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RURAL

UPDATE: Maurice the noisy French cockerel is free to keep on crowing

A rowdy rooster named Maurice can continue his noisy crowing after a judge rejected a lawsuit filed by unhappy neighbours, the lawyer in the case has announced.

UPDATE: Maurice the noisy French cockerel is free to keep on crowing
Corinne Fesseau, left, with Maurice and his supporters outside court. Photo: AFP

Maurice's owner, Corinne Fesseau, told a court in Rochefort, western France, in July that nobody else had complained about the noise at her home on the picturesque island of Oleron, except a couple of retired summer vacationers.

She faced having to either move or silence her noisy charge, but the judge on Thursday rejected her neighbours' complaint, meaning that Maurice can carry on crowing.

Her lawyer Julien Papineau said that the neighbours must also pay €1,000 in damages.

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Corrine Fesseau with her noisy cockerel. Photo: AFP

The case quickly ballooned into a national cause celebre, with 140,000 people signing a “Save Maurice” petition or proudly displaying his picture on “Let Me Sing” T-shirts.

Critics saw the lawsuit as part of a broader threat against France's hallowed rural heritage by city dwellers unable or unwilling to understand the realities of country life.

“This is the height of intolerance – you have to accept local traditions,”Christophe Sueur, the mayor in Fesseau's village of Saint-Pierre-d'Oleron, told AFP.

The couple's lawyer, Vincent Huberdeau, rejected any city-versus-country comparison, saying his clients lived in an area of the town, population 7,000, that is zoned for housing.

“It's not the countryside,” he said.

The trial is the latest in a long history of tensions between locals and holiday-home owners in rural France, which underscored the fierce “yellow vest” anti-government protests that erupted last November.


Dominique Douthe, 67, has been taken to court over the noise from her ducks. Photo: AFP

In May, the mayor of the southwestern village of Gajac, Bruno Dionis,penned a furious open letter in May in defence of the rights of church bells to ring, cows to moo, and donkeys to bray throughout rural France.

Dionis du Sejour has asked the government to inscribe the sounds on France's heritage list.

Maurice and his owner are not the only ones ruffling feathers. This week a woman in the duck-breeding heartland of the Landes region was brought to court by a newcomer neighbour fed up with the babbling of the ducks and geese in her back garden.

A petition in support of “the Hardy ducks,” as they have been dubbed, after the name of a nearby lake, has garnered some 5,000 signatures.

“More and more people are heading to rural areas, not to work in agriculture but to live there,” Jean-Louis Yengue, a geographer at the University of Poitiers, told AFP.

“Everyone is trying to defend their territory.”

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WAR

French village inherits fortune from Austrian who fled Nazis

An Austrian man who fled the Nazis with his family during World War II has bequeathed a large part of his fortune to the French village whose residents hid them from persecution for years.

French village inherits fortune from Austrian who fled Nazis
The village of Chambon-sur-Lignon in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France. Photo: AFP

Eric Schwam, who died aged 90 on December 25th, wrote the surprise gift into his will for Chambon-sur-Lignon, located on a remote mountain plateau in the Auvergne area of southeast France that historically has a large Protestant community known for offering shelter to those in need.

“It's a large amount for the village,” Mayor Jean-Michel Eyraud told AFP.

He declined to specify the amount since the will was still being sorted out, but his predecessor, who told a local website that she met with Schwam and his wife twice to discuss the gift, said it was around two million euros.

Schwam and his family arrived in 1943 and were hidden in a school for the duration of the war, and remained until 1950.

He later studied pharmacy and married a Catholic woman from the region near Lyon, where they lived.

Eyraud said Schwam asked that the money be used for educational and youth initiatives, in particular scholarships.

Around 2,500 Jews were taken in and protected during World War II by Chambon-sur-Lignon, whose residents were honoured as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial centre.

Over the centuries the village has taken in a wide range of people fleeing religious or political persecution, from priests driven into hiding during the French Revolution to Spanish republicans during the civil war of the 1930s, and more recently migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa.

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