Francois Payn was Dean of Jersey for 46 years in the 18th century, the longest recorded period for any holder of the office, but he spent very little time in the island while in office.
The son of Francois Payn, Seigneur of La Malletiere, and Elizabeth Robin, daughter of Jurat Raulin Robin, Payn was born in Grouville in 1699 and educated at Pembroke College and Jesus College, Oxford.
In 1729 he was instituted as Rector of St Mary and appointed Dean, after the States had refused to accept the appointment by the Governor of a Huguenot refugee on the grounds that he was not a Jerseyman.
Payn clearly preferred England to Jersey, perhaps because in 1730 he had become one of the main targets for a rioting mob protesting over an alteration to the currency. He escaped from the beseiged Royal Court to Elizabeth Castle.
He spent only one month of his first year of office in the island, and three months in each of the next three. A period of six years in residence was followed by four years absence, and until he settled in the island as Rector of St Martin in 1765, he was away from the island more than he was there, at one of his livings in Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire. Perhaps he was able to get away with these constant absences because he was married to Jane Brideoak, daughter of Ralph, Archbishop of Winchester. They had one daughter, Jane.
Accusation of slander
After he settled in Jersey again he was soon in trouble, as diarist Daniel Messervy wrote in his journal:
- "The Dean is always a meddler and anxious toknow everything. He never refuses to marry anyone, even marrying Roman Catholics to Jersey women, provided they pay him well, which is a heavy burden to the island, for these Catholics, when they have many children, often desert them and leave them to be supported by the parishes. Though he is Chaplain to the Castle, and so in a sense a subordinate of Col Bentinck, the Lieut-Governor, he was rash enough to go to Jean Hue and ask him of he could get him a copy of the Middlesex Journal
(There had been another riot in town and copies of this paper which criticised Bentinck had been confiscated.)
- "Hue said that he could not procure one, as they had all been destroyed, but the Dean pulled one from his pocket. He told Hue that he had heard on good authority that the Receivership had been sold to Bentinck and Corbet to share half and half. Hue told the Colonel what the Dean had said, and he in a fury took an affidavit from Hue before the Jurats and began to take steps to sue the Dean for slander. Payn, fearing that he would lose his Deanery and Chaplaincy, got friends to intercede for him with the Colonel, but he remained inflexible. At last Payn wrote a letter to the Colonel apologising for the scandal he had caused, and this letter was read to the States in the presence of the Colonel."
With the exception of the island's top officials and diarist Messervy, Payn was probably quite well liked, as Bertrand Payne notes in his Armorial of Jersey:
- "His erudition and piety together with his influence at Court rendered his long life a pleasure and a benefit to all with whom he came into contact."
He had been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society by the time of his death in April 1775 and there is a monument ot his memory at Grouville Church.