Quote box: "Stories have to be told or they die and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here," Sue Monk-Kidd - the Secret life of bees.


How many of us share yarns, anecdotes and even old photographs, especially over drinks at family gatherings, often funerals?

Dannevirke's Mike Harold has taken his family stories the extra step, collating them into what he calls a browser book, The Harold Family of Waimiro.

"I knew little of my own extended Harold family's experiences until some years after my father Mick Harold had passed away," he said.

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Dannevirke's Mike Harold reading The Harold Family of Waimiro which he has collated.
Dannevirke's Mike Harold reading The Harold Family of Waimiro which he has collated.

"There was a need to record these stories before they were lost with the generation who remembered and retold them so very well.

"I had much of this on my computer, but realised it would get lost, so a book was my winter project this year. It's important to appreciate how history shapes and forms you. To me more of the world operates like those in this book rather than we do. It's about the ability to keep calm and keep going and resilience is definitely the hallmark of the stories."

Harold said he felt it was important to focus on the dependence on family and community for people in the era of the book as a visual way for young people of today to engage with.

Information, stories and amazing characters fill the pages of this book by Mike Harold.
Information, stories and amazing characters fill the pages of this book by Mike Harold.

"So far people are absolutely thrilled with it," he said.

"They definitely wanted to tell their stories and were happy I was writing them down. It's been great to be back in touch and reconnect.

"There's almost a generation now who don't realise this is a message for survival today. When things unfolded previous generations coped, they were successful working together. Now our social system has rendered some people dependant on the state. At least two thirds of the world's population operate under similar conditions to our pioneering families. This is a timely message."

Some of the answers to life's modern challenges lie with people in the book, Harold said.

"People get bogged down with family trees, but I wanted to put the stories in context," he said.

"This book is about preserving stories for the family and the next generation so they can have conversations which matter with their families."

One of the quirky stories in the book features Hugh Harold who played for the Akitio cricket team.

Playing standards were high and later, as an old man, Hugh often lamented the fact he never scored a century at Akitio. It seemingly mattered little to him that he had once achieved that distinction - at Lords Cricket Ground in London in an arranged game between officers at the end of the Great War.

In 1937 an Akitio team played against Len Hutton's touring English team, just one of a number of international sporting encounters in our rural hinterland during those pioneering days.

Harold first began his personal mission to find out what he could about his family in 2002, creating a of 26 narrative paintings, Kilmore and Beyond, capturing some of the resonating stories from those earlier times.

"The exhibition was well received around a number of regional galleries at the time and for me, started a journey of discovery and refinement which has continued since then," he said.

Next winter's challenge will be focusing on the military aspect of his family.

"We talk about war time and it had a huge impact, but we forget the women left behind," Harold said.

"They were amazing, resilient and coping."