Monthly Archives: February 2014

Cornwell’s Progress

I really like Marjon’s Magazine, both old and the newer issues. Flipping through them, I found an article called ‘Sharpes’ Progress’ written by Bernard Cornwell. Cornwell is an author best known for his series of historical fiction featuring Richard Sharpe as the main hero. Cornwell was, of course, a Marjon student and he graduated in 1967. As Bernard Wiggins he used to write for Cremone Review, which was at one point another Marjon’s publication intended as a ’literary platform for student expression’.

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The first book in the long series- the beginning of Cornwell writing career

In ‘Sharpe’s Progress’ he writes about how he got to be a published author. This immediately caught my interest as I aspire to be one myself. I was constantly giggling as I read of his exploits: his discovery that he hated teaching children, about the way he lied his way into BBC, how he decided to become a writer while living illegally in the USA. I couldn’t help but feel the admiration both for his wit and his gall. But as a writer, I was also very interested in what he had to say about the craft itself. He feels that the role of a writer is one of a storyteller, a view that I share. However, to my surprise, he is the only writer I’ve ever known that does not believe in the ‘writer’s block’. He believes that it is ‘a height of arrogance’. ‘Nurses cannot have a ‘block’, and I doubt any school would be sympathetic if a teacher telephoned to say they would be absent for a few days because they were ‘blocked’. I think that in fact, the ‘writer’s block’ might become a convenient excuse, for some at least.

As for myself, I admit that I have never read any of his books, but that is something I intend to rectify. Now I am curious about his books, not only because he is a former Marjon’s student, but also because he had that kind of success I would like for myself.

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Our Valuable Volunteers and their Various Ventures: Ron

We had a nice influx of new volunteers recently, so once again I can pPhoto0195roudly present one of the people who offer their time to the archives. This week I’d like you to meet Ron. Ron is 68 years old and had just retired after a full career as a mechanical engineer.

This change in his life has left him with a lot of free time. He decided that this is a great opportunity for him to expand his horizons and exercise his mind at the same time. It is never too late to develop one’s mind and Ron is doing just that, using his ‘golden years ‘ to pursue new things.

Ron is a person with a head full of ideas. At the moment his project is concerned with researching the history of the Battersea Club. However, Ron has a long-term research plans and ideas. He is determined to research the masonic influences in Marjon because of his personal interests. He also admitted that he had a family member that was a Marjon’s student. His grandfather attended Marjon somewhere around fifties or sixties, so he will definitely take some time to track him down and see what informations we can provide about him.

I can say that Ron caught our ‘archive bug’, just as I did when I came here. ‘I want to be here even when I’m even older and dustier.’ he said. We all are surely glad to have another dedicated person onboard, the more the merrier.

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The Wandering Scrapbook

I’ve bumped into a scrapbook recently. This small book of memories travelled more in its life then I did, but let me start at the beginning. George Hart was a St. John’s student, a ‘Sinjun’ as they called themselves, studying around years 1909-11. He died during the WW1 in 1016, serving in 19th Royal Fusiliers. He was just 25 years old. His fiancée, Margarite Grover, took his scrapbook with her when she emigrated to Australia.  Levinia Dillon a friend of Margarite, found the scrapbook after her death. She took the trouble to find Marjon and return it to us. After 70 years it returned to us and now, more than a hundred years later, it fell into my curious hands.

The scrapbooks like these has been prepared especially to hold memories of their time in Marjon and are full of jokes, funny pictures, poems and names of his friends.  Anything that the writer wanted George to remember was put in there. Some jokes were quite elaborate, like the one that describes a day of college life, but only in quotes from various Shakespearian plays. One of my favourites includes a picture of a man with a monkey. ‘Our forerunners’ it says in caption. Is that a Darwinian joke 50 years after ‘On the Origin of Species’ was published?  Some jokes are so private; their meaning disappeared in the mists of time. There is a picture of a dog’s (or horse’s) end exiting the doors with a caption ‘I’m off’. What could that possibly mean? We will probably never know.

Those scrapbooks were meant as personal keepsakes, relevant only to their owners. Ad now, a hundred years later, they are relevant to us. They are a bond that exists between those who went before us, even more than publications or official documents, because of their private character. Take a look inside George’s scrapbook:

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The Greatest Little Marksman of the Age.

That’s how he was called among the people who attended St. Mark’s College. He organized many branches of St. Mark’s and St. John’s Club and he was well known among the fellow ‘veterans’ of the college. He was in contact with them until the day he died. His life, in itself, is a story worth telling, but today I want to concentrate on the postcards he sent to his mother while he was a student of St. Marks 1907-09. There are so many of them, that it is impossible to show them all, but I picked those I liked best.

The first thing you notice, before you even turn them to read, that those are not your standard, post office issue postcards. These are all photographs. Now, remember it was the beginning of the last century- no ubiquitous cameras and no printers. Those things must have taken time and care to get, make picture, get a photographer to develop it, get somebody to print it…whew!

If you really want to know what Bill wrote to his mother, better get a strong magnifier glass, because the amount of writing he got on it is astounding, and the letters are tiny. I can’t even imagine how fine had to be the tip on the pen he used.

You can’t help but smile reading his pleas for money, requesting that his mother sends him his camera, telling about his exams and sport events, just like every student on this earth writing home. You’re kept  wondering what shenanigans were hiding behind the sentence: In Logic [exam] we all did poorly owning to a bit of unaccountable damage, the Principal kept us up until it’s found who did it, we might not come home this week.’

Reading his ‘Postcardese’, I can assume he wrote those TWICE a day. He puts us, the generation of instant communication, to shame. When was the last time you wrote an email to your mother?:-) I imagine that if he was alive today, he’d spend most of his time with his nose glued to his iphone, his facebook racking up friends in thousands.

And now without further ado, the Latter’s postcards:

 

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