Martin F Peagam, is Teesside’s very own Time Traveller. Martin’s passion for local history has led him to deliver guided history walks, talks and tours around the Tees Valley’s storied streets.
Martin’s character and presentation style is suitably exuberant. He never fails to bring the subject matter to life. His attire and the backdrop to his presentations are consistent: sporting a waistcoat with a pocket-watch relief, standing in front of numerous bookcases jammed with material. But how and why did he become a Time Traveller?
“My passion is to make local history interesting and entertaining,” Martin says. “As a Time Traveller I can do this. I do not just tell a story from a history book. Instead I try to take people back to a time and place in the past and hopefully share with them what it was really like to experience that time.
“We must not look at the past through rose-tinted spectacles, nor think it was all doom and gloom: the workhouses are a case in point – they were not all run by cruel and sadistic people, not everyone who entered them died there, and above all they provided a place of refuge for those who fell on hard times. Whereas today, people in a similar plight, despite the welfare state, may end up homeless and alone. We cannot judge the past by today’s values. As a Time Traveller I hope to help people appreciate that.”
Most recently, Martin finds himself conducting his talks online. The prevalence of COVID-19 has prevented his audiences that would have once tramped boots through the streets of Teesside.
Martin says, “Moving online has been a fascinating and rewarding experience, with a steep learning curve! However, I cannot wait to get back to live events. I have only been able to share some of my stories online, due to limitations on time, ironically.
“There is much more that I can share with people in live talks and walks. Moreover, live events can be much more of a two-way experience. Whilst people have been wonderful in sharing their own knowledge and stories in online chats, there is much more interaction takes place with a tour group or an audience. People ask questions, share stories, and even bring along items from their own family history to share with me. Mind you, doing a live tour of Oxbridge Cemetery online from the comfort of my study has its advantages when it’s raining and windy!”
Martin’s assessments are candid, occasionally humorous and brimming with insight. He tries earnestly to operate in objective terms. This is welcome, especially in the polarised and often changing environments we find ourselves living in.
Martin’s key piece of advice for confronting history in our own time is, “Never stop being curious. Always ask questions. And remember the past was a different place, but it was populated by people just like you and I.”
Martin shares about the big events the Tees calendar, such as in 2025, the 200th anniversary of the first public, steam-hauled railway service in the world, the Stockton to Darlington Railway. This is not only important historically, but also provides a wonderful opportunity to welcome the world to Teesside, Covid-19 permitting.
On the 10th September 2020, Martin observed the anniversary of a prodigious day in Teesside’s history, The Battle of Stockton. Eighty-seven years on from the expulsion of Oswald Mosley’s Black Shirts from Stockton’s Silver Street, Martin reminds us that, “The Battle of Stockton was a local event. A fight between those who believed in fascism and those who opposed them. It lasted less than half an hour. But it mirrored similar events all over the country, some of which, such as the Battle of Cable Street, are better known. It also mirrored conflicts taking place across Europe, conflicts that led to the Second World War. As such, this local event can serve as a mirror to international history, but involving people who, like us, were from Teesside.”
Martin’s scope expresses in great detail precisely which streets our local history is extracted from and the esteemed figures our town has paid host to, like Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, two-time MP for Stockton. A common thread in Martin’s two most recent talks – on the opposition to fascism and on the struggle for women to gain the vote – are the combination of conservatism and activism in Teesside.
Martin now has lots of talks online, on 1930s Dance Bands, on Female Suffrage, on Workhouses, on Acklam Hall. And as new stories continue to emerge and the history of Teesside only gets richer. We heartily recommend stopping by on Martin’s Facebook to catch his latest presentations.
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