Remembrance: display commemorates Walden's first paid professional librarian

Black and white portrait of TW Huck. Courtesy of Wellcome Collection

Portrait of TW Huck. Courtesy of Wellcome Collection - Credit: Wellcome Collection

Gibson Library, Saffron Walden’s historic, independent library, is marking Remembrance Day with a small exhibition in Saffron Walden public library.

It commemorates the life and achievements of the town’s first paid professional librarian, Thomas William Huck.

Thomas died in action on the Western Front on the first day of the Third Battle of the Aisne on May 27, 1918.

His death was only six months before the end of the First World War. He was 36 and left a widow, Maud Mary, and daughter, Maud, 13.

He had risen from humble beginnings, the son of a railway signalman. His mother ran a grocery shop at their Darlington home to help with the family budget.

His first position was as an Assistant Librarian in the Edward Pease Public Library, Darlington before he was recruited to work in Saffron Walden.

While in Saffron Walden Huck played a part in town life – performing as the Jester in the Walden pageant of 1910 - and began to contribute articles on maps and rare books to learned journals.

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In London he continued to publish and to address meetings of the Libraries Association.

Gillian Williamson, Secretary of the Gibson Library Society, said: "Thomas Huck was one of the many men whose lives were cut cruelly short in World War One.

"Huck was the first professional, paid librarian of the Saffron Walden Literary and Scientific Institution, the forerunner of the Gibson Library.

"He and his young family lived next door to the ‘shop’ in the Librarian’s House at 4 King Street, from 1907 to 1913, and Huck explored the library’s collections to publish extensively in academic and other journals, eventually moving in 1913 to become the Librarian of the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum in London.

"Our exhibition reveals Huck’s story as a moving one of self-making from humble beginnings: the son of a Darlington railway signalman who rose to a distinguished professional position.

"It was a personal and professional tragedy that he died so soon before the war’s end and did not therefore fulfil his very considerable professional promise."

The display is on the first floor by the main stairs and will be in place for several weeks.