12 Feb The Fonthill Creative – John D’Arcy, Archivist
Interview with John D’Arcy, Archivist
E: How did you become an Archivist?
JD: By process of elimination. When I came down from University I didn’t know what I wanted to do and so I had to work out what I could do and I spent a year finding out about archives and liking what I found.
E: What did you study at University?
JD: I read a bit of classics and a bit of history which was perfect, although I didn’t know it at the time.
E: How long have you been archiving at Fonthill?
JD: I came in 2008.
E: And it was meant to take a year or two wasn’t it?
JD: It was yes. Well, I had no idea how much there was and also it just goes on.
E: What’s the most scandalous thing you have found out about the Morrison family?
JD: Nothing new! Archie Morrison was a tremendous spend thrift. He lived between about 1870 and 1930 I think, but he was very generous. For instance, when his battalion went to war in 1914, he gave all the officers a champagne and lobster lunch when they arrived in France, at his own expense, which is quite expensive.
E: How many people was he feeding?
JD: 60-80! He was a very generous man, he had three wives etc.
E: Ah, the ‘etc’ is the scandalous bit?!
JD: Well yes, but I don’t have very precise records. I think he would be a nice man to meet, particularly if you wanted to be generous. At the same time, he got through a lot of money.
E: Which four people from history would you have for dinner?
JD: I am trying to make a nice, happy conversation so I’ve got Samuel Pepys and Peter Fleming, the brother of Ian Fleming. The man who was responsible for building Edington Priory Church which was William Edington, who became Bishop of Winchester and my direct ancestor who fought at the battle of Crecy in 1346. I think the first two would have made very entertaining dinner companions. The last two I’m not so sure as they are so distant, but I can prove that the last two met.
E: I know you are very well travelled.
JD: Well, it is all because of joining up with some professional botanists and going with them all over the place.
E: And where is the most interesting place you travelled to?
JD: I think it has to be the mountains of Western China.
E: I’ve been told there is a plant named after you, is this true?
JD: It is. It’s a Salvia darcyi. We found it in Mexico in 1991. It’s widely available in the English gardens and nurseries. I hope it is here to stay.
E: Now, another snippet of information I have is that your house is built on the grave of a King. Is this also true?
JD: Michael Wood, a well-known TV archaeologist, very keen on King Alfred, has worked out that he thought that King Alfred built his palace under my lawn. But they dug it up and there is no evidence, but it could be nearby.
If you would like to visit the Fonthill Archives, John would be happy to accommodate you. You can email him directly (email@example.com) or contact the Estate Office.