I did not know what to expect when beginning the Writing Lives project, as I had no real experience in this level of research, or blogging before, and I was very interested in doing so. I learned so much undertaking my research, not only about my author and the working class culture but about my own skills also. This was a unique opportunity and also provided an online, interactive portfolio of work which appealed to me. I was very excited to begin this project and it did not disappoint.
I was initially drawn to the memoir of Frederick Charles Wynne, as he is from Portsmouth. I myself am from Portsmouth, thus I know of the places that he so lovingly talks about. I was intrigued to research into the ‘old Pompey’, understanding the changes to the city and giving me knowledge about my hometown that otherwise, I’d never have had. Despite the war destroying the city, along with industrialisation and gentrification, there are some places Frederick talks about that are still running, such as his grandparent’s pub The Admiral Drake, for example. I am very interested in history and archives generally, so this was fascinating for me to read.
There are other students that studied memoirs from Portsmouth and it’s really interesting to be able to compare the differing experiences of the same city. I was surprised to read about Frederick’s life and experiences, as whilst he is a working-class author, his family lived very comfortably and even in some cases looked down on others. This research widened my somewhat naïve view of the working class, as I was not aware of the different levels that took place within it. Frederick’s memoir perhaps subverts the stereotypes of working-class, 20th century Britain, something which is important to consider. Through his memoir and my research, I also learned about world history (such as the Boer War), the history of schooling, and popular musicians, songs and productions of that time, to name but a few things.
Frederick’s memoir was wonderfully written; it was humorous, serious, thought-provoking and touching. This has made reading it such a privilege, and the idea of writing on behalf of this man and his childhood made me feel like I knew him personally. I wanted to pass on his wonderful stories in the hope that others can appreciate them as I did, which is what I believe is one of the main purposes of his memoir in the first place. I also think that Frederick wrote the memoir in order to preserve the ‘old Portsmouth’, so locals now can remember and share his memory, and I hope I have contributed to this on behalf of him. I am proud of my (small) contribution to public history, as Frederick’s memoir allows for a deeper understanding of class, relationships and culture, and a personal memoir offers a different angle of viewing these topics.
Whilst there is no date set on his memoir, I feel like it was written between 1960-1980.Frederick returned to live in Portsmouth in his older age and therefore would have noticed the changes, provoking him to document his memories. With this in mind, it’d be interesting to know what Frederick would think of the way times have changed since, particularly in regard to technology and the existence of this very blog!
One of my favourite elements of undertaking research for this was being able to track down Frederick’s family. I managed to get in contact with his cousin, who was thrilled to be able to find out more about his family. This alone made the time spent on researching and writing worth it, as it is so rewarding to have that appreciation from a relative. Again, it also added a personal touch to the research, giving that extra motivation towards finding out more, if only to help the relative. I also enjoyed using websites like Ancestry to gain extra information on Frederick’s life and story.
I particularly enjoyed the social media aspects of this module, using Twitter to promote my research. I was amazed at the amount of traction my blogs got, particularly within the Portsmouth community and those interested in the navy. Again, this interest gave me more motivation to continue researching and writing, and also to look at a social media based career, something which I hadn’t considered previously.
I am very thankful that I could take part with Writing Lives, as not only have I learned about British history and gained skills in researching and blogging, I have gained confidence in myself and my work; I would not have been comfortable in putting my writing in the public eye before. This confidence I can now take forward into future projects and work, thanks to this opportunity.
Have a read of all my posts on Frederick’s lovely childhood here!: