Wednesday, 19 September 2012

What reminds you of your heritage?

A friend and I were talking recently about the importance of heritage - and, specifically, small visual reminders around the home that bring to mind one's ancestors. After all, our unique combination of genetic material is inherited from a vast family tree stretching back to the beginnings of humankind. Each one of our ancestors who survived to reproduce and pass on DNA to us lived a life - a full life of pleasures, pain, heartbreak, loves, losses and moments of transformation. We have our ancestors to thank for our bodies, talents and temperaments, and it's good to be able to nod to an old family photograph or other tangible reminder of this amid the bustle of daily life.

My father lives overseas, and every time he visits South Africa, he brings me a reminder of some of the people who gave rise to me: perhaps a small pepper canister from somebody's kitchen a century ago, or a letter written in copperplate, or a black-and-white photograph with a name and dates written on the back. One such offering hangs in our passage in the farmhouse: a pencil drawing of a bouquet of flowers from 1887 by my paternal great-grandmother, whose nickname 'Nina' lives on in my little daughter today.

Most recently, I was thrilled to discover that my great-grandfather, the Scottish novelist and poet Neil Munro, has been digitised! Yup, his famous Highland murder mystery, The New Road, first published in 1914 by Blackwoods and included in The List's 100 Greatest Scottish Books of All Time, is now available as an ebook from Merchiston Publishing. See for details. Thanks, Neil, for the words - and may they live on in those of us who've inherited your writer genes.

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