Wednesday, 30 May 2012

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Adrian Clements

BERKSHIRE born Adrian Clements moved to Dorset three-years-ago. A life-long history fan, the 44-year-old father of four started running costumed guided history tours in 2011. Now living in Dorchester, he owns and runs West Dorset History Walks.

WHERE does your interest in history come from?
I have had an interest in history for as long as I can remember, British history in particular. Thirty years ago, I became involved in historical ‘re-enactment’ which really brought the past to life for me. Most historians have a favourite era and mine would have to be the 17th and 18th Centuries - Cavaliers and Roundheads, Highwaymen, Pirates and Smugglers.

WHAT made you run history tours?
After moving to Dorset, I began to fuel my passion for all things historical by researching as much as I could about the area. With so much turbulent history to draw upon in this part of the country, I felt a desire to share it with locals and visitors alike as part of a walking tour. That was how West Dorset History Walks came about.  

IS THE West Dorset area good for historical investigation?
Absolutely. So much has happened in Dorset over thousands of years - from the Roman Invasion to WWII. There really is so much history to choose from.  

DO YOU have a favourite historical spot or story?
I am very interested in the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685. Bridport was the scene of the first full-scale skirmish between the Duke’s rebels and the Dorset Militia. The Bull Hotel was the focus for much of the fighting, so I always enjoy stopping there and relating the story on the tours. 

BLOOD, guts and ghosts really seem to sell history. Was the past really so bloody and filled with superstition? 
Yes, the past really was very bloody and cruel. My Ghost Walk in Bridport is filled with gruesome and grisly facts, with the plague, hanging, drawing and quartering, etc. Most people really seem to enjoy being reviled. I think the Horrible Histories series for children has helped also. The kids seem to love it more than the adults.

A GREAT ghost story surely embellishes the truth by sprinkling a little magic - how hard is it to separate fact from fiction?
When researching a ghost story, you really do have to work hard to find out what really happened. It seems the facts change as the story is passed down through the generations. I prefer to use genuine accounts that have been authenticated and then tell the story in such a way that it leaves a lasting impression on the listener. Of course, the smugglers of the 18th century were well versed in making up all sorts of ghost stories connected with lonely roads and churchyards to keep the locals away from their illegal contraband!

HAVE you ever seen a ghost?
My wife and I did have some strange experiences in our previous house back in Berkshire. We used to both ‘see’ something dark and shapeless move around the house. I later found out the previous occupants had both died in the house so maybe they refused to leave! There is one particular spot on the ghost walk that is quite ‘eerie’ - several people on last year’s Hallowe’en walk were quite spooked by it.

HAS anyone ever chickened out on a tour?
Yes. The ghost walk runs for just over an hour, but recently a group of young girls backed out after just 20 minutes. I have also had several people change their minds at the start. It’s not that frightening - all you need is an open mind and a strong stomach. 

WHICH historical ghost would you least like to meet in a dark alley?
I think to come face to face with the apparition of a 17th century ‘plague doctor’ would be a terrifying experience. These nightmarish figures silently walked the streets with huge beak-like masks filled with herbs. They were prevalent all across Dorset, so there’s always that chance. 

IF YOU could go back in time what event would you most like to witness?
Being an English Civil War buff, the Battle of Naseby in June of 1645.

ANY reason why you might go down in history? 
I’d like to be remembered as ‘the man who gave the visitors to Bridport an unsettling holiday’.

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