Year 2

28 Sep

Well my second year of being a PhD student has just started, and what a way to start! Yesterday I delivered my first ‘proper’ paper at the Northern Identities Conference at the University of Huddersfield. I was quite nervous, but was pleased with how it went, even though my eyes were glued to my paper for longer than I would have liked. Next time I want to be a bit more familiar with my paper so I can speak a bit more naturally and make some eye contact with my audience. There was a great selection of papers, largely on ways of life for working class, rural northerners, so me talking about an aristocratic history was a little different. I was pleased that people came to speak to me about if afterwards, and I have friends and fellow researchers in common with a few of them which was great to discover. I love feeling well-connected!

My next conference is coming up on November 1st at the Sainsbury Research Institute in Norwich, so I don’t have long to prepare for paper No 2. This time I’m going to be talking about how Maurice collected objects in Africa. It means I haven’t been doing much new research lately, which is a bit sad, but getting two conferences over with at the very start of term will be a big achievement and it will give me the rest of the year to really get stuck in to some fun research.

My next exciting piece of news is that I’ve been given some funding to go to the Museum Association Conference in Liverpool in November. Because it was so near this year I really wanted to go, but the costs are pretty high. I’ve been really lucky to get funding and I can’t wait to go to represent Tatton Park!

My favourite things to blog about are the stories from Maurice’s diaries and I expect that’s what my readers prefer to read! (By the way I’m always so chuffed when anyone says they’ve been reading my blog- it really makes it feel worthwhile!) As I said my progress is rather slow at the moment because of churning out these conference papers, but I do want to add a new face to my glossary of Happy Valley Neighbours.

In 1926 Maurice goes to stay with Galbraith Cole. Now he seems to be a really interesting chap and I’m sad I never got to read about him before I gave my paper yesterday. His full name is Galbraith Lowry Egerton Cole, so immediately I’m thinking there is a connection somewhere in that family history to Maurice. He was the third son of the Earl of Enniskillen. Maurice had already met his brother Berkeley Cole in 1921. Berkeley was a bit of a dandy and had his foot firmly under the Happy Valley table. He was one of the founders of the Muthaiga Club, the most exclusive club for well-to-do British settlers (Maurice was a member there). Their sister had married Lord Delamere, which is why, as a younger son without prospects in England, Galbraith moved to Kenya quite early in 1905. 

Whenever I come across a new name in the diaries I google it to add to my glossary, and I love the anticipation of waiting to see what I’ll find. It seems that no-one had an uncomplicated, pain-free life in Kenya, and there are so many tragic stories hidden behind all the glitter and smoke of the Happy Valley title. Galbraith was exiled from Kenya after he shot a shamba boy for killing one of his rams on his farm. However, he sneaked back into Kenya dressed as a Somali and his mother the Countess pleaded for a pardon. In his forties he became blind in one eye and was confined to a wheelchair through the pain of his arthritis. He shot himself on his beloved farm in 1929, just three years after Maurice stayed with him. He was only 48 years old.

I promise to keep posting new stories over the next few weeks, but I may have to recycle from what I’ve already read. The rush of a conference is pretty exciting, but I’ll certainly be glad to get back to a quiet life after November!


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