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: