Living history

I like reading history – particularly personal history and biography. So it was wonderful to meet J. Gordon Mumford a couple of weeks ago during a family trip to Burnaby Village Museum.

Mumford served in the British Merchant Marine during WWII. Joining up at age 17, he was shipwrecked twice: once by torpedo, once by mine. The Black Pit … and Beyond is his painfully honest story of those first few years.

The “black pit” was that swatch of ocean in which convoys could not be protected by aerial reconnaissance from either Iceland or the UK … and was therefore the playground of the U-boats and the most dangerous part of the voyage from Canada or the US to Great Britain.

When I met Gordon, I had to think of that proverb that when an old person dies, a library is destroyed – he’s definitely getting on, and signed the book in the spidery scrawl that people resort to when their fine motor skills are abandoning them. But at least in Gordon’s case, this and his four other autobiographical books will ensure that the library lives on.

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  • I emailed Gordon that I had blogged about his book and meeting him, and received this reply:

    Hello John

    Thanks for writing, and sending a link to your blog and other writings. Glad you enjoyed the book. Sorry for the delay. I injured my back at the end of June (crushed a lumbar vertebra and have been on strong painkillers since then). I also got an infection in my nose that spread to the eye, but antiobiotics have cleared that up now. Barbara just had an eye opertion yesterday, so we feel like a couple of old crocks. But we will receover as good as new, hopefully.
    Again, it was nice meeting you on BC Day.

    Best regards
    Gordon & Barbara