Monday, 11 January 2016

The 1948 Show



On Radio 4's Saturday Live last week I learnt of Dr.Irving Finkel's Great Diary Project which has so far accumulated 6,000 unpublished diaries. He rightly maintains that journals kept as a personal record, and not intended for publication, can be far more interesting than, say, Simon Cowell's. (My example.) The Rev.Kilvert's diaries are amongst the best of these unintended treasures, a searchlight reaching deep into the past of 1870's Welsh Borders and Wiltshire.


All this made me return to a diary I picked up from an antique stall last year. Firstly because it's such a delightful object in its own right ,(leather cover, beautiful gilt script and marbled endpapers),secondly because there are full entries in blue fountain pen ink on virtually every page, written in a very neat if occasionally illegible hand, and lastly because it's for the year I was born. (Surely not? Ed.)


I have to admit I got totally absorbed in the everyday life of a young female nurse living and working in London. Nothing earth shattering, but another searchlight into the minutiae of an anonymous life. The rigours of working in a London hospital in post war London, her worries and desires, the occasional cocktail party. Interspersed with mad dashes by Southern electric train to go sailing on The Solent.


Naturally the first page I turned to was my birthday; so I learnt that as my mother was bringing me into an unsuspecting world in the back bedroom of a Victorian house near Leicester, Nurse X (her address in the back is under 'Myself') was getting her hair done and wondering how she would get one with the new 'moderately attractive' Ward Sister. One thing she wouldn't have thought of was that a baby being born as she did her duties would read her diary 67 years later.


All very thought provoking. The next thing to do is to get it transcribed and then to try and piece together all the clues that must be hidden within as to who she might have been.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Goodness what a find. I would be happy to offer to transcribe this Diary for you. Whilst not a professional transcriber I trained, in the early nineties as a typesetter and proof reader. For the last fifteen years I have been researching my family tree and have become quite good, if I do say so myself, at figuring out illegible scrawl. You develop a bit of a knack, after several hundred hours of scrolling through various census and parish records. I think, due to the speed that I read, and type, I can provide a fairly quick turn around on this project. There would be no charge, just the pleasure of reading the diary and trying to dig out clues to the writer would be payment enough. Let me know if you would like my help. You can contact me, Via e-mail at shkelly73@yahoo.co.uk
Yours faithfully,
Sarah Kelly

Helena said...

I love reading unpublished diaries kept by ordinary people, and have managed to buy a few (I envy you yours), so my immediate reaction to the first line of your article is that there won't be any left for me!

Toby Savage said...

On 3rd December 1948 my Land Rover rolled out of the Solihull factory gates, virtually hand built by skilled Brummies. It's the same one you lovingly photographed for a book cover last year and is the 1117th one ever built. Maybe 'your' nurse saw some of these early ones as they appeared on the road. #doubtful. I used it for a rain soaked run to Bicester Aerodrome last Sunday. No roof, so soaked to the skin and frozen. Happy days.

Peter Ashley said...

Goodness Anon, that's an incredibly generous offer, thank you.

Helena: I'm sure there's more than enough to go round!

Toby: Of course, your wonderful Land Rover. Perhaps one was used a year or two later to drag Nursey's boat out of The Solent.

Stephen Barker said...

Peter, You have had better luck than a friend who purchased at auction some diaries that covered the period of WW1. Entries were a sparse, I looked at the volume for 1916 which barely mentioned the war and had no reference to either The Battle of Jutland or The Somme. All in all a bit of a disappointment.

The History Anorak said...

At last! (sorry - I couldn't resist..........)

Anonymous said...

Dear Peter. I received your e-mail but for some reason Yahoo wont let me open it, could you resend please.
With regards,
Sarah Kelly.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Yahoo working now, ignore last comment :-)

The Vintage Knitter said...

What an amazing find and I'm sure it'll make for interesting reading.

On the subject of diaries, I really enjoy those written for Mass Observation purposes; also the WW2 diary of Walter Musto 'The War & Uncle Walter' published by his great-nephew - is a fascinating read.

Peter Ashley said...

I know that book VK! Found it one Sunday morning in a secondhand bookshop in Ely. As one does. My all time favourite has to be Kilvert, but there are some delicious diary extracts in the Faber Book of Diaries.

Sue Imgrund said...

What a fascinating find! I was also interested in The Vintage Knitter's comment about Mass Observation - I do believe that today's market researchers with their Big Data and US-style Focus Groups could learn a lot from the methods Mass Obs used in the mid 20th-century. I wrote a blog with a link to Mass Obs here:
http://secretagencyblog.blogspot.de/2010/03/crowd-watching.html

Chel at Sweetbriar Dreams said...

I would love to play the detective with something like this. What a find! Diaries are so personal but later on, a real treasure for whoever it is passed on to or found. I have so many things of my Grandad's including diaries, notebooks etc and its fascinating how different life was even from a few years back.

Peter Ashley said...

Sue: I've just read your Mass Observation post. Brilliant. And now of course you've sent me to my shelves where I re-discovered Worktown People, a book of photographs of Northern England 1937-8, by Humphrey Spender (brother of Stephen) taken for the project. It was published by Falling Wall Press in 1982, and I'd forgotten he'd signed it.

Chel: I wish somebody in my family had kept a diary. Mind you, most of it would be about moving sermons in remote Baptist chapels. I imagine.