Despite my proximity to ‘Golf City’ I am not in any way even remotely close to being an ardent golf fan, my experiences in the sport being limited to a few rounds of pitch’n’putt round Kelvingrove Park with my dad, long, long ago. But golf was not the focus of the ‘Written in the Archives’ talk last night, as anyone with an ounce of historical knowledge would certainly be aware of.
History research is not something I am unfamiliar with and back in the good ol’ days of being a recent graduate and having not a care in the world, I had the privilege of being paid to read the Old and New Statistical Accounts of Scotland in the library of Strathclyde University as I undertook my background research on the History of the Brick and Tile Industry in Scotland. Riveting stuff, I hear you scoff, but there began my fascination with lives long past and ways people lived them.
Last night’s talk reminded me of the passion I once held for piecing together items of information and creating a story; letters, photographs, extracts from trades’ directories, extracts of births, marriages and deaths; diary extracts, newspaper articles, census material … you name it. Anything goes. Everything tells you something. Everyone has a story.
And what stories were hinted at last night in the telling of the 175 Years of Carnoustie Golf Club or the history of a proud community and its ‘working class’ members, worlds apart from their aloof neighbours across the water in the Ancient Kingdom. (Did they really pelt golf balls at each other as they crossed the Tay in the ‘Fifies”?)
What struck me was a phrase one of the researchers used, when he stated quite simply that he was aware that there were three generations of history within that Golf Club, and if they didn’t record it now, it would be lost forever.
I thought of an earlier conversation I had had in the union when someone asked me what had prompted me to write again and join the course. It was that very same thought that the Carnoustie veteran had voiced – that three generations rule.
When I was clearing my mum’s house, after dad had died and she herself was literally going mad with grief, I realised that all their young lives, stories of their parents and grandparents, of communities they grew up in and were such a close part of, stories of myself and my brother when we were young – all those precious moments in time, could be lost in an instant, if no-one took the trouble to at least think about what to record, preserve and write down. They could be tipped into the skip, and lost forever.
Archives need not necessarily be held in university basements or council chambers; we have them in our homes and our loved ones have them in their heads. They don’t have to be stories of the rich and famous, the outstanding achievers of the world. They can simply be these precious moments in ordinary lives that become the extraordinary when read about or listened to in a different context, at a different time.
I even found some photos of one day, long ago, in Kelvingrove Park, as my dad wraps his arms around me, and patiently tries to teach me how to hold that stick and aim the ball at the wee hole with the flag in it. He is wearing a ‘James Bond’ suit, shirt and tie, with hankie in pocket – on a Sunday afternoon, in the park, with his family.
What an extraordinary picture of time