental in the literary development of Desmond Bagley, but also because the Guille-Allès Library in particular has a special connection to the Bagleys.

On 8th February 1984 this article appeared in the Guernsey Press:

Author’s books given to library

The Guille-Allès Library has added to its shelves about 400 volumes from the library of the late Desmond Bagley. The books, donated by Mrs Bagley, cover a variety of subjects including computers, mathematics, statistics, science, philosophy and war-gaming.

A further 200 volumes on various aspects of military history will be catalogued and classified soon, ready for use by members of the Guille-Allès Library.

Desmond Bagley built up an extensive library which reflected his very wide interests. He read everything he could acquire on subjects which interested him and the collection of books given to the Guille-Allès formed just one section of his reference library.

Mrs Bagley says that her husband did not buy the books just for the sake of collecting them and that all the books he acquired were read and often were well used over a period of time. She is very happy that the books will be of use to readers in Guernsey because during his lifetime he readily gave friends access to his collection. [1]

The inspiration for the Guille-Allès Library, founded 130 years ago, came from a Manhattan Library:

As apprentice to a carpenter in Manhattan in the early 1830s, the young Guernseyman Thomas Guille had access to the city’s vast apprentices’ library. Never shall I forget, he later wrote, the emotion of wonder and delight which seized me when, for the first time, I entered the library.

From that moment on, he nurtured a dream to set up something similar back home in Guernsey. When his childhood friend, Frederick Allès, crossed the Atlantic to join him as an apprentice at the same New York firm, Thomas Guille shared his dream with him, and together they grew determined to make it a reality. [2]

In 1882 Guille and Allès purchased the Assembly Rooms in Market Street, a premises that had previously been used as a dance hall and meeting place. Guille and Allès filled it with books, opening to the public in 1888. In addition to its roles as a subscription library the building also housed reading rooms, meeting rooms and a lecture hall where weekly lectures on literature and science were held, along with student language classes. Clubs and societies also took up residence ‘including a chess club, choir, debating society, table tennis club, orchestra, and even a Scottish dancing club.’ [2]

The upper floor of the building housed a popular Museum, filled with geological and Natural History exhibits.

Guille-Allès Library, St Peter Port, Guernsey 1940 © Guille-Allès

During World War II the library remained open throughout the occupation of the Channel Islands by the Wehrmacht (armed forces of Nazi Germany), though under restricted conditions. Opening hours were reduced, books of an ‘anti-German’ nature were removed from the shelves and only a very limited supply of new books entered the library. Realising the literary drought that the Channel Islands were suffering, the Jersey Society in London established the Channel Islands Book Committee, and stockpiled books for the Guille-Allès Library and the Jersey Public Library in preparation for islanders, post liberation.

The library, still operating as a subscription service, experienced financial difficulties during the late 1970’s though fortunately it was saved by the States of Guernsey who went into partnership with the Guille-Allès Trust, opening the Library as a free service available to the whole community. Refurbishment of the building was undertaken due to the philanthropy of Sir Charles and Lady Hayward who came from the island of Jethou in the Bailiwick. In 1979 the Museum, located on the top floor, was replaced by the Schools Library Service, the Museum exhibits were transferred to the newly built Guernsey Museum at nearby Candle Gardens.

Guille and Allès’s original vision was that the library should be a hub for culture, learning and community life, and today it is just that, fulfilling its role not just as a library but hosting reading groups and clubs.

Guille-Allès Library, St Peter Port, Guernsey 1940 © Guille-Allès.

Desmond Bagley – Guernsey Literary Festival 2018 event details

‘Desmond Bagley – The writer who continues to inspire’ – A talk by Philip Eastwood at 16.00hrs Thursday 10th May 2018 at the Guille-Allès Library, Market Street, St. Peter Port GY1 1HB.

My talk on Bagley will reveal the little known story of the author’s early life and his journey to becoming a craftsmanlike thriller writer whose ‘novels of action’ continue to inspire. I will also mention the first edition cover art illustrations and the artists who designed them.

‘The Life and Work of Desmond Bagley’ exhibition – Official opening at 17.00hrs – 18.30hrs Thursday 10th May, on display until Saturday 9th June 2018 also at the Guille-Allès Library.

The exhibition will include, from my own collection – A rare early annotated draft typescript for Windfall, under the working title The Hendrykxx Legacy / The Legacy, an unrealised screenplay for The Golden Keel and Bagley’s early published fantasy and science fiction works. First editions, uncorrected proofs and foreign editions of his novels, published magazine and periodical articles and photographs. Also displayed will be a number of publicity portrait photographs of Bagley taken by the Guernsey photographer Graham Jackson, and HarperCollins Publishers are delving into their archives to supply material including some cover layouts and original cover artwork. Informative exhibition boards will tell the story of the life and work of the author.

I am curating the Bagley exhibition together with the very supportive Melissa Mourton who is an administrator of the Arts Foundation Guernsey and not only a consultant to both the Guernsey Arts Commission and The Bagley Legacy project, but also the current owner of the old Bagley residence, formerly Câtel House, now renamed Bagley Hall, located in the Guernsey parish of St. Andrew.

As I mentioned in my last post, if any Bagley fans haven’t yet discovered Guernsey, perhaps May this year might be a good time to visit, I should very much like to meet with you and talk about the author and his literary legacy.

Details about other facets of The Bagley Legacy will follow in due course.

More can be read about the history of the Guille-Allès Library here.

Addendum 17th March 2018

The Life and Work of Desmond Bagley exhibition has very kindly been granted funding by the Guernsey Arts Commission, whose support and guidance is greatly apprecited.

Guernsey Arts Commission Logo

This project is supported by:

The Desmond Bagley Legacy Supporters © pluriform


Images: © Guille-Allès Library; © Graham Jackson [not to be reproduced without permission]; © Guernsey Literary Festival.

[1] ‘Author’s Books given to library’ Guernsey Press 8th February, 1984.

[2] Guille-Allès Library (2018). ‘About’ [online]. URL [Accessed 28th January 2018]