In praise of Mike Clubb – and volunteers everywhere
My dad, Mike Clubb, spent his whole working life as a history teacher. Bridgend for the most part, but also Cwmbrân and Zambia.
It’s hard for a son to objectively assess his father’s quality as a teacher; but from conversations I’ve had with ex-pupils, he seems to be fairly high regarded, even by the ‘naughty kids’ (strict but fair being the general feedback).
The Welsh Arsenal
His love of history was given a particularly local flavour when he took a significant interest in the lives of the people, up to 32,000 of them, who worked in the arsenal in Bridgend during WW2. Most of those people were women who were suddenly faced with employment opportunities and a wage – things not necessarily in great supply for women in the ’40s.
Dad wrote a book in 2007, ‘The Welsh Arsenal’, which kick-started a campaign to have the workers recognised for the part they played in the war effort.
The campaign, led by the Bridgend Civic Trust, culminated in a public plaque and ceremony, attended by Huw Irranca-Davies, who read out a letter from Gordon Brown (Prime Minister at the time).
Since the book was published, dad has spent countless hours of his evenings and weekends traveling the length and breadth of south Wales to educate others about this unique historical legacy; and to inspire others to take an interest in their own local histories.
Dad didn’t grow up speaking Welsh; he has learned it as an adult. So it was amazing to see him able to participate in an S4C programme about disability recently. His grandchildren were delighted too (apparently being on telly still has some caché even for kids today!)
In praise of volunteers
My dad’s obvious love of history, and his passion to share it with others, is simultaneously both mundane and extraordinary.
It’s mundane only in the way that, across Wales, hundreds of thousands of us volunteer in our own ways every day, making life a bit better for people in our local communities, or communities of interest further afield. In other words, it’s ‘commonplace, ordinary’.
But what an extraordinary gift of love and mutual cooperation.
From the local history societies, civic societies, local museums, to the environmental organisations that are showing a path to local activism and love of nature, to every form of social, community, health and sporting activity. Our lives are supported by the invisible threads of generosity of spirit, of time, and frequently of money.
You may have heard people say that society doesn’t matter. That only economics matters, only markets matter.
They couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only is the current system broken, using the commons as a convenient place to dump pollution, and harvesting financial wealth as a compensation; but a market-driven approach, with every transaction needing to carry an equivalent monetary exchange, can never provide the rich experiences that humans need to fulfill their true potential.
Next time you hear someone talk about ‘consumers’, remember that they really mean people; and each of us has our own part to play in forging a better society.
The wonderful people who give freely of their time, energy and love are worthy of our huge thanks. So here’s to my dad, Mike Clubb, and to everybody like him who gifts their time within their local communities across Wales and beyond.