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Bromley writer is close to revealing moving story behind 100-year-old diary of teenager Olive

PUBLISHED: 15:36 10 January 2014 | UPDATED: 16:28 10 January 2014

Journalist Rob McGibbon and Ian Burt with the diary
Pictures by Andy Barnes

Journalist Rob McGibbon and Ian Burt with the diary Pictures by Andy Barnes

Archant

They say a book can transform a person’s life, but for one man who came to possess the 100-year-old diary of a tragic girl, it really is true.

The first few entries in Olive Higgins' diary [COPYRIGHT/CREDIT: Rob McGibbon]The first few entries in Olive Higgins' diary [COPYRIGHT/CREDIT: Rob McGibbon]

Rob McGibbon, who lived in the Bromley area as a child, was entrusted with 16-year-old Olive Higgins’ journal in 2001, which sparked off an obsession to research her life and bring it to the public’s attention.

Now Rob, 48, has brought her tale to life in the form of a blog and a Twitter account, to mark the diary’s centenary.

He said: “I thought if there’s going to be a time to do something, it has to be now.

“I have researched this for many years, but at the end it has come down to Olive’s writing and I feel that is what is beautiful about it.

Olive's diary [CREDIT: Rob McGibbon]Olive's diary [CREDIT: Rob McGibbon]

“Her diary has already brought my life so much already without a book and without all the things I had wanted to do.

“What I have learnt has been invaluable to me as a person.”

Olive was the daughter of British businessman and hotelier Thomas Higgins. She was sent to Paris on January 2 1914 to study at the school L’Institut de Notres Dames des Champs.

This is when she began documenting her life, which sadly ended six weeks later.

Journalist Rob, whose family still live in Beckenham, was given the journal by friend Ian Burt, also of Beckenham.

They first met in the 1980s, but it was only when Ian renovated Rob’s flat in Chelsea in 1995 that they became firm friends.

Building contractor Ian, 64, who used to own an antique shop, said: “I’m pretty sure I purchased it from an old antique market, probably 30 years ago.

“This was something that felt so personal at first so I thought I would keep it, but I believed it would make a great book or story.

“I thought it was time for someone like Rob to bring it to attention.”

Rob added: “Back in 1995 Ian said he had the diary but I wasn’t interested; I was busy with other things. Initially I didn’t think much of it as it only lasted for six weeks, but then when I looked at it again I saw there were two newspaper reports about Olive’s death and funeral and that’s when I realised we had a connection.”

The connection was to Brockley, south London. Upon reading the cuttings, he realised Olive was buried in the cemetery which his grandfather’s flat overlooked.

The site is also on the same road where Rob was born.

His posts of the diary’s extracts will stop next month, as Olive’s entries did before she died on February 25.

After this date, Rob will reveal to followers the circumstances of her passing.

He said: “To have a resolution to this after 13 years is really satisfying.

“It is fantastic her diary is out there and I hope people are moved by it.”

To read Olive’s story, visit olivesdiary1914.com or twitter.com/OlivesDiary1914.

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