The editor has asked me to pen a few lines about the way The Raven has evolved over the past fifty years, despite the fact that I have tried to tell him that I was ‘in charge’ for only 35 of those years – even though it sometimes feels longer!
I arrived in the parish in 1979 (nearly nine years after the first Raven).
There was a ring on the door-bell early one evening, and there was a smiling Joyce Kirk offering me a Raven, and very gently shaking a tin.
If it wasn’t this Raven, it was certainly the next edition which mentioned the family’s arrival, and it meant a lot to us.
We had been living in similar villages to Kirkoswald for several years and were beginning to work out how they functioned – this after nearly three decades of living in big towns and cities – but we hadn’t come across a village magazine before.
When looking at our entry in Out and About, we wondered for a second or two how we had made it thereto, then we realised that our milk was delivered by …. our next door neighbour!
Now, I am not one for always looking over my shoulder and declaring how good life used to be, but I do believe that the modern world is inevitably much less aware of what is going on in the day to day lives of other people.
Fifty years ago, there were rather more local shops and pubs in the parish than now, and probably an equal number of more itinerant folk who drove into the parish, providing more than useful goods and services.
As there was nearly always some personal contact between customers and providers, the grapevine was always kept well-watered.
One person’s good or not so good news was soon common knowledge, and, as often as not, made its way into the next Raven. I don’t think we ever felt the need in those days to ask people’s permission to include their news – it just seemed the right thing to do for a community which cared about everyone in it.
In fact, for quite a few years, there were no contact details included in The Raven. It was just assumed that everyone knew how to get in touch – and, mostly, they did (or, if they didn’t, well, they never grumbled to me!).
Of course, it was relatively easy for The Raven to keep well informed of what was going on in the parish, as, without wishing to sound a little parochial, there wasn’t that much actually happening.
Yes, there was the usual trickle of births, deaths and marriages, but not that many comings and goings. I can’t speak for Renwick, but I think that around thirty years ago, I could have named at least 80 per cent of the residents of Kirkoswald.
I did a quick calculation before typing the next line, and suspect that that figure for me is now nearer 25 per cent, and it is more than likely that the missing 75 per cent have never heard of me, I hasten to add!
So, how have the above mentioned changes in parish life impacted on The Raven? In a general sense, they haven’t in any negative way in that The Raven is possibly a more interesting and informative magazine nowadays, particularly so since it embraced modern technology and has started including illustrations – often in colour – to enhance the written word, but perhaps it has lost a little of ‘the personal touch’ given the increasingly busy and distanced (from the parish) lives many residents now live.
It’s called progress, and we have to accept it as there is not a lot that we can do about it.