A.J. Walker


The Old Ways, Seven Streets and Seven Years

The Old Ways, Seven Streets, and Seven Years

They say this town was built along seven streets. Just seven. Of course there must have been one first then a second. So which of the seven was the first? And what of the eighth? Of course these may be reasonable questions and there may be answers out there for you. But maybe you are not asking the right question. What of the days before the seven streets - or the one - what came before?

There were the ‘Old Ways’ before there was a city here, before there was a village. And some may be coincident at least partly with the famous streets we now call the first of our city. There were old ways here long before the first people stopped and built here. These were paths taken between places before we became a place - to live and to dream in, to become a destination at all.

These were the questions asked - and at least partly answered - by the famous local historian, Hugo Skully who mysteriously disappeared (at the age of 63) seven years ago. The coroner yesterday issued the Declaration of Presumed Death. The fact that the law is that seven years is taken by the authorities would no doubt be seen as apt by Hugo with his wry sense of humour and his love of the city - and its seven streets. His quest to build on the history with his studies and conjectures was famous in and beyond the city. His talks and tours were always informative and fun - and extremely well attended.

He said there were good paths, and barely used ways across the grasses, the sands and the stones of the county - long before there were such human constructs as borders and taxation. Hugo would often be seen out on the beaches, the farms and the river banks with his bulky knapsack full of maps, notebooks and pens as he mapped and remapped our past. In the most recent years he was mapping what he saw as barely used paths, wrong paths and plain evil ways used by our forbears and peoples long forgotten. I wonder which of these ways should we know about, and remember - and which should be lost forever? Perhaps he was lost on one of the evil ways best forgotten. Or perhaps he found the route of some infinite path too compelling not to follow and he’s walking still. Maybe he’ll turn up in a year’s time. He did always have a fondness for the number 8; and the dramatic. And I’d love to see Hugo and his famous knapsack - which was never found - silhouetted on the skyline above a farmer's field once more.

Rest in Peace if you must, Hugo. But better still, we’ll see you next year if your path brings you back.