The 200th edition of The Ipswich Society Newsletter would not be complete without a mention of John Norman's Ipswich Icons which has been a favourite feature every Saturday in the East Anglian Daily Times for nearly three years, as well as appearing in the Ipswich Star and as a web publication most weeks - and is still going strong.
For the few who have not seen these fascinating weekly snippets of Ipswich past, the Society's Chairman, John Norman, has been contributing a full page with accompanying photographs, delving into corners of Ipswich history which can only intrigue as well as educate his readers. As with Giles in the Sunday Express, it has become one of those essential little components which make the week-end, which would not be complete without it.
Such is John's passion for Ipswich and in turn The Ipswich Society, he has always generously had his work published under the Society's banner, using it as a tool to promote his beloved Ipswich Society.
John told me that he had originally agreed to do a series of 100 but at the time of writing he is up to 140 with no sign of him giving up quite yet. He admits that inspiration has sometimes been hard to find, but writer's block has not caught up with him so far as he continuously trawls Ipswich Library, the Suffolk Record Office and his own library at home for more stories.
John would not claim to be an historian but just someone who loves to explore the past history of his home town. He has been corrected at times, as historians tend to be, and when accused of using Wikipedia as one of his sources he remarked with a twinkle in his eye, "I was the one who wrote the Wikipedia entry in the first place." Whether he was being serious or not I am not sure, but I know he is happy to be corrected when wrong. "That is how you learn." he said, and with so many of his stories still in living memory, he has to be thorough in his research.
History is like Chinese Whispers and can change along the generations. It has been said that history is not always what you remember but what you want to remember. Local stories have sometimes been embellished along the way, and like the Loch Ness Monster and the Ipswich Underground Railway, you want believe it and so are easily taken in. This then gets recorded as fact and eventually becomes fact in many people's eyes. John tries to avoid this, but even the most notable historians are sometimes caught out.
John and his Ipswich Icons have now become icons of Ipswich in their own right and perhaps one day we might talk him into publishing the whole series 'en bloc'. These may then, in turn, be part of the Suffolk Record Office and Ipswich Library collections to which future historians will refer.
We thank John for the enjoyment, nostalgic memories and for the insights of Ipswich history he has shared with us and long may he continue his revelations of this unique town. Few are more passionate about Ipswich than John Norman.