A man has published the final piece of a 20-year project chronicling the memories and experiences of people from across the north-east.
What started out as an “early retirement” project for David Northcroft has turned into the biggest-ever compilation of oral history ever carried out in the region.
It amounts to more than 500 in-depth interviews and 1,000-plus pages of recorded narrative from every strand of society.
Now Mr Northcroft has published his final work, Aberdeen Lives 2: War and Peace.
The new work is based on the recorded reminiscences of some 140 witnesses, with topics including both combat and Home Front recollections of the Second World War as well as accounts of school, community and family life.
There are also sections on the contributions to the city’s cultural life made by its artists, musicians, writers and recent “in-comers”, with specific chapters based around some of Aberdeen’s most notable sons and daughters, such as Buff Hardie, Sheena Blackhall, Barney Crockett and Jimmy Scotland.
Mr Northcroft, a former teacher, said: “This started with me wanting to write a ‘popular’ history of Scottish schooling as opposed to the academic stuff already out there. So I started interviewing a cross section of north-east folk to gather their memories and attitudes towards their actual day-to-day schooling.
“But, once you talk about the local school, you quickly find yourself talking about everything else – the role of the school in the community, your own education compared to your parents, how well your school prepared you for life, and so on.
“So the project quickly evolved into a more general recollection of daily life in the region under the range of headings to be encountered in my books.
“I began with my relatives and acquaintances but, as interviewees were quick to suggest further people, the numbers rapidly grew. Another source was the correspondence column of the P&J where I was able to find promising letters that referred to the past, often on a ‘then and now ‘basis.
“I discovered two things. Firstly, that everyone has a story to tell. And secondly, north-east people are warm and hospitable and they demonstrated it by giving their trust (and their fly cups) to me – in most cases a stranger.
“The result has been four books which I hope offer a comprehensive social record of life as it has been experienced over the last 100 years of dramatic dizzying change in both the rural hinterland and the city.
“I suppose my work is now at an end, but it has been a wonderful privilege to have met so many fine people and to have been allowed into their lives.”