Pensioner, 83, has biggest diary ever seen in Britain… with 21,000 pages and FOUR MILLION words

The most prolific living diarist in the world, John Gadd from Dorset, with the exhibition of his diaries
The most prolific living diarist in the world, John Gadd from Dorset, with the exhibition of his diaries

Dedicated John Gadd has compiled the biggest personal diary ever seen in Britain – a mind-numbing FOUR MILLION words covering 66 years.

His daily journal has filled 21,000 pages in 151 volumes which together weigh half a ton.

John’s epic tome also includes 33,000 photos, illustrations and cuttings from newspapers and everyday items like wine labels and food wrappers.

The most prolific living diarist in the world, John Gadd from Dorset, with the exhibition of his diaries
The most prolific living diarist in the world, John Gadd from Dorset, with the exhibition of his diaries

The 83 year-old started keeping his diary in 1947 and it evolved into a detailed daily record of his every movement and thought.

He spends 20 minutes every day updating his journal and another two hours every weekend arranging and pasting in the illustrations, pictures and cuttings.

And each Christmas he sets aside two weeks to meticulously index that year’s diary – proudly claiming he can find anything within three minutes.

His diary is now EIGHT times the size of War and Peace, over FOUR and a HALF times bigger than the complete works of Shakespeare and close to the total output of Dickens.

John sees his work as a chronicle of life in and around the Dorset village of Fontmell Magna where he lives with wife Barbara.

He said: “The volumes document everything. You name it, it’s in there.

“I write about whatever has captured my imagination during the day.

“I am just keeping a record in case no one else does and I’m a total obsessive with it.

“It would be a shame to look back in so many years time wishing we knew what had happened, or how something had happened.

“It settles family arguments too, my wife Barbara and I are always arguing about who we met, when we met them and how old they are.

“She has a wonderful memory and I have a very bad memory, but I have my diaries – although I have to say she is nearly always right.

“A lot of people are feature in the diary over the years and they often want to see what I say about them – I’m happy to report most of it is good.

“I can’t stop now, when you’ve kept it up as long as I have you need to keep going.”

John started keeping his diary on a whim in 1947 and intermittently filled it in for many years until 1975, when he began keeping a detailed daily event log.

He records the minutiae of his daily routine, from the time he gets up to walking the dog and what he has eaten during the day.

John describes every village fete, the walks he took with his beloved Yorkshire Terriers, and has amassed a vast collection of his favourite wine labels over the years.

He has also recorded the daily events from his 33-year career as an international pig consultant which saw him make many trips abroad.

John, who has one daughter, Alison, has captured some of the biggest changes in history – including the switch from Vinyl to CD.

One extract on September 9, 1988 says: “The day of the LP black disc is coming to an end, so they have been put away while they are available.

“In a years time they will be disappearing off the shelves and before long they will become collectors items as they clear out and the CD will take over.”

John also documents his frustrations at the first postal strike in 17 years in 1988 and his pride at appearing on the front of ‘The Pig Farmer’ magazine.

He also describes the birth of Fergie’s first baby on August 9, 1988: “Fergie had her first baby last night, it will be fifth in succession to the throne.

“No name has been announced yet but the guesses are that it will be either Victoria, or Elizabeth, or both.

“J wants it to be Annabel so he can immediately call it Hannibal.

“Media have gone crazy over the birth, it’s boring me to hell.”

The diaries also include plane tickets, mementos, and photographs of the numerous places he has visited over the years.

His work took him to more than half the globe, including Japan 15 times, the USA, the Phillipines, Korea and Thailand.

John’s diary has grown so big he refers to it as his ‘Omnium Gatherum’ and says several libraries have offered to exhibit the vast work.

It is also more than three times the length of the diaries of Samuel Pepys, the most famous of them all.

He added: “In past times many diarists had the time to sketch and paint to add interest to their record. In 1975 I thought I can at least take photos.

“A fortnight off is taken at Christmas every year to update two indexes – one for the text and one for the illustrations.

“After all, there is no point in squirreling away all that information in 22,000 pages if you can’t retrieve it, and I’m pleased to say any subject or illustration can be found within three minutes.

“I do it because it is fun and it is also useful to show the changes in our village and over Dorset over more than three decades – and to remind you how fickle memory can be.

“Some times I write just one sentence, some times I have a rush of blood to the head and I can write an essay or commentary or two or three thousand words.”

He added: “To begin with the diary was quite hard work and pretty boring.

“But after a few years I started being honest with myself and thought ‘what the hell am I doing this for if I can’t tell the truth?’

“It’s amazing looking back how your opinions change over the years – and sometimes you don’t like what you read from 30 years ago.”

10 volumes plus index on display this weekend at village hall.

John has now put his diary on public display for the first time. Ten volumes and one index are on show this weekend at the Fontmell Magna Village Archive Society’s 9th annual exhibition, held in the village hall.

* Example extracts of the mundane events which John has recorded in his diary:

On Saturday August 20 1988 he wrote: “Worked all morning getting the Japanese article No4 done and was gardening all afternoon, weeding and starting up plants

“Sheila, James and the children came back from 3 weeks holiday in Devon at Newton Abbott and enjoyed themselves.

“Sheila stayed on for supper and kindly bought us a bottle of gin and some clotted cream.

“We did some shopping in Blandford at lunch time and for the first time ever I was totally unable to park in the Ham car park even at 1.15pm!

“There were at least 20 cars driving around the totally occupied car park so I pulled out after dropping Barbara and parked across the road at Blandford St Mary!

“Bed at midnight and slept like a log.”

Fri November 4 1993: “Another sunny but very cold day I was thinking of another trip into the New Forest but ditched it.

“Just as well as I did all the work for Mr Hayami demanded of me in a fax which arrived for me while I was away.

“Also BC wants me to repeat Dalgety pig conference at Longleat next Thursday.”

July 15th 1998: “Barbara was weighed last week and took off half a pound while Alison managed 1 and a half pounds both are excellent efforts considering they spent a week in Italy.

“I am still at 13st neither gaining or loosing so I must do better.”

While on work trip to Thailand he wrote: “Also came across a stall selling Buddhas made of clay – they looked old but you can hardly tell in this city there are too many fakes.

“I didn’t ask the man for one as I already spent enough money.

“Back to the hotel as I felt a bit crook (that damned restaurant and I only sampled the cooked bits) so I took a couple of ‘anets’ and that did the trick. Showered changed and set out again for silk shop.”


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