By Liz Mair, Chair of CFF
One of the positive things about lockdown is that I have made a new friend. Bryan is in his eighties and lives in a nearby village. I heard from a neighbour that he has an interest in researching families, so I asked him to look into mine.
I could tell you lots about various family members from my past: northern industrialists; a wayward vicar; welsh builders; post office officials and small babies who died too young; but today is the turn of Samuel Smiles.
I loved my dad’s mum. Her mother, Maud Smiles died of tuberculosis when my granny was a small child. Bryan rang me one day, very excited about an ancestral find and invited me to do some research of my own. Maud’s uncle was a man called Samuel Smiles (1812 – 1904), who was a Scottish author and government reformer. Samuel and his siblings were brought up largely by their mother, after their father died in the 1832 cholera epidemic. He was one of 11 surviving children. His mother ran a small family store and worked ceaselessly to support the family.
In 1859 he wrote a book called Self-Help, considered a masterpiece back in the day. In this book he promotes thrift, self-culture, self-discipline and self-control, and attacks materialism and the conservative government in power at the time.
Samuel wrote about many new and profound ideas and has many great quotes to his name. Have a look!
What I particularly like is what he wrote about his mother,
“Whilst writing all this, I have had in my mind a woman, whose strong and serious mind would not have failed to support me in these contentions. I lost her thirty years ago [I was a child then]--nevertheless, ever living in my memory, she follows me from age to age.
She suffered with me in my poverty, and was not allowed to share my better fortune. When young, I made her sad, and now I cannot console her. I know not even where her bones are: I was too poor then to buy earth to bury her!
And yet I owe her much. I feel deeply that I am the son of woman. Every instant, in my ideas and words [not to mention my features and gestures], I find again my mother in myself. It is my mother's blood which gives me the sympathy I feel for bygone ages, and the tender remembrance of all those who are now no more.
What return then could I, who am myself advancing towards old age, make her for the many things I owe her? One, for which she would have thanked me--this protest in favour of women and mothers.”
So, why was I so pleased to find I am related to this man? Well, as a public health professional I understand the value and importance of self-help. I’m a firm believer in the 5 Ways to Wellbeing, which are to:
… oh yes, Bear Grylls…. It turns out he is the great, great grandson of Samuel, and so my great, great cousin!
Some of his ideas and quotes;
Knowledge is of itself one of the highest enjoyments and that every human has a mission to perform, noble faculties to cultivate, a vast destiny to accomplish. He believed that if education is not provided a man had a duty to educate himself. He talks about the need for self-culture, self-discipline and self-control.
He wrote many great quotes,
“Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts a shadow of our burden behind us.”
“Truthfulness is at the foundation of all personal excellence.”
“A place for everything and everything in it’s place.”