Before we moved to Shrewsbury I hardly gave Charles Darwin much thought. He was just a bloke who invented a theory he called evolution which made a lot of religious people cross, and he wrote a book about it.
Since moving here I have become an expert in Charles Darwin. This is not by choice.
My weird thought is: why are the people of Shrewsbury so obsessed with Charles Darwin? I think the obsession goes far beyond his importance, so why?
Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury. He lived here as a child. He went to school here. Then he moved on and did many clever things. However, the people of this town remained obsessed with him. He’s known as ‘Shrewsbury’s most famous son’. My children have learnt a lot about Charles Darwin. They know more than me. He is the natural choice of topic for the local primary schools. Everyone who lives here can tell you all about Charles Darwin.
Here is a list of Darwin-related Shrewsbury things:
- The Darwin shopping centre. Thousands of people pass in and out of this building every week. Does Charles Darwin, sitting up there in heaven, appreciate his consumerist connection?
- Darwin Town Trail. I have never partaken but it exists.
- Darwin Festival. This happens every year, or so I believe.
- Charles Darwin’s statue. He sits outside the library looking down on the town’s book lovers.
- The Charles Darwin ‘Quantum Leap’ sculpture. Many local people question the beauty and purpose of this object. I quite like it. It was unveiled by a relative of his in 2009. It sits by the river.
- One of the four houses at my son’s school is called ‘Darwin’. This one is a bit of a cheat because his school is in Newport not Shrewbsury but still…
- The Darwin song. Yes, there is a Darwin song.
- A Darwin video. Watch and enjoy.
- There are lots of references to him at the Shrewsbury Art Museum and Gallery. The guy is everywhere.
I feel a little sorry for Shrewsbury’s second most famous son: Wilfred Owen.
I was quite in awe when I found out that we were moving to the town where Wilfred Owen lived (more in awe than I felt when I found out about Shrewbsury’s first most famous son). On our first visit here we found ourselves eating lunch in a grave yard and a passerby asked me if I knew the location of Wilfred Owen’s grave in that grave yard. Of course I couldn’t help her at the time and my response was something along the lines of ‘ohhh is Wilfred Owen’s grave here?’ That was how I found out about the connection. We live a few houses down from the house where his parents lived. There is a school named after him. However, ask a local who Wilfred Owen was an not everyone can provide an answer. Some will even say ‘he must be the chap who founded the school’. Oh well, dulce et decorum est.
I don’t think I have an answer to my weird thought though. I don’t know why this town is obsessed with Charles Darwin. But I love that they are. It is quirky. It is geeky. It is adorably cute.
However, there was a ripple of excitement recently when a rumour went around that GARY BARLOW had bought a house here. Perhaps in 200 years time there will be a Barlow Shopping Centre. It will have to sit next to the Darwin one.
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