Category Archives: special occasions

Archive Bites- Plymouth in the past

The archives are now offering a new series of events that are going to run every month. Those are called ‘Archive Bites’ and will be a small expositions that will feature a thematic series of objects from the depths of the archive’s collections. This past week the subject was Plymouth in the past and featured pictures taken circa 1959 and a historical plan of the market part of Plymouth with all the shops clearly market. For the duration of the day, people were coming up to the archives to look at the pictures and swap the stories of the city. Here is what you’ve missed:

  • Throwing stones at rats in the car park
  • Driving Ford Prefect with it’s windshield wipes closely connected to the revving of its engine.
  • The story of a closure of a famous Plymouth restaurant. Allegedly because of fears that people would choose its terrace to jump off it.
  • Debating the intricate difference between collecting pink stamps over the green stamps.

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Early Christmas Wishes

Because of other commitments I am posting the last post of the year today. Please enjoy this vintage Christmas card, have great Christmas and Happy New Year. I shall return in January with more stories. See you then!


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Accidental Meeting

A few weeks back we have been out to visit the Naval Heritage Centre in Plymouth for their open day. It was a visit full of exciting discoveries and wonder as their collections are quite beautifull and interesting, all concerning naval history and the life of ships and people who were involved with the navy. The greatest attraction was a visit to HMS Courageous, which allowed me to complete one of my dreams- to see how a submarine looks from the inside (the answer is, of course, ‘awesome!’).
But that was not all. Among the objects put up for a display was a small clipping of a document with an illustration by C. W Bracken. Bracken was one of our students in the years 1887-1888. In our collection is a book by him, ‘A History of Plymouth and Her Neighbours’. The book was first published in 1931 so it is far from a proper material to study, even with the additional last chapter that was added after the war and carried over into new editions. Still, it was funny to see that at one point, even respectable professionals thought that the area of Plymouth was colonized by Egyptians, I’m not even joking: ‘(Plymouth)…had its origins not from the ubiquitous Phoenicians on their tin-seeking expeditions, not from immigrants from the adjacent continent, but from Egypt…’
Egipt or not, we were quite surprised with W.C Bracken hanging innocently on the wall of the Naval Heritage Centre, like it was waiting for us to see it. We would love to have a copy in in our collection.

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Devon Family History Society AGM & Conference


Mistress Agnes and Master Christopher fro Swords and Spindles with yours truly

I’m interrupting the scheduled programme to tell you about the event I went to this past Saturday. I learned about Devon Family History Society AGM & Conference just a week before it was to be held and I decided to come and help with our archival exhibition. Apart from the talks and the lectures there were many people who came to exhibit. Even that I have no interest of researching my family history (I was born under a rock- enough said:-) I had a blast. There were so many interesting people from various organizations there was no dull moment. We had Fleet Air Arm Museum &
National Museum of the Royal Navy, Plymouth Postcard Club, Yealmpton Books, Swords and Spindles: Master Christopher and Mistress Agnes, One Place Studies and many more. There were books for sale, old postcards and albums for sale. I’ve talked to people who made careers of preserving history as well as those who recreate it for fun and profit. There were collectors and  visionaries and people who engage with the past on many levels and sometimes unexpected ways. Overall it was quite enjoyable afternoon and I also managed to gather some interesting material, so stay tuned!

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Old Marjon Friends

If you’re ‘in’ with Marjon and its news you already know that a plaque was unveliled on 1st of September at the former site in Chelsea. If you ask me a plaque like that was long overdue since there is one at the site of former St.John’s College. Anyway, this special occasion was an opportunity for the ‘old guard’ of Marjon graduates to come over and meet, especially those from the years 1956-1959.
Think about the person that you’ve known and been friends since forever. How long had it been? 20 years? 30 years? More than that? These guys had been friends for sixty years. Longer than I have been alive. Longer than my parents been alive. At the times when there been no internet those guys met regularly once a year, keeping up with each other. Marjon had made them friends for life. And during that day it was as if the 60 years never happened. The oldtimers walked the grounds with a youthful spring in their steps and pointed at old photos calling: ‘That’s me!’ They even sat down to hear a lecture just as they did back then.
Marjon left lasting impression on those people’s lives. And it continues to do so even now.
They made this nifty cover for the plaque and sewn a Marjon tie to it!


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St Mark’s Day

We interrupt our planned schedule to point to you the arrival of the St. Mark’s day. In the ages past, this was a widely celebrated event in our University. The festivities would start at 10am and go on untill late. It was a tradition that was not interrupted even by the WWI, when the building itself was requisitioned for a military hospital. Sadly, what war couldn’t destroy the sharp tooth of time had consumed. Today you wouldn’t even know that there is something o celebrate.I know that technically it’s a celebration Christian in origin. But would anyone be offended if we wanted to celebrate our school?  I know I wouldn’t. So hey, powers-that-be, make it happen. Bring back the celebrations of St. Mark’s Day.

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Where are you going, where you end up

Photo0947Because of boring reasons I need to cut this year short, so this is my last post before January. To all of you, Happy Holidays of your choice and a Happy New Yearr too.

You know me and books- I just won’t shut up about them. But this one is a bit different. We have a copy of World Ways Geographies: Book 3, The Regions of The World, which is a part of a series of books designed to be handbooks for schoolchildren. Most of the series was published in the middle of the 60’s and our copy was donated in ’75 by the author himself who was our student in 1921-23.
The book itself is what you’d expected for a geography handbook. It contains basic info about different parts of Earth, Asia, Africa, both Americas. It would explain and illustrate how and why we have changing seasons, why we need longitude and latitude and even have activities that would test your newly gained skills with puzzles and crosswords. In short, it is that kind of book that you’d get just before the academic year start and that you’d already finished reading before you had your first classes (I can’t be the only one that did that, right guys?…)
But the thing I found interesting was that there isn’t much about the author- S.B Vickers. All my google-fu skills turned out nothing. So, I decided to do some digging on my own.
S.B is figuring in our registers as Steve Burton Vickers born in Gainsborough 1903. Something interesting must have happened to him after he obtained his teacher’s diploma, because he seemed to land as far from the profession and the fields he studied as he could. Apparently, while at St.John’s Steve didn’t have a single thing in common with geography. His listed subjects include physics, chemistry, Latin, French and woodworking. I am really curious how do you change chisel to a compass?
Maybe it was due to Mr Cooper, the assessor, writing less than glowing reports on his teacher’s practice. He said that Steve was ‘afraid of the class’ , ‘does too much, teaches too little’ and in general lacks ‘fire’ in the way he teaches. But knowing Mr Cooper, he would probably tell Jesus that he is too mild and his lessons are too cryptic:-)
So I’d probably say that Vickers is a case of where you want to go is not necessary where you’d end up. And sometimes it is a good thing.

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Reading the Archives

readingarchivesPoetry can cross boundaries of many disciplines. Sometimes the effect of this can be terrible (*cough* Fugitive Pieces *cough*), but sometimes it is nothing short of awesome. I had a pleasure to witness such a crossing when the archives had a group of poets visiting on the 6th of October. The group of poets, led by Paul Tobin, came over to share their poems. The presentation of the poems was titled ‘Reading the Archives’ and the poems were drawing the inspiration from the many materials that the archive has to offer. The presentation, or rather the performance because the readings by the poets themselves were of a high quality, was a delight. What I witnessed was the history being transformed from science to art, from dry fact to juicy narrative. I’ve heard stories created from one look, one gesture of a person long dead, but captured in a sepia-toned picture. I watched how a sentence taken out of a block of text could be turned a meaningful poem, sometimes funny, sometimes thoughtful or sad. I saw a cheap piece of old journalism turning into a commentary on inequality. It was amazing.
I wish that more of the Creative Writing students turned up. They could learn a lot from Paul Tobin and his group as they are just so damn good.

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Handwriting week

Welcome everybody in the New Year; let’s hope that it will be a good one!
Did you know that the 23th of January was a National Handwriting Day in USA? It made me think about the process of writing and the ‘hand’ that everyone who can write have (mine is horrible, I can barely read myself:-). I looked at the different styles, different shapes of the letters and the way people choose to make it beautiful. No two writing characters are the same.
Among various books in our collection we also have those that were written by hand, often by more than one person. We have letters and notebooks, scrapbooks and official documents. Here are some examples.
This one comes from the students’ registry, 1918:

And here is the example that was written after the WWII:

Note how the general shapes of the letters change. Before war the style that was dominant in these documents was this careful and flowery copperplate. Then it turned into this small, economical and angular style, but maybe a little easier to read. I know next to nothing about calligraphy. I can’t say if this change was something sociological, political or just plain coincidence. But the difference is quite striking.
This one is a teacher’s notes front page. It gives the notes almost formal look:

This one is just an example of someone trying to make the rather dry pages a little more interesting and having fun with their ‘P’’:

Today the handwriting goes the way of the dinosaurs. In my class alone, I can see that half of the people already make notes completely in electronic format. With time it might become obsolete altogether. However it may go a different way. Maybe it will become an art form as it is Japan. In Japan, a calligraphy master is held in the same esteem as a painter would and his/her work is judged by critics as a picture would. What do you think? Is there a future for handwriting?

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WOO! Christmas!

It is the time again to break for the holidays, so I’ll see you in the next year. In the meantime enjoy this beautiful example of caligraphy from the teacher’s log:

xmasBest Wishes!

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