A 16-year-old boy keeping a diary; writing it in shorthand. It’s 1894 and he climbs over a storm-wrecked ship, fires his cannon, winds up clocks, makes engines, gets up to school-boy antics with his friends. He speaks of members of his family and the many visitors to his home. The place is St Ives, Cornwall, England and the writer is Edmund Eardley Gordon Heywood, known as Gordon. He was born in North Adelaide, Australia on 27 November 1877 and died on 27 May 1950 in Zeehan, Tasmania.
On 7 December 1893, Gordon’s mother gave him the Pitman’s Shorthand and Typewriting Year Book and Diary for 1894. They were living at 10 Barnoon Terrace, St Ives, Cornwall, England at the time. Gordon was learning shorthand, amongst other subjects, at Hayle Grammar School, where he was a weekly boarder. He wrote diary entries, in shorthand, for almost every day from 15 December 1893 to 14 May 1894 and a few others at random, eg Christmas Day, 1894: ‘A lovely day. Went to early service. In the morning went down on pebble beach. Charlotte and Mr Griffin came to dinner. We had goose and 2 fowls. Some preserved fruit.’
I bought the diary on eBay in October 2015 and the adventure started. How did he come to be living in St Ives, Cornwall? Who were the many people he mentions in the diary? What happened to Gordon after the time of the diary? Would my friend, Gill, be able to decipher the shorthand outlines that I’d found impossible?
Here is a transcript of Gordon’s diary and some answers to the questions. And here is a photo of the grown-up Gordon in Tasmania; a long way from the scenes of his diary.