The Accidental Historian: An interview with Keith Parker

Keith Parker

Published: Tuesday 14th October 2014 by Paul Nickerson - Writer

Comments (3)

Keith Parker is curator of one of the largest historical archives in Hull, but I don’t think he quite knows it.

When I met him to talk about his Facebook group – ‘Hull The Good Old Days’, I asked him straight: ‘Keith, are you a historian?’ “No, not really” he replies modestly. But he is. And most of the 17,500 people who follow his page would agree.

If you haven’t seen it, the best way to describe Keith’s Facebook group is as a vast communal scrapbook that anyone’s free to update. It’s an ever-expanding virtual museum with over 1,800 albums crammed full with pictures and postcards from Hull’s past.

A gathering of faces from the dark reaches of time who now exist in the present thanks to Keith.

Underneath the pictures are personal memories and recollections of people and places long since gone. Log on and your computer screen is filled with the tapestry of Hull’s past. A gathering of faces from the dark reaches of time who now exist in the present thanks to Keith.

A former oil rig worker, born and bred in Hull, Keith Parker started the group on a whim. ” I’d seen a few nostalgia sites but nothing for Hull”. With just a handful of old photos, he set up what has become a hugely popular local group.

When he’s not working as an electrician, Keith’s spare time is dominated by his passion. In the morning he checks the site for things that were posted the night before. “You do get the odd spammer, but I’ve learnt to recognise them and I’m careful who I add to the group, says Keith, “I don’t want them to spoil it for the others”.

I get the sense that what Keith’s really checking for is deviations from a theme. “I take down anything that’s not historical,” he admits.  So there’s no chitchat about football, or the weather, or anything unless it’s on subject. In my mind, this makes Keith even more of a purist, and even more typical of a man careful to honour his city’s past. The rule also means the constant updates in ones Facebook feed are unusually welcome and rarely annoy.


Hull The Good Old Days is the most popular local Facebook group in Hull

During the course of our coffee, Keith acknowledges that he has created something quite unique. “The group lets people give their personal memories rather than the academic view you get in a book” he says…”It’s everyone’s view, rather than just a single person, and it’s the members that make it what it is”

The group recently attracted the attention of Radio Humberside. Since then the online community has grown at a rapid pace. And it’s a very active community at that. On an average day, there are dozens of new pictures, stories and memories that otherwise might have been lost forever.

Unlike a physical museum, the exhibits on Keith’s page come from the attics and bottom drawers of ordinary people in Hull. Memories from the backrooms of Hessle Road, Boulevard, East Park, and beyond. All scanned into the computer to be locked on a server forever.

There’s the video from on-board a train from Hull to Hornsea in 1965, before the line was axed. There are pictures from Hull’s seafaring past. There’s an early cine film taken on Mytongate Bridge from around 1910. You can see the busy faces of those who lived here a century ago, peering curiously into the camera.  Then there are the countless pictures and recollections of shops and department stores long since gone.

It’s a fantastic achievement of Keith’s to have pooled the collective memories of a city and made nearly 20,000 people pause, look back and smile.

To understand how Keith really feels about his group, I asked him what he would do if Facebook said they were closing down. “Try and save it at all costs” – spoken like a true historian.

Unless you’re a Spambot, you can visit Keith’s group here – you won’t regret it.

Hull to Hornsea by Train – 1965

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Published: Tuesday 14th October 2014 by Paul Nickerson - Writer

Comments (3)
  • Lynne Atkinson

    The site is also very addictive. You try it once and you`re hooked. Not only does it bring back precious memories it has some very talented members with a wealth of historical knowledge. I learn something new almost every day. Well done Keith x

  • Stewart Would

    The site is an absolute treasure whose importance as an archive should not be underestimated. It’s real down to earth local history that’s totally addictive. Thanks Keith!

  • Ian Sheriff

    Just a thought…….could someone actually put all the stories, tales, pictures and memories together and create a really concise history of our town in the in the form of a book.

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