How an Antarctic explorer began my interest in anniversaries and what I’ve done with this strange fascination.
My fascination with anniversaries started bang on my birthday.
I’ll never forget sitting at the computer in school, trying to act all innocent while surfing the internet. It was too risky to log onto Facebook without the teachers noticing so out of sheer boredom, I went onto the Wikipedia page.
I was on the home page when I noticed a formal picture of a man wearing a Royal Navy uniform. Ironically, this image was under the heading ‘On This Day’. He was standing resolutely, holding a Navy hat in one hand, every inch the proud officer.
Who was this man, you may ask?
Captain Robert Falcon Scott, British Navy Officer, and Antarctic Explorer. I discovered that my birthday in 2012 marked the 100th anniversary of his death on his return journey from the South Pole. Scott and his comrades had hoped to be the first to reach the Pole, but were ultimately beaten by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his team. By 29 March 1912, Scott and his comrades were dead. They were just 11 miles from their One Ton depot camp that could have saved them.
This revelation came as a surprise. I already knew that there was another big 100th anniversary coming up that year (in April as you will see below) but to know that my birthday marked an anniversary such as this, was completely unexpected.
Admittedly at the time, I put this aside for a while and I didn’t think much more about it. I mean, come on, it was my birthday! I had a good excuse! Of course, the following month saw the commemoration of the Titanic’s sinking. I still have my special editions of the Irish Independent that cover this anniversary. I’d later return to the story of Robert Falcon Scott the following year when I studied the poem ‘Antarctica‘ by Derek Mahon for Leaving Cert English. It was one of the better poems that we studied.
Birthdays were a strong connection between Scott and his team. Titus Oates, who Mahon based his poem on, is said to have died on his 32nd birthday, 17 March 1912. I’d later read The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge about events during Terra Nova that happened on each team members’ birthday. It’s my birthday that connects me with Scott and my fascination with amniversaries.
Over the years, I kept up with important historical anniversaries, occasionally recording them in my diary. I remember being in college and deliberately buying another copy of the Irish Independent that included a special paper commemorating the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. I also remember sitting in the college library, writing down about the sinking in my diary. I was determined to make sure I marked that anniversary.
As to why, I guess it all came down to my great love of history growing up. I was always looking up various events, inadvertedly recording the dates of when they took place. I really didn’t think I’d do anything with this; that is until I studied for my Master’s in Griffith College.
I’ll always be grateful to this course as it helped me develop skills that I didn’t even know that I had. I studied Radio Production where one of our assignments was to create a radio documentary of our choice. I went down the anniversary route and created a piece covering the 1981 Hunger Strikes in Northern Ireland. I wanted to do something that covered the 40th anniversary. I created my own script, had voiceover work done, I even managed to interview one of the ex-prisoners. We had a great talk about his experiences and I was really proud of my work.
When I took a class in Video-Journalism and Documentary, we were told to create our own short documentary on any topic we wanted. I went down the historical route after an inspiration visit to Glasnevin Cemetery. I focused my documentary on the story of Michael Collins and Kitty Kiernan, calling it Se Plota. I was really happy with the final result.
Considering that I was just learning the basic skills of radio and video production, these creations turned out really well. My lecturers were also very complimentary, saying that I present very well and should consider doing more of this work.
That was what got me thinking. Maybe I could do more of this work. Over that summer, I did some thinking before finally deciding that I was going to open up a YouTube channel. I was going to use my channel to talk about events in history that happened on a particular day of the year.
That summer, I set to work, creating my first video, deciding the topic to cover, what I would name my channel, how I would go about presenting. After some thought, I decided to call my channel On This Day.
It took some time to get used to working on these videos. I had nothing but my phone, a tripod and my laptop. But gradually, I began to get used to it and started to share content on YouTube relating to events in history. Now please don’t get the wrong impression; I am not looking to become a professional YouTuber or influencer. I create these videos because I enjoy creating them.
When 22nd August 1922 rolled around, I was determined to make sure I covered this anniversary on my channel because it was a very important one for Ireland. It marked 100 years since the assassination of Michael Collins in 1922 and there was a lot of commemoration across Ireland for that event.
This video and my Se Plota documentary are the videos that I am most proud of doing so far. I put a lot of work into my videos and I want to make sure that they are being seen and enjoyed by viewers. As I expanded my list of topics, I decided to expand onto TikTok. I know also on a TikTok account, working under the username @onthisdaywitheidhne. It also has seen a steady rise in views.
Over a decade has passed since my fascination with anniversaries began and it doesn’t show signs of going away any time soon. I’ve managed to take this interest and use it to my advantage with my videos on TikTok and YouTube. As to where this interest will go in the future, I’m not sure yet. But I’ll always remember the day of my birthday when I logged onto a school computer and my fascination began.