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Wrecked on a Reef

Raynal's return to France

Raynal's return to France

Research on the remaining part of Raynal's life following his Auckland Island experience has uncovered a less than adventurous career after his return to France, though the work in which he was involved taxed his powers of adaptation and organisation again.

On his return from Australia he lived at first with his parents in their flat at No 92 rue Nollet, Batignolles, in the 17th arrondissement3 of Paris, then he moved next door to No 94 until he retired. The publication of Les Naufrages helped him to find regular work with the Municipal Council of the 1 7th arrondissement in Paris. He seems to have secured his position thanks to the recommendation of a director of Hachette & Co Publishing who was on the Paris Municipal Council.4

He started work on 12 September 1870, first as a 'temporary auxiliary commissioner' 'with the 'Commission des Contributions Directes.' His service was interrupted during the Second Siege of Paris under the Commune uprising from 28 February to 7 June 1871. No information has come to light on his life during the Paris Commune, though it is unlikely he would have joined the ranks of the insurgents. After that interruption he resumed work for the administration of the city of Paris. His letter dated 28 October 1871 to the Prefet de la Seine, in firm elegant handwriting, is a simple though dignified application for work. It was accepted and from then on we can follow his career with the administration as he moved up the Civil Service ladder, with a regularly increasing salary until he retired in 1889.

His personal file, kept in the Paris Archives, records some of the activities which had a bearing on his life and career with the department of rates and taxes of the City of Paris.

On 19 April 1873 he was invited to attend a meeting by the 'Commission of the Transit of Venus' at the Académie des Sciences, Paris, who were preparing the French expedition to the Antarctic islands. He gave an account of the meteorological conditions in the islands, based on the journal written with seal's blood he had kept in 1864-65. He debated the comparative merits of their setting an observation station on Campbell versus Auckland Islands, favouring the former as a better base. He described the nature of the soil and gave practical advice on possible landing places, and where best to set up scientific equipment.5

A fortnight later on 1 May 1873 he was confirmed in his appointment and his salary was increased to 2000 francs a year, being promoted to 'Commissaire repartiteur adjoint' something like an assistant to the assessor of land and property rates in his district.

A member of the Paris Geography Society since 1868, Raynal was selected to take part in the International Congress of Geographical Sciences in 1875. In the meantime, in 1874 his book had been awarded a Montyon6 prize of page 232
Raynal's application for a job with the Commission des Contributions Directes in the 17th Arrondissement of Paris mentions his membership of the Societe de Geographie and his authorship of Les Naufrages des ties Auckland, which was translated as Wrecked on a Reef,

Raynal's application for a job with the Commission des Contributions Directes in the 17th Arrondissement of Paris mentions his membership of the Societe de Geographie and his authorship of Les Naufrages des ties Auckland, which was translated as Wrecked on a Reef,

page 2331500 francs by the Academie Francaise, and received a flattering citation. This money prize was slightly over the yearly salary he received when he started work. Since there was no inflation in France between 1880 and 1914 his prize money and starting salary were similar to the salary of a primary school teacher, whereas an ordinary working man would earn less than half as much with 600 francs a year.

In 1881, on the personal recommendation of the general secretary of the Paris Prefecture, he was admitted to the Order of Palmes Academiques. The document supporting his candidacy mentions his rightful claims to the distinction, as a writer and member of the Geography Society and adds a detail which reveals another of Raynal's talents: "He has been entrusted with the task of helping the teacher of English at the primary school situated next to the Primary Teachers 'Training College at Auteuil". It is not clear whether it was out of love for education, or a way of increasing his resources.

Year after year, the reports on his work and personality confirm the picture readers may have about the writer of the book. They consistently describe a model employee, whose personality and service were much appreciated by his superiors. A report dated 7 December 1886 is representative of his superiors' opinions on him:

Mr Raynal never misses an opportunity to carry out the tasks entrusted to him with great zeal; he is very hard working and conscientious, has gained a considerable experience in rating assessment, and shows a genuine competence in handling contentious cases. Though he manages the Ternes and Plaine Monceau areas which extend far and wide, and where evaluations are particularly strenuous, Mr Raynal's service leaves nothing to be desired. Always correctly dressed, soft spoken and pleasant, he is one of the Commission's best employees.

Two years later the December 1888 end-of-year report, still as complimentary as ever, gives us a more precise picture of his activities and foreshadows his impending early retirement on medical grounds:

Mr Raynal is a zealous, active and punctual worker; always regular and conscientious in his work which involves a lot of travelling in the particular areas he assesses, namely the Ternes and Plaine Monceau, involving inspection of the new buildings which have sprung up in a few years … unfortunately, Mr Raynal has been rather unwell for a month, following the extra work created by the census, and has had to suspend his active service, in the course of his life, he has been the victim of a number of accidents, and is at present feeling the effects of the hardships and sufferings he experienced for a number of years after his shipwreck on a desert island. We can only wish him well, and hope he will soon recover and work as usefully as ever for the Commission.

He did not recover enough to continue working, however, and requested an early retirement which was officially granted to him for medical reasons on 18 August 1889. From a yearly salary of 4500 francs, his resources dropped to 1,413.33 francs a year, as the pension he received was based on his 18 years page 234of service. This would account for his leaving Paris to return 1 7 km from his birthplace, at Valence d'Agen, where he bought a house and eventually died nine years later on 28 April 1 898, still a bachelor, aged 68.7