Long-time villager and local historian Maureen Selley recently picked up an honour announced in the Queen’s birthday list in June – a British Empire Medal, for her services to local history.
The Lord Lieutenant of Devon presented the medal to Maureen last Monday (October 9), in Plymouth.
Left to right: Maureen’s daughter, Annette, who travelled from Kent – Maureen Selley – Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Devon, David Fursdon – another daughter, Kay Lee, who lives in Horrabridge – and son Rick Selley, who lives in Plympton and is a group manager in the Fire & Rescue Service.
Maureen, born 1942 and now 75, attended Stuart Road and Honicknowle Primary Schools 1947-1953 and Plymouth High School for Girls 1953-1958. She worked in Plymouth libraries during the 1960s, then trained as a teacher at the College of St Mark and St John and taught at Mount Street Primary School, Plymouth, 1972-1999.
She and husband Brian and their three then-teenage children moved to Horrabridge in 1977.
During her teaching career, Maureen always encouraged children to appreciate the clues to history around them and under their feet, including the story behind the Eddystone lighthouses on the school’s badge. In recent years her projects for children have included setting up Devon Family History Society’s Acorn Club and creating Treasure Trails around the Hoe and Devonport Park.
After being widowed in 1987, Maureen joined the Devon Family History Society, researching her own and her husband’s families. She was chairman for 14 years and is now the society’s secretary. In 2008, Maureen led a campaign for a new Plymouth and West Devon Record Office, which looks after Horrabridge’s parish registers, including baptisms from 1867, marriages from 1869 and burials from 1891.
In 2014 Maureen was awarded a Certificate of Recognition from the Society of Genealogists for “ongoing dedication in ensuring that family history maintains a high profile within the County of Devon”.
She says: “We are what we are because of our ancestors – it’s in our genes. We may not know their names, what they did, where they lived or worked, what they believed, but their influence lives on in us. There is a thrill in discovering more about them, their good deeds and not so good, the streets they walked, what they saw around them. We have increasing opportunities to investigate our past. That’s what I enjoy doing – and also encouraging and helping people to do the same.”
As a member of the Plymouth History Consortium, Maureen played a big part in getting funding for the Plymouth History Centre, due to open in 2020, in time for the Mayflower 400 celebrations.