Save Your Tales…It’s Your History
Guest post by Jean Debney
In this world that seems to move ever-faster with hardly a moment to reflect, it is sad to think that most people have no idea of where they came from before their parents’ births. In fact, very few even question those who may know when they have the opportunity to do so.
For my new project, I am setting out to try to solve this wasteland of history that is now growing into a gaping chasm. Because unless we do something, it will cut many off from any knowledge of their personal history. And I don’t mean by merely researching on a genealogy website, which can tell you much of dates and places but cannot give the colour and the tales: what people looked like, the things they did, the way they spoke.
This is what we are in danger of losing.
My interest in capturing these details started when I was 18 in 1982. I was the youngest born to elderly parents, which some would call a curse because of my parents’ inability to be active. I call it a blessing because they were so full of stories. My father had been a serving soldier in World War II; my mother had been an artist and a part-time writer, but her main role was rearing five children and filling our heads with stories. She used to emphasis how lucky she was, and by association how lucky I was, because she had been orphaned and brought up by her elderly grandmother of Irish descent who had told my mother stories that went back even before the great famine in Ireland.
Of course we all think that our parents are the same as everyone else’s. We have no idea that some have time to talk and some do not, and that some know their stories but most do not. How lucky I was, because not only did I have that fertile soil from both parents, full of characters and happenings, fabulous for an embryonic writer, but I also had a mother with an amazing story of her own.
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Born in 1919 in a cabin built by her father on a Canadian prairie, snowed-in for six months of the year, stories of her young life were peppered with images of Sioux Indians and hot summers, bitter winters and tragedy–so much tragedy, in fact, that few would believe it was true.
Even I, her own daughter, thought it was a very creative tale, probably highly embellished. That was until I made the pilgrimage by train across Canada two years ago and found, to my absolute delight, that every word was true. Every piece of description, every place, every childhood landmark was there. Which was even more remarkable when I considered that she was not even four years old she left that place, never to return. She had a phenomenal memory, and I had to write Far Away Hills as my tribute to her.
So here’s my advice for you: Sit down with an elderly relative today, take out your smart phone, set it to record, and get her to talk over a pot of tea or coffee. Find out as much as you can. It is your history, and that is what matters! Share it on the What Are Your Stories? Facebook page or however you like, but save your history for posterity. Because every story, however trivial it may seem, is important.
About this book: (from the publisher) In the waning age of the nineteenth century, Sal McBride has been separate from her pioneering husband for years. But the time has finally come for her to escape the poverty-stricken hovels of Glasgow and rejoin her lover in the vast wilderness of the Canadian prairies. The physical and emotional journey will be a tortuous one. Strong and determined, yet fully alone on the brink of her greatest task ever attempted, Sal will come face to face with the ultimate cruelties of life as her quest exacts its harsh and thankless tolls.
Based on the author’s own ancestral history, Far Away Hills traces the ups and downs of a young, fragile family struggling to make their way through an unforgiving world. Though the pioneer story has long been thought to be the province of men, Jean Debney’s tale of courage, grit, and resolve will prove once again that history’s women are far more complex and powerful than records have ever shown.
About the author: Dr. Jean Debney studied for her first degree in Glass Design in Stourbridge in the West Midlands. Following a highly successful, 15-year career as a teacher of Design and Technology, she went on to run a national project to recruit young people into engineering. Her thesis for her Doctorate in Education focuses on women engineers in the oil and gas industry of the North Sea. She has written and published five books to date through Brewin Books Ltd; three academic history books and two novels. She is now publishing her third novel.
Far Away Hills has fulfilled a personal mission as it features the very young life of her late mother and her grandmother. It was book she promised to write “to keep the story alive.”