BBC Scotland's documentary about the Cutty Sark was broadcast nationwide for the first time on 29 May. It is the first programme in the Clydebuilt series which looks at four iconic ships, built on the river Clyde, that helped forge links with countries throughout the world.
I spent several months last year doing research for the BBC into various members of her crew. I was then asked to take part in the programme to present some of my findings. This involved being interviewed by the series presenter - the distinguished Scottish actor David Hayman - in the splendid surroundings of the Caird Library at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
I discussed with David the new information which I had uncovered about Sidney William Smith, First Mate on Cutty Sark's notorious "hellship voyage", who jumped ship at Anjer after killing a crew member in a fight. I hoped the new evidence would lead to a more balanced view of Smith than the one given by Basil Lubbock in his book The Log of the Cutty Sark. Sadly, the BBC could only devote a couple of minutes to this section of the programme, in which they concentrated on the main details of the story, and so had to cut most of the new material I shared.
I plan to present the new evidence myself in this blog and in my book. In the meantime you may like to view the short video clip above, which shows my contribution to the programme. The full programme is available on iPlayer until 6 June. It includes an interview with two of Sidney Smith's grandchildren, Merle Irene Carmichael (née Smith) and John Sidney Smith. I was thrilled to be able to use my skills in tracing living people to find these two descendants of Sidney Smith for the BBC.
Merle and John gave David new information about their grandfather, which supports my view that Lubbock's "bucko mate" is a caricature. They also had a photograph of Sidney which they graciously made public in the programme. You can imagine my excitement when the BBC rang to tell me about that discovery! John told David that he would like to clear his grandfather's name. Whilst that may not be possible after 134 years, I am hoping to pool information with John and Merle to present what I described in the programme as a more nuanced view of Sidney William Smith.
I visited Glasgow earlier this week for the preview screening of a new BBC documentary series, Clydebuilt: The Ships That Made The Commonwealth. The series will be broadcast on BBC 2 Scotland in April and on BBC 4 nationwide later this year.
One of the BBC team described the series as Who Do You Think You Are for ships and, judging by the preview screening, I think that's a pretty accurate description. The episode shown was about the cable repair ship CS Mackay-Bennett and her role in the aftermath of the Titanic disaster. It combined fascinating information about the ship with gripping human interest stories, all set in the wider context of the communications revolution brought about by the laying of undersea cables.
The first episode will be about the Cutty Sark and I spent several months last year doing research for the BBC into various members of her crew. I was then asked to take part in the programme to present some of my findings. This involved being interviewed by the lovely series presenter - the distinguished Scottish actor David Hayman - in the splendid surroundings of the Caird Library at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
The programme will feature new information which I have uncovered about the Cutty Sark's notorious "hellship voyage" and will, I hope, lead to a more balanced view of one of the key people involved. I will be able to write more about this once the programme has aired, so watch this space!
I have been privileged to work on some wonderful projects during 2013. Highlights have included research and filming for a BBC documentary and reuniting a lady with her long lost cousin. I have researched noble families and families who spent time in prison, grand houses and humble cottages. All have been equally fascinating.
I was recently asked to give advice to those hoping to make a career in genealogy. I said:
No one ever got rich working as a genealogist. Do it because you love it. Do it to the best of your ability. The clients will come and the job satisfaction will be amazing.
That has been my experience and I am so grateful to spend every day doing work I love. To my existing clients - thank you for the opportunity to work with you in 2013. It has been very rewarding. To my prospective clients - I look forward very much to getting to know you in 2014.
Ten years ago I was diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. During my treatment I received a great deal of advice, emotional support and practical assistance from MacMillan Cancer Support.
Now, as a long term cancer survivor, I am one of MacMillan's Cancer Voices. I give media interviews to promote MacMillan's work and to raise awareness of cancer and survivorship issues. I also give talks in return for donations to MacMillan.
I already have four talks in my diary for next year:
I am always happy to give talks within a reasonable travelling distance of my home in Chipping Sodbury. In addition to the subjects listed above, I offer:
You can read some reviews of my talks here. If you would like me to give a talk to your group, club or society, please contact me.
Last year I was privileged to be commissioned to trace descendants of the crews of the Cutty Sark. I got the chance to see the Conservation Project up close and was so impressed by the quality of the restoration work and the imaginative curation and interpretation. I know the descendants whom we brought together on the ship felt the same way.
Now the Cutty Sark has reached the finals of the National Lottery Awards 2013. The Awards are an annual search to find the UK’s favourite Lottery-funded projects, and they aim to celebrate and recognise the difference that those projects have made to people, places and communities all across the UK.
The Cutty Sark is competing against six other projects for the title of Best Heritage Project and would be a very worthy winner. If you agree, please vote here.
My Research Toolbox has now grown too large to fit on one page! I've divided it into separate pages for each category, with access via an index page. The screenshot above shows the page for the House History category, with links to a variety of research guides covering national and local archives.
The Toolbox contains links to websites I have found useful in my own research. It reflects my personal and professional research interests and doesn't pretend to be comprehensive. If you don't find what you're looking for there, please try Cyndi's List.
This morning I spoke to the Thornbury U3A Family History Group on the subject "Descendants of Cutty Sark - Tracing Living People". They were a great audience, as ever, and asked some excellent questions about sources for tracing living people. I shared with them my personal research toolbox of links. It should keep them all busy researching for a while! Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing some of my favourite websites for tracing living people here on this blog.
I am thrilled to be resuming my career as a genealogy speaker, having had to give it up four years ago because my health was unreliable. I've been so much better this year that I am once again taking speaking engagements.
My first talk will be to the U3A Family History Group at The Chantry, Thornbury, Gloucestershire at 10 am on 16 November 2012. My subject will be "Descendants of Cutty Sark - Tracing Living People".
Yesterday I received a nice compliment about the design of my new Sodbury Genealogy website. I'd been feeling discontented with the old monochrome theme of this website and was also very conscious that the content needed updating. So I decided to do a makeover, using the same Weebly theme I've used for Sodbury Genealogy but with a different image header. The image I've chosen is a postcard I own, showing Coupar Angus, Perthshire in Edwardian times. I blogged about the postcard last year in Postcard from the Past. My aim was to give the two sites the feeling of "coming from the same stable", whilst being visually distinct from each other.
I've added lots of new content to the site, the main addition being a page devoted to my research into the crews of Cutty Sark. I've also added a page explaining my terms of business, covering topics such as ethics, the research agreement, copyright, payment and being prepared for research to turn up unexpected results! This last item was included following a discussion on the APG mailing list which showed that several of us have had to break bad news to clients about their ancestors. Harold Henderson of Midwest Roots reminded us that we are advised to raise this general issue with clients before starting a research project, so I've added a section to this website.
I hope you like the new layout and content. Please comment on this post to let me know what you think.