BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014
BBC Jersey BBC Jersey
BBC Jersey - Features

BBC Homepage
Junior Football
Message Boards
Island Views
My Island
My Space

Radio Jersey


Contact Us

Voices: Turning words into action
Coast of Funchal


More than 6000 Portuguese live and work in Jersey. They’ve been coming to the island for thirty years, many of them from Madeira.
Graeme Drummond   Ana Carvalho
Graeme Drummond   Ana Carvalho

BBC Radio Jersey has been listening to ‘Voices’ from the Portuguese community in Jersey, and decided to go to Madeira to hear from some of the people who spent their working lives in Jersey and have returned to their island to live.

Madeira population – 255,000
Unemployment is at 2.5%
Principle industry – Tourism
Average monthly wage – 350 EUROS

Mountain scenery

Madeira is spectacularly mountainous, with small villages scattered around the coast, across the steep mountain slopes and in some inland valleys. Listen to Ricardo Camacho’s surprise when he arrived in Jersey to discover it was small and flat.

Because of its steep terrain, cultivation is on stepped terraces, often high up on the mountain slopes. Until relatively recently the precipitous terrain meant long and arduous journeys for villagers to get to their fields and for the children to get to school. A trip to Funchal could take a whole day.

Since 1974 there has been large scale emigration from the island to South Africa, Venezuela, Brazil, Panama and to Jersey. People like Maria De Sousa emigrated to these countries to find a better life, and to find jobs. The majority of islanders always plan to return to their villages, and over the years many have returned, bought businesses and built new homes.

Maria & Simon

Maria De Sousa returned to Madeira after working in Jersey for more than twenty years. She and her husband bought a bar and restaurant business on the pier at Ponta de Sol. Her son Simon was born in Jersey. He recalls how difficult it was for him moving to Madeira, not being fluent in Portuguese.

When Portugal joined the European Union money came in to the island to improve its infrastructure, which saw the building of new roads and a network of tunnels and bridges through mountains and over steep ravines. A journey which once took eight hours now takes under an hour.

Funchal buildings

Many emigrants have returned to their villages or to Funchal and built new homes, often reflecting the architecture of the countries they lived in throughout their working lives.

Tourism is the island’s only significant industry, with the majority of the hotels situated in the Lido area of Funchal. It’s a regular port of call for cruise ships. As a holiday destination it attracts visitors interested in the island’s beautiful gardens, its flora and fauna.


Many visitors are keen on exploring the Levada walks, a network of irrigation channels which bring water from the mountains down to the lower slopes.

Half the island’s 255,000 people live in capital town Funchal. Crime is relatively low, and it claims to be one of the safest holiday destinations in Europe. But in spite of assurances to the contrary there are beggars on the streets. The island has developed its own problems with immigrant workers.

Funchal Street

The past fifteen years have seen a spectacular growth in building projects in the island, with workers coming from Eastern Europe and North Africa to fill the demand in the building trade. As building projects have slowed down, the demand has decreased, and some workers have found themselves without jobs and nowhere to live. It has resulted in a rise of racial tension between Madeirans and the immigrant workers. Drugs are a problem, contributing to the rise in petty crime in the town.

When Madeirans emigrate it’s clear they are interested in working hard to earn enough money to return to live in their island, and so are less concerned with integrating into the society of their host employers. Language is the first and the hardest barrier to overcome for people when they emigrate. Listen to these clips.

ACET computer skills

Part of the BBC Radio Jersey ‘Voices’ project aims to help people for whom English is a second language improve their English language skills. We are working in Jersey with Jersey ACET tutors on a Saturday afternoon at St Paul's Community Centre. Many of the students are from Madeira.

For more info about the ACET language courses click here.

With an improved economy there are fewer people leaving the island to work abroad, but the chance to earn a higher wage in another country is still an attraction. Some are keen to combine the experience of something new with the opportunity to learn English, and continue to come to Jersey, but in far fewer numbers than in the past. There are moves to promote cultural exchange between the two islands, with a visit to Jersey by Madeiran musicians in the pipeline.

Fish market

Food is an important part of all our lives - in Madeira there’s a saying that people think about what to have for lunch before they’ve eaten breakfast. Rising majestically out of the Atlantic, fish is an important part of the local diet, and Funchal has a colourful fish market. Tuna and black scabbard fish (Espada) are particularly plentiful. The black scabbard fish is unique to the waters around Madeira. Salt cod (Bacalhau) served with Milho (Fried corn meal) is also a popular Portuguese staple.


Madeirans are proud of their culture, rooted as it is in the heart of village life. Family is an all important part of this culture, and respect for parents and relatives is central to their way of life. Tiago Pita is fourteen. In a couple of weeks members of his family will be returning to Madeira to celebrate his grandparents sixtieth wedding anniversary. Tiago would like to visit Jersey to see where his relatives live and work. Listen to Tiago.


Village life in Madeira is changing, cultivating the terraced fields is hard back breaking work. As many people emigrate to find more lucrative employment the once carefully tended terraces are becoming neglected.

John Clark

John Clark is an Englishman who lived in Jersey for more than forty years. He’s swapped life in one island for another, and moved to a village in Madeira. Sao Vicente is on Madiera’s north coast. John enjoys the simple way of life. Listen to John Clark. Ask anyone in the village where the Englishman lives and they’ll tell you.

You can hear the ‘Voices’ of the people we met in Madeira on BBC Radio Jersey’s breakfast programme – Jersey Today all next week after 8am.


Get in touch with us!
Your Name    
Your Email    
The BBC will use the information you provide, including that collected via ‘cookies’ (which tell us which of our web pages you visit and how you move around them) to run and improve this service/site. We will not use your details for any other purpose.
Eune conversation en Jerriais
Listen to a conversation in Jersey's old language - Jerriais.
More from Voices
More from Voices
What is Voices?
Capturing the stories, concerns and aspirations of those unheard voices across the UK.
Find out more here.


BBC Jersey Online, 18 Parade Road, St. Helier, Jersey, JE2 3PL
phone: 01534 837228 | e-mail:

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy