Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Morlaix guided tour

I was in Morlaix again yesterday giving a guided visit to a small group of British people who (mostly) live in the area. The focus was on the river, a confluence of the Jarlot and the Queffleuth, which flows out 24 kilometres beyond the town into the Channel at Carantec, past the Chateau du Taureau, a fortified island.
The original impetus for establishing the latter in 1544 was an up-river raid by the English in 1522 which led to the sacking of Morlaix and severe economic hardship before the medieval port could recover its prosperity. This was based primarily on the cloth trade with England and Spain, although paper, leather and butter were other exports. Morlaix was also an important stop on the wine route from southern to northern Europe.
A more unusual economic strength was the tobacco industry, established on the Quai de Léon in 1736, having started out at the Manoir de Penanru on the opposite bank about fifty years earlier. Success demanded larger premises as the huge structure which remains today indicates. The factory only closed in 2004, although by then only 38 workers out of the thousand-odd employed in the heyday remained. Apart from the cigar production for which 'La Manufacture' was well-known, the business was also socially progressive, providing a creche, literacy classes and sick-pay.
We also had a look at the memorial of Tristan Corbière (and his father Edouard), and I read a short extract of the La Pastorale de Conlie to give the flavour of this avant-garde poet who died at 30 with just one self-published volume - Les Amours Jaune - to his name. His posthumous fame came from the acclaim of Verlaine: 'son vers vit, rit, pleure très peu, se moque bien et blague encore mieux.' The scandal of Conlie, during the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, where Breton conscripts were kept in camp in appalling conditions apparently because French generals feared 'an army of Chouans' (the counter-Revolutionary movement that had seen strong support in the Vendée and parts of Brittany) is a powerfully sour memory in Franco-Breton relations. The Bretons were finally sent ill-equipped into battle as canon-fodder: the French baying "Good dogs" as Corbière puts it.
The final stage of our tour was to the grounds of the Chateau de Kernanroux, where we got some much-needed shade from the strong sun, and did a little tour of the dovecote, cascade, lake and ruined medieval chapel with its fine carving. This is a concessionary route, with no access to the chateau itself apart from a brief glimpse of the rear façade if you continue along the GR footpath to the village of Ploujean. The sunken heart of the park around the lake feels like a secret place, and it well provided the 'special' element I always like to add to a guided visit.

No comments: