Friends, today I would transport you back in time, to merry old England... to the dark satanic mills of the industrial revolution at the end of the 18th century. A young lad named Ned is a weaver from the village of Anstey, just outside Leicester. He wakes early one day and goes to work as normal and does not know it yet, but he is about to make history. It is hard and painstaking work that day in 1779, Ned is apprenticed to learn frame-work knitting. But he is averse to confinement or work, and refuses to exert himself. His master is displeased and complains to a local magistrate, who orders a whipping. In response, young Ned grabs a close-by hammer and demolishes the hated frame with gusto. This act will be told by generations to come, and Ned became history. Or so the story goes. Whether or not any of it really happened is irrelevant. What matters is that news of the incident, like every good folk story, was spread and distorted. Whenever frames were sabotaged, people would jokingly say using Ned’s full name, “Ned Ludd did it”. His actions inspired the folkloric character of Captain Ludd, also known as King Ludd, who became the alleged leader and founder of a movement called, not surprisingly, ‘The Luddites’.
The Luddites as an organised movement can be traced back to Nottingham, England, around 1811. Then the city was composed mostly of hosiery and lace workers, English textile artisans who protested against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution – often by destroying mechanised looms. They smashed knitting machines that embodied new labour-saving technology as a protest against unemployment. Simply put, machines were taking over and stealing their skills, and they did not like where that was going.
As we move from a society driven by keyboards to one where touch screen tablets and voice-recognition software packages reign supreme, it might be seen as a form of Luddism to brandish a fountain pen to the world and at the younger generations in particular and exclaim, “You kids still need to learn to write by hand.. and to do that you need to use one of these” But the truth is that this needs to be said. Not just for the benefit of the rather oddfountain pen enthusiast and the pen industry as a whole but as a recognition of the fact that our handwriting is so much more than simply putting letters on a page; it is a vital part of learning to read and communicate effectively. In fact, many experts think that developing good writing skills and penmanship reinforces reading skills and vice versa.
Now I’m not calling for a re-introduction of Victorian teaching methods in our schools where teachers taught penmanship and little else but surely in order to read, a child needs to understand that letters stand for sounds and that the sounds are put together to make words. Learning to write letters properly is an important part of this understanding. And the best wasy IMO is with a fountain pen, the wahy of which is part due to the care thats neded in wielding it for the first time.
Therefore what I am calling for is a revolution, a quiet revolution if you will, a pen-buyers revolution, where we take matters in our own hands and help our children and grandchildren by buying them their first fountain pen and taking the time to show them how to use it properly. I well remember my first fountain pen, a Shaeffer ‘No Nonsense’ which I still possess. If you have missed those formative years of your children’s education fear not, it is never too late! I recently bought my 18 yr old undergraduate son anew fountain pent o help with his handwriting and he has taken to it like a duck to water. It was a Pilot MR – less than £20 from my local pen shop. But there are other choices relevant for the age of your chosen apprentice. I like the look of the Pilot Kakuno, and the Pelikan Junior in particular, or go bit flashier and get a Kaweco Ice Sport… maybe you know of some others?
So to arms my friends, man the online shops, accost your friendly local pen retailer, get them to furnish you with those starter pens, speak to your child’s teacher and make a statement that will help create the next generation of writers, readers and pen enthusiasts!