• Carol Stobie

The Timeline of our Lives

Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.

- Jane Austen

This weekend, our community history project held a joyful celebration to thank all our volunteers and interviewees. One highlight was the unveiling of a timeline mosaic, inspired by the local history researches – transformed into community art, through exquisite mosaics made from broken crockery, tiles and other recycled material.

We’d crystallised 1000 years of history into some 40 visual images, using material that would otherwise be thrown away. The creators were mostly local folk, non-artists new to mosaic, excited to contribute to a collective work of art and history. Each chose something different to represent, as simply or as intricately as we wanted.

I remember in a workshop, many years ago, being asked to draw a timeline of our own lives, and what a challenge that was. What would your own timeline show?

This one, the story of a farmhouse and its surrounding village, doesn’t depict much of the painful times: the theft, vandalism and fire-raising endured by the farmers in their later years, burnt-out cars left strewn over the fields as life got more difficult in the encroaching housing schemes. Mind you, one creative artist was inspired to portray the 16c ambush of a neighbour by the Laird of Niddrie, with a dripping dagger… we do love a bit of gore in our Scottish historical tales.

This oral history has focused on memories of the working farm days, and of community life around the farmhouse. Many interviewees talk of how quiet it used to be, the cows wandering across the road, before the city grew to encircle the wee hamlet; the gala days, the strong local identity, the long-lost characters, the community spirit there was. We may sometimes misremember things, paint them with a kinder tint, but there are many shared recollections in our Reminiscence gatherings.

Now that our interviews are uploaded to Soundcloud, a film released and our Timeline and small museum ready for visitors, we hope for not only individual callers but occasional groups coming to gaze, listen, enjoy discovering this incomplete but treasure-filled collection we’ve made of a local set of memories. To share a cup of tea, perhaps a slice of the Farmhouse Fruit Loaf the farmer’s wife used to make (now served in our café at times) and take time to remember and rediscover together- it has not only a comforting and nostalgic flavour, like watching an old movie, but a way of strengthening our bonds as a community now – however changed from those times fifty and more years ago.

In the same way, we may gather, remember and celebrate the story of a person we’ve lost – and not only at a funeral. Remembering to come back and revisit their family members, honour anniversaries, tell the tales again has a priceless value. Even if we may be selective about what we recall as we travel along that timeline in our minds – it’s worth remembering.

Bridgend Farmhouse Timeline Mosaic, with members of Greater Liberton Heritage Project, whose researches inspired the work.

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