The births name game gets smaller
- Credit: Archant
NAMES make news, our mentors used to emphasise to us trainee journalists, with justification. For it is undeniable that readers revel in names, from celebrity gossip to court cases to births, deaths and marriages...and that leads to more newspapers being sold.
Unfortunately, in the current era of mobile phones, computers, tablets and all the instant communication facilities that are beyond my ken and perhaps also of others of older generations, some things we took for granted are being superseded by the advance of modern technology.
One victim, I suggest sadly, is the long-held family tradition of announcing births in local newspapers like the Great Yarmouth Mercury. In decades past, readers learned of the new arrivals because many families routinely spread the happy news through their local weekly newspaper.
Nowadays, by the time it is published, it is news only to those readers reluctant to embrace the current communications facilities and thus have failed to be appraised of the birth by e-mail, text, voice-mail, Facebook, Instagram or whatever, complete with photographs where possible.
However, I am pleased to note that it looks as though the family practice of inserting death notices remains undiminished.
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For more than a quarter of a century, I have recorded the names of every new baby whose birth has been proclaimed by delighted parents and proud grandparents in the Mercury’s birth announcement columns, and listed annually the most popular, those in vogue – often mirroring celebrity names – and those perhaps falling out of favour. Names I considered unusual in one way or another were also noted.
Today, my 2015 list of baby names, will be the last, unless there is a sudden resurgence in the popularity of the births column habit among new parents and grandparents wanting to spread their family’s good news.
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When this Through the Porthole feature was transferred to the Great Yarmouth Mercury in 1987, after more than half a-century of nightly appearances in our companion publication, the Eastern Evening News, I logged well over a hundred separate births announcements for baby boys published that year, a similar figure to those for girls.
The following year, 1988, those Mercury figures were roughly the same.
But in 2015, there were only 27 insertions about the birth of baby boys and 29 for girls.
Whereas in 1987 the most popular first name for boys, James, was chosen by 18 families and, for girls, Laura (17), and the following year Daniel notched 18 and Laura 23 to top the lists, last year no male first name was used more than once (except one Theo and a Theodore) and, with the girls, Poppy and Lylah were joint number one, each bestowed on three new babies as a first name.
So it was well-nigh impossible to detect any trends, like traditional names making a resurgence or concocted celebrity names and spellings showing dominance, for example. A year ago, my feature on the baby names was headlined: “No runaway winners this year.” Same again this time.
It was also a pointless exercise, publishing my annual league tables when almost every entry had only one usage.
Despite the numerical scarcity, there were some interesting and notable names and spellings in 2015. The male name Beau – and not its female equivalent of Belle - was given to a baby girl for the second year running, for instance.
And James, which used to be top of the pops for parents as a first name, reappeared in the first-name column – albeit only once – after being a favourite middle name for ages.
My list of noteworthy names in the Mercury’s births column in 2015 is:
Boys: Arthur Adam, Brodie, Coen Lucas, Finley Michael Ray, Freddie Daryl, George Donald, Harley, Issac, Jake, James Kevin, Jesse, Kellan Edward, Kyle Peter, Link, Luca John Anthony, Mason, Max, Parker, Roman Sebastian, Sonny, Taylor, Theo Wilfred, Theodore Eli, William, and Woody Jack Winter.
Girls: Arya Florence Sophia, Clara Lyn, Daisy Marie, Elsie Lila, Evalyn May, Faraday, Hallie Ann, Imogen Louise, India, Ivy Rose, Jemima Eponine, Lily, Lylah, Madeleine, Mollie, Nala Sylvia, Nicola, Nyla Beau, Paige, Poppy Louise, Priya Grace, Savanah Leigh, Sienna Nicole, Sophie, and Violet Poppy,
The only twins were the son-daughter combination of Taylor Arthur and Paige Emily.
It must be emphasised, however, that my Mercury lists are compiled from our births columns only and are probably only a small proportion of the actual figure of all the official registrations in the borough.
In some parts of the country, the published legal lists reveal that Mohammed and its various spellings are now dominant at number one, a name I feel unlikely to be announced in our births, deaths, marriages and in-memoriam columns for a long time.
And talking of deaths and in-memoriams, in recent years there has been a distinct increase in the number of public benches in popular spots which have been provided by families and friends of deceased loved ones as memorials for other people to enjoy sea views, tranquil parks or striking landscapes, for example.
A neat plaque attached to the back rail informs us of the person to be remembered, and possibly also that of the donor.
A location in point is Gorleston cliffs where the number of available “sponsored” borough council wooden benches appears by far to exceed the demand – although, in fairness, the days when Mrs Peggotty and I enjoy a walk along the Lower Promenade or the cliff-edge path are usually off-season when briskly striding out is preferable to sitting still even if it is sunny.
If we did decide to tarry, we would avoid the public benches to which flowers have been attached, making the seat too personal. For months one Gorleston cliff-top bench also had a blue-and-white knitted scarf, probably indicating that it was in memory of a football fan, which was equally off-putting. I think it had been removed the last time we passed.
Mind you, the “sponsored seat” with added personalised adornment is not universally accepted by officialdom. For example, I read recently that currently Bradford council is restricting them at the top of Ilkley Moor, overlooking Bronte country, arguing that they are starting to take over a spot that should reflect the wildness of nature.