Comment: Descended from greatness




As a northerner and a journalist I was delighted to discover that I’m a direct descendant of the founder of the Manchester Guardian newspaper. That’s an understatement. Actually, I was off my head with excitement! Imagine me, Mrs Nobody from the back end of nowhere, sharing the same DNA as someone I have long admired, a giant of the journalism world? Two years after the infamous Peterloo Massacre of 1819 John Taylor founded The Manchester Guardian which arguably became one of the most longstanding and respected newspapers in the world. Taylor published stories about the little people, exposed exploitation, held the powerful to account and changed the course of history.

My joy was indescribable. A voice deep within whispered: “Now I know why I have this burning fire within me! Why I must write.” I put the kettle on and pondered the sheer significance of who I suddenly knew myself to be. In an instant I had become someone else, I saw myself with fresh eyes, no longer ordinary, surely I must be extra ordinary? I drank my tea and for at least fifteen minutes basked in the giddy glow of this unexpected greatness. Then I re-read the genealogy report; then I researched further; then I compared some facts; then I realised that the John Taylor I was descended from was not the John Taylor of Manchester Guardian fame; then I opened the biscuit tin.

My John Taylor shared the same date of birth as the Manchester Guardian’s John Taylor, along with some other similarities. But a few minutes online and the full truth of the matter became apparent. Had I just wanted it to be true? Yes, I had wanted it to be true. Had I needed it to be true? Maybe. Did I have a blind spot to some of the facts? Did I leap to conclusions? Did I just want to feel important? Different? Descended from greatness?

Those fifteen minutes taught me something special. For the entire duration of a tea break my self-belief soared, my self-love lifted, my self-respect resonated. It was really quite remarkable. My calling, my purpose, things deep within my heart were empowered with a fresh fervour. The stance of self-deprecation briefly evaporated. I was really rather impressed with myself. I thought I was alright. I’ve since raised a glass to both John Taylors and decided that perhaps I should embrace that kind of confidence a bit more often, regardless of my DNA.

Main photo credit: Austin Kirk via Unsplash

Val Fraser

Val Fraser is a trained journalist with over 12 years’ experience working on staff in various demanding media environments. She has authored/edited thousands of articles including news, travel and features. Val has authored/contributed to nine non-fiction books. A regular columnist, she stepped up to the role of Digital Editor in September 2022 and is responsible for the Sorted Magazine website.

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