Many years ago in a job I held in a factory every shift would come to a close with one of the other workers on the production line claiming, in almost a sigh, that the end of the day was up. ‘So that was Monday,’ he would say when our Monday shift ended. ‘So that was Tuesday,’ he would say, when our Tuesday shift ended. ‘So that was…’, yes, you get the idea. Every now and again these words return to me, mainly on the drawing to a close of a chapter, and what bigger end is there than that of a year. ‘So that was 2018,’ I can almost hear the old worker say.
But rather than mutter the close of the year with a sigh I wish to highlight it with surprise: surprise that this blog has actually survived to the end of 2018. Back in the very first post in April I wondered if the blog would ‘join the scrapheap of other failed ventures’, but here it is still alive. All of which gives me a chance to do another one of those end-of-year-listy-things-that-everyone-else-seems-to-do. This one is simple enough: a selection of five of my favourite posts of the year.
Retracing the Past: A Visit to Hemyock [April 2018]
One of my earliest posts focussed on a piece of family history that consumed my time back in the earlier part of the year. I spent months researching and then writing up a history of the Hines of Hemyock, the ancestors of my wife. The completed piece of writing currently stands at 20,000 words, and I’m currently researching a connected family – the Moors – that will eventually bulk this even further. However, the most special part of the whole process was actually visiting Hemyock itself earlier in the year, with four generations of the descendants of these Hines present (my wife, my daughter, my mother-in-law, and my gran-in-law). It capped off the process in a delightful way, and the meal in the pub managed to be the icing on the cake.
Dave in a Cave [August 2018]
Earlier in the summer I managed to find a geocache in a cave in Torbay. What should have been a simple enough task turned into a few hours work. I’m not entirely sure that this qualifies as something historical, but it is one of the reasons why I enjoy this blog: it contains anything of interest. And a hidden piece of “treasure” in a cave is always going to be of interest.
Everything has a history, even Alton Towers [August 2018]
Every summer my family go on a holiday to a theme-park that my daughter will cherish. Last summer was Peppa Pig World and this summer was Cbeebies Land at Alton Towers. Despite the screaming children and annoyance at the repeated sounds of theme-songs from various despised shows the actual experience was a happy one. Whilst there – perhaps on the second day – I went beyond the bounds of Cbeebies Land with my daughter to explore more of the area. It only then occurred to me that Alton Towers had a longer history other than that of the theme park that now surrounds it and binds it. I really enjoyed exploring the old “castle” with my daughter; I felt like a cultural archaeologist in uncovering the real history behind the modern day theme-park.
Deducing History from Cave Paintings [October 2018]
This post is exactly the type of post I hoped this blog would show: something that originated inside the classroom and developed into a nice idea. This particular one was from a class in September, and my rustiness in terms of timings of activities was clearly on show – after a summer away from the college – because I completed misjudged the lesson and ran out of time in the middle of a lecture. So, I hurriedly considered a guided study activity: find a cave painting and come up with a theory. And the class did just that and blew away my expectations. It is an activity that I will continue to do in future years, mainly because it allows every student to become the “historian” and come up with their own theory.
Remembering George Edward Donohoe [November 2018]
Around the time of the centenary of the end of the First World War I was reminded of family research I had done on George Edward Donohoe: a great-uncle who died in 1916. For the past couple of years I’ve used documents relating to George as an activity in FdA classes: students piece together just who he was and what he went through by only utilising the primary source material. This also provides me an additional benefit: the questions provoked through class discussion lead me to understanding George even more, and where to turn next with research. The post is an article in tribute to George, and how although he was simply an “ordinary” person, his death connects him to the wider event of the First World War.
* In the very last post I promised to ensure that references to myself in the third-person would not become a feature of the blog. Dave apologises for this. Dave will do his utmost to avoid such references in 2019.