He died at sea.
Well, a river, actually. But it was all quite tragic. He left behind a wife and three children.
I suppose I should’ve felt saddened by the heart-breaking story of the sailor who never made it home, but I was too excited.
It had all started the week before, in Mr. Davidson’s extracurricular history group.
“Give me something exciting!” he’d said, throwing his hands in the air. “Ask your grandparents, do some research!”
He wanted us to go out and find our own history; whether it was our family past or the story of the places we lived in. Since I was pretty sure nothing overly exciting had ever happened in my family, I decided to go with the latter.
Our house was old. When we bought it seven years ago, the guy who showed us round the place told us that there were servant’s chambers in the basement dating back to the Victorians. Yeah, like that wasn’t creepy at all, but my dad was delighted. The day we moved in, he went exploring all the nooks and crannies, even finding a hidden storage room in the attic.
My parents decided to buy the place because it was cheap. Of course, a house being cheap must have its reasons, so it needed work, and lots of it. But luckily for us, Dad is quite the DIY man. Within three years of buying the place, it looked as good as new. The walls had all been repainted, a new bathroom and kitchen fitted. We even had a proper garden for the first time, with a lawn, a pear tree, and a little vegetable patch.
I hated it, at first.
It was big, and creepy, and it was always freezing cold in the winter. I was ten years old when we moved in, so loose floorboards and a pitch-black basement weren’t exactly appealing to me back then.
Ridgewell was full of old houses. Most of the time it felt like the entire town was stuck in the early 1900s. But the house we’d lived in before had been a lot brighter and more homely. This one looked grey, dull, and generally unappealing. It took me forever to get used to all of the creaky noises and bumps in the night that came with the package of living in a Victorian house.
But it looked like the old place was finally of use to me. At least now I had something interesting to show to Mr. Davidson on Monday.
Don’t even ask me why I decided to study extracurricular history.
A couple of years ago, Dad kept going on and on about how I had to do something aside from my usual schoolwork in order to stand out on my university applications. I guess I picked history because I knew not many others would. Giving up two lunchtimes a week certainly beat joining the school council with the ‘popular’ crowd.
My dad turned out to be right, I guess, about the extra work. Last September, when I had to start applying, the history course certainly gave me something else to talk about. I got an offer from my top choice university, so showing I could work more than what was required must have helped out a little.
I didn’t think I’d find anything interesting when I typed the house address into the search bar on my laptop. But after a few clicks here and there, I found it, a webpage about a boating accident that happened in 1934.
I was confused at first, wondering why it was connected to our house. Then I carried on reading the page.
One of the men lost in the accident was sailor Richard W. Thompson, of 24 Harland Road, who is survived by his wife and three children aged 12, 14, and 16.
My house. This guy had lived in my house, and had died in a tragic boating disaster that happened on the local river. This was perfect. This was a story to tell.
I felt a sense of achievement as I printed out the webpage and placed it inside my history folder, ready for tomorrow’s group meeting.
This was a much better story than the one about my grandfather making the local newspaper fifty years ago for almost crashing his first car into the shop on the corner of his street.