On AN exceedingly wintry day, president Duncan Brown congratulated the few hardy members of Kirriemuir Probus Club who made it to their latest meeting and welcomed Stuart Findlater as a new member of the club.
Apologising for the understandably low turnout, Duncan introduced guest speaker Brian Humphries from Westmuir, a retired history teacher.
Brian opened his talk ‘Making History’ with the startling statement that ‘historians told lies’, and that what has been taught as historical fact was very often not the case.
He tried to explain the mitigating circumstances of how these untruths have come about, likening historians’ work to Eric Morecambe’s approach to music – knowing all the right notes, but not playing them in the right order.
Research by historians from chaotically stored public records, added to fact and fiction handed down over many centuries, has left many examples of what was purported to be history being taught by history teachers in fairly recent years.
Brian quoted many examples of what they were expected to teach just a few decades ago, including Columbus ‘discovering’ America (Norse explorers were there centuries before), Magellan circumnavigating the world (he was killed in the Philippines), the so-called ‘missing link’ Piltdown Man (revealed to be a hoax), and even told as fact was the story of Robert the Bruce and the spider – although it appears to be derived from a Sir Walter Scott novel.
Brian said that even today, history as told by modern TV presenters worried him, and he regretted the inability to teach proper history without glaring inaccuracies.
A vote of thanks for a fascinating and thought-provoking talk was proposed by Harry Smith.
The next meeting of Kirriemuir Probus Club is on Wednesday, February 6, when Rev. John Orr will talk on a ‘Jerusalem Visit’.