What Lies Beneath

Ask yourself, what lies beneath?

By Shehannemoore

Okay, answers on a postcard, what do the following? Apart from being an interesting dinner party combo? Ulysses S Grant, Jack the Ripper, Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein and Captain Kydd.

Nope. They never shared star signs, the same disease, middle names, birthplaces, shoes, stockings, medical instruments, or partners. You wouldn’t need to keep the bread knife handy for all of them if you guested at that table. Even Jack only had certain predilections. And Captain Kydd was quite nice when it came to New York church-building. Of course he was probably trying to impress a certain well-heeled widow.

None of them played the ukulele. The bass fiddle neither. Hated soup for the first course, so don’t serve it. Or were related to George Washington…at least I hope not. I don’t want complaints from any of the societies dedicated to his name.

No. The answer is simpler than that. At one time or other they each had an association with a certain city. Mine.  Ulysses S. Grant visited it. Mary Shelley stayed in it. William Bury, a Jack the Ripper candidate, didn’t just stay in it, a stone’s throw from where Mary once had and found inspiration for Frankenstein. He caused quite a stir, keeping his murdered wife in a box, playing cards. Serving sandwiches on it, cut with the murder weapon no less, to his new-found friends, for which he was duly hung, there.

A city is nothing, if not rich in inspiration.

Captain Kydd, either the most notorious pirate in the history of pirating, or the most unjustly accused privateer, was a native.

Before you think this is a oh do come and visit bonnie Scotland, its fourth largest city shout out, it’s not. Come if you want. But let me tell you now, with the exception of the rail bridge, described by President Grant, with true US grandeur as a big bridge for a little city—it was, it fell down shortly afterwards, taking 75 people and a train engine with it–you won’t find a reference to Captain Kydd or the others.

Not a cold trail of the places they once walked, a brick of the buildings they lived in. A plaque to say they ever did.

It’s just not how Dundee markets itself. It never has, for all the place of these four in history is pretty well assured.

The forgotten history of a town, city, village, place, county, state, whatever, is often the best history of all. For writers it’s a seam worth mining, because you never know what little nugget will result, that you can fling back onto the world stage.

Bridges and trains—well, they may have to wait this time round. But boxes, bodies, places, pirates, are you kidding? I hauled them all on board and gave them a sort of airing in a recent book.

And I’m astonished by the ones I haven’t used. William Wallace, the tree of liberty, Arthur Conan Doyle’s father.  The list is pretty endless. And it’s just for one city.

So, next time you’re on a heritage trail of your own backyard, don’t just look at what the tourist promoters want you to see. Get on the magic tour glasses.

Ask yourself, what lies beneath?

Published by Cyril P Abraham

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