Solving a C20th Historical Mystery

Regular readers will know that I am being ably assisted by a group of lovely ladies who are writing about their experiences of the period 1946-1969. This month’s topic is schooling and as I can’t expect them to do something that I wouldn’t do myself, I have been waxing lyrical about ‘the best days of my life’. This has been made easier by membership of Facebook groups for my cohorts at both primary and secondary school. One of my lasting primary school memories was of being chosen to read part of the commentary for a film that we were making about our school and its surroundings. My portion was about the local lollipop man and the resulting 35mm film was being sent to a school in New Zealand. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, to trace the film fifty one years later. None of my contemporaries recalled this at all and I began to think I had imagined it. In any case New Zealand has many school and I had no idea which one.

Then, as part of my writing, I raided the souvenirs’ box. Something that I had retained was a letter to parents from the headmaster, written three years after the film was made. Amongst other things, it referred to Mr Head who had taught at my school for a year in 1961 before returning to New Zealand. Now I at least had a teacher’s name. It also mentioned that Mr Head was then in the Pacific Island of Niue. Googling ‘Mr Head teacher New Zealand’ and the like is not awfully successful as up come all the head teachers in the world, or at least in New Zealand. Niue however is a different matter and it turned out that Mr Head was not only a teacher but an active campaigner against landmines and had been awarded for his work. Wikipedia even provided me with a list of schools at which he’d served, of which there were a great many. Unfortunately no dates were mentioned and I needed to know where he was in 1963. None of the schools’ websites had a ‘past staff’ section or indeed any kind of ‘history of the school’ page. I was close but not close enough.

By this time I had identified some of Mr Head’s descendants on Facebook but I was unable to send them a message as they weren’t my friends. Next I sent out a plea to family historian friends in New Zealand. Amongst other information, one was able to use the New Zealand equivalent of ‘Friends Reunited’ and find that a profile had been created for the late Mr Head. This time I was able to identify the appropriate school. It just shows where the right contacts and a little detective work can get you. I would like to be able to say that a copy of the film is now on its way to me but things aren’t that good. I have used the school’s website to send a message asking if they have a reel of 35mm film lurking in the back of a cupboard. No response so far but maybe it will depend on whether on not the person who sees the message is history minded. Watch this space.

And on the subject of school I am now off to a school reunion. I am going via a talk about seventeenth century witchcraft (best not to enquire) at The Society of Genealogist. More of this later.

 

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One comment on “Solving a C20th Historical Mystery

  1. Caro - Claire Wiles says:

    Hi Janet|
    As always you have penned another very interesting article for us to read Thank you

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