News and Events

FoCAS Members’ Day and AGM

26 September 2020

Carlisle Archive Centre – Petteril Bank


Margaret Bainbridge

Major bequests for FOCAS and Barrow Archives by Margaret Bainbridge

(adapted from FOCAS Newsletter)

Margaret, who has left FOCAS and Barrow Archives very generous bequests, was born in Barrow-in-Furness but spent most of her adult life away, particularly in Turkey, London and Lancaster. Margaret studied at Edinburgh and Cambridge, taught in various parts of the country, and then spent time in Turkey in the 1950s working as an English tutor. On her return she became the Turkish expert at the London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) where she taught the language and wrote definitive guides to the grammar. As a talented musician she also actively engaged in the city’s cultural activities.

It was in retirement that she developed a love of local history. Moving back north with her parents they settled on Lancaster where Margaret felt she would have the opportunity to study, to take courses and to attend concerts. She began, as so many people do, with family history but registered for the Diploma in Local History in the then Centre for North West Regional Studies at Lancaster University which she credited with giving her insights into broader issues and ranges of sources. She traced many of her family connections in the coal mining communities of East Lothian and the fishing communities of Fife, and spent time interviewing people about their memories of family, work and community. She also explored local history in the Lancaster area, and one of her major research projects was that of the Lancaster-built ship, Abram, which sailed first to the West Indies and then became a whaler from Hull and later Kirkcaldy. This was a particular fascination for her since one of her ancestors had died on board in the Arctic in the 1850s and she travelled to Scotland and London to research the ship but, as she increasingly realised her ambition to write all this up might be frustrated by advancing years, she engaged Rob David and myself to extend the research and write up the results. These were published in 2013 as The West Indies and the Arctic in the Age of Sail; Voyages of Abram, 1806-62 (CNWRS, 2013). Her notes on this, and other ships and families associated with Lancaster’s trade, have been deposited at the Regional Heritage Centre.

Margaret’s house on Aldcliffe Road was a treasure trove, full of papers, photos and tapes, and in her 80s she began to find future homes for them: her vast archival collection on Turkey went to the Skilliter Centre for Ottoman Studies, Newnham College, Cambridge where she had studied; a large collection of local photographs and some family papers were given to Cumbria Archives in Barrow, detailing her father’s work as a chauffeur and her own wartime diary, which has been digitised and is regularly used for educational work with schools (BDX 555). Since her death other material has been deposited at the Regional Heritage Centre at Lancaster University, National Library of Scotland, Cambridge and Barrow Archive Centre. In every case she has made generous provision for them to be sorted and catalogued.

As this short note makes clear, Margaret led a full and interesting life, but she never lost her affection for the Morecambe Bay area. She also recognised and treasured the value of archives and this has been reflected in her generous donations to various bodies, including FOCAS. She was a private person, however, never seeking, but often actively shunning publicity and recognition. It is not clear whether she would really appreciate even this short appreciation of her life, but as a talented linguist, teacher, musician and researcher it is the very least she deserves. We are very grateful to her for both her collection of archival records and her generous support for local history in the area and the work of the archive service.

FOCAS is currently consulting with the archive service about Margaret's generous gift can best be used.