WHO ARE WE?

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Stanley
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WHO ARE WE?

Post by Stanley » 02 Apr 2012, 03:52

WHO ARE WE?

I think I’ve mentioned before that now I am retired, the next project is to write a History of Barlick. One of the reasons why I like doing these pieces for Barlick View is that it helps me to polish up my writing and also keeps me thinking about our local history and even more important, gets me into what I hope is an entertaining and readable way of writing it down. I have read too many boring academic histories and I don’t think that you sacrifice truth or authority by making your work readable. By the way, I’d like to hear what you think about the style so far, please let me know whether I am easy to read and what you think of the content.

As I keep saying, you’ve got to do a bit of investigation first in order to know what the questions are you want to find answers to. I don’t know about you, but history wasn’t my favourite subject when I went to school. I’m not blaming the people who taught me, perhaps I wasn’t ready for it, but I do blame the sort of history that was taught. Until recently I didn’t really understand why but then a friend of mine gave me a massive 1200 page history book and said “Read this for me will you and let me know whether it’s any good.” It was by Norman Davies and is called simply ‘THE ISLES’. It was published last year and if you’re really interested in history I recommend that you get hold of a copy and read it, I think it’s brilliant. It explained so many things that have puzzled me for years and has opened up my understanding of the general history of these islands we live on beyond anything I could have hoped for.

However, the point here is ‘what does it have to do with Barlick?’ Let me see if I can give you a clue.

The history I was taught said that there were some people living in these Isles called ‘The Ancient Britons’ and that they were invaded by the Romans and almost wiped out. Then the Anglo-Saxons invaded and those that weren’t killed were driven into Wales and became the Welsh. Then the Normans, who were French, invaded and changed everything again and so on. I could go on and I think many of you were taught the same sort of history but what I have found out now is that just about every ‘fact’ I have stated so far about what I was taught is wrong!

Norman, (I feel I can call him by his first name because after reading his book I think I know him quite well!) starts off by telling an amazing story which I was vaguely aware of but hadn’t understood in the context of the history of these Isles. Let’s see if it blows your mind in the same way that it did mine.

In 1903 some archaeologists doing a dig in the Cheddar Gorge found the remains of a man in a cave. Typically, they called him ‘Cheddar Man’ and did a lot of speculating about who he was and how long he had been there. In recent years a technique called carbon dating was applied to him and it was found that give or take 150 years, he was at least 9,000 years old. This fact intrigued Norman because he knew that until about 6,000BC our isles weren’t separated from the continent but were a peninsula of what is now Continental Europe. He also knew that the isles were uninhabited until after 10,000BC because of the Last Ice Age so Cheddar Man had to be an incomer from Europe and therefore was a Celt because they were the dominant race at that time.

In recent years, another technique has become available, DNA testing and matching. Some bright spark got the idea of examining Cheddar Man to see whether they could get a viable DNA sample from his bones. They succeeded and proved that he was indeed a match to other finds right across Europe which of course, supports Norman’s theory. Then, and to me this is the magic bit, some genius decided to ask for volunteers from the village of Cheddar to give samples of DNA for comparison. The headmaster of the local infants school, a Mr Targett, turned out to be an almost exact DNA match with Cheddar Man. Unless there was a million to one mischance, Mr Targett is directly related through the maternal line to this anonymous Celt who died at least 9,000 years ago. Further, the fact that he was still living in the same village seems to indicate that all his ancestors did as well! I don’t know about you but I find this absolutely amazing!

Norman then started to do what any good historian should try to do, he drew some conclusions from his evidence. As I have said before, this is the essence of how we learn, take some facts, construct a hypothesis and then try to prove it is wrong. Personally I think Norman makes a pretty good case and I’ll buy it until someone proves any different. What he deduced from this event was that if one of the original Celts could leave a line of ancestry in one village like Cheddar Man did, others could have done the same. The chances that this is an isolated case are too great to imagine. Therefore, all the Celts (or Ancient Britons) weren’t driven into Wales or killed and perhaps this applies to all the other invasions we have enjoyed over the last 2,000 years.

I’m not going to chase this hare any further, get the book and read it if you want to know more. What I do want to do is apply this thinking to Barlick. If Norman’s theory is true for Cheddar, it could be true for Barlick. Somewhere in the Pioneer store you could be queuing for the check-out next to a person whose ancestors have lived in this district for over 9,000 years. As Dame Edna would say, “Spooky!” If you also think about the fact that until the Romans arrived in the first century AD the Celts were the dominant race, the odds in favour of this being true are far greater. Add to this the fact that this part of the North West of Britannia was never really of interest to any invader and was largely left alone until the Industrial Revolution and we end up with a racing certainty.

You may have realised that it looks as though there might be a bit of a flaw here in the theory. I know Barlickers are different but they certainly aren’t Welsh! There could be an answer to this. The breed could be the same but the culture might change when ‘foreign’ influences bore in on it. We know that in Cheddar Man’s day there was no ‘culture’ of agriculture, in other words, the concept of cultivating ground and growing crops hadn’t arrived from what is now Europe. The ancient Celts were ‘hunter-gatherers’, they lived off what they could kill or find growing already. The old view of history was that as the ‘agriculturists’ spread across from the continent they drove the existing hunters before them because they had a superior way of life and could survive times of famine and hard weather easier. If the evidence of Cheddar Man is anything to go by, this didn’t happen, the hunter-gatherers adopted new ideas and used agriculture. There is far more likelihood that it wasn’t so much the farming Celts that travelled across the land bridge but the culture itself.

All this has shed a new light on how I look at Barlick. It gives me some clues as to why we are a different breed in this part of the country. As you know, I shouldn’t really use the word ‘we’ because I am an off-comed-un. However, half my ancestry is Australian and the other half Northern so I reckon that in any comparison with Ancient Barlickers I am probably a pretty good fit, especially in the ‘peculiar’ stakes!

We hear a lot these days about the ‘North/South Divide’; for political purposes we are told that it doesn’t exist. Most people are thinking in economic terms when they join this debate but there could be another element to consider. This part of the country, unlike the South, was never part of the ‘Civic’ Roman Occupation, it was always under military rule. The Norsemen didn’t have much interest in us because we were too far from their preferred travel route, the sea. The Normans policed us but we were too poor to be of any great interest and the Saxons concentrated on the East side of the isle. Once the Kingdom of England was established we were too far from the centre of power in the South and the main route to Scotland in the East to be of any great value. Preston was the only town in the area that had a guild system, this is a good indication of the levels of trade and profit. Finally, we were one of the early bastions of non-conformity in religion. All these factors seem to indicate that we were left alone to develop in our own way and were relatively unaffected by the succession of different cultures and influences that came in from the continent. The far North of Scotland has a similar history and they are different as well.

So there you are, I read a book, did a bit of thinking and a lot of different pieces of the puzzle that is Barlick began to fall into place. I’ve always known that this town was different, now I begin to see why. I give myself credit for having realised something 40 years ago about Barlick which I always knew had something to do with the character of the town; it isn’t on the way to anywhere. Anybody who lands up in Barlick either had a reason for being here or was totally lost!

Being an incurable romantic I now let my mind wander and started to think about some of the characters I’ve known in this district. Which of them could be the equivalent of Mr Targett in Cheddar? I came up with a list and am certain that I could be proved wrong but I reckon a lot of the older end could qualify as Ancient Barlickers. No, I’m not going to name any names, that would be far too dangerous. The things they have in common are that they are (or in some cases, were) able men, cantankerous and definitely one-offs. Work it out for yourselves, if you’ve taken any interest at all in the town and its inhabitants you will be able to come up with your own candidates. Have fun!

SCG/13 June 2000
Stanley Challenger Graham
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Re: WHO ARE WE?

Post by Tizer » 06 Apr 2012, 11:04

The date your article was written (2000) is at the end of the piece but the date at the start is when you re-posted it (2nd April 2012). Would it perhaps be helpful to readers if you put a covering sentence and the original date at the beginning of re-posted articles to prevent confusion?

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Re: WHO ARE WE?

Post by Stanley » 07 Apr 2012, 04:57

Why complicate things? Would it make any difference to comprehension?
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Re: WHO ARE WE?

Post by Stanley » 21 Oct 2012, 04:15

David brought up the question of which county Barlick is naturally a member of. Perhaps this topic will be a good place to pursue the discussion.
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Re: WHO ARE WE?

Post by Stanley » 04 Feb 2014, 04:44

Bumped....
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Re: WHO ARE WE?

Post by Stanley » 14 Aug 2014, 04:32

Bumped in response to Bruff in Politics Corner
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Re: WHO ARE WE?

Post by Gloria » 16 Aug 2014, 09:40

I haven't seen this article before, very well written Stanley and a very very interesting read. Much food for thought.
Gloria
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Re: WHO ARE WE?

Post by Stanley » 17 Aug 2014, 04:15

Thanks Gloria... If you ever have a moment to spare, go to Stanley's View and have a browse, most of the BET articles are in there.
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Re: WHO ARE WE?

Post by Stanley » 18 Feb 2016, 03:57

Bumped again after a piece by Richard in Politics Corner.
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Re: WHO ARE WE?

Post by Stanley » 08 Dec 2018, 04:48

Bumped
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