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Journalist uses Twitter to bring hotelier’s daughter’s 1914 diary to life

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Journalist uses Twitter to bring hotelier’s daughter’s 1914 diary to life
Written by:

A journalist has used Twitter and historical research to bring a 100-year-old diary of an hotelier’s daughter back to life.

On New Year’s Day, journalist Rob McGibbon tweeted a link to his blog, which contained the first entry in a diary belonging to 16-year-old English girl Olive Higgins, daughter of Margate hotelier Thomas Higgins, who opened the seaside town’s renowned Hydro “health hotel” in 1904, reports the Press Gazette.

As researched by McGibbon, Olive’s diary charts the teenager’s life from 1 January 1914 ‒ when she left to study in Paris ‒ to her sudden death from illness just eight weeks later. In addition to the diary’s snapshot of Belle Epoque Paris, McGibbon was also drawn to Olive’s story due to her being buried in a cemetery near his own childhood house.

McGibbon has set up a Twitter account under Olive’s name, tweeting excerpts from her writing, while the blog charts the longer entries day by day. This year marks 100 years since the diary was written.

Olive’s father, Thomas Higgins, built the Hydro hotel in Cliftonville, Margate, Kent, in 1904. The town was popular as a seaside destination and the large spa hotel soon became established, attracting visitors from around Britain and beyond.

Its name was later changed to The Grand Hotel and in the 1950s it became one of several local hotels to be marketed as part of a “collection” for guests with different needs, such as families, childfree couples or the retired. 

Guests could stay at any of the six hotels in the Cliftonville Hotels group, but use the facilities in any one of the other properties. Three of them – the Grand, the Norfolk and the St Georges ‒ were linked by a tunnel, and were later marketed under the Butlins name.

Later sold to the Grand Hotel Group in 2004, the Norfolk and the Grand were demolished in 2005 by a developer, who turned the St Georges into flats. Another property in the group, the Princes, has also been revamped as apartments. 

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