Colin Burford is Chairman of the Friends of St. James the Less Church in Lower Tatham, Lancashire. Knowing my interests, he asked me whether I would help to plan a family history event at the church. I suggested that we focus on the Great War, as then I would be able to use my collection of artefacts and documents and employ my specialist knowledge in helping people to build their family trees using Great War sources. He agreed and then we asked Mike Winstanley of the Tatham History Society to come on board. Over the following months, the three of us met several times to plan the event, making sure to discuss such vital matters as whether the trench cake was likely to poison anybody and lead to expensive litigation which neither society could afford.
The event occurred on the afternoon of St. Patrick’s Day 2018 (whilst the Irish team were soundly beating England at Twickenham and winning the Grand Slam in the process). The church’s north aisle was given over to display tables and a refreshment stand, while the nave was reserved as an auditorium for the talks given by me, Mike Winstanley and John Wilson. I spoke about the military experiences of some of the men who appear on the parish roll of honour; Mike spoke about the nurses, medics and other volunteers and their families while John analysed the experiences of the men recorded on the Tatham Fells Roll of Honour. Every pew seemed to be occupied and people appeared to be genuinely interested in the content of each talk. During preceding and subsequent discussions, many topics were investigated and questions about research procedures for Great War ancestry answered. For my part, it was one of the most enjoyable history events in which I have ever taken part. I wish to thank Colin and Mike for their expertise and enthusiasm and all the volunteers who got the church ready, served the refreshments and were generally enthusiastic and welcoming to all the visitors. I also thank my friends Frank Sherratt and Terry Lambert who assisted me with my display and, in Terry’s case, added to the exhibition’s diversity by bringing some of the priceless memorabilia associated with her Great Uncle Edward who served and died with the American Army on the Western Front in 1918.
Here are some photographs which give some idea of what went on:
I am too old and too fat to be able truly to represent a Great War Tommy, but I enjoy donning the replica uniform and regalia because they stimulate curiosity, enquiry and discussion. For me, this was the whole point of the afternoon and I am very pleased that we appear to have achieved our objectives and to have stimulated conversations which will continue and perhaps lead to further research and historical knowledge.
Finally, I would like to thank the Mayor of Lancaster, Mr Roger Mace, for attending and for showing so much interest in the event.
P.S. Nobody was poisoned by the trench cake and several compliments were given to its maker. I will take orders for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries etc.