Ex-farmer who has ‘never left the Island’ celebrates her 100th birthday

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ONE of the first Island recipients of a birthday card signed by King Charles III has celebrated her 100th birthday.

Doreen Coutanche turned 100 on Saturday and was joined by family and friends to mark the occasion.

She was also presented with the King’s card by the Lieutenant-Governor, Vice-Admiral Jerry Kyd, at Silver Springs care home, where she lives.

Mrs Coutanche, who married during the Occupation, can claim to be one of those rare Jersey folk who have never left the Island and she does not possess a passport. She has also never drunk alcohol, smoked or held a driving licence – which may be some of the reasons for her longevity.

Born to Arthur and Ada Prouten, Mrs Coutanche grew up on the family farm, Mosgill, in St Ouen.

Picture: ROB CURRIE. (34842026)

‘Life on the farm was good. My mother had sewing lessons, so we were always well clothed,’ said Mrs Coutanche. ‘I remember my father going out with a gun in his hand and coming back with a rabbit or two and the stews were often smelt cooking in the kitchen.’

She also has fond memories of her time at Les Landes School, where she remembers enjoying cooking and being in the netball team. When she was married, she enjoyed making Victoria sponges, which were, according to a friend, the best in the Island. When Mrs Coutanche was 20, her parents welcomed a surprising new addition to the family in June 1943. ‘My mother had been convinced she had an ulcer, but the doctor put her straight. She was having a baby – there were 20 years between me and my sister,’ she said.

Eighteen months later that baby, by then a toddler, was present at her big sister’s wedding to Clifford Coutanche, a farmer’s son from St Ouen.

‘We’d found a farm to rent in St Lawrence and were married at St George’s Church in St Ouen on a very wet 6 January 1945. Being still under German Occupation our wedding was as good as we could make it. My dress was made of lining, the bridesmaid dresses were borrowed and the cake was made by someone in town and I am sure I borrowed stockings from someone,’ recalled Mrs Coutanche.

‘The farm was near the German Underground Hospital and the fields were hard to work, as they were all sloping, but the ground was good. The Germans didn’t bother us and we made sure we didn’t bother them.

‘Life in the country was better than for those living in town. Fortunately, we acquired a horse when the Germans left, so we could go up and down the fields rather than using a tractor.’

In 1953, their daughter Cynthia was born. In due course she married Michael and went on to have daughters Amanda and Lynda.

‘They visited us all the time and stayed with us each Friday night and enjoyed the farming life too. There was always something to do and so much fun getting dirty and wet,’ Mrs Coutanche said.

The couple farmed in St Lawrence for 12 years before moving to two other farms.

‘Cows were always our love. Unlike now, all our cows had horns and had to be pegged to the ground and moved during the day to give them more grass to eat. They came into the stable at night and had covers in the rain and the cold weather,’ said Mrs Coutanche.

‘We also grew potatoes and cauliflowers and there were no holidays for us. In fact, I have never left the Island and the only time Cliff went to the UK was to see his father when he was in hospital.’

After a lifetime in agriculture the couple retired in 1986 and bought a house near their old farm. Mr Coutanche died in 2015, after 70 years of marriage, and Mrs Coutanche moved into Silver Springs in 2019.

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