Delivered by Professor Pelling at the Swansea meeting of Advocating Classics Education. It's brilliant: 'I just found I couldn't give it up! Exactly!
Prynhawn da. It is especially good to be in Swansea, even for a Cardiff boy (sorry about that – nobody’s perfect): some of the happiest days of my childhood were spent here, sometimes at the Gower or at Rhossili Bay and rather more often along the road at St Helen’s. There can’t be many of us left now who were there when Glamorgan beat the Australians not once but twice, in 1964 and 1968, and those were the days when those fixtures were taken seriously by both sides. Thinking about what Classics has meant to me over the years has meant quite a bit of looking back over fifty years, so sorry about that too: 1968 will indeed come back at the end of what I’m going to say, so when you hear that number you’ll know that the end is in sight. But I’ll leave it vague for the moment what that will be about. Will it be that that it was the year that Tom Jones recorded Delilah, with a revelation of a wannabe aspiration of mine that never came true? Wait and see.
So – what got me into Classics in the first place? Many in this business might say ‘a trip to the British Museum with my parents’ or ‘I really loved Greek myths’, the sort of thing that Ersin Hussein and Catherine Rozier have been talking about earlier today: or, these days much more often than then, seeing someone like Mary Beard on television, or just a family holiday in Greece or Italy. I can’t say the same, though I wish I could. It wasn’t even the attraction of the way I was taught myself, which was very language based – the delight of getting the Latin endings right, though I did quite like that and I was very well taught, even in Cardiff. It’s no coincidence that several of the first people to be really big in computers – the head of IBM, the head of Hewlett Packard – were classicists: if you could get those endings right, chances were that you could get your computer programming right too. No: I’m afraid it was more basic than that. I wanted to be a lawyer, doubtless because of whatever courtroom series was on TV at the time (Perry Mason?), and someone had told me that Latin was really good for law: I could just see myself mouthing habeas corpus and nolle prosequiwith the best of them, and becoming very very rich. That went well, then. And, for that matter, whoever told me that wasn’t wrong: in later life I ended up teaching a lot of people who went on to be lawyers, and (a) none of them regretted having done Classics first and (b) they did become very rich. In my university we discovered that the wealthiest alums were, you’ve guessed it, those who had read Law – and the second wealthiest were the Classicists (and not only those who went on to be lawyers), so don’t let people tell you that a classical education isn’t a good investment in career terms.
So that’s how I got into it, but not why I stayed: I just found I couldn’t give it up.
Opportunities to learn Latin and Greek are increasingly rare. The recent campaign to support the study of Classical Civilisation at High Storrs School, Sheffield is evidence of this. However, here's a new possibility, with a very different and special approach.
If you want to revive the Latin and Greek that you learned at school, start from scratch or make progress in a language that you've been studying on your own, Dr. Bruce McMenomy might be the man to contact: Here is his website, which gives a great deal of information about the courses that he offers online:
The screen shots below give an idea of the kind of teaching that he offers:
And the online resources that are to be found on his website:
One piece of personal piece of evidence that I can offer of this organisation's teaching abilities is that Dr. McMenomy guided me through the intricacies of making something similar to the above (a concordance of a medieval Latin poet called William of Apulia), in only a few days using the Internet, his supreme patience and an ability to explain things lucidly and clearly. Duco ad vos Magistrum Bruce McMenomy, doctissimum sermones utriusque linguae et scientiae computatoris!
Sheffield branch of the Classical Association, founded in 1920