Meet the Speaker: Dr Richard Reid

Richard-REID-225x300In the coming weeks Ambassadors for the Waves in Time 2019 conference will be introducing you to the speakers. You’ll get to learn a little about them, their expertise and what they will be sharing at the conference.

Today we have keynote speaker, Dr Richard Reid, who is an expert in Irish and military research.

I wonder if you could tell us a little about your background?  Are you a genealogist, researcher, historian or representing your organisation?

If I’m anything I’m an ‘historian’, Level 2. I say that because there are so many brilliant academics and historical writers around that I certainly don’t see myself as at Level 1, although over the years I’ve added my tuppence worth. My background since I began participating in the ‘history game’ has been as a high school English/History teacher, museum educator, museum historian, museum curator and as the historical public face for a federal government department, Veterans’ Affairs. If I had to classify myself I’d say I have worked mainly as something called a ‘public historian’, in my case someone who has always been on the public purse and producing, in the main, material for a general rather than an academic audience.    

What do you love most about genealogy/family history/history/heraldry?

What is a ‘family historian’? Not sure I’m primarily one of those although I certainly admire people who’ve spent a great deal of time uncovering the documentary evidence for the experiences of their family over, in some instances, hundreds of years.  I have learnt a huge amount from family historians about the past and I’m very grateful for that. I am interested in the history of my own family where I can sense it intersecting with broader historical events and movements in society, and I’m fortunate that my father put together a small collection of family material way back in the 1940s which I’m now getting a great deal of fun out of cataloguing and interpreting.

Have you attended a History Queensland Conference in previous years?

To be honest I can’t remember but I feel sure I have!

How do you think your topic/s will help the family & local historians at the Waves in Time Conference?

Very hard to answer a question like that. Years ago, one of my university lecturers stressed to me that you can always learn ‘something’ even from the most boring and banal of presenters. So, I hope my audience on the day manage to pick up one or two relevant thoughts or facts from what I’m talking about.

Do you have a favourite piece of advice or a tip or trick you can share with conference attendees?

Not really. I’m someone who enjoys serendipitous meanderings in historical collections. Over the years I’ve managed to learn more from the question ‘what have you got about vast topic ‘A’ and let me wander through it’ than specific questions about specific events. Rather than looking for the needle in the haystack I would rather play around in the haystack, and I’ve uncovered all sorts of interesting stuff that way. Sometimes it has even related, quite by chance, to my own family! That’s not particularly good advice to a family historian who wants a far more specific reason to spend time with a particular collection, but it has served me well.

What do you think are the benefits of attending a large conference like this, for you personally and for others attending?

Back to what I said earlier … you can always learn something even from the most unlikely individual. Moreover, family historians often know a great deal more about great sources of material than historians who spend a lot of time weighing up and discussing interpretations and questions. That’s not a criticism of the academics. It’s horses for courses and at conferences like this I’ve met people who have assisted me greatly in my own research. It’s also a good feeling to know that people find some value in what you have to say and the way in which you say it. Age and increasing irrelevance stare us all in the face and it’s nice to be asked to present.

If you could pick one new project to do, what would it be? (Assuming no funding issues)

That is a tough one as I’ve already got a lot of ideas for books/articles on topics which I know, given my age, I’ll never complete. So, you have to become increasing ruthless with your time simply to get something written. That said, if I had unlimited funds, and could step away from everything else after my current writing project, I think I’d love to do the definitive book on transportation from Ireland to Australia 1788 to 1868. There is still a mountain of fantastic archival material back in Ireland to process and evaluate before we can really say more comprehensively what Irish transportation was about, who was liable to be transported, how typical these unfortunates were of what might be called the Irish criminal class (we still delight to see them more as ‘victims’ than ‘criminals’ and  we need to decide who were indeed ‘victims’), how the Irish legal system actually operated in relation to transportation, who had a sentence commuted as a result of a petition against being transported and why, how typical transportees where of those who went through the courts in Ireland … and a hundred other questions.

As you can see from Richard’s responses, he will provide a different approach to our research and challenge us to think critically about what we find…his talks certainly won’t be “boring or banal”. I’m definitely looking forward to it. Thanks Richard for sharing your story.

If you haven’t already registered for Waves in Time 2019, remember the clock is ticking. Even if you can’t join us for the whole conference perhaps you’d like to learn more by visiting the Friday fare. Check the program out here, and register here.

Disclaimer: As a Waves in Time Ambassador I receive a free registration in return for promoting the conference in various social media forums and on my blog.

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