'Heywood Living Memories'

Some time back I started compiling a ‘research index’ of old copies of Heywood Living Memories, the quarterly magazine of the ‘Heywood Memories Society’ (HMS). For those who don’t know, that publication has been running since 1990 and mainly features personal ‘reminiscences’ of the lives and memories of Heywoodites, dating back through the 20th century. There are also other historical articles and features, some really good ones too.

My own indexing work involves listing articles, subject matter and dates, and (eventually) listing names mentioned. It’s a slow process but in the end it will produce a searchable digital record to help Monkey Town researchers like myself quickly locate references to specific subjects in the pages of all the magazines. It’s not comprehensive because for now I only wanted information that was directly about Heywood history, but over 95% of the magazine will be covered.

The index is a snapshot of what is actually a pretty brilliant historical record of 20th-century Heywood. Heywood Living Memories is not only an interesting read right now, but it will be a unique source of information for researchers in the future because it provides detailed accounts of everyday life in the town from a pre-Internet time. Put together, the many articles in which ‘ordinary’ Heywoodites tell us about their 20th-century lives paint a vivid picture that can’t be seen anywhere else. As was written in the very first edition:
'Apart from being a 'good read' the magazine will be an extremely valuable resource for the Local Studies Library. There is a huge amount of unrecorded history needing to be collected before it is lost forever. Ordinary everyday recollections are not usually found in history books, yet they are just as important.'
Sadly, much of the Heywood life they recorded is now gone. Local characters, ways of doing things, buildings, shops and streets, clubs and societies, rag and bone men, donkey stones… the list goes on. This is a sad fact, but it makes Heywood Living Memories all the more important. The archives of the Heywood Advertiser might give a comprehensive framework of that history, but the reminiscences add a lot of colour to events.

The HMS is doing great work in producing such an enduring record of our times. Even if they were to close down tomorrow, it would still be a case of 'job done'. It’s just a shame that Heywoodites of earlier centuries didn’t have their everyday lives recorded in this manner.

(Just one criticism - too many articles give no indication of which decade the author is writing about. Throwing in a few dates for each piece will be a big help for researchers.)

Recording Heywood History in the 21st Century?

Having said all that, what happens with this kind of work through the 21st century as demographics and technologies change?

The early decades of Heywood Living Memories focussed heavily on the 1930s-50s because that was when most of the early contributors were young. Now a new wave of ‘older’ people will be looking back to the 1970s-80s but might feel less inclined to record their memories, especially as the type of material that might once have turned up in the pages of Heywood Living Memories is now appearing – albeit in much shorter form - on websites such as the ‘Remembering Heywood’ Facebook page.

While there are a lot of advantages of Internet forums (the instant discussion, feedback, corrections, etc.), they don’t have the disciplined structure of recorded interviews or written documents. Posts also get lost in time in the ever-growing mass of information on ‘Remembering Heywood’ (I challenge anybody to scroll down to the first posts there in less than an hour) in a way that won’t happen with Heywood Living Memories.

Online forums also produce a quite different kind of history to the hard copy format. ‘Remembering Heywood’ does not create records of one person’s thoughts, but is instead a record of a sporadic conversations between different posters that might take place over months or even years. After sorting the wheat from the chaff, this info would also be valuable to a 22nd-century researcher (if it was stored in an accessible fashion somewhere). However, the hard copy magazine remains a much better record.

It would be good to see something of a crossover, with the HMS developing their own Internet presence that would help attract new members and contacts with new contributions and information for their records, promote events, communicate with members, ask questions, and connect to the massive online genealogy community, not to mention the global diaspora of Monkeytowners. Social media and blogging platforms make it quite easy and usually free.

I hope the Heywood Living Memories index will encourage further reading of this important publication.


No comments:

Post a Comment