Our guest reader for Tuesday, April 25, will be Roger Hutchinson, who will be giving us a glimpse into his new book, The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker : The Story of Britain Through It’s Census Since 1801.
Brave Roger. To have taken on the quest to create a cohesive (and interesting) statement about Britain’s census with any number of pages suggests to me 700 milliliters of whisky at 43% and 100 grams of 84% chocolate. What was he smoking?
Thank goodness census records aren’t all numbers. Or at least the digits tell stories that we wouldn’t have without them. With the national census, people began to lose anonymity. We began to find out what the population was, who died and from what, and the numbers became the colour and texture of life–a self-portrait of the British Isles.
For example: Britain in 1801 still had its share of nomadic descendants and the enumerators had to follow them to their haunts: “The numbers living out of houses vary with the seasons; in winter they shrink into dwellings, and in summer they swarm again in the fields, which have irresistible charms for the vagabond race, as well as for their near relatives, the hop-pickers and haymakers. Mixed among them are found some of the victims as well as some of the outcasts of society.” *
In The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker, Roger Hutchinson looks at every census taken at the beginning of each decade for 200 years. All human life is here, from prime ministers to peasants and paupers, from Irish rebels to English patriots, from the last native speakers of Cornish to the first professional footballers, from communities of prostitutes to individuals called ‘abecedarians’, who made a living from teaching the alphabet.
Hutchinson is adept at producing books that talk about the people. He has over twenty publications, many of which you will see in every shop that sells books in Scotland, including Calum’s Road; St. Kilda: A People’s History; The Toon; Silent Weaver; and A Waxing Moon: The Modern Gaelic Revival. Because he is a journalist with the West Highland Free Press and a Raasay resident, he is also a local favorite author.
Following Roger’s presentation, we will have refreshments and then have a short AGM meeting to report on 2016, tell you about our programme for 2017-2018 and find out how you’d like to see the Reading Room develop in the future.
The event will be held at Edinbane Community Hall, starting at 7:30 p.m. The lighter evenings should make parking easier, and rumour has it that Edinbane Inn is open Tuesday nights again, for anyone wanting to make an evening it.
Admission is free to members and £5 for non-members. Everyone is welcome. Our reasonable membership is available at every meeting. Reading Room anthologies, Island Life and A Stillness of Mind, are for sale at £8.50 each, and we have a Good Read selection of literary works at prices that will make them jump into your hands.
For further information about the Reading Room, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on Facebook, at The Reading Room-Skye.
This event is sponsored in part by Scottish Book Trust.
* Great Britain Historical GIS Project 2004-17. The GBH GIS is a network of collaborating academic researchers. For details please contact Humphrey Southall (Humphrey.Southall@gbhgis.org).