Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Meeting Bruce Clark for his BBC Documentary on Charles Thomson

Last week Rose and I made a quick overnight trip to Jim Thorpe, PA. We met with a small crew doing a TV documentary on Charles Thomson for the BBC in Northern Ireland. Thomson was a US founding father who came here as a child from Ireland about 1740. He eventually got connected with Ben Franklin and the Continental Congress.  And he designed the official seal of the U.S.  He also had some interaction with the Indians who were tricked into the Walking Purchase land deal and he took up their complaint of unfairness.  So his story has a connection to my 6th great grandfather, Edward Marshall.
I was interviewed to tell about Marshall and the Walking Purchase of 1737. And I was filmed running in the forest near the end of the Walk to help viewers relate to his run/walk of 65 miles through Pennsylvania forests and mountains.

There were 3 questions to set the outline of the interview.

Bruce asked "What are you doing?" (to follow some video of me running in the forest) 
My answer was to describe my Grandfather Marshall's involvement in the Walking Purchase and how it was part of a land deal between the Pennsylvania government and the Indians.  The answer included how I learned of all of this and went on to research and plan my retracing.

Bruce then asked "What was retracing it like as a run?"
My answer described the distance and the terrain involved as well as the difficulty of running for 12 hours one day and 6 hours the following day.  It was also an opportunity to contrast my run with the original by Edward Marshall in terms of gear and apparel, running surface, logistical support.

Bruce asked "Having retraced his run, what do you think of Edward Marshall and his accomplishment?"
I answered with my admiration of his athletic achievement to cover 65 miles in those conditions.  And I related my opinion that he was used by people in power to accomplish their own objectives.  He did not receive the rewards or payments that were promised.  I admire his attempt to run as far as possible to gain something that would benefit his family. This helped motivate me going up the last mountain during my run to retrace it.  And when it ended up costing him the lives of some family members, he went on with life and did the best he could in the circumstances.  He even testified in a later inquiry that the Indians were cheated by the government.

Go here to read my post about the Walking Purchase

They said the goal is to finish production before year end. I'm pretty sure my little part will be just a minute or so, since there is lots to tell about Thomson for a one hour program.  They said they will send a DVD copy to me.

Links to info about Charles Thomson

 In late February we found a message on our phone answering machine.  A British sounding man gave his name as Bruce Clark and said he was calling from Northern Ireland.  He wanted to talk to me and hopefully interview me about my Walking Purchase run for a BBC documentary about Charles Thomson.  My first thought was that this must be some kind of prank, since my Walking Purchase story couldn’t be of interest to someone in Northern Ireland.
I did some google research and thought I found a Bruce Clark who could be the same person.  He had written a book related to Greece and had connections to Hellenic studies. This made me think maybe our son Keith had spoken to him at a recent conference in Greece.  I asked Keith and he said no.

A couple weeks later Kathryn Baird called, also leaving a message, but then called back and spoke to Rose.  And then she called back to talk with me.  There followed several dozen emails exchanged to cover all the details about my little part in the project.  Program overview, interview content, meet up place, filming location. 

The filming location was the toughest detail to settle on as they wanted some place that would look like the forested mountain in 1737 where Edward Marshall finished the “Walk”.  And it was important to be able to secure permission for filming there.  The location decided upon was on the outskirts of Jim Thorpe PA on property adjacent to Mauch Chunk Rod and Gun Club, that is owned by the Jim Thorpe Water Company.  We would be guided/accompanied by Drew Benyo who is the Cross Country coach for Jim Thorpe High School.  The high school XC course uses the same area.

We eventually came to know that when researching online for the program, Mr. Clark had found the newspaper story of my Walking Purchase run.  He wanted to include the Walking Purchase story and my perspective as part of showing Charles Thomson as the ‘man who tells the truth” according to the statement by the Indians.
Filming the interview with Bruce Clark (in blue blazer).  Also from left Mal Marken producer/director/cameraman, Kathryn Baird producer, Sam sound tech, Blane Scott cameraman.

Filming the interview with Bruce Clark (in blue blazer).  Also from left Mal Marken producer/director/cameraman, Kathryn Baird producer, Sam sound tech, Blane Scott cameraman

Benyo, Clark, Baird meeting
Action shots…


Email/letter from producer Kathryn Baird to editor of the magazine which owns rights to my Walking Purchase story.

I am writing from Belfast as the producer of an hour-long television documentary on the Founding Father, Charles Thomson, which will be broadcast on BBC Northern Ireland later this year. 
Thomson came from Ireland and the programme will be presented by a distinguished journalist and author who grew up on the site where Thomson himself was born and who, sharing many interests with him -  including the Irish linen industry, international politics, religious affairs and the Greek language - has become something of a specialist. 

Following the notorious Walking Purchase, Charles Thomson was involved in the negotiations at Easton, acting as adviser and secretary to Teedyuscung, the Indian chief known as the ‘King of the Delaware Indians’. Part of our project is to consider the role Thomson played in this affair, for which the Indians gave him the name, 'The Man Who Tells the Truth.’ It would be a wonderful addition to our programme to have Chuck run part of the route for us and to hear his considered and thoroughly researched views of his sixth-great-grandfather and the deceit behind the Walking Purchase. Congratulations to you for having had the foresight to see the interest of this in the first place. I imagine it partly derived from your having grown up in Jim Thorpe (which is where we would like to film) and knowing the story of the hoax.

 Their overview of the documentary:

The Man Who Told the Truth

Is an hour-long landmark television documentary, commissioned from Imagine Media Productions Ltd by BBC Northern Ireland and the Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund/ Northern Ireland Screen.

The subject of the film is the Founding Father, Charles Thomson, the facts of whose life are remarkable: born in Ireland, the young Charles arrived as a penniless orphan in the New World, managed to join the elite of Philadelphia, became part of the revolutionary struggle and was one of the only two signatories to the original Declaration of Independence. As the first Secretary of the Continental Congress, he played a pivotal role in the young American republic, earning the respect of men like Franklin and Jefferson and designing The Great Seal. His last public act was a week-long journey from New York to Mount Vernon to tell George Washington that he had been chosen as the first President of the United States. In his retirement, to a farm at Harriton House, Thomson translated the Septuagint and corresponded vigorously with Thomas Jefferson.

Before he left for the New World, Charles Thomson grew up in a small farm at Gorteade, Co. Derry where the distinguished author and journalist, Bruce Clark, now lives. Bruce has developed a keen interest in Charles Thomson. This programme is his voyage of discovery, during which he follows in Thomson’s footsteps to uncover the story behind the man who was named by the Indians, “The Man Who Tells the Truth”, and who left his mark, quite literally, on the New World.



1. Co Derry, where Thomson was born. Bruce meets Thomson’s biographer, Boyd Schlenther.

2. New Castle Delaware - the port into which Thomson sailed and became apprenticed to a blacksmith.

3. Frontier Culture Museum, Staunton, Virginia - where three of Thomson’s brothers went and near which one brother is buried.

4. Augusta Stone Presbyterian Church –the Presbyterian community of Staunton.

5. New London, site of the Academy of Francis Alison, where Charles Thomson was educated.

6. American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, developed from the group of young men, including Thomson, who clustered around Benjamin Franklin exchanging ideas on science and religion. 

7. Wrightstown, Jim Thorpe and Easton – sites associated with Thomson’s involvement with the Delaware Indians.

8. Philadelphia: Independence Hall, the new Museum of the American Revolution, William Penn Charter School.

9. Washington – the vicinity of the White House, the National Archives, the Great Seal, the Trumbull painting of the Declaration of Independence

10. Harriton House – to which Thomson retired.

11. New York – a contemporary copy of Thomson’s Enquiry into the Alienation of the Indians. …

Short youtube documentary of Thomson's life by Bruce Clark