Colin’s Story


                                              (Student from WEA Course ‘Family History on the Internet’, Sunderland)


I have been involved with the WEA for a good few years now. I was lucky enough to win the WEA learner of the year in 2010. This was as a result of an exhibition that I held at Sunderland town centre library and the launch of my web site. Both featured my Dad’s RAF service during WWII.

My web site has led me on to many great and interesting things. I am in regular email communication with people round the world who have seen my web site and either directly knew my Dad or are interested to know what their family members or parents did while attached to the same RAF squadron in Burma.

My highlight of 2010 was a visit to the Duxford Air Show in Cambridge and a personal invitation to view a show from private tents on the flight line. People I met that day paid tribute to my Dad’s achievements while on squadron 1944-1945. I was proud that I could give my Dad and his comrades the recognition that they deserve. This as a direct result of the teaching and gentle encouragement received from tutors of the WEA.

I have pursued my interest in family and local history. The most ironic thing that has come to light is my family connection with Sunderland. I am originally from Chester-le-Street, only moving to Sunderland when I got married. Family history classes have led me to discover how my great-great grandfather moved to Sunderland in the late 1800’s and I’ve  been able to trace the family’s extensive movements in the town. These discoveries have given me a sense of belonging here. A fascinating source of information is ‘British Newspapers Archive’, free access at the local library. The articles provide and add more colour to my ancestors’ lives.

Having never seen a photo of my grandfather from Scotland, imagine my surprise when I uncovered a photo of him in the Dundee Courier and the story of how he was wounded in France during WWI. I don’t even think my Mum new the full story. Again from the same source I’ve pieced together an Indian connection (Bombay to be precise). Just goes to show that with perseverance all sorts can be uncovered.

Family history research is both intriguing and frustrating. One can discover the answer to a niggling question only for it to throw open more questions that need answers and so the search continues.

WEA classes on a Thursday at Sandhill Library, Sunderland provide the right kind of friendly atmosphere which is very conducive to learning. I can always concentrate better in class than I can at home. I guess less distractions and of course going to the class provided a little bit of formal structure to my week.

The WEA has provided me with the confidence and communication skills to enable me to tell my story and for me to realise that there are many people out in the wide world interested to hear what I have to say.

Once again let me say how much I am indebted to the help and support offered by the tutors of the WEA.