The 15th World Championships in Athletics begin tomorrow (22nd-30th August) so we thought we’d share the fruits of a sporting themed student placement! Look out on our twitter @GUArchives and @GlasgowUniWW1 where we will be featuring some Great War students who won Sporting Blues awards while at the University of Glasgow.
Posted on behalf of Anton Ward, Club 21 placement with Archive Services, Summer 2015
Hello, my name is Anton Ward and I am student who has spent some time over the summer working on a Club 21 Sporting Blues placement. The placement involved researching biographical information on sporting men and women who obtained their Sporting Blues between 1910 and 1914 and writing University of Glasgow Roll of Honour profiles for them.
The research was especially interesting because it was like completing a jigsaw puzzle in tying up pieces of information. I would start off with a few key details, such as their graduation date, and try and use these as the foundations for the picture I was building of them. For example, I might see someone’s name mentioned in an edition of Glasgow University Magazine and because I know that this person won a Sporting Blue award in Rugby, I can then connect the two and realise that the magazine’s description of the excellent rugby of a particular person was actually talking about the same person I was researching. This also occurred when connecting military information. For example, several individuals served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and this ties up when you scan the records and see that their degree was in medicine.
Although I sometimes felt slightly overwhelmed by all the reference numbers for the archival material, the archive staff were extremely helpful and there were plenty of guides to walk me through everything. It felt a bit like learning a language; at first it all sounds completely unknown but after a while you start to recognise what each code is and what looked incomprehensible to start with now makes sense.
Another interesting aspect of the project was seeing how the Glasgow University Magazine (G.U.M) reflected the times. For example there were reports on debates on Women’s suffrage, a cause which was increasing in prominence in the pre-war years. It was strange seeing the contrast between the relative civility displayed in the magazine and the knowledge that these young students would very soon be embroiled in a world war. Looking through the 1911 to 1914 editions of Glasgow University Magazine I could see the pervasiveness of the Officers’ Training Corps. There were multiple reports on their activities and these often contained photographs of the men performing various tasks in preparation for military action. This is quite striking when compared with the relative security I live in today. There is no huge threat of war looming overhead and whilst there were notices in the G.U.M at the time reminding everyone that it was their duty to serve, reading something like that in today’s student magazines would seem very odd. This and the project in general gave me a chance to reflect on my own time at university. Whilst I may be stressing about potential jobs in the future after university, these men would not have known if they would even make it back home at all.
A particularly rewarding aspect of the research was reading the newspaper articles describing how a subject of mine, Irvine Theodore Parker, had earned his medals and it was very pleasant to read that he was later awarded an M.B.E. These particular items were so fascinating because they said so much about the individual and brought his records to life. The M.B.E. shows how he obviously contributed to the community whilst the newspaper clipping of how he earned his medals portrayed him as being very brave in the line of fire and gave a richer glimpse into a sometimes dry world of dates and numbers. Another favourite document is simply a picture of the Rugby Club for the season 1912-1913 which features two of my subjects. Given how hard it can be find to a single picture of any of my subjects, finding two subjects in the same source felt like stumbling upon a goldmine. Seeing these individuals in the same picture also reminds me that these students did actually interact with each other.
I would like to say a big thank you to everyone down at the Archive Services for their help, especially those who helped me find such useful sources.
You can view the Roll of Honour profiles researched and written by Anton here: