Or: Aren't people wonderful?!
Some time ago I wrote here about the research I was doing into the British Engine Insurance Company, which employed both my husband and his father throughout their working lives, and which had also, I believed, employed my husband's grandfather. In the course of trying to confirm this last fact, I had come across the name of a booklet published by the company to celebrate its centenary in 1978 :: "100 Years of British Engine". I very much wanted to get hold of a copy of this booklet, and someone who found this article on my blog was kind enough to offer to send me a copy, which had been his father's, on indefinite loan. I have had the use of his copy for some months now and it has proved of considerable interest.
Meanwhile, I had written a short piece about my research, and my discovery that all three generations of my husband's family had indeed worked for British Engine, and submitted it to the six-monthly pensioners' magazine, which is published by the organisation which pays the pensions of those who worked for British Engine (and their widows). I added a footnote to the effect that I was still hoping to acquire a copy of the "100 Years" booklet.
The latest issue arrived through my letterbox last week. Within 24 hours the editor was ringing me to say that no less than four people had contacted her, and were offering (variously) either to photocopy, lend, or give me the book. I asked for all the contact details, so that I could accept the offer of my choice, and acknowledge the kindess of the others in person. This has brought the following satisfying outcomes:
- There was a phone conversation with one person who had offered to lend me his book; I was able to tell him that I did not need it, as I had had an offer of the book as a gift . He then told me about another book he had, containing a chapter on British Engine, and as this sounded interesting, I immediately searched the web and found a copy for only £4, and ordered it.
- I had an email exchange with someone who had offered to photocopy his book for me, but who valued it too much to part with it, as it had been signed and presented to him by the General Manager himself. He, like the previous book owner, was able to throw a good deal of light for me onto the whys and wherefores of the virtual disappearance of British Engine in 1996. The company was by then a subsidiary of Royal Insurance, which in 1996 joined up with Sun Alliance. In the same year, British Engine's building in Manchester, Longridge House, was destroyed by a bomb, and with it their systems and records. The combination of these two events in the same year had the effect of consigning the company to history.
- Then there was a telephone conversation with someone in Ireland, who was offering to send me not one but two (different) centenary books, as he was trying to reduce his accumulated possessions and would be only too happy to see them go to someone who would get something out of them. We must have chatted, about the books, about British Engine, about this and that and something else, for at least half-an-hour, and as someone who really enjoys the great variety of human accents and dialects, I felt enriched in every way by this contact. His two books are now in my possession, and I shall be able to return the copy I have on loan to its owner.
- Finally, there was an exchange of letters with someone who turned out to be an old friend! He and his wife used to go with my husband and myself to the Christmas Pantomime at the Players' Theatre in London, back in the 1970s when they were both working in London. He too has offered me his book to keep, but it doesn't look as though I shall be needing it now. However, he has friends who live near me, whom he and his wife will be visiting in July, and I shall be surprised if we do not end up getting together and talking over old times.
Now isn't that a magnificent yield from my research efforts, and a few moments given to writing a short piece for a pensioners' magazine? Life is so rich and varied, and the internet extends the possibilites of surprise and pleasure, far beyond what I could have imagined when I started my blog three years ago.