An apology to my 8th grade history teacher

Dear Mr. Hawes,

I owe you a sincere apology. I must admit you were right and for the past 37 years I have done you a great disservice.

You probably don’t remember me. I didn’t take history after 8th grade. Oh, I lamented to any shocked American when hearing of my lack of history education, “It was so boring. Class was all about the Industrial Revolution, hard vs. soft water and different types of sheep! Can you imagine?”

I’m sure we covered other topics, but it is the sheep I lament now not remembering. What was it about those sheep breeds that made Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds the powerhouses of the Industrial Revolution?

You’ll be pleased to know that over the past few years I have had chance to reflect, regret and revise my opinion of the need to talk sheep and wool in middle school history. I have no idea if that is still a topic in English schools and I’m pretty sure that you are retired and no longer teaching, but you’ll be pleased to know that wool and sheep breeds are now my thing! Those fluffy critters are fascinating!

How many sheep breeds?

Today, I take trips to locations near and far to gain a greater appreciation of our woolly friends. I know that there are thought to be more breeds of sheep in the United Kingdom than anywhere else. The National Sheep organization puts it at more than 90 breeds! The number of native breeds is closer to 60. In the US there are about 47 breeds according to the Livestock Conservancy. Oh, and if you thought a sheep was just a sheep be prepared to be surprised.

Furthering my education

Finally, Mr. Hawes I recently picked up This Golden Fleece – A Journey Through Britain’s Knitted History by Esther Rutter just published and I’m devouring it. It’s taken 37 years, but finally I’m paying attention to your history class.


Watch this space for more talk of our woolly friends!

*In the English school system you choose subjects to focus on for 9th and 10th grade and if you stayed beyond 10th grade you focused down to three subjects

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