Recently launched in Bembridge, ‘I’m Not Blessed Well Jokin’!’ presents a collection of interviews with fifteen villagers who, when recorded in the 1970s and ‘80s, were all in their eighties and nineties, and their collective memories of old Bembridge stretch back to the latter years of the 19th century and turn of the 20th. Their quality, age and humour make them totally unique.
Topics covered include: schooldays, ‘characters’, village shops, fishing, farming, coastguards, smuggling, lifeboats, entertainments, pubs, piloting, and much more.
As well as detailing the interplay between local residents and the upper class, these reminiscences, written as they were spoken, provide insights into the resilience of ordinary villagers in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, while the stories and larger-than-life characters are always recalled with affection and genial good humour.
The author, Alan Phillips, recorded the oldest villagers when he was librarian at Bembridge in the 1970s. He said: “Readers across the Island with little knowledge of Bembridge itself have told me how much they’ve enjoyed reading these oral memories.”
Paul Kenny, trustee of Bembridge Heritage Society, said: “It really is a very interesting book, providing an insight into village and community stretching over a lifetime. Humour abounds.
“Even if you’re a newcomer to the Island, the descriptions of the village and its people open a door to a past – that pictures, without dialogue, can’t do.”