4 July 2017

On Friday 23rd June, the History Department were visited by a group from the University of Lancaster who were here to listen to a presentation from our very own History Society on the link between the town of Ashton in Makerfield and the Boer War. 

Over the course of the year, the group have researched the South African conflict, which took place at the turn of the last century, and how a group of volunteer soldiers from the town, known as the Lancashire Hussars, were sent to fight there following a series of British defeats known as ‘Black Week’.

The pupils initially researched the war online and, following a visit with Miss Cleveland to the Museum of Wigan Life to experience researching an event through newspaper records, started to create a wall display which gave an overview of the conflict and described: the local connection to the war, the role of the Gerard family in recruiting and training the men, the fate of the local soldiers who went to South Africa and the hero’s welcome they received on their return to Ashton.  

Excitingly, Dr John Strachan (Lecturer of History at the University of Lancaster) agreed to come and listen to a presentation of the group’s research and brought along two postgraduate students who were interested to see the work our pupils had been doing.  After a clear and confident presentation, our group faced questions on the war from the panel of visitors.  After an uncertain start, some of our pupils really got into their stride and were able to engage with the high standard of questions they were facing.   

The two postgraduate students, Shawna and Nina, were then kind enough to give a brief presentation of their areas of historical study at university.  Both demonstrated a real passion for their subject and showed our pupils the range of things that were possible when studying at university.  Shawna’s study of how the history of slavery was memorialised and remembered in the USA sounded fascinating – but our students really perked up when Nina described her postgraduate essay into the history of facial hair!  While this may sound a touch eccentric at first, some excellent questions from our pupils revealed that this was more of a study of the changing nature of appearance and identity than comparing pictures of moustaches!

Our group of twelve were a real credit to the school – all of our visitors complimented their attentiveness and their questioning of the postgraduates.  We hope it gave our pupils greater confidence in speaking in front of a professional, knowledgeable and critical audience and, hopefully, encouraged them to think about studying History at university themselves in the future.

Our thanks to John Strachan, Shawna and Nina for coming all the way from Lancaster to find out a bit more about Ashton and the Boer War.

Mr D Linton, Head of History