Tag Archives: history

Divorced from History

I see it happen way too often, the scientist and its subject become separate, divorced from each other through tools, methods and rigidity of thinking. The astronomer cannot see the stars through the equations on the page, the doctor cannot see the patient through the pharma bottles. Even the educator (yes, educating is a science or so I believe) cannot see the pupil through tables of statistics sometimes. But it is quite strange when a person cannot see the history through the day-to-day existence.
We have many different memories that the former students left in the archives and I find it entertaining to read each and every one of those memories. The one I’ve read recently are from 1911-1913, more than a hundred years old. And the story is quite similar to others in many places, a ‘country bumpkin’ found himself suddenly in the middle of London life. He describes the usual student shenanigans, the teachers, the rules. But today I want to say about this other thing that he recollects:
‘We cycled to Epsom and saw the two most exciting Derbies ever run. One when a grey mare Jagalie a rank outrider won 66/1 and the next year 1913 Emily Davidson the suffragette threw herself under the King’s horse and was killed. The favourite Craganour won but was disqualified after the bookmakers had paid out thousands of pounds.’
This memory made me think about the fact that we might not be the people that actively make the history, but by the very act of witnessing we are part of it. And nowadays we have more power to tell our point of view in history and be heard. And we should do that if we have the opportunity. Why? That brings me to my other point. Observe, how in his memories, he equates the day when there was a big pay-out at the races with an important moment in the history of the human rights. And that brings me to my second thought: can we really say what is important for the history? Or maybe we divorce the history from our daily lives because we simply cannot tell what would interest the future historians and we are bound to see our present just as that. Present.

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I can’t tell history

History is a story with murky beginning, with no end in sight. That much everyone knows. But as I’ve learnt, by digging in dusty papers, is that history is a story you don’t tell- you interpret it. Having found an interesting bundle of letters in one of the folders I thought I can interpret a story of J.V.B King for you. However, sometimes you build an interpretation just to see it crumble before your eyes.
J.V.B King- a student of St. Mark College in the years 1915-17 and like many young men he went to fight in the WWI. The letters I found are dated 1919 and 1920. King had been discharged from the army. He wrote both to Rev. Hudson, the principal of St Mark College, and to the Board of Education to be released from his agreement as student teacher. ‘I no longer feel fit to become a teacher.’ he says in his letter to the Board of Education. ‘…I desire to lead an open air life…’ and the reason for this letter is that he had been gassed during his service.
Few months later, unable to contact him, the secretary of the Board of Education wrote to Rev. Hudson. ‘I have no direct evidence that he had been gassed,’ says the letter. Oh my precious history nerds! Please come out of the woodwork and tell me: could you obtain such evidence back then? A doctor’s note perhaps? Could you even do that with the so many people dead, maimed or gassed? I’m sure that he lived, I can’t remember seeing him on the war memorial…
Thus the letters end and I still don’t know if J.V.B King got his release. I even wonder if he really lost his health or he simply wanted out. If the former, then I can only imagine how heart-breaking it must have been to not be able to pursue something he worked hard for. If the latter, then I can’t really blame him as teaching, to me, is a worthy equivalent of hell.
I wish I could tell you the rest of it, that King became a farmer and happily grew cabbage to the end of his days. But, the history is the only story I cannot tell.

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A Bagful of Stories: Mike Ford

Late Marjons return.& very helpful 'bobbies.

Late Marjons return.& very helpful ‘bobbies.

A car for breakfast- students' prank at its finest.

A car for breakfast- students’ prank at its finest.

A  pirate collects charity into a chamber pot- you can't make that up:-)

A pirate collects charity into a chamber pot- you can’t make that up:-)

They say that everyone has at least one story to tell, but one guy has a bagful of them and he is willing to share. I have a pleasure of telling you about Mike Ford another great Marjon graduate.
We have three of his books in the archives, written and also illustrated by Mike himself. He also published them as he created a publishing house (Chwarae Teg Publications) just to tell his stories. Wow!
There is ‘Mike’s Odd Odes’; Reading this one can only be compared to reading Vogon poetry if Vogons illustrated their works- that makes the ‘Odes’ a mixture of bizarre and awesome, you can’t go wrong with that. ‘The 1930’s + 1940’s Revisited’ is a book of stories from his childhood in Penarth. A good read for anyone that prefers ‘common man history’ to the official history books.
But the one that is the most interesting for me was ‘A Stewed Ant in London, Paris and Cardiff (Ha! I didn’t get that one until I said it aloud.:-)’. Those are the mostly the stories from his time as a Marjon student 1955-57- the good, the bad and the weird. And those include: A pirate working for charity, a secret marriage and ‘bobbies’ helpful beyond their duties. My favourite though is the story about an especially strict teacher that finds a car on his table instead of expected breakfast. This one made me regret that I never witnessed anything like the pranks of old. On the other hand- today’s student has little authority to rebel against and I’m happier for it.
His work reminds me of Billy Hopkins and his books. I have written about him before. I think that Mike deserves as much recognition as Billy. Or maybe more than him, because he is hilarious and his anecdotes mademe laugh out loud (No, I’m not abbreviating that!;)

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