by The Rambler 15/06/2001
I HAVE seen a report that a website of the remembrances of elderly people called 'Your Memories' has been set up by a journalist called Rob Blann. He is quoted as saying that the inspiration came from working with older people on a weekly feature in the 'West Sussex Gazette' a decade or so ago.
Inter alia, he lauds the therapeutic benefits for the elderly, but he also highlights the wisdom of establishing a database of remembrances to serve as a permanent record of how we all lived, material which will be lost forever unless it is gathered together now.
Naturally, I am delighted to hear all this. I have devoted my leisure years, in retirement, to recording on paper and on tape the reminiscences of older people and as the poet put it "... seeing the friends around me fall like leaves in wintry weather." The grim reaper has mowed down scores of wonderful sources of local history, relentlessly, and devastatingly, leaving only a small band of survivors of the scores of late-nineteenth century people who initially provided me with vivid pictures of life one hundred years ago, none now remain.
The one person who remembers the outbreak of World War One (1914), eg, is Alfred Grant of Brankinstown, who has been featured in the 'Star' on more than one occasion.
I have ceased to think in terms of 'older people' as sources of local history for the simple reason that I have exhausted the output of the tiny handful who remain.
Obviously Rob Blann will not have anything about the Montiaghs, eg, on record I intend to get someone to visit his site and look for mention of Northern Ireland. Reportedly the site is free, which must be unusual.
In the context of remembrances of older people, I have noted with interest that a survey has revealed that something like 60% of local farms are polluted with the noxious weed, Wild Oats. The Department of Agriculture and the Farmers' Union are said to be declaring war and embarking on an elimination scheme.
I have vivid memories of back-breaking toil, pulling thistles, 'Presha', by hand in fields of grain and grazing land. Long-handled tools like secateurs, but flat jawed, were in every farmer's barn and the noxious weeds had to be pulled out one by one. Even a good scythe was inadequate to demolish buck thistles. The golden flowering 'charlock rape' was a scourge which had to be-tackled with the fingers.
I am reminded of the Biblical account of the enemy who sowed darnel while the farmer slept. Have our local farmers been taking a nap? Reminders appear in the press annually, in season, about the statutory duty of landowners (public and private) to conform with the law requiring the removal of noxious weeds, but the legislation seems to have become a dead letter.
Farmers have had their share of distractions in recent years. Disasters like the slump in the pig sector, the foot and mouth epidemic and the growing menace of mad cow disease, all some that come to mind.
Nevertheless, in my neck-of-the-wood, noxious weeds have become much too prevalent. I cannot envisage the pilot of a modern combine harvester clambering down from has cockpit seat with a pair of thistle pullers at the ready. Can you?
The thistle-pullers may go onto the website of elderly people's remembrances and a search for environmentally friendly chemical weedkillers may begin.
Your Memories by Rob Blann