Long Ago, In A Castle Far Far Away

Long Ago, In A Castle Far Far Away October 25, 2015

This column has nothing to do with religious or even academic concerns (well, not much). It’s just a nice story.

Like most people in this spiral arm of the galaxy, I am looking forward to the latest Star Wars film, and have just seen the new trailer. The star is Daisy Ridley, who is clearly set for mega-stardom.

And I know a fun fact about her family history that even she may not know.

Daisy is the great-niece of Arnold Ridley (1896-1984), who in a phenomenally long career as actor and playwright was a mainstay of British theater and popular culture. His 1927 play The Ghost Train was one of the most popular and longest running plays of the London stage. In later life, he starred in the beloved comedy series Dad’s Army.

In 1977, I was a member of the British Dracula Society, which organized incredibly learned and entertaining programs, including tours around Dracula’s London. For the record, we never wore fangs. At our annual banquet that year, we were delighted to hear that Arnold Ridley would be our guest speaker, which was wonderful in its own right, but (we were assured, cryptically) there was a very special reason why he had been chosen. We were all intrigued.

And then we found out the reason. As a young boy, not long after 1900, the young Arnold had been introduced to that major player in the London stage world …. Bram Stoker!

Arnold Ridley had met the author of Dracula (who died in 1912) and we, in turn, were listening to Arnold Ridley. Astonishing.

But maybe this does have something to do with academic matters, and specifically history. It is interesting for what it suggests about the nature of memory, and of oral tradition. Here is an event from around 1900 or 1905, which I heard reported in 1977, and I am passing on to you in 2015. And if you pass it to your children, we might have a memory recorded over 150 years. Now, that memory is anything but perfect. When I started writing this blog, I could have sworn that the year of the banquet was 1979, not 1977, and I had to check my facts online. But the general recollection is correct.

Not bad for oral tradition.

Oh yes, and besides Daisy Ridley, the other rising star of the new film is her fellow-Brit John Boyega, proving yet again that the Galactic Empire of this inconceivably distant era is still a thoroughly British affair.

The Empire strikes back….

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