Thursday, 20 June 2013
I was reminded by my fellow historian/researcher Drummond Calder the other day what we are often up against. We take books written by other people as sources for our research, but from knowledge, even those who get published make huge mistakes, and these get spread.
Now I am not asking for a system of references [by s**t, I hardly ever reference where I 'borrow' information from, but Drummond is better at that than me.] I have, on my own file [which I shared with Drummond] that Hugh McKinnon played for ESFC. For this assertation I was reliant upon George Park's "St Bernard's Football Club: or when the well ran dry".
Drummond disputes there was such a player for ESFC in this era, and thinks it might be getting mixed up with a back called McKinnie. All I can say is I have already spread the myth that Hugh McKinnon played for ESFC, and now I have to check things more, because I don't know. These mistakes grow, and are repeated by people who do something similar for other clubs. Douglas Lamming's book is a great source of information, but it wasn't until I came across Jock McTavish's Obituaries in the Falkirk Herald and Falkirk Mail that anyone pointed out that the date he supplied was ridiculous. I was not the first to find an error, and I am sure I will not be the last. This does not decry the importance of Douglas Lamming's book. It is hugely important. If I were to claim never to have made a mistake, then I would properly be ridiculed. I have made many [I once mixed up the brothers Gibson [1880s] with a whole different family], it happens. What I am saying is that, we who trawl archives, are in a trusted position, and we trust each other, but we are simply human, we make mistakes. But these mistakes have repercussions which are hard to fix [especially when they get on wikipedia].
It seems when we do this stuff without proper research we are only spreading misinformation. Myself, I like to be corrected, but that is because it allows me to change my spreadsheets [there is always a first name of a reserve player to be altered, always a newly discovered middle name [I hate to use the word discover as it was obviously known before, yet do not feel "find" is good enough]].
In the way that neither Amerigo di Vespucci, not Cristoforro di Colombo 'discovered' South America [the fact being given away by the fact that there were people living there [who had presumably 'discovered' it earlier]] I do not discover biographical details of Falkirk players: it is just new to me. I suppose in thinking "find" is about the best the English language can offer. In Spanish there is a word more like 'uncover' = to make clear something which has been obscured. But I do not wish to write this blog in Spanish quite yet ¡ojala!.