Friday, March 12, 2010

Sybil Hathaway 1884-1974

Today I made sure to visit my daughter during the history lesson she teaches her children, just to get in on the reading of "Dame of Sark."  We all gathered around in the living room, sipping Yorkshire Gold and eating home made shortbread,  while she read the story from her laptop.

Sybill Hathaway Beaumont, visited by the Queen in 1957

This is not a big, long book that is tedious to read, but a few chapters with significant detail to enthrall the listener. We cheered while she outwitted the officers that occupied her little kingdom, and cried when she put up the American and British flags upon hearing of the allies coming.  In the end, she said, her attendance at a dinner aboard a British liner did something to her that no enemy soldier ever could, during even the worst days on the island: the appearance of tablecloths and napkins, freshly laundered, and the goodness of hot tea and biscuits  made her weep. She had not seen anything cleaned by soap in all those years. The  island had been so isolated that they had used up their supplies a long time ago.

The Nazi occupants had cut off the island from any supplies or help, so the sailors who caught their fish supply began to wear out their clothing. The islanders collected cloth from the tablecloths and curtains, and used different string and yarn as sewing thread. It did not matter what color it was, because as long as they were able to supply the sailors with clothes, that was the important thing.  By the end of the war, every house in Sark had been so ransacked for every available supply of any type, that they all needed to be re-furnished and re-decorated.  The islanders had to abide by the many rules and regulations of the occupying army, and one of them was that no one was allowed in a boat without a Nazi officer and the time limit on the sea was so short that the sailors did not catch many fish.  They devised a scheme whereby they would only go fishing in the worst storms. The officers that accompanied them would then get terribly sea sick. The fishermen could then stay out as long as they wanted, and catch more fish.

No cars allowed on the island, even today

Although Sybil and her American husband had allowed no cars on the island, the occupying forces brought heavy tanks and jeeps that ruined the roads, so after the English rescued the island, they made the soldiers stay and repair the roads again.  They reached starvation when the farmers could not plant or harvest, due to the 13,550 land mines that were planted on the 3 and a half mile island. After the war, the soldiers who put them there were ordered by the Dame, to remove every single one of them, and to restore all the houses that they had ruined in the 5 years of occupation. There was a book written on this subject called "Mined Where You Walk."

During this trying time,  the residents were not allowed to gather in groups larger than 5, and they were forbidden to listen to the radio. Sybil had a wireless hidden at the bottom of a trunk, with an old,  stained cloth on top of it. She threw in some dead moths to make it look disgusting enough for the soldiers not to want to dig through it. When the dogs barked, warning that someone had come to the door, she would take her time walking to the hall and answering it, to give her husband a chance to hide the wireless. Each day, they listened to the news from England and then she would go around visiting people and telling them what she had heard. One  BBC broadcast gave instructions for making a wireless, using ordinary objects, and soon everyone on the island had their own radios.  

 She said it was useless to have any underground rebellion, so their subterfuge would have to be morale. One officer told her he was amazed that everyone was so cheerful and happy and asked her why. "Of course we are happy," she said. "The allies will win, and even if it be far off in time, it will happen."

Sybil taught her subjects to "keep calm and carry on" in dire circumstances. This is a quality that we need to reinstate in our national character. It does not mean to resign to something that is not right, but to have a steadiness and control.  Winston Churchhill had a friend  named Lord Max  Beaverbrook, who was described as having an "acid humour."  In stressful time, Churchill said, "Some people take drugs. I just take Max."  Surely the determination and steadiness of the Dame of Sark was the cup of tea for the residents there.  She wrote that when they used up all their tea leaves, they picked raspberry leaves and used them to make a type of hot drink similar to tea.  She said they had no weapons and no chance of rebellion, so their weapon  had to be their happy morale.   When the officers came to see her they enjoyed her company so much, that the army kept replacing the soldiers with harder ones who would not be melted by her personality.

All communication going out of the island was censored, so she and her daughter worked up a code. If they were hungry, she would write that she could not find Mrs. Beeton's cookbook. If her daughter had received the letter she would write that she met a friend and use Sybil's maiden name. When the officers demanded that all the wheat on the island be brought to them, leaving only a small percentage for the people, Sybil arranged for her friends to bring empty bags to the storehouse, fill them up, and cart them out to a hiding place. They did this almost in front of their eyes. They hid potatoes in her cellar which had a door right under a rug and couch in her living room. She would distribute these potatoes when she went on her rounds.

At her daughter's wedding in 1948

They would always bring her orders written in German , to sign, but she would never sign them. They took many people off the island and sent them to prison camps, including Sybil's husband, who was really the ruler of the island, and left the rest of them there to fend for themselves.  They surrounded the island with barbed wire, and when the allies came, the soldiers were kept as prisoners to remove all the wire they had put there 5 years earlier.  The dame was always insistant on being cheerful no matter what, and sometimes had to cheer up her own captors.

Sybil said that the first year of being a prisoner in her own home, she read every single book in her library, and her favorite was a very long one called "Gone with the Wind."  She said she felt so much like Scarlett O'Hara.  There was a book written by a woman in the south when their homes were invaded by the Federal Government of the US. She said that the women tried to carry on as normal in their homes, and teach the children their Bible lessons and try to reassure the entire household. Dame Sybil thought that morale was their greatest weapon for survival, and I believe that is the case with homemakers and homeschoolers  who fight off the negative remarks and threats  and the pressure to conform with the prevailling society.

I would certainly encourage the 1400 viewers that come here, to go to The Pleasant Times to read m ore of this story. I wish my daughter could read it over Librvox, as she did such a fine job that anyone in the house stopped to listen. If you read the book aloud to your husband or children, I think it has more impact. Please also note the previous post, with more info on the Dame.


Lydia said...

Sybil also wrote of a visit from one of the former Nazi officers after the war. He came to their island and talked and talked, and they could not get him to leave. There were many soldiers that came to admire Sybil and her husband and the island people, but Hitler would replace them with harder men who would be less sympathetic. In five years they were replaced many times. At the end of the war, many of the army wanted to come back and visit the island but they were always surprised how prosperous it was, after 5 years of starvation.

Lydia said...

I think it is good to think of what we can do when we are discourged. Morale is the most important thing.

Anonymous said...

I should have thought to tell you earlier, but Peter Marshall, author of "The Light and the Glory", is giving an all-day conference today online, at (click "watch" at the bottom of the home page). I think it is until 4:30. We have all been sitting around listening to it this morning. It is excellent American history. I wish I would have mentioned it earlier, but it will probably be recorded.

Anonymous said...

We just finished a book called, "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boom. She went to Ravensbruck because she was a Christian who hid Jews in her home. I thought this was a good, readable book about the holocaust because it didn't focus on the atrocities as much as the grace of God that got her through. Good testimony for older homeschoolers.

Anonymous said...

I just wrote about the Peter Marshall program, but they are on a lunch break, so it is just music until they resume.

Anonymous said...

I started reading this book, when you recommended it the other day. It is wonderfully inspiring. I wish I had known about it when my children were still homeschooling.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous 4:49

The only way you will win this woman is to ignore her rudeness and love her as God would love her. She seems very insecure and contentious. These attitudes are from Satan. Only God's charity can chase away Satan's influence. Instead of getting ruffled feathers yourself, go out of your way to smile real smiles, compliment her, and be truly interested in something about her. Who knows, you may actually change her mind, but at the very least you will feel more calm and happy interacting with her. My grandma told me to be a duck and let it roll right off your back. Don't eat her bitter fruits.

Anonymous said...

Somehow I know we are not prepared to endure anything like this. The Dame admitted that after doubting the purpose for her strict father, it prepared her for the hardships ahead. Today a generation brought up on video games and movies, living a soft life, steeped in Marxism and psychology, would probably give over to the enemy and apologize to them and even join them. We see it happening here in America, where, whether you believe it or not, we are occupied, and struggling to keep our families together. Divorce has ruined our youth. Youth are corrupted as quickly as possible so as not to give them a good chance in life. so we wonder if we would even have a chance.

Lydia said...

I just added a paragraph about the Dame's morale and wanted to comment that a good humour and happiness is indeed the best weapon when anyone trods on your rights as a homemaker, homeschooler, lover of refinement and manners, or Biblical beliefs. These people for the most part will not listen to teaching, but they will, like the occupying soldiers, note your uplifting personality and your steadiness of purpose. I do believe when things are the most difficult (husband lost his job, pressure to go to work, people critical etc) it is the best time to clean house, light a candle, bring in a bouquet of flowers, and serve tea. Dress up, look up, speak up and be up.

Lydia said...

To the lady who was asking about hairstyles for older women, please go to

for tutorials and styles.

Anonymous said...

Thank you dear Lydia for this recommendation and book review. It's very interesting and I can't wait to read it. It did bring a tear to my eye though, not because of the story but on a more personal level... I miss my homeschooling days of reading out loud wonderful books to my children. This was always a delight! We all couldn't get enough of sharing books. (I was touched to see my married son, reading their current book to his sick wife in the surgery while waiting to see the doctor. Traditions...)

Thank you for all you do. Linda

Lydia said...

In the book, she said that they had no propaganda to counteract the nazi propagada, so they decided to use cheerfulness and good morale as their own propaganda. It disarmed the officers, who wondered why no one was afraid or apprehesive. Sybil listened to the wireless and heard that the British were on their way to take over the island and she spread the word. It was hard for the islanders to contain their excitement. The officers were still shouting orders to the residents but they ignored them and waited for the ships. Can you imagine 5 years a prisoner on your own land?

Anonymous said...

A fellow ally blogger in response to my agitated upset spirit at the way of my nation, the churches and the community suggests virtually the same mindset of joy in the face of seemingly crushing odds whether in the face of academic scorn, family reproach or community go about our days, our tasks, wherever God has planted us, with what he terms 'Wreckless cheer'; that is, cheer in the face of the enemy's venim and hostility, joy in the face of being despised for His name's sake.

It also implies an indifaticable strength and determination to never give up or give in, and simply be, without a word being like manner to the residents of this fabulous island during dark days many of us have never been compelled to endure.

Lydia said...

Visitors, please dont forget to read the post below and the one on the link to the Pleasant Times on the left side bar.

The idea of reckless cheer is so wonderful. I think it might also be a perfect tactic for individuals who worry about the approval of others. The Dame thought there was no use starting an underground movement because there was no one there but them and they could not communicate with anyone outside of their island. Her weapons were smiles and laughter,and knowing the British, there must have been a lot of wonderful wit in their condition. They have a way of supplying their own giggles.

Anonymous said...

Although a prisoner in her own house, her mqid brought the officers from the door down a long hall to her dining room,, where she and her husband sat at the end of a dining table. An interpreter translated the officers requests and she didnt allow them to be seated til they had kissed her hand. Ha ha. Would that we would have such dignity in the face of insults and attacks

Anonymous said...

Her cheerful attitude is exactly what we need in right now with the high unemployment and underemployment rates in this country.

I think if we all have a good attitude and work hard perhaps before we know it things will turn around.

I think the fashion for Spring 2010 is reflecting this. People want to dress up in this economic downturn. Scarves, headbands, long flowing skirts, big and colorful jewelry, and little cardigans are all over the stores.

Kate said...

I posted your importance of homeschooling post on my blog the other day. It was the very first time I got hate mail in my comments. Luckily, I have my comments on moderate. I am totally amazed at the response. Why are people so intimidated with us, when all we want to do is raise, responsible, God-loving, moral men and women. I think I'm about ready to find my own island.

Lydia said...

I meant to warn you that if you link anything to me you inherit all my negative traffic. The best way to deal with it is delete it. You can engage them and try to enlighten them for awhile but they are not teachable. They are what the Bible describes as ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Yes we are surrounded by the barbed wire of the feminists and the leftists who hate the idea of the family as the authority. A hundred years ago the homemaker was respected and the children loved their parentes more than anything.Now they have pied pipers of fashon and music that they follow into the river of despair. We are saying that the answer is to homeschool them. IF they dont continue in the right paths, at least the family will be blessed for having done the right thing. On the island, you have to be queen and continue to show authority and continue to be cheerful. When Paul and Silas were in stocks in jail, in inner prison, they were heard singing and praying.

Anonymous said...

I want to tell you how you have encouraged me through life's hardships with encouraging words, ideas and much joy.

There are negative people in my own immediate family who bristle and sneer at the very thought of God and his love. I submit to you they are under heavy conviction and now is not the time to back down.

We continue to hold our ground with the joy of the Lord and smile in the face of adversity as you suggest. It works, I know.

Lydia said...

Smile. It confuses people.

The Dame story is not unique. You can find lots of stories like this during occupation in WW2.

We have to protect our own isles from being invaded by the prevailing culture. Its a woman's job to guard and guide the home.

Anonymous said...

Some time ago I read on your blog about the Dame of Sark and the reference to her book that is available online. The storyline really intrigued me, especially since it really happened (a living book!), so I set about obtaining it to read. Since we don't have high-speed internet, reading it online didn't materialize, but I found the book through our state-wide library loan system. I asked for and received the book and really enjoyed it. It was a second-edition publishing, and on the inside said that it was number #160 of 750 copies published. The book's physical characteristics made it a pleasure to read, but the life story inside was even more fascinating. The book had a little bit of everything--geography, history, family culture, travel; I had heard of the Channel Islands, but up until I read the book I couldn't have found them on a map without looking them up. I was really surprised to see that basically they were right in the shadow of the coast of France. Mrs. Hathaway's courage and fortitude during the occupation of the German army during WW2 was really something. Reading about her experience shed gave me more insight on what the German army was like. It was also telling, I thought, that she mentioned that prior to Germany's invasion of France, the general opinion was that Germany was fighting a "fake" war (or something to that effect) and no one took it seriously until it was too late. Amazing that that many people and countries were just seemingly blinded to what was happening. Praise the Lord that war did have an end to it!

I just wanted to share my little story of how I found it and to thank you for posting about it. Those kinds of stories help us to see what truly matters, and in this case the impact one woman can have right from home. I enjoy reading your blog and I've appreciated the topics you've brought up for discussion. We are a Bible-believing, homeschooling family who for the most part walks the path alone, and all encouragement is precious.

Blessings to you and your family,