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My feature on the old agricultural practice of gleaning has been published in the latest edition of Discover Your Ancestors.
The lead piece for the August issue, it looks at how poverty-stricken families in rural England supplemented their income in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, even after a landmark legal case found that they had no right to glean from farmers’ fields.
One of the personality traits you need for both journalism and the study of history is nosiness – a curiosity and interest in other people and their lives. The only difference is that with history, the people are usually dead – and sometimes, you don’t even know who the people are.
At the weekend, I was sorting through my mother-in-law’s garage, and came across a photo album full of photos lovingly glued in, with borders and inscriptions added. They were full of people: on ships, on land, undertaking tasks. But there were no proper names; only a nickname added to the bottom of a couple photos, and “me!” on another gave any clue as to who the people were.
It turned out that this album did not belong to any blood relative of my husband’s. It was the property of his grandmother’s second or third husband, who was, I think, in the merchant navy. But we know little about him, and never met him.
But these photos were still a fascinating insight into someone’s life – a proud record of one man’s travels to the Far East, including Hong Kong, where the photos below were taken. The merchant navy offered this man, from a working-class midlands background, the opportunity to see the world – a world away from his roots.
So here are a couple of the photos, which offer a glimpse into Hong Kong life in 1928, and serve as a memory of a life otherwise long gone and forgotten.