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Caithness Field Club Bulletin
When I agreed to edit the Bulletin last year it was on the understanding that it was only for a year. Now that I have retired, silly as it seems, I just don't have the TIME to do everything I would like. The Bulletin just eats into spare time which I do not have. The other point is that I do not have the MEANS to produce camera copy. Last year it was agreed that I could get the services of a desk top publisher, which meant that the Bulletin could be professionally prepared. This year it was suggested that ordinary typing would be cheaper. But how can you expect an ordinary typewriter to produce professional work. In any case, the finished result is more a matter of the person BEHIND the typewriter than the hardware itself.
I have had more experience than most in trying to get fair copy of a scientific text from a typist who didn't understand the paper, who didn't know how to spell the unfamiliar words, who wasn't TRAINED to produce camera copy for the printing trade. My heart has sunk into my boots when I have received copy no greater in volume than the present bulletin with thousands of typographical errors, and which had been typed from fair and accurate copy. Without the means the job takes three times as long, and, of course, every time it is typed it has to be proof-read and corrections made. So please, somebody out there, if anybody actually READS the editorial, let this cup pass from me! Somebody with a word processor would do. All I have is an East German portable typewriter which uses a fabric ribbon - quite unsuitable for the present job.
The other need from members is INPUT. People must surely be doing and seeing things which may be of interest to others. The Bulletin should not exist merely to advertise the field meetings, though this is what has triggered the last two. Even book reviews could be of interest. Hobby -horses can be ridden and kites flown, letters can be sent to the editor.
One of my hobby horses is family history research, and much of the information is from primary sources such as wills, deeds and conveyances. But these lead to interesting historical revelations. When I was a schoolboy I was told that Shakespeare included Welsh and Scots in his historical plays in order to flatter the Tudor and Stuart Monarchy; eg Henry V. Not so, the list of those who fought at Agincourt includes many Welsh and Scottish names, and those who died are listed as 'Morte a Battaille' - and there are very few indeed! It's true that he took liberties, including Fluellyn, but there really was a Capt. Bardolf at the battle. Information of a humbler nature can be obtained from these sources. A study of the Parish Registers of a parish of interest to me showed, over a two-year period, that funerals especially of young children rose sharply and marriages and baptisms dropped dramatically. At first I thought that this indicated the plague, or perhaps some disease which affected children. This would not account for a drop in marriages and baptisms. The only thing that could account for it was FAMINE - which causes a drop in fertility, as well as an increase in the death rate.
Speaking of the Black Death, one would think that a plague of this magnitude would have generated documents galore: not so. The only contemporary account is in the Decameron! And, in the British Isles, the only reliable figures are for the Hundred of Amounderness in Lancashire, and those are in response to a query from the See of Richmond regarding a fall in Church Revenues.
Some of the problems encountered include finding where the documents are likely to be held, and then having to decipher them. The field work is running the documents to earth and the long winter evenings can be spent analysing them. It is only then that you see how deficient our standard history books must be. Most of us have a very rudimentary and garbled idea of historical events. There is a world of difference between belief and hard fact. And I think it is indicative of our attitudes when people know the pedigree of their dogs better than their own.