Member Profile: Maryemm

Maryemm December 2008

It's been four years since I enrolled with the Latin group. The years have flown by quickly and enjoyably.

I had studied Latin at my Grammar School but there were gaps in my learning and I genuinely felt that I wanted to make up for lost time, and a past that was somewhat imperfect as far as Latin was concerned.

Meeting everyone online was, at first, a bit of a whirlwind experience. Trying to remember where everyone came from took some doing as students seemed to come from all parts of the world. In my group I was the only UK representative but I was made to feel at home from the start and soon study-mates became friends.

I was born in Wales, the Land of my Fathers, as our National Anthem states. Brought up in a bilingual household I became fluent in Welsh and in English from an early age. I found both languages easy to learn and even our dogs understood both English and Welsh commands.

The fact that I was Welsh seemed to puzzle, or amuse, my classmates. For most, the country was as unknown and as remote as it must have been to the English, let alone the Romans who invaded both North and South Wales. Thanks to my studies I learnt that my home-area in Roman times had belonged originally to the Silures, a fierce tribe who continued to wage continuous guerilla warfare against their invaders. According to Tacitus, in his biography of "Agricola", the Silures mostly had dark complexions and curly hair, (they still do), and as a people, were 'non atrocitate, non clementia mutabatur' - changed neither by cruelty, nor by clemency. They certainly put up a good fight - and still can!

To my surprise I learnt that around eighteen out of the fifty-six signatories of the Declaration of Independence were of Welsh descent, a fact quite unknown to me before enrolling in my Latin course. I was learning about my own countrymen as well as Romans.

In 1957 my husband and I moved to Dorset where we have remained ever since. Dorset is Hardy country and films such as "Far from the Madding Crowd" give a good indication of the beauty of the countryside and of the coastline. The county has strong Roman connections: Poole, Blandford, Dorchester, Maiden Castle and Badbury Rings, to name but a few, and there are Roman villas, fascinating places to visit.

Reading has always been my favourite pastime and I could read and write before I was five. I don't recall being taught by my parents; it seemed to have been a process of assimilation. I still love reading and my home has far too many books.

I was always happier writing in English than in Welsh. There were times when I had to pick up a pen, or pencil and write "something." These were usually short stories, doggerel verse and once, a "novel." I soon learnt that the first rule of writing is to write about something one knows! The novel was soon discarded.

At University I followed most student activities but one I enjoyed was not general to most of the students. I auditioned for Welsh radio and, being successful, took part in many productions aimed at Welsh schools. I enjoyed playing the Lady of the Manor, and equally singing as a young "lad." The pay was good and supplemented my pocket money. I particularly enjoyed the income derived from "repeat" programmes.

I write to various pen-friends and, over the years, have inevitably lost some. The son of one, reporting his mother's death wrote, "Interesting, sometimes we don't know what kind of blessing we are in someone else's life," and this really brought home to me the power of the written word. I don't know about being a "blessing." Certainly I have been privileged, and blessed, to know so many good and interesting people.

Re-learning Latin has been a joy. In my own time, at my own pace I have followed the lessons and learnt from my tutor, Ginny, and from my fellow classmates. There have been euphoric moments when I have been able to "read" rather than to translate sentences.

Editing a magazine for the Classics section has been another enjoyable pastime. There have been several editions of "Ecce" and collating the articles written by the Latin and Greek online students has been rewarding. In my official (!) capacity as Editor I have had occasion to write to many people well -known in the Classics world and I have been surprised, and humbled, to find how many are willing to add their voices to our online magazine to give advice and encouragement.

There are now three of us in the UK who are learning Latin online. I know that I can contact my co-patriots at any time and I also know that my fellow international classmates are equally willing to offer advice, help and encouragement.

Truly, as I have often said in the Classics' Common Room: we enter as students; we leave as friends.

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