By John Goodison
Oral history is not dead – it lives within each of our families. Yet too few of us take advantage of this fact. Mundane as much of our lives are, we all have something of interest to say to those who will follow us. We are the very stuff of history and our histories are worthy of being written.

So we should begin now and write down all that we know of our families – not necessarily in biographical form, but as a series of images. In my own case I have been remembering places, re-walking routes in memory that were taken in childhood and linking these places to incidents. None are world shattering. Yet otherwise, when I am gone, all that will be remembered are those incidents that I have passed on orally. The tales I include are not just my own but also those my parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts have passed on to me, so the span of memory is 100 years in some cases.

Remembering places is important, since so many have changed, even in 50 years. As an example, no child today knows what a bombsite looks like, yet as a child I saw so many and remember where they were. Likewise sand-pits that have been filled in as rubbish dumps and built over, wild sites now covered in houses, woods long ago felled, railway lines that have disappeared, trams, horse-drawn carts, sailing ships, army camps, invasion defences. These are all history to today’s children, but so many of us remember these things.

There is also what we were told of the past: of village life when there was no transport and roads were mere lanes; when great-grandfather walked five miles to work; when mention of the workhouse was a real threat; when grandmother wore hats with a pair of vicious steel pins thrust through (ready weapons if a young man paid too close attention to her) and when our grandparents did jobs that no longer exist (among my relatives were beesters, or net-menders).

Do not think about publication or writing style, or worry about grammar, simply write what you remember and pass it to someone who will keep it safe. Even your written hand is important now that typing has superseded manuscript!
[ John Goodison - November 1991 ]

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