Storytelling grabs people’s attention. People can relate to stories, stories about ‘important people’, but particularly about people like themselves.
People think about famous figures and they like marvelling at beautifully ruined churches and dramatic castles and soaking in their history. They are evocative.
But do we take much notice of ruins like this in the picture, on our walks in the country Half a wall, a pile of stones, nothing to really indicate what used to be there. Do they deserve our interest?
Well, people used to live there. They had their stories to tell. Someone built that cottage, a couple lived in it, they made love there, babies were born, and children grew up there.
They were warm there in the summer. They were cold there in winter, huddling around the remains of that fireplace. They celebrated there and they laughed and cried there.
They earned a living from the land around. They went on journeys from there and had homecomings there too. They grew old there. They died there.
The chances are the same things happened for generations. One day something happened that made the cottage impossible to live in. Something personal, or something economic, or both and it was left deserted.
But those people left their mark. There is the cottage itself. There are some names in an old census document, or a Court Rolls. There are extended family members now spread all over the country, with no idea their ancestors lived in this ruin.
They may not have left a history as a king leaves a history, but there is a story to their lives as surely as a king has a story. I have done histories of ‘important’ people too. Lords, Knights, Abbots, Princes. The occasional King.
It’s not just people who have stories. Go into any museum and look at something. It has a story, an interesting story.
Look at, for instance, a silver hairpin found in a Saxon grave. Someone mined that silver, someone else smelted it. It could have been transported from a Mediterranean country, or even further afield, someone transported it all that way.
Someone made it into a hairpin. Someone sold it. Someone bought it, perhaps a man for his wife. He gave it to her, perhaps with love, because it would have been an expensive article.
She would have used it to control her hair from when it was a deep black colour until it turned white over the years. At her death, he or her children would have placed it in her grave as they said their goodbyes.
Not only does that one hairpin have a story but so do all those people who came into contact with that silver.
I am however always drawn back to the stories of ordinary people. People just like yourself. Yes, you do have a story. Yes, people are interested in it.
Have you ever thought about your own history? Have you ever thought about writing down your history?
“Good Lord no, people won’t be interested in me. What have I ever done?”
Strange as it may seem, people are interested. Your own family for instance. They may be a bit hesitant about asking you. Future and young family members may indeed become genuinely interested.
Have you got vast numbers of old photos in albums, rarely looked at? Do you or they look at them and wonder who is that standing behind grandad? If you do, your children certainly will.
Someone soon is going to want to write the family history. You have all seen those ads on TV from Ancestry.com and the like. Someone may want to write a more detailed story.
What happened in your war? What happened during rationing and the blitz? What happened, and what was it like during the 50s and 60s waiting for the atomic bomb to fall?
What did you eat? What did you do for a job? What was school like?
- Have a look at your old photo albums and write on the photos who’s who and where.
- Jot down some of your reminiscences.
- Use a writing book, use your computer or iPad.
- Share if you can with some on-line websites who catalogue and store these stories.
This may become a hobby all of your own! You are part of the history of this country!
This is what I do at Historical Interpretation. I research, write, and perform stories of anything historical which sounds of interest.
I perform these at museums, castles, Abbeys, historical sites, historical events, in village halls to all sorts of groups, and all over the country.
Author: Simon Waterfield
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