Yesterday was a first for me. I attended two workshop for writers of historical fiction, led by Vanni Cook, who is a reviewer for The Historical Novel Society. This was an excellent and thought provoking day, run by the Way of the Wharves project and we were taking the eastern bank of The Torridge at Bideford as our inspiration. The area breathes history and there was plenty to stimulate discussion, from a variety of eras. We were meeting in the beautiful Kingsley Room, with its unique snake bedecked ceiling, overlooked by a portrait that was allegedly of Francis Drake. We were sceptical about this identification; sorry Royal Hotel if this sells rooms but Francis Drake this was not. Our suggestions were Richard Grenville or John Davie, the tobacco merchant who was probably responsible for the seventeenth century building. We were using Grenville as a possible character inspiration and one of our group was reading biographical information about him when a wine glass, thoughtfully provide for water, sudden moved from well away from the table edge and any people to the floor, where it lay in two pieces…… The next sentence of the contemporary description of Grenville that was being read was……. “He would carouse three or four glasses of wine, and in a bravery take the glasses between his teeth and crash them in pieces and swallow them down.” Well there’s an inspiration for a story then.
#Daisy is making gradual progress; this week’s investigations centre round bankruptcy proceedings, hiring domestic servants and walks from Horns Cross to Bideford. Oh, and more on writing, my house is now part of the publicity material for the eagerly awaited Postman Poet novel by Liz Shakespeare and accompanying CD by Becki Driscoll and Nick Wyke, which also has a contribution from the fisherman of my acquaintance.
For those of you who are following the story of the five lockets, we have now located a third. Strangely, this one has the initials of the first christian name and surname of its original owner (although she had a middle name), whereas the others use the first and second christian name initials. The only possible explanation that I have for this is that the first name/surname one, which belonged to the oldest daughter, in shades of Pride and Prejudice, was a reflection of the etiquette of the time. Suggestions on a postcard, well in a blog comment box at any rate.
I have also submitted some pre 1939 photographs of my family’s pets, in order to assist in a research project. Pets are an often forgotten aspect of our family story, do submit your own if you have any.
Finally, in an interesting blog post Jane Roberts asks if Family History is ‘proper’ history. My response: To me (an academic historian and a family historian) the answer is, ‘it depends’. For some, who take their research seriously, investigate context and immerse themselves in primary sources, then the answer has to be yes. They are a valuable part of the historical debate and this intensely personal brand of history is a wonderful way of encouraging people (who might otherwise be disinterested) to engage with history and heritage. There are also pedigree hunters who leap from branch to branch of the family trees of others in pursuit of the shaky leaf. I am not saying this is wrong (ok, deep down it really irritates me but it is none of my business what people do with their leisure time) but it is not history.