"..a bardy view!"

Jarrow and UNESCO World Heritage…..

I am delighted to learn that my childhood home-town of Jarrow has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Well, not the town per se, but rather the reason for it's fame, the St Paul's Monastery founded by Benedict Biscop, and its famous resident, the Venerable Bede

Actually Jarrow is also famous for something much less celebratory – namely unemployment and the Jarrow March of 1936. But I don't want to dwell on those dark days. I wasn't around then but my father was, and my early years were regaled about the social injustices of the times.

He wasn't on the march but was working in London when the struggling mass trudged in, and as a young man watching the sorry sight, he was filled with both pride and despair in equal measure.

Still, back to Bede, who is widely regarded as the man who gave identity to the English. The heritage bid encompasses the twin monasteries of Wearmouth-Jarrow which were founded in the late 7th century AD in the ancient Kingdom of Northumbria. It passed a first stage technical check last March, and will now venture forth as one of 45 other nominations around the world to be considered by the World Heritage Committee in mid 2012.

Jarrow in its day became a centre of learning known throughout Europe. Much of it's monastery still stands today. From here emanated the story of the English and the coming of Christianity. From here, 1300 years ago, Bede wrote "The Ecclesiastical History of the English People" charting events from Julius Caesar up to his own times. From here he writes about the beginnings of the Christian church in England, and was the first historian to catalogue events from the birth of Christ, using the Anno Domini reckoning.

I know quite a lot about the history of Jarrow, mainly because I used the topic as my GCE History project many moons ago when I was 16. I got an "O" level for my efforts! For younger readers that's probably the equivalent of a GCSE grade A with bells on!

Modesty forbids me to trumpet the extensive research I undertook, and presented lovingly on a brand new typewriter (an Adler Tippa for £20 purchased in Newcastle courtesy of my mother). It was on that machine that I learned to touch-type, thanks to a book called "Typing made Simple", and I still use many of the same principles today, especially with regards to letter writing etiquette, which is probably regarded as archaic nowadays, particularly in our less formal world, but "old dogs and new tricks etc.."

Anyway, as always with these UNESCO nominations, the competition is steep, but the rewards are recognisable. I'd like to think that the discerning committee members are not swayed by grandeur or politics, and I sincerely hope they aren't related to FIFA, in which case the Jarrow bid is dead in the water. However, the simple humility of Wearmouth-Jarrow, and its significant historical legacy will hopefully shine through.

Ellen Wilkinson, MP for Jarrow during the '30s once referred to the place as "the town that was murdered" in reference to the abandonment of investment and ruination of the ship-building industry, throwing thousands out of work and casting a shadow of depression which took a war to alleviate. There was never a full recovery, and throughout my formative years  the place was on life support. But it had a great community, with proud people showing courage in adversity. It's certainly more affluent now, but I fear the pride has gone, along with many people who left seeking a better future, never to return. People like me.

But I've not forgotten the old place, its an indelible part of my essence, so I'll be vigorously rooting for it next year.


May 4, 2011 - Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Events, History, Politics, Religion, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , , ,

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