Education By Obit

by admin on August 19, 2014

Writing obituaries has always been an education but I hadn’t realised quite how much so until I managed to beat a University Challenge team with the answer to a subject I hadn’t heard of until that afternoon – thanks to an obituary.

For the record, it concerned an unpronounceable Mexican volcano and related to life of a fascinating scientist.

Obituaries have also proved enlightening on matters ranging from the changing face of society to scientific breakthroughs, feats of engineering, not to mention human endurance, and the spectacular achievements of modest of World War II veterans.

They’re a constant chance to discover something new and to record aspects of our social history and the lives of those involved: the deb who built Halifax bombers; one of the last St Kildans; the last of the SAS originals; the Scotswoman who inspired Sybil Fawlty.

They show there’s no such thing as an ordinary life. Obituaries aren’t just the privilege of rich and famous and they don’t need to appear in a newspaper to create a lasting record of family history that would otherwise evaporate but which could captivate  relatives for generations to come.