October 2017

In memory of...In memory of...

Newspaper obituaries are a somewhat strange section of the media. Strange not because of their content, but because of their concept. A concept that took the publication of what were once brief announcements of deaths – dating back to early Rome and the daily papyrus newsletter Acta Diurna – and developed them into the mini-biographies we read today. And it is the post-mortem publication of a deceased's lifetime achievements that creates the uniqueness of the modern obituary. There are few, if any, other areas of the media in which so many ready-to-publish features are prepared in advance, without knowing when they will be used.

The level of preparedness for any given obituary will correlate to the status of the subject within their industry or field of expertise. In the case of many high-profile figures – where an obituary's subject can outlive its author – obituaries can serve as a formalised way of collating and documenting facts and figures that may already be widely known. But obituaries really come into their own in the cases of those less well known. "Your obits have helped me to learn of those who I should have followed while they were alive," said one online comment under a Daily Telegraph article. It is this aspect of obituaries that lifts them from that strange evolution of the death notice to something much more important: a celebration of one life and the education of many others.

You will be pleased to know that the Wanstead Village Directory does not have obituaries prepared for any local residents, no matter how high profile they may be. Like many of our articles, any obituaries we publish are by the people, for the people. And while we may not have a team of dedicated obituary writers, we certainly do have a community full of lives worth celebrating.