A pre-digital Fellowship

A pre-digital Fellowship

It was with surprise (and pleasure) that I received an invitation from the Churchill Fellowship to write a reflective blog on completing my Fellowship of fifty-five years ago, highlighting the practical considerations of a pre-digital age.

"Pictures tell a thousand stories however, and my chunky camera (with case of lenses) was rarely out of my hands. How wonderful it would have been, to click away with one of today’s mobile phone cameras - not yet invented."
DAPHEN DUNSTER (CF 1968) Download 'Daphen Dunster'

The Fellowship category I was entered into in 1968 was ‘Marinas and Facilities for Pleasure Craft. At that time I was one of a small team involved in early recreational planning of the 10,000 acre Lea Valley Regional Park- parts of which became venues for the London 2012 Olympics. Running from Hertfordshire to the Thames in London’s East End, it had been established by an Act of Parliament in 1967. It was the first regional park in the UK. Much of it was water, reservoirs, disused gravel pits and the River Lea itself. There was such potential for developments in this field and with that in mind my Fellowship was planned, visiting Malta and the USA.

Arrangements then, were not as speedy as today. There was no internet, so no possibility of exploratory googling. Meetings had to be arranged by real mail (not email which didn’t exist) or by expensive, international telephone calls - not always convenient given different time zones. There were also financial considerations since exchange control regulations were still in place and there was no Internet banking. Credit cards were rare and debit cards were still in the future. I recall carrying lots of travellers' cheques! None of these things seemed irksome at the time however, it was just the way things were.

Malta was chosen because, following the run down of British forces, the Maltese government saw development of the deep-water harbours for marinas and boating facilities as powerful economic enablers for the island. The Churchill Fellowship opened doors, giving me access to the time and experience of the island’s engineering and planning departments. Hard copy technical information on relevant aspects were collated and shipped back to the office in Hertfordshire, there being no scanning/video conferencing/QR codes at that time and only very limited photocopying, which was not commonplace until the early 1970s.

The Malta visit was brief, with the remaining time spent criss-crossing the USA. The same ‘economic enabling’ aspect of ‘watery’ facilities for leisure, as expressed in Malta, was echoed throughout the USA sites. Visits relied heavily on the wonderful National Parks Service of America but also included private developments and academic centres involved in relevant research, such as methods of recreational cost/ benefit analysis. Pictures tell a thousand stories however, and my chunky camera (with case of lenses) was rarely out of my hands. How wonderful it would have been, to click away with one of today’s mobile phone cameras - not yet invented. Even the film had to be bought, carefully labelled and stored awaiting ‘development at the end of my trip.

Computers and word processors were still in the future, so reporting back to base meant writing reports longhand, every two or three days, delivering them to the hotel ‘stenographer’ for typing and mailing back to the office. Without the internet, wonderfully illustrated and copious material on relevant developments e.g. the ‘California Boating Plan’, ‘Launching Ramps and Piers’ by the Outboard Boating Club of America, and so much more, had to be carried home by me (impossible) or shipped back to base.

An aspect of Fellowships at that time was inclusion of ‘The International Experiment’. This was a week or so spent as guest of a local family (pre-selected by the Churchill Fellowship). The purpose being to absorb facets of each other’s culture and way of life. The charming host family facilitated my ‘boating’ research around their home in San Francisco as well as showing me the popular ‘sights’. However, my most abiding memory is of sitting beneath a starry sky one night, beside their swimming pool, made turquoise by underwater lights, watching a confident frog peacefully breast stroking his way up and down. The memory of it still makes me smile. A mobile could have captured it in the cloud forever!


The views and opinions expressed by any Fellow are those of the Fellow and not of the Churchill Fellowship or its partners, which have no responsibility or liability for any part of them.


Newsletter Sign Up