Retired Brock professor named Thorold's honourary civic historian
Retired Brock University professor and local historian Alun Hughes receives a plaque from Mayor Ted Luciani after being named Thorold's honourary civic historian during a special presentation at city hall. Hughes also received a Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal for his work and research on Niagara's history.
Much of Thorold’s history would likely be buried in the past if it weren’t for the work of retired Brock University professor Alun Hughes.
From discovering Thorold’s connection with Lady Godiva, to uncovering the events that transpired in the Welland Canal terrorist attacks in the late 1800s, Hughes’ research is widespread and significant.
It’s no surprise the city recently named Hughes Thorold’s honourary civic historian – an honour he received along with a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal.
While he was in attendance at city hall for the recognition ceremony, Hughes has been battling a neurological condition that has affected his muscles, which makes it difficult for him to speak. His wife, Joyce Little, accompanied him to accept the award and knows how important it is to him.
“It was so nice and it came at a great time,” she said of the honour. “It would have been nice if he had been able to say thank you, but it was really nice to receive that recognition during what has been a tough time for him.”
Both of Hughes’ daughters, Ffion, 14, and Nia, 19, were also able to attend the ceremony last week.
“Our older daughter was home for reading week, so it was really great that both of our girls could be there,” Little said, adding the pair also have a keen interest in local history, thanks to their father. “Both of them have followed his work, but especially our younger daughter, she’s really a history girl.
“Even when I didn’t, she used to go with him to all the Historical Society meetings and she knows a lot about local history.”
Hughes, who retired from his position as a geography professor at Brock after 42 years last June, has been researching Niagara history since he moved to Canada from his native South Wales many years ago.
“He’s really passionate about Niagara history,” Little said. “He loves the city of Thorold and the whole region and he knows we have a very rich, amazing history that has perhaps been underappreciated.
“He’s just been delighted to research it and he’s been very generous about sharing his findings. He’s continuing to do that right now by making sure his series of articles are in as many hands as possible.”
Despite his illness, Little says Hughes still avidly researches and writes about local historical events to this day.
“His influence is widespread but subtle and people don’t often realize it,” Little said of his work. “A great deal of what’s on the murals (along the canal in Thorold) wouldn’t be there if he hadn’t done research about it.
“The terrorist attacks on the Welland Canal – that’s him, that’s what he has discovered – and nobody would have known about the Thorold-(Lady) Godiva connection had Alun not discovered it.”
As a professor, Hughes was well known for his colourful lectures and ability to captivate the audience no matter the subject.
“He’s very curious and very funny,” Little said. “His talks were always very popular because he packed so much information into them but they were so enjoyable. People just loved hearing him talk – it was entertaining as well as informative.”
Thorold Mayor Ted Luciani commends Hughes for his continued work and looks forward to making a variety of his articles available to the public through the city’s web site.
“When it comes to Thorold’s history, he’s just been such a dedicated and marvelous person,” Luciani said of Hughes. “He’s done so many investigations on historical properties and events, dug up history on the Welland Canal and discovered a lot of important information about our city and region.
“We’re glad we’re able to honour him for all of his hard work and we’re going to try and find a specific section for him and all of his writings on our web site.”
Hughes’ work can currently be found on the Thorold and Beaverdams Historical Society web site at www.tbhs.ca.
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How important is it to research and uncover local history?
Very important - it's crucial for residents to learn about the past
It's important, but not my thing
Meh, the past is the past