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Sark (in Norman-French, Sercq) is a small island of the Channel Islands, part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey. It has a population of 610 (2002). No cars are allowed in the small island, where the only means of transport are horse-drawn vehicles, bicycles, tractors and battery-powered buggies for elderly or disabled people. Passengers and goods arriving by ferry from Guernsey are transported from the harbour by tractor-pulled vehicles. The main industry is tourism.
There are actually two parts of Sark, Little Sark and Greater Sark. They are connected by a narrow isthmus called La Coupée which is just nine feet wide with a drop of 300 feet either side. Protective railings were erected in 1900; before then, children would crawl across on their hands and knees to avoid being blown over the edge.
The island of Brecqhou is also owned by Sark. It is a private island, and not open to visitors.
Sark is often considered to be the last feudal state in Europe. The Seigneur of Sark is the head of the feudal government of the Isle of Sark. Many of the laws, particularly those related to inheritance and the rule of the Seigneur, are little changed since they were enacted in 1565 under Queen Elizabeth I.
Sark's constitution has been democratised in recent years since the death of Sybil Hathaway, Dame of Sark. More power is now in the hands of the elected members of the legislature, the Chief Pleas.
Although populated by monastic communities in the mediaeval period, Sark was uninhabited in the 16th century and used as a refuge and raiding base by Channel pirates. Helier de Carteret, Seigneur of St. Ouen in Jersey, received a charter from the Queen to colonise Sark with 40 families from St. Ouen on condition that he maintain the island free of pirates.
An attempt by the newly-settled families to endow themselves with a constitution under a bailiff, as in Jersey, was put down by the authorities of Guernsey who resented any attempt to wrest Sark from their bailiwick.
Sarkese (Sercquiais, or sometimes called Sark-French) is a Norman language still spoken by older inhabitants of the island. It is a descendant of the Jèrriais spoken by the original settlers, although influenced in the interim by Dgèrnésiais. Although the lexis is heavily anglicised, the phonology retains features lost in Jèrriais since the 16th century.
Among the Sarkese laws is the old Norman custom of the Clameur de Haro, a legal device which still exists in the other Channel Islands. A person can obtain immediate cessation of any action he considers to be an infringement of his rights. At the scene he must, in front of witnesses, recite the Lord's Prayer in French and cry out "Haro, Haro, Haro! À mon aide mon Prince, on me fait tort!" ("To my aid, my Prince! Someone does me wrong!") It should then be registered with the Greffe Office within 24 hours. All actions against the person must then cease until the matter is heard by the Court. It is not frequently used; the last recorded Clameur was raised in June 1970 to prevent the construction of a garden wall. The Clameur has been raised on occasions since then in the other islands.
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